Quil Ceda 5th Graders celebrate Salmon Homecoming

Charlee Martin and Bella Hammond get hands-on with various sea creatures.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“We are honored to be on the ancestral homeland and waters of the First People of the Salish Sea. Thank you Coast Salish for allowing us all to call this beautiful place home,” was the opening statement made by Salmon Homecoming Alliance staff as approximately 500 fourth and fifth-grade students from local tribal schools arrived outside the Seattle Aquarium on the morning of September 12.  

The gathering was a pre-celebration known as Salmon Homecoming School Days. A public event at Waterfront Park where interactive presentations and displays attract interest and attention on how to explore ways that support the cooperative spirit of salmon restoration and protection. 

For the fifth consecutive year all Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary (QCT) 5th grade classes were active participants. The students were excited to spend a day out of the classroom at the Seattle waterfront where they were given an opportunity to experience everything the Aquarium had to offer, while enjoying a variety of salmon-based learning activities.

“This is an amazing opportunity for our students to continue learning about other people’s cultures and to identify with other tribes in the area,” explained 5th grade teacher Ms. Hansen. “Not a lot of schools get invited here, so it means a lot for us as a school to continue to have a role. This is a unique event that lets our kids be proud and true to who they are.”

Interesting fact, the Seattle Aquarium is the ninth largest aquarium in the United States by attendance and among the top five paid visitor attractions in the Puget Sound region. Bolstering those stats were an additional 100 or so Quil Ceda students, accompanied by teachers and chaperones, who made the mini journey to the region’s premier resource for hands-on marine experiences.

“The coolest thing I learned was octopuses huddle up in a corner when its bed time,” said 5th grade Charlee Martin. “I got to see a bunch of baby sharks and even a blow fish. What I’ll remember most is touching a star fish and sea anemones.”

During their day-long excursion, they students wondered from exhibit to exhibit eagerly looking for aquatic friends similar to Sponge Bob and Nemo. And when they found them, the tech savvy 10-year-olds were quick to pull out their cell phones and take the all-important selfie.  

Being salmon are often viewed as the traditional food source of Coast Salish peoples, and the Tulalip Tribes moniker is ‘People of the Salmon’, it is only fitting that the cohort of 5th graders got to learn much about their cultural icon on the trip. 

“We got to look at all kinds of fish and even touch some of them!” beamed 5th grader Noi Sisanga. “I learned about fish’s lifecycle, like how they start as eggs then learn to camouflage themselves as kids. Then when they become spawning adult fish they swim home to make babies.”

Inside the aquarium, a number of Salmon Homecoming learning stations were setup and made as kid-friendly as could be. Marine biologists, aquatic experts, and salmon advocates did their best to keep the energetic youths attention while explaining salmon lifecycles and ecosystems, while adding in the cultural importance of their habitat protection and restoration.

Quil Ceda students pose with a life-size replica of the Tulalip Tribes symbol, the Orca

Concluding Salmon Homecoming School Days was a pair of tribal song and dance groups from Lummi Nation and Muckleshoot who shared their teachings with everyone in attendance. Several of the Quil Ceda students could be seen singing along while Lummi performed a song very similar to one sang every morning at QCT. 

“My favorite memory of the trip is when our students got to sit and listen to other Native youth drumming and singing as part of the Salmon Homecoming festivities,” said student advocate Malory Simpson. “It is always a beautiful thing to see our students witness other Native students practicing their traditional teachings. It helps to reinforce the ideas and values that our students are being taught at Quil Ceda Tulalip.” 

Lushootseed returns to Marysville Pilchuck High School

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After nearly a two decade hiatus, the Lushootseed language has finally returned to the classroom as an official program taught at Marysville Pilchuck High School for the 2019-2020 school year. 

The tireless dedication of longtime Indigenous education employees and Native student supporters Matt Remle and Ricky Belmont, who made it their mission long ago to bring the Coast Salish language to the high school, has brought a swift sense of excitement to the MP campus.

“For years my co-worker Ricky Belmont and I worked to find ways to bring Native language learning opportunities to Marysville Pilchuck. Last year, the stars finally aligned when we reached out to our administration about developing a Lushootseed class on campus and they agreed,” explained Matt Remle, lead Indigenous education liaison. “When it came time to register for classes this year, Ricky and I reached out to our current students and incoming freshman and told them they better sign up after all that hustling.

“Because demand was high we now have the amazing Natosha Gobin teaching two classes on campus,” he continued. “Students are already being [heavily] influenced. Yesterday, I was speaking to a senior about her post high school plans and she said she wanted to be a Lushootseed teacher!”

A Tulalip tribal member, Natosha has spent the last 19-years learning, teaching, and helping to revitalize the traditional language of her ancestors. She has come full circle after graduating as an MP high school student 20 years ago to now reentering the MP halls as a certified teacher and Lushootseed instructor.

