According to the World Health Organization, over 800,000 people die by suicide annually, representing 1 person every 40 seconds. It is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years old, and suicide among males is 4x higher than among females.
Taking one’s own life is the result of a convergence of risk factors including psychological and social risk factors often combined with experiences of trauma and loss. Although an often taboo subject, one of the best preventative measures is breaking the silence and encouraging those in distress to tell their own story in their own way and at their pace.
Tulalip is all too familiar with suicide, especially among the younger generation. By engaging in active listening and reaching out to those who are vulnerable we can build a more resilient and stronger community. On September 10, more than 150 supportive individuals came together to observe and publicize National Suicide Prevention Day with a community strengthening Warrior Walk.
Wearing bright yellow shirts, the symbolic color for suicide prevention, with bold text that read ‘I am alive and strong’, the group convened at the Dining Hall. While there, all concerned citizens had an opportunity to create signs with positive affirmations and empowering messages, such as ‘believe in yourself, ‘help others succeed’, and ‘you are loved’. While most signs were uplifting in nature, some were more heartfelt by being dedicated to the memories of loved ones taken too soon by suicide.
“[This] walk is a suicide prevention walk in honor of prevention month. We named it Warrior Walk because we are warriors,” explained youth councilmember Marisa Joseph. “It was attended by tribal members and family members who have been affected by suicide.
“This is important to me because suicide has affected the Tribes and my life, personally,” she added. Marisa walked with a sign that read ‘in loving memory of Michael Lee Joseph, 34’.
In collaboration with Community Health, Education, Youth Council and other departments, all were welcome to attend the powerful walk for suicide prevention and awareness. Whether an individual’s reason was in memory of loved ones lost, in support of those who struggle in silence, or to showcase strength and empowerment, the yellow tidal wave that started at the Dining Hall and ended at the Early Learning Academy’s gymnasium meant a great deal to those who needed it.
“To me, the Warrior Walk meant healing, not only for individuals but for our community,” shared walk participant Shawn Sanchey. “It’s bringing our strength together to help uplift one another. It showed our youth and our people that they’re loved and the community is always there for you. It’s important to me our younger generation understands that we are always here for them.”
Reaching out to those most at risk in the community is critical to preventing self-harm. If you are worried about someone, please reach out and ask them, “are you okay?” By simply checking in with them and offering non-judgmental support you can make a difference. It is important to know that people in distress are often not looking for specific advice, but merely to be listened to with compassion and empathy.
“Walking together in strength and support for the youth, our elders and community members in need of healing is unity,” said Seilavena Williams, patient support executive assistant. “[There are] so many departments and divisions working together with our community in mind. By coming together the community members could feel that they are welcomed, supported and loved.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 is a crisis resource that provides free and confidential support 24/7. Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives together.
On the evening of March 7, the Tulalip Diabetes Care and Prevention program hosted their first Finding Your Way with Diabetes gathering of the year in the newly constructed conference room at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic. After great success last summer, the interactive course was brought back to help local diabetics get a better understanding of how to manage their diabetes.
Finding Your Way with Diabetes is led by Diabetes Educators, Miguel Arteaga (RN) and Natasha LeVee (PharmD) who guide the participants through an hour and a half long class that includes games, snacks and plenty of laughter. Participants are encouraged to share their stories with their fellow diabetics to give insight into the disease and how it can affect others in both similar and different ways.
The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that Native Americans are still at great risk and twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, but because of programs like Diabetes Care and Prevention, Indigenous Peoples living with diabetes are learning how to responsibly manage their blood glucose levels, eat healthy nutritious foods, and participate in physical activity as well as gain more general knowledge about diabetes.
“The inspiration behind the class is we we’re trying to figure out a way to provide something for [diabetics] that was kind of like the Wisdom Warriors,” says Miguel. “The Wisdom Warriors is a self-help group where people learn skills and get together like a family, have a meal and share with one another. We wanted somethingthat lets us facilitate discussion between all the people, where they’re all learning from one another and they see that they’re not by themselves. They end up teaching each other, and we just provide some friendly expertise along the way.”
