Tulalip’s neighboring city to the south, Everett, is the seventh-largest city in all of Washington State by population, and it’s by far the largest city in Snohomish County. Established in 1890, the city of Everett is situated on a peninsula. Its city boundaries are designated by the Snohomish River to the east and the Salish Sea to the west.
In precolonial times, long before imaginary map borders, the land Everett was built upon was home to our Tulalip ancestors. As a sustenance people who lived off the land and natural environment, they flourished in the ideal fishing location. But that was then. And this is now.
To live in the now is to recognize and embrace the many ways modern Tulalip people have adapted while continuing to flourish well into the 21st century. One such way is evident through our boundary-redefining, limit-pushing artists who refuse to placate a binary system that deems their work traditional or non-traditional. Instead, they embrace challenges to create visionary works of art as they routinely use the latest technologies available in order to manifest their inspired visions via a multitude of mediums.
The latest example comes from a truly vibrant collaborative effort between the city of Everett and Tulalip master carver, James Madison. The Everett Mayor’s office desired an artist’s touch to remake the outside of the Everett Municipal Building, located at the intersection of Wetmore Avenue and Wall Street. After a call went out for artists, James was rewarded with the job.
His vision for the project, titled Save Our Salish Sea, was unveiled in late October. Taken together, this enormous metal fabrication installation made up of bold red, yellow, and black colors is impossible to miss for pedestrians and commuters alike. But forged into the durable aluminum and medicine wheel colored pallet is a traditional teaching that has been passed down from one Tulalip generation to the next.
“With this project, I wanted to pay respect to our culture as this region’s first people,” explained James. “I tried to showcase our culture and who our people are, while paying respect to the Salish Sea through the blackfish, salmon, and our stories that have been passed on for generations.
“The salmon run that wraps around the building represents Sockeye,” he continued. “They used to be so abundant in our local waters, but now their runs are really short and even desolate in some places. It’s important that we continue to raise awareness of the dwindling salmon runs because their well-being is interconnected with the well-being of both blackfish and human populations. My grandpa always told me that it’s up to us to keep the blackfish and salmon alive because if they go away, then humans will go away as well.”
At the heart of this latest collaboration between a local city and one of our artists is a respect for the cultural heritage that pre-dates the urban landscapes that have taken over Coast Salish territory.
By adorning municipal buildings, ferry terminals, college campuses, and other widely visited public spaces with Tulalip art embedded with iconic cultural imagery, local municipalitiesare finally moving in a positive direction to help preserve the vibrant traditions, intricate artistry, and spiritual symbolism that define our Native culture.
Tulalip Tribes educates community on Treaty Rights
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
If you’re an avid Instagram user, and let’s face it most of us are, chances are you’ve stumbled across somebody’s profile that is filled with gorgeous photos of mountain ranges, waterfalls, beaches and tall evergreens. Every day, more and more people are exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest, hiking hidden trails in search of breathtaking views and secret camping grounds.
A 2016 study, conducted by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, reported that outdoor recreation generated over twenty billion dollars in this state alone. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, outdoor recreation is a three-hundred-billion-dollar industry and is continuing to grow exponentially. And while it’s important to disconnect, inhale fresh air, enjoy scenery and experience the great outdoors, it’s equally important to remember that this land is sacred and has strong spiritual ties to the original caretakers of this region, who have lived off its resources since time immemorial.
Let’s use the power of imagination to travel back about two-hundred years or so. You’re a young Coast Salish hunter who has been tasked to provide food for your family and village. After many years of cultural teachings, you’re finally ready to head into the woods to get your first elk.
While you’re trekking up to the mountains, you recall all of the stories about elk roaming about in abundance in an area your family has hunted for generations. But you arrive only to see that there are hundreds of people hanging out, sleeping beneath the stars and enjoying themselves in a not-so-quiet manner. Because of all the people and constant foot traffic, there isn’t an elk in sight. So, you decide to try nearby areas to see if the elk have migrated, but instead you’re met with more people. Now you face the dilemma of providing another source of sustenance for your people, who depend on that meat for the upcoming winter months.
Although crowded hunting grounds weren’t an issue two hundred years ago, you can see how big of an impact it would’ve had on tribal villages. When the Coast Salish people signed their treaty one hundred and sixty-four years ago, they kept the right to hunt and harvest on the same lands their ancestors had since the beginning of time.
Fast forward to the summer of 2018. A story was released by a popular local radio broadcast, KUOW, with the headline reading, ‘Seattle Hikers: You may be trampling on tribal treaty rights.’ Within the article, Tulalip Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Director, Jason Gobin, shared a similar story but in modern time, claiming that many outdoor adventurers are showing a total disregard to the tribe’s ancestral lands. He expressed that due to over congestion, the areas for tribal members to conduct their spiritual work, whether it be hunting, gathering cedar or harvesting huckleberries, has decreased substantially since the signing of the Point Elliot Treaty of 1855.
The story spread like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter as people shared the link, voicing both their support and concern. Over the course of a few months, the article inspired several outdoor recreational organizations and non-profit conservation groups to reach out to the tribe in an effort to learn more about tribal sovereignty. Because of the inquires, the Tulalip Natural Resources department hosted a daylong event for local non-governmental organizations to learn about treaty rights and the history of the Tulalip Tribes.
