Tulalip seniors visit Tulip Festival

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Every April, people travel from around the world to the outskirts of Mount Vernon, Washington to witness thousands of tulips burst into bloom at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, officially welcoming the arrival of the spring season. At two featured sites, Roozengaarde and Tulip Town, spectators are treated to a stunning visual experience provided by Mother Earth, and the bulb growers as well. 

Since its inception thirty-four years ago, the festival continues to grow in popularity, garnering more and more tulip enthusiasts each year. The tulip festival is in fact Washington State’s biggest festival, attracting over one million participants annually. 

This year, the Tulalip Senior Center organized a trip for the local elders of the community to join in on the outdoor fun at the festival and witness the beauty of Mother Nature firsthand. Eleven elders met bright and early at the Tulalip Dining Hall on the morning of April 9, and made the hour-long journey north to Roozengaarde Flowers and Bulbs, a family owned establishment that has been in the tulip growing business for over seventy years. 

Arriving well before the rush, the seniors had plenty of time to walk about the enormous garden and admire the tulips without feeling overcrowded or pressured to hurry along. Rows and rows of tulips, varying in all different types of vibrant red, pink, yellow, purple and white colors, were just beginning to bloom during the seniors visit, generating a lot of oohs and ahhs as well as several smiles from the elders, as they stooped low to get an up-close look at the flowers. 

The idea was originally presented by Tulalip elder, Barbara Jones, when brainstorming field trip destinations for the seniors. She stated that she thought it would be a great way for the fellow elders of the community to enjoy a springtime activity as well as get some fresh air and ‘to get out and get moving’.

“We thought it was a fun idea to bring the seniors out here today,” explained Jessica Leslie, the Senior Center Manger’s Assistant. “We left at nine this morning to come and walk around the tulip fields. It’s beautiful out here. They’re not fully in bloom yet, but we just wanted to get out and go for a walk. We like to get our seniors out and about to see different things. Some of them don’t drive, so we try to bring them places to do fun stuff like this and get them out of the house to break up the routine a bit.”

The elders broke off into small groups as they made their way through the garden, enjoying company and exploring hundreds of acres of tulips, as well as daffodils, for approximately an hour-and-a-half. The seniors finished their self-led tours just on time as people began to arrive by the carload with their cameras in hand, to capture the gorgeous flowers as they began to open up.

The group also enjoyed a picnic lunch and visited the Roosengaard merchandise shop where they could purchase any of the tulips that were on display to take home and add to their personal garden.  

 “It finally feels like spring is here,” expressed Tulalip elder, Tina Lyle. “It feels great to be out here, it wakes you up and brings your senses alive and strengthens our connection to the Earth. The tulips are all so beautiful, the blood orange ones are my favorite so far. And to come out here with other Tulalip seniors is special. If you get a chance, you got to come up here and enjoy it and see the tulips in-person for yourself.”

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival will continue for the duration of April and will feature a variety of events including the annual Tulip Parade. Roozengaarde Flowers and Bulbs is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., while Tulip Town is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For directions and more information, please visit www.TulipFestival.org

Mindful Movements: Yoga for Elders

Tulalip elder, Marvin Jones is learning the many health benefits of yoga.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Originally introduced to the world centuries ago, the practice of yoga continues to uplift the spirit, sharpen minds and improve the overall health of millions to this day. Whether you’re a beginner practicing stretches such as the downward dog or a master yogi who can easily flow into a firefly pose, you are more than likely experiencing the endless benefits of yoga. Those who practice yoga often see a number of physical and spiritual improvements such as flexibility, anxiety relief, injury recovery, and muscle and bone strength as well as a strong sense of balance of the mind, body and soul.

One of the many great things about yoga is the fact that anybody can take it up, no matter where you’re at in terms of your own personal journey and fitness level.  Over recent decades, the ancient art of exercise, discipline and mediation has become a popular go-to workout as many yoga classes are held throughout various local gyms and available to stream online on platforms such as YouTube and Glo.com. The majority of avid yogis range in age between their early-twenties to mid-forties, however, new studies are encouraging individuals of the older generations to join in on the fun and incorporate a little yoga and meditation routine into their daily lives. 

“Yoga’s such a good experience. Most people are scared to try something new, but I can guarantee if you try this, you will probably like it – a lot,” expressed Tulalip elder, Marvin Jones. “I did yoga once and now I think everybody should try it out. When we get up there in age, we need to do something, some form of exercise. This could prolong your life because it gets you moving and it’s better than just sitting around watching TV. You can do it at home, you can do it anywhere.”