At the start of each class, Miguel and Natasha ask the participants if there are any topics they would like to discuss, compiling a list of subjects to touch upon as the class progresses. The students then use a road map, which looks like a giant board game, for the remainder of the class. The road map provides several games like ‘Fact or Myth’ as well as a variety of discussion topics allowing the participants to engage in healthy conversation regarding nutrition, insulin, medication, types of diabetes as well as their daily successes and struggles as they work their way through the map.
“The reason why this is in a real colorful format is to give people some talking points,” Miguel explains. “We’re talking about living your life better and we treat it like a road map. That’s why it has the road and multiple stops where we talk about certain topics, later on when we get into nutrition, we’ll talk about places where you can eat, getting fast food and where to find more nutritious foods. We talk about things that happen in real life and the decision process of how to keep ourselves safe. We’re trying to get good information out to people so they’re more empowered and they can make better decisions about how they’re going to live their lives.”
The Finding Your Way with Diabetes class provides an opportunity for local diabetics and their families to find a sense of community. The first class was an intimate gathering where three individuals became acquainted and shared their personal journey. Community member Jim Dunham and Tulalip tribal member Marvin Jones, who both have type 2 diabetes, welcomed newcomer Daniel Charlie to the group. Daniel shared his history, explaining how he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few short years ago. He nearly lost his life due to a rough bout of pancreatitis that put him into a hospital for ten months, in which he was in a coma for over four of those months. Jim and Marvin were both flabbergasted as he described his story. They commended him for fighting for his life and also encouraged him to keep pushing forward, advising him to take it one day at time while also extending their support as he continues living with diabetes. By the end of the class Daniel was embraced with hugs and personal discussion from both the participants and the instructors.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Miguel states. “To provide something that’s more like a self-help group than just telling them information and giving them papers, saying here read this. We want to let people know that they’re welcome, that they have something to share. This is not something that anybody needs to feel bad about, ashamed or guilty about. It’s something that happens and there are certain ways we need to act or skills we need to develop to take care of it. I hope people will read this article and want to be a part of this or if they know someone with diabetes and want to learn more about it, to get their family member here so we can help them have a better life.”
Finding Your Way with Diabetes is hosted at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic every Thursday in March from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. The Diabetes Care and Prevention program has an eventful year planned for the community, including several garden days at the clinic and cooking classes with Britt Reed, as well as a new class, Seven Skills to Live with Diabetes, where they will go into further detail about diabetes management.
If you or a loved one is living with diabetes, Miguel and Natasha encourage you to drop by the Diabetes Care and Prevention program at the clinic so they can answer any questions, provide you with resources and set you up with a personalized plan to help manage your diabetes. For further information, please contact the Diabetes program at (360) 716-5642.
On October 27, tribal leaders embarked on a momentous 10-day tour to visit all 29 of Washington State’s tribal nations in a first-of-its-kind effort to encourage Native citizens to have their voice heard by voting in the November 6 midterm election.
According to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), nationwide 34% of eligible Native voters are not registered to vote. The turnout rate of American Indian and Alaska Native registered voters is also very low, being historically 5 to 14 percentage points lower than the rate of many other racial and ethnic groups. The Rez-to-Rez tour aimed to change that by going directly to Native voters and encouraging them to vote.
“The Puyallup Tribe is proud to sponsor the N8tive Vote 2018 Rez-to-Rez tour,” said Puyallup Tribe Chairman Bill Sterud. “This is the very first time we’ve had an intertribal tour like this. Now is the time to stand up and use your voice so get out and vote!”
While encouraging Native voter turnout, N8tive Vote 2018 also shared information about initiatives 1631 (Carbon Emissions Fee Measure) and 940 (De-Escalate Washington).
“This is a historical election year for Washington natives with both I-1631 and I-940 involving Native peoples and communities at their core,” said Quinault President Fawn Sharp. “As Natives, we have power… the power of our voice, the power of our unity and strength, and the power of our vote. We encourage all Natives to exercise that power by voting in this year’s election.”