On the morning of January 9, around thirty individuals from recreational and conservation groups gathered at the Hibulb Cultural Center to begin the day with a tour of the museum. While having fun with the interactive displays, the group gained a basic understanding of tribal lifeways.
“It was a very powerful cultural exhibit, I learned so much I didn’t know before,” expressed Erika Lundahl of the outdoors publishing company, Mountaineers Books. “Particularly about the woolly dogs and also to see the special relationship the people share with the salmon in the area, as well as the weaving and the residential schools. It was powerful to hear first person accounts, it’s a lot to take in. There were things I’ve heard before, but getting a chance to hear the full story is something we all need to look at very closely to get an understanding of the impacts of generational trauma.”
The group then journeyed across the reservation and made their way to the Tulalip Administration building. In conference room 162, Natural Resources’ Environmental Liaison, Ryan Miller, spoke passionately about protecting the treaty rights his ancestors fought to keep.
“Treaty rights are an inherent right,” he explained. “Treaty rights were not given to tribes, it’s a common misconception that the government gives Native Peoples special rights. That’s the exact opposite of how it works. Tribes are sovereign nations, they give up rights and they retain rights. Treaty rights are rights that are not given up by tribes and they’re upheld by the federal government as part of their trust relationship with the treaty tribes. The tribes right to self-govern is the supreme law of the land. It’s woven into the U.S. constitution as well as many legal decisions and legislative articles. The constitution says, congress has the power to make treaties with sovereign nations and that treaties are the supreme law of the land.
“We all love the Pacific Northwest,” he continues. “Other people love it here too and they keep coming back, it’s really getting aggravating. I’m not talking about one person going out and hiking. That’s not the issue. What we’re concerned about, just like the population increasing, is that those people are coming here for what we all love to do, get out into nature. They want to see all those places that you love and I love, that I have a spiritual connection to. We have to figure out a way that we can provide that for people in a way that protects not only the inherent rights of tribes but the resources, so all of us can enjoy it.”
Libby Nelson, Natural Resources Senior Environmental Policy Analyst, gave the group an in depth look at the Point Elliot Treaty. During her presentation, she familiarized the participants with the term, ‘usual and accustomed grounds’. She also touched on the Boldt Decision and spoke of the Tulalip’s current co-stewardship with the U.S. Forestry department, which dedicated an area solely for spiritual use such as berry picking and the annual mountain camp for tribal youth during the summertime.
Natural Resources Special Projects Manager, Patti Gobin, shared a personal and moving story about her grandma, Celum Young, who was a first generation Tulalip boarding school student. As she shared her grandmother’s painful experiences, she quickly followed with a heartwarming story of Celum, depicting her as a woman full of love who struggled loving herself. Because of years of forced assimilation, Celum endured physical abuse for speaking her language and practicing her traditions while at the boarding school. And as a direct result from the boarding schools, Patti admitted that her grandmother never spoke Lushootseed or taught the language to her children and grandchildren, in fear that they would be punished just as she was.
Native children who were around Celum’s age also experienced these atrocities at the boarding schools. Indigenous languages slowly began to slip away from their respective tribal communities. It wasn’t until recently that the language saw a major revitalization within the Tulalip community. Patti shared all this information, weaving together tales of happiness during dark times, to paint a picture that showcases how the trauma from the boarding schools trickled down generation after generation.
Patti then asked the group to help honor tribal treaties, now that they are equipped with more knowledge and understanding of treaty rights and the tribal experience. She suggested signage depicting the tribe’s history as well as murals, such as the ones that will be displayed shortly in Skykomish and the San Juan Islands.
“You don’t have to tell the intimate story of the Stu-hubs people,” she stated. “You can simply begin with the most general knowledge, that there are Indian tribes in the area and we will respect their treaty rights.”
At the end of the presentations, Ryan handed out a list of principals to the recreationalists and conservationists, stating that the tribe wants to be included in any project proposals and to build strong relationships with each organization. He urged them to bring the principals back to their team and discuss and modify the list to meet their mission and values.
“Protection of treaty rights protects endangered species and habitat for all of Washington citizens, not just for tribes,” he said. “All the places that you love, all the species you care about, the orca, the salmon; our treaties are the last line of defense. When our state’s governor was telling the Trump administration that they couldn’t drill for oil off of our coast, he said it would be a violation of tribal treaty rights. We’re the last vanguard, help us protect it. Treaties are the supreme law of the land. They’re living documents and they have as much importance today, to us as Indian People, and they should to you as Washington citizens, as they did the day they were signed.”
The Tulalip Natural Resources Department plans on hosting several more Treaty Rights events like this throughout the year, tailoring their presentations to groups such as environmentalists and governmental entities. For more information, please contact Natural Resources at (360) 716-4480.
Thirty years ago, you couldn’t find a map using the term “Salish Sea” for the Puget Sound region. There were Seattle galleries and souvenir shops aplenty selling Native art, but the masks, totem poles and sinuous formline animal prints were designs from hundreds of miles away, not from here.
Thirty years ago, no major art museum in Washington had mounted an exhibit highlighting Native created works of our own lands and waters. Salish artists were indeed honing their skills and creating beautiful works of art, but the critical interest and most gallery attention was focused on art from Alaska and the Canadian coast.