“Toby Langen and Tony Hatch taught Lushootseed classes at MP in the early 2000’s, which were the classes that I sat in on along with Eliza Davis when we first started in the language department,” recalled Natosha. “It is exciting to be back on the campus as the lead teacher. I hope that I can keep the students engaged and speaking, giving them tools to use the language daily both in and out of the classroom.

“The work that Michelle Myles has done the past two years at Heritage has sparked the interest for high school youth to start learning and speaking our language,” she continued. “We have high hopes that the youth taking these classes will be able to see themselves as the next group of teachers to keep the work moving forward.”

The Lushootseed course was offered to all interested students from all grade levels and quickly filled up. It comes as no surprise that the majority of her students are Tulalip tribal members who jumped at the opportunity to learn  their traditional language and history from an actual Tulalip culture bearer.

“It’s already one of my favorite classes,” shared 10th grader Shylah Zackuse (Tulalip). “After finding out Lushootseed would be offered, I planned my daily schedule perfectly in order to take it. Being taught by a tribal member, there’s a real connection because Natosha is family.” 

Currently offered during 2nd and 3rd period only, 34 out of the 52 enrolled students are either Tulalip tribal members or have lived in the Tulalip community their whole lives. The remainder of the students are a mixture of other Native and non-Native students who are eager to learn about the traditional lifeways of their neighboring Tulalip people. 

“I don’t know a lot about my Native culture, so taking Lushootseed is a new opportunity to learn about my background,” explained 9th grader Jesse Lamoureaux (Tsimshian from Metlakatla, Alaska). “This class teaches me about my past. What we are learning is thanks to our ancestors from way back who documented their teachings on audio tapes. My favorite phrase so far has to be ηαʔɬ δαδατυ (Lushootseed for ‘good morning’) because we can say it every day.”

The Lushootseed coursework will focus on relevant conversation lessons that can be used throughout the day. These include talking about daily routines, weather, describing feelings and states of mind, as well as many more topics to keep students engaged.

The course will also feature a great many references to Tulalip ancestors and elders who laid the foundation for where the Tribes are today, such as Harriet Shelton Dover, Martha Lamont and Lizzie Krise to name but a few. And best of all the MP students won’t be reading about these iconic individuals from colonial textbooks either, instead they will be hearing their powerful words spoken from a combination of archived video and audio resources.

“Some of my greatest inspirations are the speakers who had the foresight to document and record our language, enabling us to speak and teach it today,” said Natosha. “We want to ensure our community is aware of the ancestors who played key roles in preserving the language. Through passing on their stories, some of our youth are able to recognize their connection to the speakers and deepen their desire to participate.”

With both Lushootseed classes at full capacity and a waiting list with students hoping to transfer in if the opportunity arises, Marysville Pilchuck is already looking to build on the early successes of having more culturally relevant classes available for their diverse student population.

“It’s so wonderful to be able to offer Lushootseed to our students,” explained Principal Christine Bromley. “We have Native students, non-Native students and students with disabilities all taking Lushootseed. From all perspectives of this, it’s a great opportunity to build relationships.  

“Partnering with the Tulalip Tribes to bring Lushootseed here to the high school is a critical piece to build upon the relationship between the school district and the Tribes,” she added. “I can’t wait to see us grow Lushootseed into a level 2 and 3 program to get more and more students involved.”

Future plans also include offering a Native art class, such as an introduction to carving taught by a tribal member. The class space is currently available and only requires a willing artist to teach it. Until then, Natosha and her collection of Indigenous wisdom intend to teach and inspire the culturally oriented young minds of Marysville Pilchuck High School. 

Gail Lynn Morris (1964 – 2019)

May 29, 1964 – Sept. 5, 2019 Gail Morris, born May 29, 1964 in Tacoma, WA, passed away on September 5, 2019 in, Tulalip, WA. Gail loved to travel with her cousin Ronnie, spending time seeing rivers, oceans, and mountains. She especially loved animals, spending time in her garden, family reunions, and family home visits. Gail loved local outings such as going to Deception Pass, Mount Baker, and Point Defiance. She loved to give back – often making care packages and donating to animal charities. She was a proud member of the Tulalip Tribes. Gail is preceded in death by her mother, Shirley Paul Morris; father, Beaufort Paul “Pinky” Lavelle; grand-parents, Matthew and Amanda Paul; loving aunts, uncles, cousins; and her pet, Gemini. She is survived by her brother, John Morris; sisters, Joan Morris and Donna Bob; cousin/brother, Ronnie Ancheta; aunts, Donna Paul and Katherine “Chickie” Paul; special cousin, Sharon DeFevers; niece, Casey May Morris; numerous cousins; and loving dog, Coco and cat, Boo. The family would like to thank her caregivers, Celia, Charita, Abigail, Brisa, Paz, and Kathryn for taking such good care of her. Special thank you to Les Parks for all his help and supporting the family. Funeral services will be September 12, 2019 at 10am at the Tulalip Tribal Gym with burial to follow at Mission Beach Cemetery.

