Community celebrates culture through round dance

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

Totem Middle School’s gym reverberated with unity in a crescendo of joyous energy as the Marysville School District and Tulalip Indian Education came together to host a vibrant round dance for students and families. With over 200 attendees on Thursday, March 7, the event echoed with feelings of love and celebration. 

MC Randy Vendiola, the evening’s announcer, conveyed the essence of the gathering, stating, “The round dance is a celebration of our way of life, fostering strength within our community. These songs are for all the good people and all those who need healing. We are all equal.”

The round dance moves in the same direction as the earth in a clockwise circle. The drummers play in the middle, and the dancers form a circle around them, hopping one foot and sliding the other in rhythm to the drum beat. Everyone from the community was encouraged to join in the dance, and several families from different backgrounds joined the round dance for the first time.

“I enjoyed the evening,” said Ervanna LittleEagle of Warm Springs, Oregon. “It’s beautiful to see all the drummers and all the young ones being mentored by the older ones. I think it’s important to share our culture with people that aren’t Native. There is a lot of representation happening in different arenas right now, and I think that having this space for different cultures to come together and experience our customs helps us sustain our way of life.”

“This was my first-round dance,” student and tribal member Ellashawnee Gorham-Dumont said. “Having powwows like this is special to me. Seeing how other people dance and make friends is cool. I think it’s difficult to share our culture with people. You must teach them and get them to understand why we do what we do and respect our ways of doing things. They must be willing to learn.”

The sense of community and cultural celebration blended seamlessly in the rhythmic circle of the round dance. With participants from various backgrounds, the dance became a powerful expression of unity and highlighted the importance of cultural exchange and understanding. 

Road Collapse on 12th Ave NW

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources

Last week, we saw problematic journalism about Tulalip by the King 5 media team. The story highlighted a culvert and road collapse on 12th Avenue NW, within the Battle Creek neighborhood on the Tulalip reservation. The footage showed residents of the Aqua Hills Homeowners Association blaming the Tribe while simultaneously asking for the Tribe’s assistance to remedy the issue. 

On the afternoon of March 1, heavy rainfall led to flooding which caused a decrepit culvert and the private road above it to wash out. The angle the media team chose to take was, of course, sympathetic to the approximate 20 affected families. However, they neglected to provide context. Tulalip has a long history of offering help and being turned away by Aqua Hills residents. The Tribe responded to this situation immediately, ensuring the residents were safe and had drinkable water, despite being met with hostility by the HOA on numerous occasions. 

Moving forward in this article, it is important to understand that the Tulalip Tribes has zero responsibility in the maintenance of 12th Avenue NW. Although the road and the neighborhood are located within the boundaries of the Tulalip reservation, this is a privately owned and operated road, and its proper care and upkeep is the sole responsibility of the Aqua Hills HOA. 

This particular instance is a prime example of how Native sovereignty is consistently undermined and exploited by non-Natives who choose to buy property and reside on reservations all throughout the country, without acknowledging or following any of the respective tribe’s laws, rules, or regulations. 

The Tribe issued a detailed media release pertaining to the collapse on March 5, which explained that back in 2013, Tulalip notified the HOA that the culvert which caused the flood was inadequate and needed to be replaced. The Tribe also expressed an interest in working together with the HOA to get a properly sized culvert installed. The HOA did not share the same interest at the time and failed to take action following the Tribe’s initial recommendation. 

Nine years later, in 2022, the Aqua Hills HOA reached out to the Tribe and asked for their help in removing beavers in their area through Tulalip’s beaver relocation project. After agreeing to relocate the beavers living along the Battle Creek marshes, the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department was met with conflict as one of the HOA property owners denied them access to their land and threatened to take legal action if the Tribe continued with the relocation effort. 

The media release also spoke about how the Tribe has been on the scene and made a handful of their various departments available to assist with the road closure, whether that’s through surveying the damage, restoring potable water to the residents, or ensuring that the homeowners are not physically trapped within the enclosed area. 