In 1989, the balance started to tip. Washington’s Centennial exhibit of Native arts opened, managed by Patricia Cosgrove and Kenneth Watson. Both art historians were on a mission to convince Washingtonians that totem poles are not indigenous to this area and that Salish art is. The exhibit was incredibly successful, and soon many influences aligned to literally change the landscape of the Northwest Native art market.
Ever since, the diligence and commitment of so many artists and their allies has led to the word ‘Salish’ entering mainstream vocabulary. This insured the characteristic sweeping lines and subtle patterns of Salish arts remains recognizable and emblematic of the greater Seattle area.
Through the effort of many, this vision has come true. High quality galleries like Seattle’s Stonington Gallery and Steinbrueck Native Gallery feature experienced and rising artists from across the Salish Sea region. Generations of new artists have risen in skill and popularity. Today, Salish art is an explosion of innovation and creativity that still has a firm foundation in our region’s heritage.
That innovation and creativity of Coast Salish artistry is currently on full display at the Mobius Art Gallery, located in Bothell on the Cascadia Community College campus. Inside the gallery mounts an unprecedented five-week long exhibition titled Native Spirit: Art from Indigenous Cultures.
“The artists and artwork in this exhibition embody a wide range of spirit and narratives that live within their Native cultures,” stated exhibit curator Chris Gildow. “Their skills, creativity, and passions are equaled only by their commitment to breathe life into artwork they create. Their artwork tells us about the connection between human and animal worlds, about salvation and transformation, and about our relationship with the Earth. This exhibition lets us share these stories and traditions with the entire community.”
On Tuesday, October 9, the auditorium adjacent to Mobius Art Gallery was filled with excited art enthusiasts and college students who heard there would be a traditional Native American welcome ceremony to mark Native Spirit’s grand opening. Led by Ray Fryberg, the Tulalip Canoe Family filled the auditorium with traditional song and dance to commemorate the special occasion.
Eight artists were selected to be showcased in the Coast Salish themed exhibit, which includes handcrafted submissions by five talented Tulalip tribal members: Mike Gobin, Tillie Jones, Ty Juvinel, James Madison, and the artist known as Cedar.
“It shows there’s a lot of talent in Tulalip,” said art gallery contributor Ty Juvinel. “We’ve grown a lot as artists. Seeing all the different artwork and local artists represented here is awesome.”
“I met the curator of this exhibit, Chris Gildow, about a year ago when he asked me about a Salish exhibit that he wanted to put on here at Cascadia College,” added Lower Elwha artist Alfred Charles, Jr. “As artists, he gave us free reign to create whatever we wanted. I’m excited that so many people came out and shared their art with the community. This exhibit turned out great.”
Coast Salish art is rich in its diversity of forms. Masks, weavings, wood carvings, jewelry, and intricate bead work are but a few of the common mediums often associated with the Coast Salish style. Subject matter includes, but is not limited to, human and animal forms, spiritual themes and mythic figures. A diverse selection of artwork was chosen to be on display.
Native Spirit: Art from Indigenous Cultures will be on display until November 15. Mobius Art Gallery is open and free to the public Monday – Thursday, 10:00am to 4:00pm. For more information please visit www.cascadia.edu/nativespirit
The traditional Tulalip story, the Seal Hunting Brothers told by Martha Lamont, is the story of two young Tulalip men who lived at Priest Point. The brothers would travel the Salish Sea hunting for seals, salmon and shellfish for the entire community. The brothers prepared and delivered plates of fresh seafood to the elders as well as to their sister and her family, informing their sister to save some food for her husband, who was a carver and often away from home. The sister, however, disregarded her brother’s advice and distributed her husband’s share amongst herself and her children.
When the carver returned home, there was no food in sight. He asked his wife if her brothers dropped off any food for the family while he was away, to which she replied no. Upset at this news, the carver constructed a lifelike seal carved from cedar and enchanted the structure with magic to trick the brothers. They took the bait. The brothers harpooned the cedar seal statue while on a hunt and were pulled deep into the ocean only to wash ashore days later, miles away from home. Realizing what their brother-in-law did, they began their long journey home where they were presumed to be dead.
Upon their return to Tulalip, the brothers shared their story with their family and decided because of the complexities of the situation, they should live away from the tribe. They chose to begin a new life upon the waters that long provided food for their community, the Salish Sea, and became killer whales. Their descendants are said to be the southern resident orcas that still frequent the Salish Sea waters searching for Chinook salmon.
Similar stories of the brothers are shared within Indigenous communities all along the waterways of the Salish Sea, comprised of the waters now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia. As the story goes, the brothers chose to stay close to home and often provided seafood to the Coast Salish peoples in times of famine. The story teaches many important values of the Northwest tribes as well as explains our strong connection with the orca, who is often honored within the culture through stories and artwork.
The southern resident orcas are intelligent, sociable mammals who share a lot of the same values and traditions of the Coast Salish people. For instance, the southern resident orcas are known to perform ceremonial practices during social gatherings when all three pods, J, K and L, meet up, which is known as a superpod. The most recent superpod was held last week in the waters near Vancouver Island where footage of the gathering was caught by the locals and tourists of Victoria, British Columbia. The orcas also travel with the same pod for their entire life, relying on each other’s strengths within a multi-generational family, much like many Native communities.