The N8tive Vote 2018 movement came about thanks to a political coalition, called the First American Project, founded by an all-star collective of Native American leaders from within the state and their allies from fellow communities of color. With a mission to advocate for righteous environmental and civil rights policies, the First American Project’s first priority was to pass I-1631, the comprehensive climate change policy that was co-authored by tribal leadership.
After visiting 21 tribes in seven days, N8tive Vote’s Rez-to-Rez tour made their 22nd stop at Tulalip on Friday, November 2. An engaged gathering of 40+ individuals from youth to elders convened at the Tulalip Youth Center for an evening dedicated to empowering each and every Native citizen to cast their votes and mail in their ballots.
“My hands go up to all of you who are committed to spreading awareness and encouraging participation in this most important midterm election,” expressed Tulalip Chairwoman Marie Zackuse during the voting rally. “We must work hard to protect our people and our sovereignty that is being attacked every single day. We must never forget our ancestors who stood up strong and fought for us as a people to have the right to vote, to have our voices count.”
During the evening’s event, Tulalip tribal members Terry Williams and Ryan Miller were both recognized for their steadfast commitment to strengthening our community by advocating and creating policies that protect the environment and our treaty rights. For their years of service and dedication they both were wrapped in blankets and gifted cedar woven headbands.
“It has been a very good day. A day where we came together as different tribes to speak the same language and see the same vision of what’s in front of us,” reflected Terry, who made his career as a treaty rights commissioner working for Natural Resources. “The togetherness allows us to walk in unison with good hearts and good minds as we look to protect our Mother Earth.”
Celebrating midterm election results
Progress, justice, and history is being celebrated around Indian Country as Election Day results showed Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives, Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) and Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) becoming the first-ever Native women elected to Congress, and the tribal-sponsored Initiative 940 (De-Escalate Washington) passed with strong support.
“Washington becomes the first state in the nation to respond to the national conversation about use of force by passing a ballot measure by a direct vote of the people,” stated De-Escalate Washington’s official campaign page following the victory. “Yes on 940 will improve training, save lives, and help build better relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
A large contingent of 250+ Native citizens gathered at the Puyallup Tribe’s stylish showroom for an election night viewing party. The occasion also marked the final destination of N8tive Vote 2018’s Rez-to-Rez tour.
“Today, we finished our 29th tribe on our amazing Rez-to-Rez tour,” reflected Tulalip tribal member Theresa Sheldon while addressing the crowd of supporters. “We have driven across the state from plateaus to the ocean, up and down the Salish Sea to encourage our people to vote! It’s been a fast and furious trip and I’m so thankful for this time.
“It’s been an absolute honor and privilege to have served on this journey to empowering our Indigenous communities,” she continued. “That fact that Initiative 940 passed is amazing; that is victory, that is justice, and that is speaking to the power of what we can achieve when we stand united.”
Celebrations were also enjoyed more locally by the Tulalip Tribes and their allies thanks to tribal member Senator John McCoy retaining his position by defeating challenger Savio Pham, and the passing of Fire District 15 Proposition #1, which will provide the Tulalip Bay Fire Department with much needed funding to upgrade emergency medical services.
On a sunny autumn afternoon, a gathering was held outside of the Western States Petroleum Association building in Lacey, Washington on October 17. Many participants arrived wearing cedar hats and headbands and carrying traditional hand drums, as tribal members journeyed from around the state to show support of Initiative Measure No. 1631, an effort to charge pollution fees to large greenhouse gas emitters and conserve our natural resources for generations to come. As more and more participants arrived, they began to make signs to wave at local commuters who were taking a shortcut through an I-5 overpass. A number of small drum circles began to form and prayers were shared while they waited in anticipation for the I-1631 rally guest speakers to take the floor, including former Standing Rock Chairman, Dave Archambault and Quinault Indian Nation President, Fawn Sharp.
“Today we are here to raise awareness and to rally support around I-1631 right in front of the Western States Petroleum Association,” passionately expressed President Sharp. “They have sunk over twenty-two million dollars into their campaign to stop us but we are resilient, we are strong and we want to amplify our voice. We are confident that through our prayers and through the rich legacy of leadership throughout the ages, from the beginning of time to the end of time, we are going to be victorious on election day.”
