Sen. Murray, leaders celebrate tribe’s golden Head Start program

Muckleshoot Tribal Council members, from left, Charlotte Williams, Virginia Cross and Marie Starr present Sen. Patty Murray with a blanket during Tuesday’s 50th anniversary celebration of the tribe’s Head Start program.— image credit: Mark Klaas, Auburn Reporter
Muckleshoot Tribal Council members, from left, Charlotte Williams, Virginia Cross and Marie Starr present Sen. Patty Murray with a blanket during Tuesday’s 50th anniversary celebration of the tribe’s Head Start program.— image credit: Mark Klaas, Auburn Reporter

By Mark Klaas, Auburn Reporter

Wrapped in a warm blanket, a gift from the Muckleshoot Tribal Council, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) felt right at home Tuesday.

Murray was a special guest, joining tribal leaders, teachers, parents and children to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the tribe’s successful Head Start program.

“The Muckleshoot program was among the first tribal Head Start programs in the country. I am thrilled to see it continue to impact so many people today,” Murray told the crowd inside the Muckleshoot Tribal School gymnasium. “As a former preschool teacher myself, I have seen firsthand the kind of transformation that early learning inspires in a child.”

Murray, a ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has fought to expand access to early childhood education, to ensure schools have the resources they need and to make college affordable.

“For 50 years, Head Start has helped our country move closer to the goal of making sure every child in America has the opportunity to thrive and succeed,” Murray said. “I believe it’s one of the best investments we can make in our future.”

Murray toured the school, took in group reading and learning sessions and listened to music by performed by the Muckleshoot Head Start children. She vows to remain committed to the program and build off its success.

“I am going to continue to fight to invest in this program,” she said. “All of our young learners should have the opportunity to build their skills so they can learn, thrive and succeed, especially in a beautiful setting like this … so the culture and the language of the tribe can be shared with students at a very young age and keep Muckleshoot tradition alive for generations to come.”

The tribe’s Head Start program began as a volunteer, community-driven preschool effort in the late-1950s. In 1965, with approximately 300 enrolled members, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe received one of the first two federal Head Start grants for Native American Tribes, along with the Navajo Nation, which had approximately 100,000 enrolled members.

The program, which originated in the old GSA building in Auburn, initially served 30 children. Tribal parents were actively involved in teaching and raising the required 25 percent, non-federal match. Parents were trained in the field of child development and have continued their involvement in tribal education programs to this day.

Today, the Muckleshoot Head Start Program serves 120 children ages 3 to 5 years.

The program includes Muckleshoot cultural and language education and provides services for special needs children. Over the course of the past 50 years, Muckleshoot Head Start has provided students with the skills and confidence to be ready to learn and succeed in their continuing education.

Now called the Muckleshoot Early Learning Academy (MELA), the program includes health, family services, support services, nutrition, transportation, and program management and administration components. By focusing on the whole family, the program is better able to provide the tools for lifelong learning and success.

Federal Head Start reviews consistently score the MELA teaching team well above the national average. Additionally, MELA was one of only four out of 28 American Indian/Alaska Native grantees in the state to receive a five-year early learning grant. Moved by the program’s success, federal reviewers have asked MELA to mentor other American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start programs to help them improve their scores.

“It means a lot. I remember when it first came out,” said Auburn City Councilmember Yolanda Trout, who was on hand for the ceremony. “I think it’s very important for children to start at the foundation of their learning … for this to be introduced at this level. Head Start did a very good job and continues to do a good job. I’m excited to see it here.”

– The Muckleshoot Tribe contributed to this report.

Record amount of water put in trust for fish

Water purveyor for King County cities donates water rights for White River


Joint News Release: Department of Ecology, Cascade Water Alliance, Muckleshooot Indian Tribe


LAKE TAPPS – It’s the largest trust water donation in Washington state history. Enough water to fill a football field 130 miles deep will stay in the White River for perpetuity.

The Washington Department of Ecology has signed an agreement with a consortium of five cities and two water and sewer districts in King County for permanent and temporary trust water donations that will protect flows for fish in the river through 2034 and beyond.