Richard Marlon Spencer

Ricky Marlon Spencer April 13, 1957 – Sept. 5, 2019 Richard “Rik” Marlon Spencer was born on April 13, 1957 to Richard and Violet Spencer in Everett, WA, and passed away September 5, 2019 in Tulalip, WA. Rik loved to spend time beading, playing bingo, collecting coins and sports cars, and commercial fishing. He also loved fighting fires. Rik would also dedicate his time to supporting ceremonial activities and helping families. Rik is preceded in death by his parents, Richard Spencer II and Violet Napoleon; sister, Viola Cheer; brothers, Clifford Paul Spencer, Richard Spencer III. Rik is survived by his brother, John Harvey Sr; sisters, Teena Muir and Jennifer Stanley, as well as numerous aunties, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. There will be a gathering on September 10, 2019 at 1pm at Schaefer-Shipman Funeral Home. There will be an Interfaith service at 6pm that same evening at the Tulalip Tribal Gym. Funeral services will be September 11, 2019 at 10am at the gym with burial to follow at Mission Beach Cemetery.

Tribal students receive backpacks and supplies for new school year

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On the morning of August 21, a large crowd of families gathered, forming a line that extended from the Don Hatch Youth Center gymnasium to the sidewalks along Totem Beach Road. In the warm overcast weather, the families visited in anticipation while Tulalip Youth Services prepared for a busy morning during their annual Back to School Bash celebration. 

At twelve-noon, on the dot, the gymnasium doors opened and students rushed in, hoping to get first dibs on the backpack of their choice. Rows upon rows lay a large variety of stylish book bags. The kids received one ticket upon entry and, when finding the backpacks designated for their grade, picked the bag that best suited their personalities. While the preschool through elementary school students gravitated toward character bags, featuring the likes of the Paw Patrol and Marvel crew, the older students went for the trendy fashionable backpacks from Jansport, Adidas and Vans. 

“My backpack looks like fishes in the water, red fish,” exclaimed KaLesa Comenote. “I’m going into third grade at Quil Ceda. I’m not ready for school to start quite yet, but the new backpack makes it a little better.”

Altogether, Youth Services purchased over 1,500 backpacks for young Tulalip learners, as well as for students of the Marysville School District who are enrolled at another tribe. Within the first hour, hundreds of backpacks were distributed, ensuring the students start their first day of school well-prepared. Prior to the event, the department held a breakfast social for local special needs students and their families. After breakfast, the kids had the first opportunity to select their backpacks before the gymnasium doors opened to the community. Youth Services also set 77 backpacks aside for the youth who are in foster care.

“The Back to School Bash is one of our favorite events of the year because we get to see the students get excited for school,” said Youth Services Positive Youth Development & Leadership Manager, Jessica Bustad. “We’re also happy to see the kids because we don’t get to see most of them during the summer. It’s a great time for the students and families to get together, have fun and celebrate the new school year.” 

Youth Services also stuffed each bag with a school supply kit filled with notebooks, paper, folders, crayons, makers, pencils, glue sticks and scissors. 

“I think it’s cool that they do this for us,” expressed high school sophomore, Charles Guss. “It shows support for all the kids. Throwing on our new backpacks gives us something to look forward to when going to school, especially on those early, early mornings. I got an Eastsport and a bunch of supplies too. I’m ready to go back to school now for sure.”

To help get the kids more excited about their upcoming academic year, Youth Services enlisted the Sno-Isle Library Bookmobile. The students and their families were able to sign up for library cards and also check out a number of fun, kid-friendly stories to read together.

“The biggest thing we want to share with our families is to read with your students, invest in books, get a library card and promote reading,” stated Jessica. “Make sure your students read every night, even if it’s just twenty minutes, because reading is important, it creates the foundation for their academic success. And also, we need parent community volunteers for everything going on at the schools, it helps the students thrive when they know they have caring adults there supporting them.”

With their backpack straps fittingly fastened, the kids hurried to enjoy a number of carnival rides stationed at the Youth Center parking lot. A number of departments joined the festivities, including the Lushootseed language teachers who ran a face painting station, as well as the Tulalip Bay Fire Department who gave the kids tours of their fire engine. The Seattle Pacific Science Center taught an interactive physiology mini-exhibit titled ‘Blood and Guts’, giving the students an up-close look real organs from both animals and humans, including the human brain. 

“I have two second graders and this is so great because there’s a lot of families who need this,” said parent Sheena Robinson. “We’re really thankful that the Tribe does this event and it keeps getting better every year. My kid’s look forward to this at the start of each school year. They know they’re going back to school, but they at least get to have this day together before they do.”