As this year’s General Election date of November 6 draws nearer, it’s important to understand what I-1631 is and why it’s important for Northwest tribes. The initiative is a climate policy that imposes a fee on organizations that burn or sell fossil fuels, that includes motor vehicle fuel, natural gas and electricity. The measure is expected to generate over two-billion dollars within five fiscal years, beginning on January 1, 2020, and is set at fifteen dollars per metric ton of carbon content, or the carbon dioxide equivalent released from burning fossil fuels. This will increase by two dollars each year until 2035, putting the state on target to reach its 2035 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The monies generated from the carbon fee are prioritized as follows: 70% of carbon fees will go toward a new clean-energy infrastructure for Washington, utilizing clean, renewable energy, providing public transportation that uses cleaner fuels as well efficiency upgrades to homes and businesses to help save money on utilities; 25% of funds from the measure will go toward clean water and healthy forests, ensuring our forests are well taken care of and can protect the air quality, clean-up polluted lakes and rivers, increase the amount of drinking water and ensure cleaner water for salmon; and the remaining 5% will be invested into the local communities, preparing for any future problems that may arise due to climate change.
“I-1631 is a specific climate policy tribes’ gathered over the last year and a half,” says Fawn. “Quinault has been working on this initiative for well over two years and we’ve been working on climate policy for about twelve years. It was very clear to us that we’re not going to achieve climate policy in Olympia, it’s not going to happen in Washington D.C., but we were also confident that the average citizen understands the role of tribes as leaders.
If you look to Lummi at Cherry Point or Quinault fighting crude oil in Grays Harbor, the average citizen understands our treaties are the last line of defense to keep corporations out and from continuing to exploit our natural environment. We pulled all those resources together, the brain trust of Indian Country, our scientists, our lawyers, our tribal leaders and we adopted thirteen basic principles of climate policy that we knew were the minimum standards for us to effectively combat climate change.”
As the rally continued, tribal and community leaders from Tulalip, Quinault, Puyallup, Nisqually, Squaxin and several other sovereign nations shared their traditional songs as well as words of encouragement that got the crowd of over one-hundred I-1631 supporters hyped. Young Tulalip and Tsleil-Waututh Indigenous Activist, Cedar George-Parker, spoke to the youth about the importance of their voice and Earth-Feather Sovereign talked about MMIW (Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women), continuing to bring much needed awareness to the epidemic that is claiming the lives of our Native women. Dave Archambault journeyed from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to show his support of the initiative.
“For me, [I-1631] means the things that happened at Standing Rock lives on,” he says. “The effort that was put forth to protect Unci Maka, Mother Earth, wasn’t lost just because that one battle didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. The policy that fails us is consultation and 1631 is a way to address that and a way to assure that tribes have complicit consent when a project threatens their homelands or threatens their environment, threatens mankind or humanity. When tribes speak up, we will be heard and that’s transcends from Standing Rock and that’s what today means to me.”
I-1631 does in fact have a provision for the tribes of Washington state that requires any state agency to consult with tribes on any decisions that could directly affect the tribes, their land or their usual and accustomed fishing grounds. Projects that are funded or begin on tribal land without prior consultation will be forced to end upon request of the tribe. Keeping the tribe’s sovereignty at heart was the First American Project comprised of several tribal leaders and El Centro de la Raza, a Latino based organization that promotes unity amongst all races.
“The First American Project was originally founded when tribes organized to take out Slade Gordon and elect senator Maria Cantwell,” explains Fawn. “When it came time to organize for I-1631 we thought it would be a natural fit to revive something that worked so well for tribes in the past. We wanted not only to create space for tribal nations but also our partners like El Centro de la Raza who helped us during the fishing wars. It’s an exciting opportunity for us to join our communities that have worked effectively in the past. We view I-1631 as the first issue we are going to take up. We understand that there are many issues of our generation like immigration that we can partner with El Centro because I think tribal nations have something to say about immigration and separating children from families.”
Tulalip tribal member and First American Project Board Member, Theresa Sheldon, took up emcee duties during the rally. She is also the project’s Campaign Chairwomen and has been tasked with informing and educating Native Peoples on why the initiative is important.