Another similar interest we share with the orcas is our love for salmon. The importance of salmon to Coast Salish people has been well documented over the years and is integral to each tribe’s way of life. The tribes of Washington State were guaranteed fishing rights when signing the treaties with the United States Government in exchange for land. Since the Fish Wars, the Boldt Decision, and even up until today, tribes exercising that right have been met with a number of challenges.
Over recent years, the salmon population has seen a dramatic decline. A number of manmade dams and blocked culverts are preventing salmon from swimming upstream during spawning season and less salmon are returning each year. In fact, many tribes opted not to fish this season in hopes more salmon will spawn and increase salmon population. Pollution remains another constant concern for aquatic life in the Salish Sea with chemicals and waste pouring into the waters from storm water runoff and local ferries traveling the straits. The lack of salmon has caused tribes to stray from their traditional diets and therefore more tribal members are faced with health concerns.
The same can be said about the southern resident orcas. The lack of salmon and polluted waterways caused some serious health concerns for the whales including reproduction. The orcas are crying out for help. This past summer’s heartbreaking story about southern resident orca, Tahlequah (J35), carrying her dead newborn calf for seventeen days on a ‘tour of grief’ caused tears across the entire nation. And the recent proclamation of Scarlet’s (J50) death is further evidence that we need to take immediate action.
In the sixties and seventies, a third of the southern resident population were hunted at a young age and held captive at marine life amusement parks like SeaWorld. Orcas often live well past their eighties, but unfortunately all but one of the orcas captured have died at a young age. Tokitae, the last remaining poached orca, resides at the Miami Seaquarium and the Lummi tribe has been fighting for years to return the whale to the Salish Sea.
As a result of starvation, theme park poachings and pollution, the southern resident orcas were placed on the endangered species list in 2005 after a significant drop in population of nearly twenty orcas over the course of a decade. Since then, the number of orcas has been steadily declining. With the passing of Scarlet, only seventy-four orcas remain.
Because of the recent news, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee established a southern resident orca task force whose main focus is orca protection and recovery. Members of the task force include representatives from Washington state, a handful of tribes and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The passing of both J35’s calf and J50 is opening up an important conversation about respecting Mother Earth and taking care of the environment. More and more citizens are participating at rallies in support of the salmon and orca such as the Festival of the Steh-Chass in Olympia and the Salmon Celebration in Seattle. The most recent effort united over thirty communities throughout Washington state and British Columbia.
September 15 marked International Coastal Cleanup day, where seaside communities participated in clearing their local beaches of any trash or harmful products. Communities of the Salish Sea, along with a number of non-profits like 350 and the Orca Network, banned together to tailor International Coastal Cleanup day to the Pacific Northwest communities by organizing Salish Sea Day of Action, which provides information and resources about the state of the Salish Sea, the southern resident orcas and the salmon habitat at the cleanup events.
Citizens of Tacoma, Port Townsend, Edmonds, Shoreline, Bellingham, Lopez Island and Mount Vernon, as well as Victoria and Vancouver, gathered in their respective hometowns to clean the beaches, offer prayer, honor and thank the water for its plentiful resources on the rainy Saturday morning.
“Today is a day of action for the Salish Sea and we wanted to join in,” says Amanda Colbert of the Orca Network at the Action for Orcas event in Mount Vernon. “It’s also International Costal Cleanup so there are quite a few events all up and down the coast with multiple organizations. Orca Network decided we wanted to be a part of this because, as you know, any trash, pesticides and chemicals that wind up in any of our rivers eventually leads to the ocean. I’ve run a beach cleanup once out here before and I just thought that this would be another wonderful opportunity to jump in and get the community on board.”
The Orca Network event attracted many participants and the sands of the Bayview State Park in Mount Vernon were trash free in no time. During the cleanup, attendees passionately spoke of protecting the environment and the southern resident orcas.
“The oceans are definitely in trouble,” says Ryan Rickerts of Bellingham. “Most of the planet is covered by water, it’s our source of everything. Coming here today is a way for me to connect and give back a little bit. The orcas are in real big trouble, so I wanted to be around likeminded people that care about the ocean, the orcas and wanted to do something to help. Hopefully we keep this up; good energy is building. With the orcas that have been dying, hopefully that creates a sense of urgency for people to get together. The Swinomish hosted the orca task force meeting a couple weeks ago and I think it’s good for people to come together to keep talking about it and try to find solutions. We have to take action and it helps to have conversations and get everybody at the same table because it’s going to take everyone.”
Tulalip tribal member and Water Protector, Kayah George, hosted a prayer service the day following Salish Sea Day of Action where she shared spiritual and cultural teachings about the water during Sunday worship at the Woodland Park Presbyterian Church.
“What concerns me about what’s happening in the Coast Salish Sea is the same thing that has been concerning my people for hundreds of years,” Kayah passionately expressed in a video leading up to Salish Sea Day of Action and her prayer service. “It is the disrespect. The utter and complete lack of respect for our brothers and sisters in the sea and for the sea itself. It’s not seen as a living thing; they see it as something that’s disposable.”