Out of the entire detailed media release, King 5 chose to share just one section of it in their article about 12th Avenue NW:

“The non-native residents are asking Tulalip to replace private infrastructure that is the homeowners’ responsibility, at the Tribe’s expense, and for the benefit of a handful of landowners…Tulalip will continue to work with the HOA to arrive at a quick and effective solution to this crisis because of the Tribes’ values.”

Let’s spend a second here because balanced journalism, which shares both sides of story, is important especially when dealing with tribal sovereignty. This statement, although true, was altered to villainize the Tribe and help push the homeowner’s narrative that it’s the Tribes obligation to fix the culvert and road. In total, four paragraphs that explained how the HOA got themselves in this predicament and burnt bridges with the Tribe were ignored and not mentioned whatsoever in the article. And the portion that was included, has key statements missing, that ultimately misleads readers about the situation. The original statement reads as follows, with the sentences that were excerpted in italics: 

Tulalip neither owns nor collects taxes to maintain these parcels. The non-native residents are asking Tulalip to replace private infrastructure that is the homeowners’ responsibility, at the Tribe’s expense, and for the benefit of a handful of landowners. They have been aware of the vulnerability for a decade and have not addressed the issues that led to this problem. Tulalip will continue to work with the HOA to arrive at a quick and effective solution to this crisis because of the Tribes’ values – not because it has a responsibility to rectify problems caused by private non-member landowners.”

It is upsetting that a Tribe that has done so much good throughout the region, that has consistently given back and has routinely helped build up the local community, were portrayed as negligent, unwilling to help, and at fault for the incident on 12th Ave NW, when in fact it is the complete opposite of the situation. 

This is dangerous because the news station is making a conscience decision to exclude the Tribe’s voice on a story where they were attacked on-air and in-print, regardless of their efforts to help these individuals and families over the past 11 years. 

Since King 5 chose to silence Tulalip leadership and those who are monitoring the road closure closely, we wanted to share their perspective in this article, where they can provide insight to the collapse of 12th Ave NW. 

Teri Gobin, Tulalip Chairwoman

12th Avenue NW is a privately owned road. The Tribe does not own it and we do not have any responsibility to fix it. What happened there is a private owner of the land had a culvert there, that was undersized. And actually, our natural resource people told them years ago, that it was failing, that they should do something about it. The owner of it told us that the Tribe had no jurisdiction, being it was on his private land, and asked us to leave. 

If this were to happen two weeks later, it would have wiped out a chum run. We were getting ready to bring our fingerlings down there. It would have wiped out that run, and who’s responsibility would that have been? 

They have been warned that this culvert was bad. And they did nothing about it. 

They don’t want anything to do with the Tribe until when they need the Tribe, and they think the Tribe will take care of that. It’s not our responsibility.

Carson Cooper, Tulalip Managing Attorney

We have a mix in the types of roads that are located here on the reservation. There are really three types. There are roads that are maintained and owned by Snohomish County. There are tribal roads that are owned and maintained by Tulalip Tribes. And then there are private roads, which are roads that individual communities have decided they want to restrict access to. 

The road that goes over Battle Creek is a private road. It’s the responsibility of Aqua Hills Homeowners Association. What that means is that they are responsible for maintaining both the road and the culvert. They originally funded that road. They did the construction. They put in the culvert without the involvement of Tulalip Tribes, and they’re responsible for maintaining it and making sure it’s in good shape.

Ryan Miller, Tulalip Director of Treaty Rights and Government Affairs

I think it’s really important for people to understand that originally, reservations were set aside for tribes, and they were collectively owned by the tribal government. It wasn’t until the allotment era that those reservations were broken up into individual Indian allotments. And that’s how we ended up in this situation, that we have with checkerboard reservations. There are examples of Indian women who had an allotment, and they received some kind of government funding, and the government said you can’t be a property owner and receive welfare from the state, so now you have to sell your property and pay it back. There are lots of different times when the BIA, that’s supposed to hold that land and trust for the benefit of tribal members, mismanaged the money, mismanaged the land, leased the land to be logged or mined, or some other use, and never gave the money to that person. And that person ended up having to sell the land. That created the start of this adversarial relationship between non-Indian people and Indian people on the reservation. And as Snohomish County got bigger, those jurisdictional questions expanded. Environmental rules and permitting for homes and things like that, that didn’t exist prior, became more and more of a problem.

