Following Faith: Tulalip’s own social media influencer is on the rise

By Kalvin Valdillez; photos courtesy of Faith Iukes

Next time you are screen-scrolling on your favorite app, whether it’s YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, do yourself a favor and search for the username @faith.iukes11. You will find a number of videos and photos that are guaranteed to brighten your day and boost your serotonin levels, all created by a Tulalip entrepreneur who is making quite the name for herself at the young age of 12.

“My name is Faith Iukes. I’m 12 years old and I work on social media,” she proudly beamed. “I vlog myself every day and I basically share my everyday life.”

Showcasing stunning camera work and an amazing on-screen presence, Faith is practicing an art that Native peoples have passed through the generations since time immemorial, storytelling. Bringing the tradition to present-day digital platforms, Faith utilizes her gift of storytelling just as her ancestors did before her, documenting the times and culture, making others laugh and smile, and teaching her peers, the next generation, how to be a voice for the people. 

With wisdom beyond her years, she passionately shared, “If we are not preparing our youth to become successful, we are not preparing the world for the next group of leaders.”

A natural-born go-getter, Faith creates opportunities by simply being herself, giving the world a first-hand look at what growing up on the Tulalip reservation looks like. Faith’s love for her family, community and homelands shines in each of her videos and photos, whether that’s participating in community events, using a drone to record all the scenic views Tulalip has to offer, or sharing screen time with her friends and family on her daily vlog. 

When asked about some of her favorite highlights of her blossoming career, she quickly stated, “Sometimes I do food reviews with my sisters! I love my family and I love social media. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do and when I was younger, I just wasn’t ready yet. COVID came around and my great-grandma passed. Everyone in my family was so sad, I thought I could use this to bring a smile to everybody’s face, so I got on YouTube.”

Not only is she a rising social media star, Faith also possesses impressive filming and editing skills, and she is just as talented behind the camera as she is on-screen. Everything she has created to-date has been self-taught. Through YouTube how-to videos, she learned all of her cutting, sequencing and scoring techniques and she already has a vast knowledge of how to use industry-standard editing software programs such as Adobe Lightroom. 

Faith’s father, William Iukes, has also been instrumental in her social media journey so far. In addition to helping her map out her goals, recording additional footage, and learning editing skills to help out when he can, he’s also taken on the role of her manager and helped land her a number of partnerships with other Indigenous artists, creatives, musicians and organizations, ensuring he’s doing everything he can in order for his daughter to exceed her goals.   

“She’s bringing a positive message to a lot of our kids out here, especially in Indian Country,” he shared. “The one thing she is really into is helping people with the success she’s getting. Her success is their success. We’ll be at Walmart or somewhere and kids will run up to her, say hi and ask for a selfie. And when they ask how do I become who you are, she stops and tells them, ‘this is who I am and this is what I do. You can do the same thing, you just have to keep believing who are and keep thriving to be the best you.’ That is something that I’m very proud of as a father.”

Faith interviews former Seattle Seahawk, Doug Baldwin.

Faith’s hard work is on display in all of her productions and has helped build her personal brand, leading to several partnerships and collaborations. Currently, Faith is sponsored by the local Native clothing company, Salish Style. She was also given an official title as media journalist for Rise Above, an Indigenous non-profit that was established to promote healthy lifestyles and empower Native youth through sports. In fact, she recently attended a Rise Above basketball camp where she got the chance to meet and interview Seattle Seahawk Doug Baldwin. 

“I asked him, how much does giving back to the youth mean to him and what inspired him to work with Rise Above. He said it was me, because his daughter watches me. I thought that was really exciting because it wasn’t expected, it was shocking and it made me happy,” she expressed.

During that same basketball camp, she also met representatives of the newly established NHL hockey team, the Seattle Kraken, and she now has plans to work with the team throughout their first season. Also in the works, a future collaboration with Native rappers and actors, Lil’ Mike & FunnyBone, who first gained popularity on America’s Got Talent and are currently starring in the hit TV show, Reservation Dogs. 