The number of supporters at the Salish Sea Day of Action events shows that people are beginning to listen to the calls for help by the beautiful coastal killer whales. And through a combined effort, we can all make a difference in protecting the orcas by restoring the salmon habitat, and that begins with the removal of dams, culvert repairs and environmental awareness.
“There are plenty of ways that people can start,” shares Amanda. “A lot of it is being focused on what you buy at the grocery stores. There are cleaner, greener products out there that are biodegradable. We have to move away from single use products. A lot of what was picked up here today was plastic wrappers, straws and cups that are only used once. So it’s helpful anytime anybody can pick up a water bottle or a green bag. If you don’t want to give up straws, there are companies making reusable metal or BPA-free plastic straws. What we treat our lawns with also has a huge impact. We get a lot of rain here so a lot of things end up in the storm drains. I’m thankful for all the volunteers that came out today and for the opportunity to reach and talk to people about our southern residents and what they’re going through.”
To stay up to date on the southern resident orcas, please visit www.OrcaNetwork.org or check out the Department of Ecology at www.ecology.wa.gov to find out more about the Orca Task Force, Salish Sea spills and cleanups, salmon recovery and upcoming meetings and events.
By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; Photos by Micheal Rios & Natosha Gobin
During week one of the 23rd Annual Lushootseed Day Camp, there were 58 youth participants. Engagement and overall involvement increased significantly during week two, as 72 Children of the Salmon contributed to the cultural sharing and commitment to Lushootseed.
“It makes my heart happy seeing so many of our young ones learning our traditional language,” boasts Michele Balagot, Lushootseed Manager. “It is amazing to witness the amount of participation and community involvement we receive each year.”
From Monday July 16 to Friday July 20, the Kenny Moses Building was home to the children learning traditional teachings, listening to storytelling by elders, and using their creative minds to create and paint an assortment of giveaway items. It’s a time that Tulalip children, families and community look forward to as it provides them an opportunity to immerse themselves in Lushootseed and the rich culture of the Coast Salish people.
Open to children age five to twelve who want to learn about their culture and the language of their ancestors, Lushootseed Camp provides invaluable traditional teachings through art, songs, technology, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with Cultural Resources, along with a select number of vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week day camps in the summer.
“So proud of my fellow Language Warriors for putting together some amazing lessons, proud of our volunteers for stepping up to help us along the way, and proud of our community who supported our efforts by allowing their kids to participate,” said Language Warrior Natosha Gobin. “Most importantly, we are so proud of our youth, about 130 total, who rised up over the past two weeks. They learned so many traditional teachings and are eager to keep them alive.”
With a high turnout in camp participation came an equally impressive turnout in community volunteers who assisted Lushootseed staff to coordinate daily camp activities. There were 15 volunteers readily available on a daily basis to help camp run smoothly.
Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in seven different daily stations or activities. The following list is what each child accomplished throughout the week:
Art – Succulents, clam shell rattles, clam shell succulent holders.
Traditional Teachings – Canoes, Canoe Journey protocol
Language – Lushootseed alphabet, canoe terms.
Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related their final performance using handheld games on Tablets created by Dave Sienko.
Every station and daily lesson incorporated various Canoe Journey teachings and protocol verbiage. With the annual tribal Canoe Journey going on now, it made for an ideal time to teach the youngsters about the tradition.
“We wanted to take this opportunity to give our young ones as much teachings as possible,” explained Language Warrior Roselle Fryberg. “It was really important to us to teach them about hosting a potlatch and coming together as a community. For our mini Canoe Journey, each child plays a role. We have fisherman, berry pickers, tribal leaders hosting Canoe Journey, and several canoes representing visiting tribes.
“We also talked about how grateful we are that they are here to carry on these traditions of singing, dancing, and speaking their ancestral language. One day, all these teachings will be on their shoulders to carry on and pass to the next generation,” added Roselle.
The closing ceremony for week two’s camp took place on Friday, July 20 at the Kenny Moses Building. The joyous, young play-performers made their theatrical debut to a large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.
Most of the children beamed with joy as they performed their roles in the closing ceremony, while some caught the shy bug being in front of such a large audience. There were several Lushootseed songs everyone was able to sing along together, giving family and friends plenty of opportunities to capture such precious moments on photos or video.
“We would like to thank the children for all of their hard work and efforts,” proclaimed Natosha Gobin during the play’s opening. “They attended camp for just one week and learned so much about their culture, traditions, language, and more. They do not hesitate to step up and share their teachings.
“We thank you, the parents, for joining us to celebrate the work the children have accomplished this week. Your presence here for the children will encourage their learning of their culture and traditional language.”
After the youth performed their rendition of “Mini Canoe Journey” and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave their handmade crafts created during the past week to each and every audience member; sharing in a final act of memory making with their peers, before filling their bellies with a salmon lunch.
For Native Americans, the telling of stories passed down from generation to generation remains a crucial form of knowledge transfer. Oral storytelling traditions allow tribes to communicate their spiritual and historical understandings of themselves and the world they cultivated for their children and their children’s children. This all but guarantees that members of each individual tribal nation never forget their roots or lose sight of important teachings that continue a harmonious and cooperative existence with nature.
The tradition of storytelling lives on in Tulalip, where several prominent storytellers have been featured as part of a library-ran initiative to teach the general public about Native culture and to honor the Indigenous land on which they reside.