When we have a catastrophic event like this, especially if there are fish in the water, one of the number one things that we worry about is turbidity. So, you get a lot of sediment stirred up in the water, it becomes a part of the water column and fish can get that into their gills and it kills them. So that’s kind of the number one immediate threat. And also, there’s the threat of this large volume of water coming out all at one time, which could push the fish out into the saltwater before they’re ready. Which could again kill them because they need time to adjust. They need to get in that mixture of salt and freshwater, and they go through some physical changes in their scales that helps protect them from saltwater, it’s part of the biology of anadromous fish.

So, those are the immediate threats. And then the long-term threats are – if this culvert doesn’t get repaired properly, it could cause significant water quality challenges into the future for temperature, for flows, depending on if there may be chemicals or other things within the structure that could cause problems downstream. Those are kind of the main risks. And until it’s fixed, we can’t put fish in this facility, because there’s always the threat that the culvert itself could move downstream. It could have significant impacts on the lungs of fish, of their gills. It could burn them, it could burn their skin, it could delay or inhibit their ability to go through the smelting process which is what they need to do in order to get into the saltwater.

Sam Davis, Tulalip Tribes COO

We had a culvert fail. That happened around 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. on Friday and we responded through most of the night. We had our emergency management there, Snohomish County emergency management there, so we had the all the response teams ready to go. 

It had a very big impact on Battle Creek and flooded out our chum hatchery. We do have a major chum hatchery downstream, so our gauges that are in Battle Creek went off the chart. We had four to six feet of excess water above where it normally is, so that was really where our strategy was, to look at our areas downstream.

As a Tulalip member and a lifelong citizen up of Tulalip, it’s been disturbing to look in the news media and have these people pointing their fingers at Tulalip like we’re somehow to blame for their lack of maintenance on their asset and their inventory in the road. 

We would like to be good neighbors, but when somebody is bad mouthing us that much in the in the media, in the press, it hurts a little bit, and it makes us a little angry. It’s pretty simple – this is the private road owned by an HOA. It’s laid out in a legally binding document. And now that they don’t have anywhere to go, they want to point fingers at us, and that’s the wrong thing to do.

Facing The Storm showcased in Hibulb longhouse

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

A unique documentary series featuring the voices of Indigenous climate justice leaders was previewed by ecstatic Hibulb patrons as they sat intently in the cultural center’s makeshift longhouse turned film screening room on a winter afternoon. The one-of-a-kind digital storytelling series is titled Facing The Storm; an ode to the mighty buffalo who don’t cower from a storm, but instead charge into it head on.

 “It is my honor to introduce Mikayla Gingrey, a flourishing film maker, and her talented assistant, her mother Marya Gingrey. Both are descendants of the Apache nation,” stated Last Real Indians contributor, Rae Rose. “I have been invited to introduce the upcoming docuseries, Facing The Storm: The Indigenous Response to Climate Change, an Aminata Multimedia Group docuseries. 

“Mikayla is using her talent to highlight and document the important stories that often get overlooked, the struggles, the heartbreaking losses, along with the love, and sometimes overlooked triumphs of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

“These films will highlight Indigenous leaders, activists, and community members who are working towards our collective future,” she continued. “This series is our chance to spotlight the achievements, not usually acknowledged in mainstream media. It is also an important chance to give voice to and shine a light on those who are working to combat climate crisis, and to those providing spaces for healing and growth in our indigenous communities. All with the hope of creating real and lasting change.”

An estimated 70 people filled the longhouse sits, while others willingly stood near the entrance way just to glimpse two parts of the five-part docuseries. 

The first episode covered the divestment movement of large financial institutions (think Bank of America and Wells Fargo) who are the primary backers of oil pipelines. Illuminating the people and organizers that became Mazaska Talks, the filmmaker focused on the Indigenous-led Seattle campaign to get the city of Seattle to divest from Wells Fargo.