“Big things happen when the state, local governments and tribes come together to form strategic partnerships,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “This historic donation protects water levels for fish, guarantees water supplies for people, and preserves Lake Tapps as a vital community asset for decades to come.”

On Jan. 17, 2015, Cascade Water Alliance will make its permanent donation of 684,571 acre feet of water to the state’s Trust Water Rights Program. The donation will preserve instream flows and protect fish habitat in a stretch of the White River that flows through the Muckleshoot Tribal Reservation. Cascade is the water purveyor for eight King County cities and two water and sewer districts.

This month’s transaction completes the agreement Cascade made with Ecology in 2010 to donate a portion of the water rights it acquired in the purchase of Lake Tapps in Pierce County to the trust water program. In addition, Cascade will donate another 154,751 acre feet of water to the Temporary Trust water rights program until 2034.

The trust water donation keeps water in the river for the benefit of fish, wildlife, recreation and the natural environment. Ecology has agreed not to approve or issue new water right permits for 20.7 miles of the White River in what is known as the Reservation Reach between Buckley and Sumner. Several salmon species use this stretch of the river for migration, spawning, rearing and flood refuge.

“For more than 90 years diversions from the White River at Buckley have largely de-watered the stretch of river that flows through our Reservation,” said Muckleshoot Tribal Council Chair Virginia Cross. “The water donations restore and will permanently preserve river flows through the Reservation that allow recovery of healthy fish runs. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the Cascade Water Alliance to achieve this historic goal.”

The trust water donation is the culmination of a water rights package that has converted Lake Tapps in Pierce County into a future municipal water supply for 50 years or longer for Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah, Tukwila and the water and sewer districts serving the Sammamish Plateau and Skyway.

Ecology approved the transfer of water rights from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to Cascade and issued new municipal water rights to Cascade in 2010. PSE sold Lake Tapps to Cascade in 2009 after PSE no longer needed the lake as a reservoir for hydroelectric power operations.

In its purchase of Lake Tapps as a future drinking water supply for nearly 400,000 residents and 22,000 businesses in eastern King County, Cascade agreed to preserve the lake for the benefit of surrounding homeowners, boaters, swimmers and anglers.

“We are honored to make this donation a reality,” said Cascade Board Chair John Marchione, mayor of Redmond. “It’s the culmination of our regional collaboration with our partners around Lake Tapps – the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, the Lake Tapps homeowners and the four cities surrounding the lake – Auburn, Bonney Lake, Buckley and Sumner. Our work together helped make possible municipal water for the future, instream flows and a summer recreational lake.”

National Congress of American Indians joins the Muckleshoot Tribe to oppose genetically engineered salmon

James Miller hoists a chinook salmon at the Muckleshoot Tribe’s White River hatchery
James Miller hoists a chinook salmon at the Muckleshoot Tribe’s White River hatchery


Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the National Congress of American Indians are taking a stand against the threat of genetically engineered salmon.

“Creating genetically engineered salmon would mean that our traditional knowledge and relationship with salmon would pass out of our hands to a transnational corporation,” said Valerie Segrest, a traditional foods educator with the Muckleshoot Tribe.

The NCAI passed a resolution yesterday asking the federal government to reject a proposal to mix genetic material from chinook salmon and eel-like fish with Atlantic salmon, joining the Muckleshoot tribal council and ATNI. The genetically engineered fish would grow to full size in three months compared to three years for a natural salmon.

Because the genetic modifications to the salmon would be classified as a “food additive,” they would be protected under a patent as intellectual property. “It isn’t a stretch that these fish could eventually escape into the wild and spawn with naturally spawning fish or salmon in our hatcheries,” Segrest said. “At that point, a private corporation would have ownership of salmon in our streams and in our hatcheries.”