Culture bearers Michelle Myles, Natosha Gobin, and KT Jean Hots comprised a team of Tulalip storytellers who shared their craft at the Everett Public Library. The event was part of the city of Everett’s 125th anniversary celebration.
“The city of Everett, including the Everett Public Library, has been putting together a series of programs to celebrate the anniversary,” explained Mindy Van Wingen, Assistant Director Everett Library. “We wanted to include the Tulalip Tribes and honor the Native heritage of Everett and what came before the city was developed. The storytellers offered a great program. We are really happy with the attendance and the visitor engagement.”
The library’s auditorium was filled to capacity with eager listeners willing to explore local history from the Tulalip Tribes’ perspective, while learning about a vibrant culture and community.
“We were invited to share traditional stories from our area and ancestors,” said Natosha Gobin, Lushootseed Teacher. “We shared oral history and helped the listeners gain a better understanding of the life ways of Coast Salish people.
“Storytelling is significant because that is how all of the teachings were passed on, from the elders to children through oral teachings, and those teachings were passed on daily. We didn’t have a written language until the late 1960s, so storytelling is how everything that makes us who we are was passed on.”
Natosha and Michelle took turns sharing traditional stories, such as The Seal Hunting Brothers, The Gossiping Clams, The Basket Lady, and A Story About Coyote. In each story were lessons learned about living in a good way, instructional survival skills, and even explanations for natural phenomena.
At one point, storyteller apprentice, nine-year-old tribal member KT took center stage and shared the story Her First Basket. After finishing her favorite story, KT received a loud applause from the audience.
“I think it’s important for kids to learn to tell stories. They can learn and go home and teach their parents and brothers and sisters,” shared KT after her storytelling session. “Kids can learn our culture and Lushootseed and help teach it. Family or friends can help you like the cedar tree helped the little girl in Her First Basket.”
Native American storytelling has always been and continues to be equal parts real, metaphorical, spiritual, instructional and transformational. Most of all, however, the stories are entertaining and memorable to the audiences who hear them. This way the stories are remembered and passed down to the coming generations, who needs to understand who they are, where they come from, and why the world is the way it is.
“Storytelling means being the example, being the one that kids can look up to and ask questions to,” explained tribal member artist and storyteller Ty Juvinel. “Having a story to tell children, instead of yelling or chastising when they’ve done something wrong allows them to learn in a good way. From stories they learn the values of their people and how to present themselves.”
Ty has recently partnered with the Seattle Public Library system and will be sharing Coast Salish stories and tradition through the summer. Intended for kids ages 7-11, there is no registration required for families to bring their kids to a Ty story time.
Using modern technology, Ty has fully illustrated and digitized several of his stories for use on an iPad. Of note, the University of Washington has purchased his digital stories to be used in their travelling exhibits and Burke Mobile for educating people on Coast Salish culture.
Seattle’s Broadview Branch was the latest to host the storytelling series. Children were treated to several original stories, including How Mouse Moved the Mountain, When Beaver Taught Man, and How Puppy Got His Ears.
“I loved it!” remarked Irene Haines, Librarian and enrolled member with Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. “Ty did a wonderful job of being patient with the kids and speaking to them in their own language. There’s such a wealth of art and culture to be shared.”
Although the tradition of storytelling is less common today than it was many years ago, the rich oral tradition lives on through the current generation of culture bearers.
Players of the traditional Coast Salish gambling game, known by a few names including slahal, lahal, bone games and stick games, gathered at the Tulalip Amphitheater during the weekend of June 1-3. Many players arrived an entire day early, equipped with their bones, drums and lawn chairs in anticipation of the 9th Annual Tulalip Tribes Stick Game Tournament. This year’s tournament attracted a record-breaking one-hundred and forty-two teams who competed for a chance to win cash prizes, including the grand prize of $50,000.
Native families journeyed across Washington and Canada to play in the tournament. The total payout this year was $63,000 which was distributed throughout the weekend during a number of rounds including the kid’s tournament, which drew a large crowd of spectators.
The game was said to be invented centuries ago in order to settle a number of disputes between tribes of the Northwest, including the rights to fishing, gathering and hunting territories. As legend has it, the game was gifted to the people by the animals in order to unite the tribes and prevent war.
During gameplay, two teams consisting of three to five players face each other. The game pieces, which include a set of bones and sticks, are discreetly distributed amongst the players on one team. The opposing team has to correctly guess where the bones are and how many pieces the player has in their hands. The sticks are used to keep score and the team with their bones in play, sing traditional family songs in an attempt to distract the other team from seeing where the bones end up. The team who has the correct amount of guesses wins the game and gets to advance to the next round.
“I came out to play for the Northwest Indian College team,” says NWIC student, Mikaela ‘Miki’ Ponca-Montoya of the Osage Nation. “We held a fundraiser last week so we could register and play in the games. We’ve been practicing, we have a stick game club at the college and a bunch of people participate and came out to play. I enjoy the medicine from the games because when people are playing their songs, some of us don’t know what they mean but we proudly sing those words as they’ve been upheld for generations and generations. You can feel it when your team starts to put their medicine in the music and when they’re playing the game you can feel the energy. That, and if you win, that’s the best part!”