“When we took on the city of Seattle, so many people reached out from all around the globe who were interested in running similar campaigns on their homelands. This showed us how valuable our work was to the cause and the importance of sharing it online and through social media in order to get the word out through whatever means necessary. We knew the mainstream media wouldn’t tell the story from our perspective,” explained Lakota activist and local Marysville School District Indian Education coordinator, Matt Remle. His tireless activism was instrumental to Seattle officially divesting from Wells Fargo in 2020. 

Divestment has proven an historically successful means of resistance for disenfranchised people around the world. South Africa, Sudan, and Burma are just a few places where it has seen success. Divestment is not a magic bullet, but it is a powerful tool to challenge the status quo of placing profits over people. These same banks are backing the new expansion of the DAPL system into the Bayou Bridge pipeline, as well as four proposed tar sands pipelines that together would add over three million barrels of the dirtiest oil in the world to flow across turtle island every single day:

  • Keystone XL (TransCanada) – 830,000 barrels per day
  • TransMountain (Kinder Morgan) – expansion from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day
  • Line 3 (Enbridge) – expansion from 390,000 to 915,000 barrels per day
  • Energy East (TransCanada) – 1.1 million barrels per day

“While first peoples own, occupy or use 25% of the world’s surface area, we safeguard 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Our identity is in the landscape–the mountains, the rivers, the plants, and the animals. For this reason, we are in a unique position to advocate for the ecosystem our shared human existence,” further explained Matt to the longhouse audience. “But if we are to preserve the Earth as a home for all future generations, we need everyone to help us restore Indigenous and environmental rights. That is where divestment comes in. That is where you come in.”

To learn more about the grass roots movement and how you can support them by divesting from specific financial institutions, please visit

The second episode of Facing The Storm focused on food sovereignty and how it sustains culture, identity, and positive health outcomes. It tied together the Water Is Life movement with the simple fact salmon is a first and foremost food source for Coast Salish peoples. The episode beautifully wove together teachings from Coast Salish ceremonies and other cultural events that are dedicated to salmon to depict the ancestrally deep roots the tribes have with their land and local waterways.

Although not shown at Hibulb, the filmmaker shared with the still captivated for more attendees that episode three covers the relocation of Quinault’s main village and that episode four is about Tulalip citizen Kayah George and her ongoing resistance movement towards the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Vancouver, B.C. 

Following a raucous applause for the contemporary storyteller as the Hibulb film session ended, Mikayla Gingrey took a moment to reflect on the importance of sharing her works on Native land, such as Tulalip.

“It means so much to me to be able to debut the second episode of my series here in Tulalip,” said the thought provoking 25-year-old Mikayla. “My goal for this project is to inspire the next generation of climate justice warriors. In that spirit, to show the series here, I feel honors and pays tribute to the past and present generation of warriors from this region.

“Also, Matt Remle is such a huge mentor to me. He’s built such a strong connection to the Tulalip people through his work in education, and together we share the same mission to educate and inspire the younger people,” she continued. “It’s so important they be empowered and inspired to carry on this legacy of defending Mother Earth, defending the sacred, and defending a basic human right to have clean air and clean water. There’s a space for everyone in the climate justice fight and I want everyone to walk away from the series knowing you can do something, whether its big or small, it all makes an impact.”

Candidates Forum as seen through a  multi-generational lens

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On Friday, March 1, the Greg Williams court was transformed into a public forum in order to showcase enthusiastic candidates running for the two Board of Director seats up for grabs at the upcoming General Council election.

An estimated 50 Tulalip citizens were in attendance, sitting tolerantly in the spacious setting, while another 60 or so households tuned in from the comfort of home while livestreaming on

Three in-person audience members, each representing a different generation of life experience, were willing to participate in a pre and post forum dialogue to help us better understand why they attended, what they hoped to learn, and, generally, how the forum informed their voting practice, if any. Representing the Baby Boomers was elder Lena Hammons. Representing Generation X was Deborah Parker, a former tribal councilmember and current chief executive of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Representing Generation Z was Youth Council chairwoman Faith Valencia.