William stated that Faith is not one to get caught up in the numbers and stats such as the amount of views, clicks, reaches, shares, followers and subscribers, but those numbers continue to climb on the daily. At the time of her sit-down with Tulalip News, Faith said she had a goal to reach 600 subscribers on YouTube and 10,000 followers on TikTok. Her father, who has to follow the numbers as her manager, shared she wasn’t too far off from achieving that goal. Not too long after the interview, she surpassed those numbers. And after this article is published, with your help, she can continue to grow her following, with a simple click of a follow/subscribe button. And in return, you’ll get the opportunity to say that you have followed thee Faith Iukes since the beginning of her career, as she continues to grow and spread good vibes and positivity through her social medias. 

Keeping true to one of her main goals of sharing all her self-taught knowledge and skills with other Indigenous youth, a key reason to why she began her influencer journey, Faith shared, “If you want to be a YouTuber but you don’t know how, you don’t need a fancy computer or camera. When I started I only had an iPhone and a rubber ice tray for a tri-pod. You can go out, have fun, be yourself and try your best.”

Back To School Bash

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

End of summer signals the official kick-off for the back to school season. In Tulalip, that means Positive Youth Development’s always highly anticipated, annual ‘Back To School Bash’.

Local school-aged children descended to the Reservation’s centrally located Youth Center by the hundreds in order to collect essential school supplies, hygiene kits, and gather information from a variety of community resource booths. The students and their families were eagerly greeted by community friends and a number of educators from Marysville School District who could hardly contain their excitement at finally being reunited with their kids, some of whom they hadn’t seen in person in over a year.

“In my role as both a mom and educator, I’ve attended Tulalip’s back to school event for the last fifteen years,” said Tulalip tribal member Chelsea Craig. “It’s always grounded me as a mother to have access to all the resources the Tribe has to offer, but also the connections with Marysville School District and the outer community. Anytime we can bring together our tribal community with those around us in a positive way, it’s an opportunity to provide healing and create new relationships that can foster true understanding.

“A great memory from today has to be meeting a family who has been completely online since their kids started kindergarten last year,” continued the recently promoted Quil Ceda Elementary assistant principal. “This family had zero in-person contact with our school staff until today. To be able to introduce ourselves and help ease their minds about the transition back to face-to-face learning was priceless.”

The annual Bash looked a little different minus the usual backpack giveaway. However, Youth Development staff were on hand to walk families through a number of financial aid opportunities to receive critical funds for school supplies and other education related costs. Those forms are conveniently located on the website TulalipYouthServices.com

Youth lined up to receive a fresh haircut, to fill their bellies with a BBQ lunch, and to meet all kinds of community resource representatives who can assist them on their educational journey. For the students and their families new to the Tulalip area or the school district, this event was a perfect welcoming. 

“After signing up my kids for school, they emailed us a flyer for this event. I think this is so beneficial because my kids really needed the things that are being provided,” shared Puyallup tribal member Angel Berry. She recently moved to the area and looks forward to her three kids attending schools with such a strong connection to Native peoples. “We’ve only been in the area for a few weeks, so this is a good opportunity for us to integrate into the community.”

Among the Bash’s many activities offered were a game of kickball, a BMX demonstration at the skate part, a photo booth, and an immersive petting zoo featuring a baby kangaroo and farm animals. Ever-popular among the tiny tots was a balloon artist who couldn’t buy a break from nonstop requests for light sabers, flower bouquets, and household animals. 

New to this year was a full on scholastic book fair. Regardless of reading level or age, students from pre-school up to high school senior could be seen perusing the paperback offerings in search of the perfect end of summer reading material. 

“Our goal was to bring everyone together in the best way that we could, in the safest way possible, so our membership could access the resources that they may need for the upcoming school year,” reflected Youth Development manager Josh Fryberg. “We partnered with so many departments from Tribal Government and Marysville School District to make this event happen. Weather it was something simple like getting your kid a haircut or updating their tribal ID, or needing help applying for Covid relief funds and speaking to a local school representative, so many left here satisfied and optimistic for the first day of school. This is what the power of community is all about.”

Paddling to Kindergarten

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News  

Seventy-sevin students completed their academic journey at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy on the evening of August 20th. The future leaders celebrated their graduation with a parade. The kids excitedly waved at their loved ones and teachers, who held up signs and cheered, as they drove through the early learning academy parking lot for one last ride. Come Fall, they will begin a new educational experience at elementary school. 