Marvin is the first student of a new program called Mindful Movements brought to Tulalip by the SNAP-Ed and the Diabetes Care and Prevention programs. On the morning of February 19, Marvin sat in a circle and carefully followed the instruction of Autumn Walker, Diabetes Care and Prevention volunteer, who guided the class through an hour long yoga session. Autumn encouraged Marvin to try new poses but also to know his own personal limits as they focused their attention on breathing techniques and gentle stretches. 

“The intention teaching this class is to provide a space where people can take care of themselves and have some thoughtful reflections on what works for them, both with their mind and with their body,” Autumn explained. “There’s a lot of benefits to yoga and meditation. A lot of our lives are filled and busy, so setting aside some time where we can be quiet and focus on our wellness is beneficial. We can really find some movement and warmth with the stretching of the muscles, which can ease any pain people have with their joints and really facilitate flexibility of joints over time. If these motions and activities are practiced regularly, they can promote good circulation as well as the healing and wellness of the joints and muscles of the body.”

The first of many gatherings, Mindful Movements is held every Tuesday and is catered to the local elders of the community. Throughout the majority of the class, the students are in a seated position as they delicately flow through each pose for a relaxing exercise. A visible smile that seemed to indicate relaxation and ease grew wider and spread across Marvin’s face the further the class progressed. 

“I liked sitting in the chair, I found it a lot easier,” he said. “It’s great for people that can’t stand too long. My left leg is weaker and sometimes I can stand long periods and other times I can’t. If I can sit down and do it, it makes it a whole lot easier because I know I won’t fall. Today I was able to work on my neck, back and shoulders – that’s my main concern because I have weak shoulders. I noticed I got a little sore but that’s a good thing. It goes away after a little bit and you’ll get used to it because exercise helps make you stronger.”

According to many experienced yogis, yoga is absolutely safe for the older generations. Not only does yoga help elders with balance, mobility, heart health and strengthen the respiratory system and blood circulation, it can also relieve stress, inflammation and pain as well as lower blood sugar levels for those living with diabetes. 

After experiencing the benefits of yoga at a few of the Diabetes Care and Prevention Garden Day events, the elders began requesting a class of their own at the Senior Center. SNAP-Ed and the Diabetes program recruited Autumn, who also led the Garden Day sessions, to teach the initial classes of Mindful Movements. After a few months, Autumn will pass the baton to SNAP-Ed Nutritionist AnneCherise Jensen who will take over instructing duties. Originally scheduled to start at the beginning of February, Mindful Movements grew a lot of anticipation from local elders but unfortunately due to the recent snow storms, the first two classes were canceled. AnneCherise extends a friendly reminder that the classes are still occurring and invites the community to participate. 

“The elders inspired us as well as the whole aspect of wellness,” AnneCherise stated. “So bring your aunties, grandparents, anybody who is looking for a spark of motivation to stay active and feel good. We welcome everybody. It’s suitable for all fitness levels and ages. If you have any injuries or disabilities, we’re able to work around it, we work with everybody’s needs.”

Autumn adds, “We really want the class to be accessible for everybody to come and participate in the parts that work for them and to leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated as well as with a new curiosity about how their bodies operate and what they’re able to do with them. They can take some of these stretching exercises home and incorporate them into their everyday lives. We want people to leave feeling empowered, like yes, I can participate in this program that’s good for my wellness and yes, I found some physical activities that work for me.”

Mindful Movements is held every Tuesday at the Dining Hall between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. For further details, please contact SNAP-Ed at (360) 716-5632 or the Diabetes program at (360) 716-5642.

Luau-themed lunch brings elders and youth together

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

“Okay, I want everybody to find a partner and create a secret handshake,” instructed DJ Monie Ordonia to a large crowd of elders and youth at the Tulalip Senior Center. “Once you’ve done your handshake, you can come up front and we’ll vote on whose is the best.”

Immediately kids sprung from their seats in search of an elder, someone to create a super-secret and super-cool handshake with. Some were a simple, yet firm handshake. Others were complex and even involved a little choreography. The important thing to note is the youth’s display of respect, how quickly they responded so their elders wouldn’t have to leave their chairs and also how they introduced themselves by explaining their lineage so the elders could identify their family. This was all showcased during the first activity of the Hawaiian Paradise event hosted by the Tulalip Problem Gambling program on August 7. 

The luau-themed luncheon united youth and elders alike in an afternoon of fun, which included a dance group competition. The kids continued to show respect to their elders throughout the day by happily plating and delivering a delicious Hawaiian meal catered by Ryan’s Rez-ipes. 

Nadene Foster and granddaughter Kailani Carpenter-Cox attended the event together and were incidentally paired up during the handshake competition. The ladies won the competition, garnering the most applause from the crowd. 

“It’s important to bring our youth and elders together to hang out with each other,” says Nadene.

“It’s fun just to be together and celebrate,” adds Kailani. “All the elders are awesome. I like how all the kids participated in all of the activities. My favorite was creating a handshake with my grandma.”