“I’m here to learn who I would vote for, but also I’m attending to learn more about dynamics of how these forums go, like what exactly happens here. I’m hoping to hear topics discussed that prioritize the youth or ideas to support the youth or at least something about the seven generations teaching to show those seeking a Board seat aren’t focused just on the present and themselves,” said Faith.

“I always come to the Candidate’s Forum, but why I thought it was even more important to attend this year’s is the fact so many young people are running. The potential for having two brand new Board members who would represent a younger generation really interested me. I’m curious to hear what their ideas are and what teachings they are coming from. One of the most pressing concerns I feel the Tribe faces is the ongoing drug epidemic, so I’m hoping to learn that it’s on the candidate’s radar,” shared Lena.

“I’m here with my young nephew, Zeus Parker Jr., who will be voting for the first time at General Council. I thought it was important to come here with him and introduce him to the candidates and further his understanding of what the community is about,” offered Deborah. “For me, economic development is always important, so ideally I’d like to hear the candidates speak to their ideas for growing and diversifying our revenue stream beyond gaming. I’d like to see if someone here is creative with their ideas for new business.”

The 2024 Candidate Forum was designed to be a public event where candidates running for tribal council are invited to express their positions on a variety of subjects and introduce themselves to the community, if so desired. In the most ideal sense, the forum was to provide a stage for each candidate to share their platforms, policies, and visions for the future. Such a forum would then help voters become informed about where each candidate stood on various issues, enabling them to make educated choices when voting at General Council on March 15.

Spanning over two hours while being respectfully moderated by Hibulb Cultural Center manager Mytyl Hernandez, the participating candidates at this year’s forum shed some light on what impact they intend to make, if elected. Topics discussed included communication style, general welfare increases, lost teachings, the drug epidemic, holding fellow Board members accountable, building trust within the community, treaty rights experience, minor trust accounts, and more.

Following the event’s conclusion, the generational representatives shared their experience, specifically detailing whether or not they learned what they hoped to.

“I would have preferred that each candidate got to delve more into their thoughts on our drug epidemic, but for the ones who did have the chance to speak on it, you could tell how passionate they were because this is something that impacts us all,” said elder Lena. “Something that stood out tonight is there are candidates who need to know much more about our treaty and what it means to exercise our treaty rights if they hope to be in a leadership position, like a Board seat, one day. That being said, I am excited for the younger ones who have stepped up and are willing to lead and wish them all luck on March 16.”

Our Youth Council chairwoman, Faith, was really hoping to hear candidates speak to the youth vote and their ideas for supporting the ever-growing youth demographic. Did she hear that? “Not necessarily. They kind of tried to give us recognition,” described the young leader. “I asked a couple questions, and neither was answered directly. So hopefully we, as a Youth Council, can get them to offer more clear and direct answers when we get a chance to sit with them next week.

“It’s important for the youth vote to be taken seriously and in order for that to happen we need to show up at events like these,” she added. “It’s disappointing not to see more younger people, and look I get it. It’s easy to understand that they’ve probably showed up to something like this before and witnessed only arguing or non-answers with no real solution. But in order for our voices to matter we have to show up and vote for people willing to [factor us in] their decision making.”

Lastly, Gen X’er Deb Parker offered her takeaway. “I don’t think the candidates had enough time to really answer questions I had regarding economic development. Some questions were answered, but overall, I think reading their candidate statements that were mailed out and making use of social media to see their recent posts and ask further questions will be necessary to fill in the gaps. It’s not realistic to expect each candidate to know everything about all topics that single individuals may have questions about. It was clear that each candidate has their own knowledge base that they are bringing to the table and has their own idea as to what they think are the most pressing concerns right now. 

“This event showed how beautiful and healthy our community can be when potential leaders, current leaders, and past leaders are able to share space while being patient, listening to one another, and respecting opinions that may defer from their own. This isn’t something you see in other places where candidates are typically interrupting and yelling over one another to get their point across. This makes me proud to be Tulalip to witness how we continue to love and respect one another in this process.”