TELA went all out for their graduates and created cedar headbands, Paddling to Kindergarten t-shirts and paper cut-out paddles for the kids to wear and showcase during the ceremony. 

“I have to give so many kudos to all of our teachers and all of our leadership team who worked on this event because they outdid themselves in making all of the children feel special in their graduation,” said TELA Director, Sheryl Fryberg. “They’re paddling to kindergarten and they are so excited and happy. I think the families absolutely love the graduation ceremony this way and I saw them share so many happy smiles and laughter with their kids.”

She continued, “This is one of their big milestones. That leap from birth-to-three to pre-school was big but this is huge, where they’re leaving us and moving on to that kindergarten classroom where it’s a totally different world. We’re really excited that we could be a part of it.” 

Congratulations to all the graduates and good luck in kindergarten!

Salish imPRINTS

By Micheal Rios; Collection curated by staff of the Tacoma Art Museum

Since time immemorial, Native artists have expressed the cyclical nature of their culture and unique relationship to the world around them via a vast assortment of mediums available at any given time. This connection continues to evolve in the breathtaking artwork put forth by the current generation of Native creatives. From woodcarving and basketry to jewelry making and painting, an essence of the ancestors’ resiliency is felt in new waves of indigenous artistry proudly pushing their culture forward. 

Becoming Worthy. Created by Marika Swan.
“When our people were whaling they prepared their whole lives spiritually to be worthy of a gift as generous as a whale. Everyone in the community had to work in unity to ensure the hunt was successful and done safely. Each whale was such a bountiful offering of food for the community and each part of the whale was utilized and celebrated. As a Native woman, there are many large gifts I am hoping to bring home to my community. Pook-mis, the drowned whaler, lies at the bottom of the sea floor and offers a warning that things can go horribly wrong if you are not properly prepared to receive life’s great offerings.”

Some artists carve or weave following traditions dating back generations, using the same methods and materials their ancestors used. Others have adapted modern day technology to push the bounds of painting and printmaking to explore culture shifting concepts. Such is the case with today’s formline landscape. 

Sea Raven. Created by Henry Speck.

Often, when people think of Native art of the Northwest Coast, they think of formline. An artistic style thought to originate from the first peoples of northern British Columbia and Alaska, formline is characterized by free-flowing thick and thin lines often used in combinations of U-shapes, S-shapes and flattened ovals called ovoids. Most commonly rendered in bold black and red colors, these designs often depict animals and cultural spirits on story poles, hand carved paddles and masks, and most recently t-shirts and fine art prints. 

Raelene. Created by Francis Dick. “Before  anything else, my work is  about honoring my life process, my journey through my fires, from places of pain and darkness to places that I might stand in my truth.  My work is not a career, it’s a way of life.”

Artwork showcasing the distinct Coast Salish formline style became popular during the Alaska gold rush in the 1890s and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exhibit in 1909. The demand for formline continued as the prime choice for public exhibitions and private collections at the same time the Pacific Northwest region saw a dramatic boom in development and residency. As the greater Seattle area continued to develop into a tourism hotbed, the formline style eclipsed all other styles indigenous to the region.

Restoration. Created by Jeffrey Veregge. 
“For thousands of years Native and Non-Native storytellers have used art as a means to share the tales of their people. For me I am carrying on a tradition that started with my ancestors by simply using the means of today and all it’s modern conveniences to share the tales that I love. Art evolves, tools get better, but the essence of what I do is the same as those who did it on the canvases nature provided for them to tell the stories of gods and heroes long, long ago.” 

Since the explosion of formline onto the mainstream art scene, countless culturally inclined Native peoples from the Northwest Coast have developed their passion for creativity in an era known as Salish Modern. Tuning their skilled artisan abilities to fulfill the demand for popular formline, the latest wave of Coast Salish artists have infused the art world with innovative prints combining storytelling, powerful cultural reflections, and vibrant Native flare. Such are the prints we offer our readers now. 

Lynx’Ooy’. Created by Ken Mowatt.

Dubbed ‘Salish imPRINTS’, this collection is created by artists who call the Salish Sea home and is intended to inspire the inner artist in everyone, while enhancing relevant conversations about a shared past, present and future.