The event not only brought youth and elders together, it also shed light on problem gambling and how it can affect your family and community. The youth and elders listed many of the ways gambling addiction can become an issue such as depression, boredom, anxiety and the loss of a family member. The group also took the time to brainstorm other activities people can try instead of gambling, like hiking, exercising, writing, and watching movies as well as attending family and cultural events. 

Deyamonta Diaz and Rachel Steeve of Tulalip Youth Services transported two vans filled with kids from the youth center to Hawaiian Paradise. And just for a brief moment, with the amazing weather paired with the food and décor, one could almost trick themselves into thinking they were actually on one of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. 

“We attended this last year and we had quite a few kids too,” states Rachel. “It’s important for the kids to sit among their elders because they can teach the youth so many things. They have all of our knowledge and are the only people who can pass it on. And these youth will get the chance to pass on that same knowledge in the future. It reminds kids a lot about respect and taking care of our elders. All the kids prepared plates and brought food and refreshments to the elders, so it teaches them the importance of taking care of our elders because they took care of us at one point.

“It’s really good to see them having fun and interacting with each other,” she continues. “Just walking around the room you can see the smiles and feel the positive energy radiating from everybody. The dance competition was fun, the food was wonderful and it was nice to bring enlightenment to the issues of problem gambling in a fun way that the elders could teach and the youth can grasp.”

For further information regarding gambling addiction, please contact the Tulalip Problem Gambling program at (360) 716-4304. 

Elder’s luncheon emphasizes triumph over addiction

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Tribes Problem Gambling Program continued their month-long Lifting Our Community Through Recovery concept, in recognition of March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month, by hosting a special elder’s luncheon on Friday, March 24.

Held at the Senior Center, close to 50 elders were in attendance as the program celebrated the wisdom and strength our elders share in the Tulalip community, while acknowledging problem gambling as a disease that can be defeated. A delicious buffet style meal was catered by Ryan Gobin’s Rezipes for the elders to enjoy while listening to members of the gamblers anonymous community share their personal experiences with problem gambling and their victories over it.

In the mainstream, compulsive gambling can often be portrayed as an issue of morality, creed and lack of willpower; something that is a personal choice. However, science has proven compulsive gambling is much more than a decision made from lack of willpower. It is in fact a disease.

“Gambling addiction is a real disease, and impacts communities at the individual, family, extended family, community and society level,” explains Sarah Sense-Wilson, Problem Gambling Coordinator. “Older adults have a number of additional vulnerabilities and risk factors, such as medical conditions and health problems. These issues can render some older adults less active, thereby limiting their social and recreational activities. Isolation, grief and loss, boredom, and having more time (in retirement) can all be additional factors that contribute to older adults being more vulnerable to a gambling disorder.

“The impact of gambling addiction on the extended family and partners is stressful, painful and often leads to crisis (financial, health, mental/emotional, relational and spiritual). Treatment and the 12-step program can help restore wellness and health.”

Gambling addiction has been recognized by the mental health and medical community for nearly 40 years now. There are brain changes that explain why people can’t stop gambling and feel a need to be in a casino sitting at a slot machine or playing a table game. Like asthma or diabetes, there’s no permanent cure for compulsive gambling, but it can be controlled to the point that you are not worrying about it every day.

Tulalip tribal member and elder, Toni Sheldon, understands this all too well from her own battle and triumph over the addiction.

“Recently, over the past few years I started to gamble. It started with going to the [Quil Ceda Creek Casino] for lunch to socialize with friends and former co-workers. While socializing, I’d make my way over to a slot machine and play forty-cent bets,” recalls Toni. The betting amounts began to increase little by little, while her trips to the casino became more frequent. Eventually, the losses were adding up and becoming noticeable to those closest to her. The tipping point came when Toni’s caregiver reviewed a copy of her win-loss statement with her just to show how much money she was putting back into the casino.

“Seeing the financial damage it was bringing to my life, my caregiver suggested doing a self perm bar. I didn’t even know you could do that,” says Toni. A self perm bar is the process by which an individual goes to casino security and has themselves permanently barred from the gaming properties. After being voluntarily barred, if you are caught on the gaming property you will be escorted out and can be cited and/or arrested for trespassing. “With the support of those closest to me, I perm barred myself. It’s now been a full year since I’ve last gambled. My life is much happier, and I have money to spend on life’s necessities once again.”

Following the shared stories and experiences with gambling addiction, the atmosphere continued to be uplifted by the Grammy-winning musical talents of Star Nayea. Tribal elders danced in their chairs and sang along as Star performed their favorite songs to end the luncheon.

For those who may be wondering what the options are for someone with a gambling problem, Sarah Sense-Wilson and Problem Gambling Program is here to help in any way they can.