In-person voting for the two open Board of Director seats will take place over a two-day period, Friday March 15 (9am-4pm) and Saturday March 16 (7am-1pm), at the Tulalip Resort Casino.

Tribal leaders discuss upcoming projects with community

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News 

“We have much to do in our tribal government and community,” said Tulalip Tribes CEO Rochelle Lubbers at a  March 5 community meeting co-hosted with COO Sam Davis.  The meeting’s agenda was to discuss several upcoming projects in Tulalip with openness and transparency. 

Some of the critical projects that were discussed include Tulalip agreeing to build an apartment complex called Quil Creek Crossing to combat the need for housing. Construction will start soon and is projected to be done by 2025. “We are excited about this project. We will have 84, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments for our community,” said Sam. 

The tribe is also responding to the growing demand for other essential services. Recognizing the current capacity constraints at the Healing Lodge, plans for Healing Lodge 2.0 are underway. This expansion aims to provide much-needed sober living facilities for both men and women, aligning with the tribe’s commitment to holistic well-being. Simultaneously, construction developments on 4th and 88th street, including multiple roundabouts, signifying proactive measures to enhance community infrastructure and traffic management.

Discussions also highlighted striving to create better communication between the tribal government and the community. “We need to reinforce our mission, vision, and values. Everyone should know and find a better way to serve the community,” said Rochelle. 

“It was a perfect meeting and also very informative,” tribal elder Pauline Williams said. “I liked the part about the housing. I know many families need homes, and it’s also a lot to take care of a home. I think there should be a program that helps get families into homes and teaches them how to maintain it. I’m on my way out, and I want to make sure the young people have a nice place to be proud of and for them to learn and manage what we have.” 

“I got here late, but the meeting was good,” tribal member Laverne Jones said. “I liked that they are working on communications and the issues employees and tribal members are having. Community engagement is important because it affects the tribal members and gives them a chance to submit their issues and try to find solutions for them.” 

As the Tulalip Tribes embark on these transformative projects, the commitment to community well-being and open communication reflects their dedication to creating a vibrant and sustainable future for all tribal members. For more information about upcoming projects or if you missed the meeting, you can watch it at

Watching over the future: Childcare options for General Council

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It’s officially that time of year when yard signs and homemade billboards are on display along the roadways of the reservation. This creative method of advertising has become a necessity for tribal members who are announcing their candidacy for a seat on the Tulalip Board of Directors. And as soon as the signs go up, tribal members know that General Council is near. A yearly event where the people gather together to discuss important topics that pertain to the tribe’s overall welfare, as well as to collectively make decisions, and elect/re-elect members to its BOD councilship.

A lot of work goes into planning Tulalip’s annual General Council that includes community panels and open discussions leading up the to the event, as well as organizing the agenda and preparing the space for the large communal gathering, to help guarantee that everything goes smoothly on the day of. 

To assist those with children in casting their votes, Tulalip took extra measures about ten years ago to help boost the General Council’s attendance rate, amplify the voice of the community, and get more of its membership involved in the governmental side of the tribe. Working with the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy and the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club, Tulalip provides childcare services for Tulalip parents and guardians who wish to attend the annual meeting. 

At the early learning academy, kids from birth to three, and also kiddos who are of preschool age, are welcome to a fun day of classroom activities and playtime during the entire duration of the General Council. 

Said Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Director, Sheryl Fryberg, “We provide classes for birth to three and preschool service. The families have to pre-register through our online application, or they can pick up an application here at the front desk. They can be any community member child and there’s no charge for it. We feed them snacks and lunch, and for the snack in the afternoon, we do have a bit heaver snack in case it goes beyond 4:30 p.m. We want tribal members to have the opportunity to attend General Council, hear what’s going on in our tribe, be able to vote, and know their child is in a safe space.”