Not a Good Day. Created by Art Thompson.

Recovery through creativity

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Radiant energy beamed from a group of artists on a late summer Saturday afternoon. Collectively working on a large masterpiece, they shared bubbly conversation as their brushstrokes left behind vibrant colors on a canvas that consisted of four panels. The artists zoned-in on the task at hand while Indigenous music blasted out of a boombox. Inside of a storage shed on a large property in Stanwood, their workspace serves as a pleasant escape from the busy world, a creative environment they get to enjoy on a near-weekly basis. 

“I experience pure relaxation. It’s very therapeutic,” said artist Jeanie Skerbeck. “It opens my mind to things I need my mind opened to. When I’m in a bad mood, I like coming here to paint. And I’ll tell you what, when I leave, I’m always in a good mood.”

Over the past few months, several Tulalip Healing Lodge residents have contributed their time, creativity and artistry to a collaborative project that many locals will get a chance to see in-person upon completion. Though plans on where have yet to be finalized, the traveling mural project will more than likely be on display at a location near you in the upcoming months. 

Although it is still a work-in-progress, the mural is a meaningful project that already holds a special place in the hearts of each artist who picked up paint brush and left their imprint on the canvas so far. Utilizing their creativity to express their story in detail, the painters found an outlet and a new form of expression that they can use as a tool during their recovery journey. 

“It’s going to be big, I love being a part of this,” exclaimed Tulalip artist, Ambrose Alexander James Jr. “I thought that I was just coming out here with my fellow comrades to keep them upbeat, but I decided to participate and it’s changing who I am. I never did this before, but my grandpa told me art brings out your true spirit and who are.  I’d like to learn all that I can because he tried to teach me before, but I never experienced what he was talking about until now, that I got two years sober.”

Numerous studies have proved that art therapy has assisted greatly in addiction recovery, boosting self-esteem and reducing anxiety and stress levels, while also allowing the artist the space to go inward and address and resolve any personal conflicts they may be facing. This past spring, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program hosted an art class at the Healing Lodge where they asked the participants to ‘paint from the soul rather than from their brain’. 

“We really wanted to have something new they can learn, and use their gifts and talents they didn’t even realized they had, and put their energy into that,” said Problem Gambling Counselor, Robin Johnson.  “We were really amazed at how good their attention, questions and interest were during the first session. We went for two hours and we didn’t even get to the painting.” 

Problem Gambling enlisted Tulalip tribal creative, Monie Ordonia to instruct the class and the Healing Lodge residents loved her energy. Because of the great interaction between student and teacher, and all the positive results and feedback of the first class, the Problem Gambling program presented the idea of the mural to the Healing Lodge residents and asked Monie to return and lend her good vibes and expertise to the participants. 

Said Monie, “We had the residents do sketches and the question posed to them was, ‘what if instead of surviving addiction, we go past that and thrive?’ We already survived, so what’s the next step? It’s to thrive and become an empowered citizen. To thrive and use that as their legacy. This mural is part of their legacy, to help others recognize that they can also thrive through the Healing Lodge. That’s how these images came out, they were all sketched by the residents who were here at the time.”

Robin and Monie both explained that the residents at the Healing Lodge often change and many of those artists who started the project are no longer staying at the lodge. However, the new residents were happy to pick-up where the others left off and continue the project.

On one side of the mural are four drawings, including a shark-whale and a ‘star-eyed’ mask, created by previous residents at the Healing Lodge, that Monie expanded in size and transferred to the panel-canvas. The other side of the mural depicts a Tulalip Canoe Family on the waters of the Salish Sea, with their paddles facing up and an eagle soaring in the distance. 

“I feel welcomed. I feel good. I actually feel comfortable coming here and doing something like this. I really enjoy it,” expressed Tulalip artist Justine Moses. “I think it’s important for recovery, it helps us connect to our inner-selves, spiritually. And it’s cool just to see the art come out. Even if we mess up, it still looks good.”