Smiles are shared throughout the entire weekend, even when a team is knocked out of the competition, as most people are delighted to visit with other Native people and practice the traditional game of our ancestors.
Over sixty future Tulalip leaders participated in the first week of the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Language Camp. The kids learned the traditional Coast Salish language and Tulalip culture during the week of July 17-21. Hosted by the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department, the summertime camp is held twice during the month of July and is open to Tulalip youth age five to twelve.
The kids are treated to five fun days of culture in which they learn the traditional language, teachings and stories of Tulalip. The camp utilizes several interactive activity stations to teach about Tulalip’s traditional way of life. Campers become familiar with the words while playing games and using modern technology. In addition to studying Lushootseed, campers also learn traditional Tulalip dances and songs.
“One of the songs we sang was the Welcome Song and it was Harriet Shelton Dover’s song,” stated Language Camp Instructor, Cary Michael Williams. “We also sang the Killer Whale Song, which was Ray Fryberg and Tony Hatch’s song they put together and brought forward to the Lushootseed Department.”
Each year, the Lushootseed Department honors a Tulalip member by teaching the youth about their work within the Tulalip culture. Last year the camp was dedicated to Harriett Shelton-Dover, this year the camp is dedicated to her son and Tulalip Elder, Wayne Williams.
“We always think of somebody to honor and dedicate the camp to and this year Wayne Williams came to mind,” explains Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natosha Gobin. “We know that he’s done so much for our community with preserving our teachings as well as everything he’s donated to the Hibulb Cultural Center. We felt it’s very important to acknowledge him while he’s here because a lot of times people don’t get acknowledged until they’re gone, and he’s still here with us so we want to honor him.”
Throughout the week, the youth rehearse a play based on a traditional Tulalip story. The play is performed for the community during the closing ceremony on the last day of camp. In honor of Wayne Williams, the Language Campers reenacted Wayne’s story Killer Whale and Two Boys.
Language Camp continues to grow; previously the department would anticipate about fifty participants each summer. However, due to increasing interest, the camp has seen an increase of fourteen participants each week in the past two years.
Young Tulalip tribal members and siblings, Natalie and Carsten Nordahl, travel from Boston every summer to attend Language Camp. According to their father, Natalie excitedly awaited the year her younger brother was old enough to enroll, in order to experience the cultural camp together. The kids have returned each summer, making this their third trip to Tulalip.
“I love that we get to learn about our culture and the language of our Tribe. My favorite part is learning the language and just being a part of this experience,” Natalie expressed. Carsten added, “My favorite part about camp was playing the games!”
Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles gathered at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Gym on July 21, for the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Language Camp closing ceremony. The youth showcased their teachings to the community by performing the songs and the play in Lushootseed.
“As a parent it’s important for my son to attend language camp because it was something I was able to do as a child and it’s important to carry on the songs and the teachings from our ancestors,” states Lushootseed Camp parent and Tulalip tribal member Samantha Chavez.
After performing Killer Whale and Two Boys, the youth gave handmade gifts, such as weavings and necklaces, to every guest in attendance. Over the span of twenty-two years, the camp has inspired numerous Tulalip youth to learn more about their culture. Many current Lushootseed Language Instructors, attended Language Camp when they were younger, including Tulalip tribal member Shelbi Hatch.
“Language Camp started before I was born actually, it was in ‘93 I think,” Shelbi recalls. “It’s a place for the kids to learn their culture and for everybody to get a view of what Tulalip is and how intact our culture and language still is. This gives them the utilities and the tools they need for later on in life. I feel more of a generational importance, I don’t feel like it’s me receiving the teachings, I feel like I’m giving it and these kids will be the ones to speak fluently.”
The Lushootseed department and the language campers displayed two paddles, with traditional artwork depicting the Killer Whale and Two Boys story that will be gifted to Wayne Williams and his sons.
“We keep trying to follow the teachings that Shelly Lacy and Auntie Joy [Lacy] laid out because this was part of their vision twenty-two years ago,” states Natosha while reflecting on a successful first week. “This is always the best time of the year for us. The kids have so much fun, the families are so grateful and it’s just a good time. We’re happy we’re able to keep this alive and keep it going.”
For more information about the Annual Lushootseed Language Camp please contact the Lushootseed Language Department at (360) 716-4499 or visit their website wwww.TulalipLushootseed.com
For generations, Coast Salish and First Nations artists developed visual language made up of colors, lines, shapes and space. These centuries-old designs can be recognized on cultural objects including basketry, carving, blankets and jewelry. When Coast Salish artists began printmaking in the 1960s, they translated their graphic languages onto a flat surface. The reproducible print medium raised visibility for Indigenous arts in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
The Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) is currently showcasing the vast styles of printmaking by tribal artists in its Cultural imPrint: Northwest Coast Prints exhibit. Reminding us of the local talent and cultural beauty inherent in works by artists from various First Nations and Native tribes along the Pacific Coast, you can take advantage of this special exhibition by visiting TAM now through August 20.
Faith Brower, TAM’s Curator of Western American Art, has partnered with co-curator India Young from Victoria, B.C. to bring together a selection of approximately 46 prints by 30 Coast Salish and Fist Nations artists.
“This exhibition is really about how artists create community through their work,” said co-curator India Young. “Artists visualize their nationhood and territory. Cultural knowledge and design are passed from print to print and generation to generation. Prints circulate a sense of belonging.”