Across the way, at the Club, the big kids are treated to an epic field day. Like with the academy, families must pre-register their children at the Boys & Girls Club and the childcare services are free of charge. This day is also something the club staff members look forward to. Diane ‘Grandma Diane’ Prouty, B&G Club Office Manager, explained that they are often understaffed during their day-to-day operations because of how many children they serve. And though they’ve seen upwards of 100 kids during General Council, this still provides an opportunity for the staff to engage and participate in activities with the youth that they wouldn’t otherwise get to on a normal weekday at the Club. 

She said, “The staff has a lot of fun with the kids on General Council day. We serve kids from kindergarten and up; we feed them breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. Our doors open at 9:00 a.m. and we close half-an-hour after General Council is done. The BOD actually pays for all the activities for the kids here. We have face painting, a balloonist, and a bouncy house. We have a big obstacle course where staff will have races against each other and against the kids. We’ll have craft making and a bunch of fun things to do as well. It’s just a fun day for everybody.” 

General Council is taking place this year on March 16 at the Tulalip Resort Casino. If you would like to enroll your kids for childcare at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy or the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club, their registration forms are due no later than Friday March 8. Registration forms are accessible online via the academy’s website, or through tribal e-mail for the Boys & Girls Club. They can also be picked-up in-person at the reception desks of either establishment. For additional details, please contact the Academy at (360) 716-4250 or the Club at (360) 716-3400.

Show your support for National Problem Gambling Awareness Month

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“For a lot of people, gambling is the grand escape because they aren’t doing anything illegal, they are not using external chemicals,” explained Tulalip Problem Gambling Coordinator, Sarah Sense Wilson. “But it’s a process addiction that causes brain chemistry changes and floods your brain with dopamine – and it’s hard to have rational judgment because you’re under the influence of your own brain chemistry.”

For the past decade, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program has actively participated in a nationwide initiative known as National Problem Gambling Awareness month. Occurring every March, the Problem Gambling Program helps bring attention to the compulsive gambling disease by hosting fun, engaging, informative, and impactful gatherings during the awareness month.

Originally, the campaign began nearly twenty years ago in response to the rise of sports betting surrounding the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament. An estimated two million US citizens meet the criteria for severe gambling addiction any given year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. And though that is roughly just one percent of the entire country’s population, there are hundreds of families affected by problem gambling, and the myriad of issues brought on by the disease, every year. 

The dangerous and often silent habit affects the Native American community at a much higher rate than other ethnicities. A 2019 study by the National Institute on Alcohol and Related Conditions showed that 2.3% of the Indigenous population in America are battling a gambling addiction. That statistic is expected to be on the rise following the pandemic, however, that is the most current and up-to-date study available on this topic. 

Said Sarah, “Gambling may not be their primary addiction, it can be tied in with other diseases – grief, loss, trauma – and that barely scratches the surface. We’re focused on putting information out in the community; we’re doing presentations, we’re doing outreach and community education as much as we can. I think it’s especially important in Indian Country that we shine a spotlight on Problem Gambling Awareness month, given that a lot of our tribal communities have high risk factors and vulnerabilities. The more that we’re informed, the more we can make good decisions for ourselves.” 

Indian Boarding School Survivor, Matthew Warbonnet, took time to speak about how the Tulalip Problem Gambling program has helped him navigate his trauma resulting from the years he endured at the St. Francis Indian School in South Dakota – a Catholic institution where students were subjected to a multitude of mental and physical abuses throughout their duration at the school. 

He shared, “There were times when kids were literally beaten to the floor. Corporal punishment was the call of the day you might say. I think a lot of our history attributes to addiction, whatever that addiction might be, and I think that if there were more programs like this, that would help our people. Even if only five people went to those programs, you’re looking at affecting that entire family in a good way, and it’s a ripple effect.”

Matthew continued, “We all have issues from the past that bother us. And the (boarding school experiences) were haunting me and I couldn’t run from it. It got to the point where I no longer wanted to be here, and I was ready to move on. I contemplated suicide on several occasions – and I started in with self-destructive behavior. One day I kind of realized what I was doing. So, when I heard about this program, I came down. And I want to say that I really appreciate the Tulalip Tribes for having this program because it’s been tremendous for me. Just being here and being able to identify what those issues are. I came to understand that I should not reject any offering of help – I appreciate this program more than I can ever say.”