“Steps a person can take is to call Tulalip Family Services for an appointment or contact me directly for consultation at 360-716-4304. All services are free, confidential and supported by licensed and certified professional staff,” states Sarah. “We provide an array of services including interventions, couples counseling, Family Therapy, group and individual counseling. We believe in a holistic client-centered, culturally responsive approach for supporting the healing and recovery process. We encourage anyone with questions or concerns to contact us. We are here to serve the Tulalip Tribes community.”


Merging programs to benefit the community

By Kalvin Valdillez

The Tulalip Caregiver Program has recently moved from the Health Clinic to the Senior Center. The move is part of a merge between the Tulalip Elder/Vulnerable Adult Protection Department and the Tulalip Caregiver Program. The joining of the two will provide more efficient and convenient care for their clients.

“The move just seemed like a good fit,” explained Tulalip Elder Protection Manger, Cara McCoy. “Having the two departments housed together will better service the community.”

Aside from location convenience, the merge offers numerous advantages for those in need of assistance. The department is working closely with two caregiving agencies to ensure that cultural needs are met and respected by their team members. The department also recruits and encourages tribal members to become paid certified caregivers, giving them an opportunity to help their fellow community members who are in need of assistance.

“We want to be culturally sensitive and listen to the concerns that everybody has, and address those concerns because we want our people to be able to stay home and get the care they need so they can be with their families,” stated Cara.

The new unified department services close to 90 patients, ages 18 and over, within Snohomish County. With the two programs successfully merging, the next step for the department is managing the supplemental supply for their patients.

Cara states, “Currently, we are in the process of taking over the medicinal supplies. We are learning how to properly store and distribute as well as creating a policy so everybody has an opportunity to get the supplies they need.”

She believes her new crew shares the same goal of taking care of the Tulalip community, “We are all tribal members in the department. I think that we have a unique perspective, we’re thinking of how we can best support our people long-term.”

For more information about the Tulalip Elder Protection Department contact (360) 716-4689.

Rockstar climber Alex Honnold scales up solar in Navajo Territory



By Samantha Larson, Grist

Jimmy Chin


Sunny, high 50s, and just a light breeze: It’s a perfect California December morning for rock climbing at the Owens River Gorge and Alex Honnold has just offered to give me a belay — meaning, he’s offered to attend to the safety rope for me on a climb. The official reason I’m here is to get the scoop on Honnold’s environmental foundation. But, for a climber, getting offered a belay by Honnold is probably the closest thing we have to getting thrown a ball by Peyton Manning or LeBron James.

Because his crazy free-solo (climbing without ropes) ascents in places like Zion, Utah, and Yosemite, Calif., have landed him front-page features in OutsideNational Geographic, and on 60 Minutes, Honnold has probably done more than anyone else to bring the historically fringe sport of climbing into the U.S. mainstream. When he started climbing full-time in 2005, he got used to living the dirtbag life of a rock-obsessed vagabond on about $8,000 a year. Now, the 28-year-old does stuff like star in commercials for Citibank and Dewar’s Scotch.

So, in considering whether to take him up on the offer to do the climb, I’m intimidated. I step back and tell myself I’m here to learn about what he’s up to away from the crag, anyway. Through his namesake foundation, he’s dropping some of his extra cash into environmental projects like Solar Aid and Grid Alternatives.

He’s bringing a can-do attitude to it, too: Instead of looking down at how far the planet could stumble, he’s looking for the next hold. “I feel like a lot of the traditional environmental stuff is sort of depressing,” he says. “You know, ‘the world is fucked, things are going downhill, we’re going to have to drastically change our lifestyles in order to keep the world from being so fucked.’ I’m not really that pessimistic by nature … There are so many solutions that only take, like, doing it,” Honnold says.

For now, he sees the next handhold as solar power, hence his next trip: a 2.5 week tour he’s embarking on Friday that will combine climbing desert towers, biking, and working for his foundation installing solar panels in Navajo Territory. The Honnold Foundation will work with Eagle Energy to install solar power systems into the homes of 30 Navajo elders who are currently living without access to electricity, and a total of 200 solar lights into five schools.

“There’s something like 18,000 households on reservations there that don’t have access to power,” Honnold told me over the phone recently. “And, in sunny Arizona, especially, solar is the ideal solution. It seems like we should be powering people who are on the grid with it, let alone people who are off the grid.”

For the record, I did suck it up and do the climb. Later in the day, a hush came over the crowded crag — everyone around me was looking up. There was Honnold, at the top of that same climb, totally solo.

Here’s some footage I took of Honnold on the climb:


Honnold and Wright leave for their trip on Friday. Look out for their movie Sufferfest 2.0 about it next year. 

Samantha Larson is a science nerd, adventure enthusiast, and fellow at Grist. Follow her on Twitter.