The Healing Lodge was first established in 2015 and has helped both Tulalip tribal members and those enrolled with other tribal nations attain and maintain a healthy and sober lifestyle. Healing Lodge Resident Aide, Desa Calafiore stated, “The Tulalip Healing Lodge is a clean and sober living home for tribal members. I believe it helps people greatly. I think it’s great for the community. We have some real success stories come out of here. We offer groups, meetings, stability, cultural events. It gives them a chance to be around clean and sober people in a safe environment.”

Desa went on to explain that people often find a new passion in normal, everyday activities while on the road to recovery and self-discovery such as art. And as she mentioned previously, the Healing Lodge has many success stories, but she also stated that there were some instances where residents experienced setbacks as well, but quickly noted that this is often a necessary part of recovery. This is also a lesson that Monie is sure to incorporate in all off her teachings. 

Monie shared, “One of my biggest lessons is reminding them there are no mistakes. Mistakes are stepping stones to bring you to a new choice. When you realize it’s not about being perfect, it’s about opening up that outlet and letting your creative energy flow, that leads the way to remembering who you are and how powerful you are as a creator. So when you can activate that creative source within you, now you’re also awakening that freedom of choice, am I going to choose something that imprisons me like addiction, or am I going to choose something that empowers me, something creative that feeds the soul rather than the addiction?”

Tulalip News will keep you updated as the Healing Lodge artists complete the mural and take the art project out on the road. For further information about the Healing Lodge, please visit https://www.tulaliphealthsystem.com/BehavioralHealth/HealingLodge

The future of Tulalip literacy is in good hands

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Over the last five weeks, a group of Tulalip youth with a shared interest for writing met at Hibulb Cultural Center to embrace their creative sides, while improving their intellectual skills for the upcoming school year. Led by local author and Cascade High School teacher Steve Bertrand, the Youth Writer’s Workshop came together Monday mornings for two-hour sessions. 

“Our workshop was open to students between 5th and 12th grade. Every week focused on a different form of creative writing, from short stories to letters to songs and poetry,” explained Steve. He brought a wealth of experience to the workshop with over 40-years of teaching experience and more than 35 books published.

“From brainstorming and idea development to rough drafts and the editing process to final publication and sharing with the group, I’ve been really impressed with the kids and how much material they developed in such a short amount of time,” he continued. “Throughout my career I’ve taught both middle schoolers and high schoolers, and it’s always remarkable to witness the creativity and openness of younger people. The students I was fortunate to teach here were eager to learn and embraced all the forms of writing.” 

Every day kids experience events that are new to them. In doing so, they learn new words that expand their vocabulary and have new ideas that help them develop a creative and curious mind to understand the world around them. By encouraging children to write from a young age, they can develop critical emotional skills that are beneficial at any age. Channeling emotions, being able to manage a difficult situation, and understanding how others feel are just some of the skills invoked through creative writing.

A group of middle schoolers giving up precious hours of their summer break to develop their writing skills seems farfetched, that is until you talk to the students in question. Then it becomes clear you’re dealing with the kind of academic achievers who don’t require encouragement to explore their imaginations, nor are they bashful about conveying their personal experiences and emotions through written word.

“I enjoyed learning new ways to write,” said soon-to-be 6th grader Allyea Hernandez. “Learning how to properly write a poem was my favorite part of the class. Poetry isn’t something I’m really interested in, but it was still fun learning how there are so many ways to create a poem. Did you know they don’t have to rhyme? They can be about mood and emotion. I wrote a poem about happiness that my mom really liked.”

“It’s been fun. There were way more types of writing than I thought, but Steve is a really good teacher and made learning about the different writing forms enjoyable,” added future 7th grader Kileea Pablo. She mentioned writing with a focus on imagery, rhyme, metaphor and personification would help her in English and Literature classes she’ll be taking next month. “I know I’ll be doing a lot of writing in 7th grade and wanted to get a head start practicing and learning new writing skills by coming here. It was worth it. I’m more confident expressing emotion in my writing now.”

In a world where text speak and emojis are so common, creative writing helps to develop writing skills that are being forgotten about. If a youth cannot communicate effectively through written word, the problem may only become worse as they grow older. Encouraging creative writing can help a young person, better yet anyone of any age, to communicate effectively.

Middle schooler Allyea put it best when she proclaimed, “Writing is something you need to know how to do well, otherwise you can’t really get far.” 