The Tulalip Problem Gambling program is a national model program that many Indigenous tribes look to when designing and operating their own programs. They are also a part of a northwest intertribal problem gambling coalition, with the Swinomish, Lummi, Stillaguamish, Port Gamble, Suquamish, Puyallup, Muckleshoot, and Nisqually tribes, that meets regularly to discuss what is and what isn’t working for their programs. They also share ideas on how to educate their communities and provide prevention and treatment to those in need of assistance. 

The Tulalip Problem Gambling program has helped aid those in recovery over the years by developing a personalized plan with each person who walks through their doors. Since its establishment, the Problem Gambling program has served not only members of the Tulalip tribal community, but non-Natives as well who are also fighting a gambling addiction and live in our neighboring communities of Everett, Marysville, Arlington, and Stanwood.

A local woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, opened up about her personal recovery journey with the Problem Gambling program. She stated, “I was pretty much a daily gambler for about 15 years. I ended up getting fired from my job because of my gambling issues. My rock bottom was losing my job and when that happened is when I finally realized what I was doing. Those two weeks after I lost my job – that was probably the worst experience of my life. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, I was in physical pain all day long. I went through a couple of weeks of just really an all-consuming guilt and shame, and it was horrific.

“And then I thought, you know what, I just need to find a GA meeting. So, I went online and found a GA meeting and attended my first meeting in Everett where I met this guy who told me about the Problem Gambling Program that Sarah runs. The next week I went and had an assessment, and the rest is history. I have just over 10 months of sobriety and will reach my first year in April.”

Both Matthew and our anonymous speaker praised the Problem Gambling program for identifying the root of their addiction and for creating a space where gambling addicts can gather to support each other while on the road to recovery. And similarly, when asked to share some words of advice and encouragement for others who are currently caught in the cycle of compulsive gambling, they both wanted to share that recovery from this disease is possible with the help of the program, and also to extend an invite to anybody battling their addiction. 

This National Problem Gambling Awareness month, the Problem Gambling program will be hosting two major events to help bring attention to this issue that is plaguing many people throughout the reservation and region. The first event is the Positive Action Screening Day which will take place Tuesday, March 12 at the Tulalip Admin building from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Shared Sarah, “The screening day is another national campaign and it’s a non-invasive way for people to do a quick screen, for people to self-determine where they’re at with their relationship to gambling – is it healthy, is it not healthy, could it be better? It’s four questions and only three of them are related to gambling. We’ll be providing information cards and we’ll be giving out cookies, popcorn, cupcakes, and mini smudge kits in exchange for them to complete that four-question survey.”

The next event will be held on Sunday, March 24, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Tulalip Resort Casino. This is the popular and much anticipated dinner celebration that is held on an annual basis and offers the promise of good food, good entertainment, and eye-opening testimonies from local gambling addicts in recovery.  

“The dinner is held to raise awareness and provide a space for education about the addiction and about prevention but it’s also to celebrate those in recovery,” said Sarah. “We want to lift them up and have them be in a space where they’re cared for, celebrated, cheered-on, and honored for their work – and also for their contributions to the recovery community. Every person in recovery is contributing to the wellness to the whole, and that’s powerful.

“We’ll have a variety of entertainment; our 206 drummers, everyone loves them being there, they rock the house and bring that energy. Natosha Gobin is going to do the opening blessing and she’s going to share a traditional story that relates to addiction. Then we will have a GA speaker who will share their story, their inspiration. And our Master of Ceremony is Kasey Nicholson, he is a comedian and was also the keynote a few years ago. It’s free, it’s open to everybody, and everyone is invited!”

We hope you show your support during this year’s Problem Gambling Awareness Month. If you or someone you love is dealing with a gambling addiction, or if you would like to find out more information about the Problem Gambling program, please contact (360) 716-4304.