Providing a survey of Indigenous artists who have defined six-decades of printmaking in the Pacific Northwest, this exhibition proudly boasts a cultural narrative. Through their prints, these artists share knowledge about the diverse cultures in the region, while sustaining their art and history. Some of this artwork focuses on culturally specific design motifs that can identify a nation or tribe within the region. Others affirm how artists have used the print medium to reexamine the role of women’s histories with Northwest Coast communities. Still other works illuminate the passion of knowledge between generations.
“What’s fascinating about this exhibition is the various interpretations of cultural symbols,” states co-curator Faith Brower. “These print works connect people in new ways to vibrant Northwest communities.”
Much of the printmaking from the Northwest Coast can be immediately recognized by the high contrast, black and red graphics. Indigenous printmaking in the region continues to be exploratory and innovative while adhering to traditional teachings. Through the print medium artists expand on their visual languages to create works that broaden the scope of Northwest Coast art.
During the pleasantly warm and sunny summer days of July 18-22, the old Tulalip Elementary gymnasium was home to the 21st Annual Lushootseed Day Camp. The camp was open to children age five to twelve who wanted to learn about their culture and Lushootseed language through art, songs, games, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with the Cultural Resources Department, along with a select number of very vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week camps. Each camp has openings for up to 50 participants, but this year the demand was so high that 64 kids were signed up and participated in Language Camp week 1.
“We are dedicating the 21st Annual Lushootseed Language Camp to Morris Dan and Harriette Shelton-Dover, for their guidance and teachings bringing back the Salmon Ceremony, as well as honoring Stan Jones Sr. “Scho-Hallem” for his decades of leadership and determination to keep the ceremony going,” said Lushootseed language teacher and co-coordinator of the camp, Natosha Gobin. “This year we are recreating the Salmon Ceremony to pass on the teachings to our youth. With the generosity of the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Table, we have received a grant to make regalia for each youth who is signed up for camp. This is exciting, as we will be able to ensure that all the youth who sign up for camp will have the ability to stand up and sing at every opportunity. Vests and drums will be the regalia for the boys, while the girls’ regalia will be shawls and clappers.”
Using the 1979 Salmon Ceremony video to help pass on the earliest teaching of what is still practiced today, the young campers learned a selection of highlighted songs and dances. The lessons learned each day during Language Camp were based on the teachings of the Salmon Ceremony by way of songs and dances, traditional teachings, language, art, weaving, and technology. The goal this year was to provide our youth with some basic regalia along with the knowledge and ability to sing and dance. Staffers hope the youth that have participated have the teachings and experience needed so they will stand up and sing at every opportunity.
With the emphasis of honoring the past and impacting the future with education and practice of Salmon Ceremony, there was a renewed sense of excitement and vigor to both the teachers and bright, young minds who participated. There was so much to do and prepare for that the parents of each camper were also called upon to participate in create long-lasting memories while working with their kids and fellow community members to help make regalia.
During the evening of Tuesday, July 19 the parents came through in a big way. The parents and guardians joined their kids in the gymnasium and were guided on how to make the drums and clappers. There were lots of laughs and stories shared as the evening went on and slowly, but surely every camper was assured of hand-made regalia.
“This is what we wanted to bring back; families coming together to spend some time working on the drums and clappers, lots of smiles, and most importantly lots of happy kids,” stated Natosha after the evening of regalia making concluded. “A huge thank you to the parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, siblings and cousins who come out tonight to make sure every child would have a drum or clapper. I know our ancestors are watching over us all and proud the teachers are still being passed on.”
Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in seven different daily activities. The following list is what each child accomplished throughout the week:
Art – Salmon bracelets, Salmon hands, paddle necklaces.
Weaving – Pony Bead loom beading, small raffia baskets.
Traditional Teachings – Salmon Ceremony videos, traditional stories, realia experience in traditional story and science face of how Salmon migrate.
Games – Various games and playground time.
Language – letter sounds, Salmon Ceremony key words, Lushootseed workbook.
Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related to Salmon Ceremony using the Nintendo DSi handheld games created by Dave Sienko.
The closing ceremony for week one’s camp was held on Friday, July 22 in the Kenny Moses Building. The joyous, young play-performers made their debut to a large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.
“The young ones continue to honor our ancestors by learning their songs and words. It fills my heart with so much joy to watch them speak our language and perform the dances of Salmon Ceremony,” marveled ceremonial witness Denise Sheldon.
After the youth performed their rendition of Salmon Ceremony and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave handmade crafts to the audience members, which preceded a salmon lunch that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.
Reflecting on the conclusion of this year’s 21st Annual Language Camp week one, Natosha Gobin beamed with pride, “Week one has come to an end, but it is truly just the beginning of our youth rising up! The fire has been lit and they will be the ones to keep it burning. I can’t say it enough, how thankful we are for the parents that sign their youth up to participate. Shout out to the volunteers who mentored our young Language Warriors and to the staff who prepped and taught the lessons, and those who did all the behind the scenes work. Thank you to each and every person who made this week’s camp a success.”
For any questions, comments or to request Lushootseed language materials to use in the home, please contact the Lushootseed Department at 360-716-4499 or visit www.TulalipLushootseed.com