Concluding their fifth and final writer’s workshop, the wordsmiths in training proudly displayed their certificates of completion in front of the latest Hibulb exhibit ‘The Power of Words: A History of Tulalip Literacy.” If these Tulalip writers have anything to say about it, the future of Tulalip literacy is in pretty good hands, too.

Friendship

Friendship is the best.

Everyone knows that friends last.

That’s why I stick with mine.

– Amaya Hernandez 

Happiness

Happiness is as yellow as a lemon on a hot summer day. 

Sounds like a bumblebee buzzing or a bird chirping.

Tastes like sweet vanilla ice cream. 

Smells like your mothers homemade cookies out of the oven. 

Looks like a cozy bed after a long day. 

It makes you feel joyous. 

– Allyea Hernandez

Paddle to Pre-School Parade

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Nearly thirty vehicles formed a line that began on 76th St. NW, wrapped around 36th Ave NW, and led to the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy parking lot on a hazy August afternoon. Inside each car were eager and excited students who successfully completed the academy’s birth-to-three program and have now earned the official title as the new ‘big kids’ of the early learning center.

In total, thirty-nine future leaders received their very-first certification-of-completion and will be moving-up to the pre-school side of the academy beginning next school year. 

As each car entered the parking lot, the students received a large cut-out star with their names written across it. When the cars drove through the TELA property, the students were cheered on by their teachers, friends and family members, who recognized the little ones for their first-of-many accomplishments of their educational journey. 

 “Today we had our Paddle to Pre-school Parade,” said Marcilena Vela, TELA Birth-to-Three Administrator. “Our three-year-old’s, from our birth-to-three early head start program, are moving over to either Montessori or ECEAP next year. This is our first drive-thru celebration parade, due to COVID. We usually host it up at the gym. This is important to celebrate because this is a milestone for the kids, and it gives them the opportunity to show how much they’ve accomplished in the short little three years of their lives. We had a great turnout! We had 27 out 39 children.”

The kiddos also received gift baskets and popcorn buckets from their teachers, a bittersweet moment for both parties as they shared a final student-teacher exchange together before the students begin the next exciting phase of their education across campus.  

Honoring Officer Charlie Cortez

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It has been nine months since the tragic accident occurred on local waters, claiming the life of a young, Tulalip tribal member. At the age of 29, Charlie Cortez was pronounced lost at sea, paying the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty as a Tulalip Fish and Wildlife Officer. 

On the afternoon of August 17, Charlie’s family and friends, as well as both the tribal and law enforcement communities, gathered at the Angels of the Winds Arena in Everett for the fallen hero’s memorial service. 

“Charlie was a kind man who always greeted you with a smile,” said Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “He was so sweet. When I think about Charlie as a child, I think about all the memories that the family has of him growing up, all of his adventures. I think about how he grew up to be such an honorable young man. He made his family, his ancestors, and his community very proud. Charlie was not only a motocross rider, that’s where he spent a lot of his youth, they were always on the road having a blast with the family, but he was an avid hunter and fisherman. He was also an awesome father, son, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend.” 

With each day that passed since that stormy night on November 17, when Charlie’s vessel capsized, the family remained optimistic and hopeful that the beloved officer would be found and brought home. When the heartbreaking news first broke, volunteers from near and far dedicated their time, scouring the sea and shoreline in search of Charlie. 

Tulalip Vice-Chairman, Glen Gobin shared, “Nobody thought we’d be at this point when we got that call, that we had a boat tip over and there were people in the water. When the call went out, many people answered. Many of our local sister tribes, local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, Navy, Coast Guard, and our tribal fisherman. And they came out in weather conditions that they normally would’ve not went out for. When the call came out, they freely went out in the storm to search. In hopes of a different conclusion, many stayed out there 24-36 hours straight searching, only to go home to take a nap and continue on. For weeks that took place. It was really hard this past nine months, for the family, for the community. For the family, it felt like unfinished work we need to conclude here, but can’t yet.”

Charlie’s family was embraced by the law enforcement community over the recent months. His name eternalized on memorial walls in Spokane, Olympia and Washington D.C., and also displayed upon medals and plaques, honoring the man who died while defending tribal treaty rights. Although the family is very appreciative of those accolades and acts-of-recognition, they still remain deprived of closure as his remains have yet-to-be recovered.