In more than 140 cases, a single company that owns patents on genetically modified plants has successfully sued farmers whose crops were unintentionally infected with genetically engineered seed. “These were cases where neighboring farms, obviously not trying to steal trade secrets, had genetically modified seeds cross pollinate with heritage seed stock in their fields through natural processes,” Segrest said. “We don’t want the same sort of thing to happen to our salmon. No one should own the genetic code of our salmon or our culture.”

Genetically modified salmon also wouldn’t provide the health benefits that naturally evolved salmon do. “These fish have less of the healthy proteins and fats that our wild salmon are famous for.” Segrest said.

One of the most worrisome aspects of the fish is that because they grow so fast, they also take in more pollution than a naturally evolved salmon. “Pollution is already a problem for tribal people who depend on fish and shellfish as part of their diet,” Segrest said. “These fish straying into the natural environment would magnify the pollution problems we’re already facing.”

Even though some major chains have vowed not to sell genetically engineered fish, the cost to the consumer would be so low that it would make livelihoods of tribal fishermen that much harder. “This fish wouldn’t have to be labeled in the grocery store,” Segrest said. “So you wouldn’t know if you were purchasing a fish caught by a tribal fishermen or one that was genetically modified.”

Genetically engineered salmon would drive a wedge into a relationship between Indian tribes and salmon, a relationship that has shaped our culture thousands of years. “Our way of life has evolved alongside salmon,” Segrest said. “Allowing genetically engineered fish into the food system, or accidentally allowing them into our streams, would cause irreversible DNA damage and negatively change how we depend on the salmon.”

How a cup of nettle tea changed my life

A member of the Muckleshoot tribe, Valerie Segrest knew something was missing from her diet, but she wasn’t expecting the change it would bring.

By Valerie Segrest,

Four years ago, when I was studying nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle, I came to class to find a cup of tea waiting for me. My instructor said we would be doing a meditation: We would sit in silence for three minutes and drink tea. She instructed us to pay attention to how this warm beverage made us feel.

I was already immersed in an environment that preached the benefits of a good diet. My diet was pristine. On certain days, I was obsessed with eating the right things, like leafy greens and organic, whole carrots, which I cut myself rather than risk buying the baby-cut varieties that are washed in chlorinated water. But I was still sick quite often and couldn’t put my finger on what was lacking.

I am a Muckleshoot Indian, but other than the occasional seafood dish, little of what I ate then bore much connection with the landscape I lived in, which had fed my ancestors for many generations.

My body immediately responded to this tea. It was as if I were remembering what it was like to feel well. I was rooted and energized. When our three-minute silence ended, the instructor circled around the room and asked us to describe how we felt. Some people said they felt calmed, some said comforted.

Still stunned, I continued to sit in silence. The teacher announced we had just experienced wild stinging nettle tea.

I proceeded to drink nettle tea instead of water every day. I walked around with jars of nettle-tea infusions and talked to anyone who asked about how amazing this plant was. I began to visit patches of nettles in the woods near my house and everywhere else I could find the plants.

I read everything I could on the nettle. I drew it. I sat with it. I stung myself with it. I harvested and ate it. I bathed in its beautiful, rich juice. I had never felt so strong, energized, and healthy.

I call nettle my first plant teacher. From the moment I drank the juices of this plant, I became an advocate, passionate about the native foods of the Pacific Northwest. Currently, my work as a nutrition educator takes me to tribal communities throughout Washington state. Everywhere I go, I hear stories about the ways native foods heal people. Elders remind me that problems like diabetes and heart disease were almost nonexistent in our communities until we began to lose access to foods like salmon, huckleberries, elk and wild greens. These foods are nutrient-dense, and they bless us with a true sense of place.

From Muckleshoot oral traditions, I have learned that plants and animals teach us how to live. How can we be like salmon, who return each year to their ancestral rivers and give their lives in order to feed the land, plants, animals and humans? How can we transform our behaviors and habits to fit our natural surroundings, like the 20 different varieties of huckleberries that grow wild from the seashore to the mountaintops?

Since that moment with the cup of nettle tea, I have become committed to sharing the abundance of wild foods, praying for their return and celebrating their presence in the world.