“It means a great deal to our family that we’re finally able to have a service to honor our Charlie,” tearfully expressed Charlie’s cousin, Casey Woods. “We were never expecting this type of tragedy to happen, especially to him. Charlie, you give me strength. I was so hopeful in the beginning. I miss you, Charlie. I tried to make the most meaning of your absence, a constant battle between denial and acceptance. I just couldn’t believe someone as good as you could be taken from us. I know your spirit is alive and well in all our hearts. Charlie, you are truly one of a kind and that is the hardest part, to go on without you.”

The beautiful and moving ceremony opened with a performance of the National Anthem by Tulalip tribal member Cerissa Kitchens. An acoustic guitar cover of Go Rest High on the Mountain was performed by Tribal member Andrew Gobin. Lieutenant Governor Danny Heck spoke to the family, offering encouraging words while he also presented them with the Washington State flag. The family also received the Tulalip Tribes flag from the Chairwoman and the U.S. flag from Tulalip Chief of Police, Chris Sutter. 

“Charlie, as a tribal member, grew up learning and hearing the stories of tribal elders and leaders who fought the battles to uphold and preserve tribal sovereignty and treaty rights,” stated Chief Sutter. “As a fish and wildlife officer, he took his duty seriously and understood the higher significance of his work, which was to protect the sovereignty and treaty rights and preserve the way of life for tribal hunters, fisherman, gatherers and future generations of tribal members. Charlie always had a smile as you can see in his photos. Charlie was kind. He was well-liked by all. He was always was willing to help and give assistance.”

He continued, “To Charlie’s two children Dominic and Peyton, his parents Alan and Paula, brother Moochie, grandmother Sandra and all the aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family and loved ones, on behalf of the men and women of the Tulalip Tribal Police Department, no words can adequately express our sorrow and grief. We offer our heartfelt condolences and send our support, love and prayers that you may receive God’s peace and comfort in this time of loss and remembrance.”

In addition to the heartfelt words shared by cousin Casey, Chief Sutter, Teri and Glen, TPD Commander Robert Myers and TPD Sergeant Chris Gobin both fondly recalled their time spent with Charlie as members of the Tulalip law enforcement agency. Father Pat Twohy provided the service with an opening prayer, cedar blessing and the benediction. A slideshow celebrating Officer’s Cortez’s life, filled with pictures from his youth and selfies with his children, had the entire arena in tears. Margie Santibanez read the eulogy on behalf of the family and Tulalip drummers and singers provided medicine by way of traditional songs. The Seattle Police Pipes and Drums ensemble performed Amazing Grace on bagpipes, which was followed by a 21-gun salute. 

The stage was decorated with all the things that Charlie loved, from hunting to motocross to protecting and serving his community, Charlie’s certificates, uniforms, medals, accolades, trophies, and family portraits were on display, celebrating his legacy. Because he has yet to return home, a traditional bentwood box was donated and then customized in Charlie’s honor. The box was filled with personal items by his loved ones, and utilized as a way for the family to say their good-byes.

“As you all know, we never did recover Charlie,” said Glen. “In the box, the family has placed mementos, things of importance to them, things that were important to Charlie, in a way to continue to pass down his memories. The family, at various times if they want to, can open the box and they can go through and talk about the items in there with Charlie’s children, Charlie’s grandchildren when they come, other family members. I encourage each and every one of us to not be afraid to talk about Charlie. Don’t hold back. Share the memories, share the stories, share the feelings. Charlie’s life was not about the end, it was everything up to it. That’s what we carry within us, that’s what gives us strength to continue on and that’s what keeps his memories alive.”

The family indicated that although his memorial service took place, the search for Charlie will continue. After the service, Charlie’s family turned to the crowd outside of the Angels of the Winds Arena and raised their hands to everyone in attendance, thanking them in traditional Tulalip fashion for their love and support during their time of need. 

Thank you for keeping Charlie’s family and the Tulalip Police Department in your prayers. As always, please send any potential evidence, information or your own informal searches to us by texting 360-926-5059, or emailing bringofficercortezhome@gmail.com, or leaving a voicemail at (909) 294-6356.