“It’s important for us because we’re the first ones who feel it,” Theresa states. “Native Peoples are like the canary birds in the coalmines, we’re the first ones to show signs of it not being safe. We’re already seeing that; we’re seeing that in gathering our cedar, gathering our huckleberries, we’re seeing the change in the seasons happen and the change in our plants. Sea level rise is already impacting our nations, look at Taholah, Queets and Hoh who have to relocate. They’re the first ones on the ocean so it’s already impacting them. Tulalip Tribes just did our climate change flood levels and in fifty years we’re looking at a lot of different areas of our reservation that potentially could be under water. That’s scary to think about, that will be during my lifetime so I’ll probably see that.
“It’s also important for Natives because carbon is what warms our water,” she continues. “Carbon pollution warms our Puget Sound and our rivers and that’s what’s impacting our fish. That results in not being able to have our fish, crab, our traditional foods. And once it’s gone, there’s no coming back. All the studies have shown that we’re the ones who can make the change, this generation has to make monumental changes. It has to be radical, it has to be fierce and intense changes, it can’t be to just stop using straws.”
Studies show that climate change is real and is currently happening at an alarming rate. If we continue to emit pollution into the environment, scientists predict that in a hundred years the world will frequently experience deadly, extreme heatwaves for days at a time. And if you think about it, one-hundred years isn’t that far away and the heatwaves are going to be something your great-great-grandchildren will have to live through. As Theresa pointed out, tribal lifeways are already being threatened by climate change, namely the Quinault Indian Nation’s villages of Taholah and Queets.
“This is important as Quinault tribal leader because we are right now facing an emergency situation where I’m having to relocate two of our villages to higher ground, the villages of Taholah and Queets,” says Fawn. “In my tenure as President of the Quinault Nation, I’ve seen it first hand, it’s created an unreal sense of urgency for me and we’re going to continue to fight this until we achieve those policies that we know are minimally necessary for us to defend ourselves and advance our future.”
If voters pass I-1631, the initiative will create over 40,000 jobs in the clean energy field, developing and maintaining renewable energy resources such as wind turbines. A number of big name supporters including Bill Gates and Pearl Jam recently expressed that they are in favor of the measure. And organizations such as Microsoft, Expedia, Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Lung Association are funding the initiative.
On the other side of the coin, Western States Petroleum has dug deep into their pockets and raised over twenty-five million dollars to run a slew of misleading TV ads against I-1631 claiming that the fee is ‘unfair’ to big oil. The opposition also wants you to believe that a large amount of companies are exempt from the fee, which is true to a degree if they are referring to coal burning factories or power plants that have been legally bound to close no later than 2025.
A real concern for undecided voters is that the cost of gasoline, electricity and natural gas is expected to rise as a result of the companies’ obligation to pay the carbon fee. However, funds raised from the fee will actually help Washingtonians transition into more of a clean energy lifestyle by utilizing renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power, so we’re not dependent on companies who are harming the environment.
“The power of our tribal communities is so remarkable and I firmly believe that when we come together, no matter what the issue, we’re unstoppable,” expresses Fawn. “When you look at this last year, we were victorious on the culverts case, we were victorious on eleven different treaty conflicts with the state of Washington. At any time, anyone or anything tries to attack us and we come together, we’re quite successful.
“We envision a clean, healthy future. A prosperous future where renewable energy, new technologies and new economies are going to be developed and you’re going to see an explosion of growth in Indian Country. The one thing I would like to tell the voters is to get out there and vote. If you’re not registered, register [by October 29] and make sure your voice counts on November 6.”
For more information, please visit www.YesOn1631.org
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.
The stark reality when it comes to Native Americans and the education system isn’t good, in fact it’s pretty poor. The latest stats and trends only demonstrate Native students continue to have difficulty finding success (i.e. graduating high school) in comparison to their peers from different racial backgrounds.
National Congress of American Indians reports that on average, less than 50% of Native students graduate from high school each year in the seven states with the highest percentage of Native students, Washington State is included in that list. Moreover, recent numbers released from local public school districts, such as the Marysville School District and Seattle School District, show their Native student populations only graduating high school at a rate between 43-48%. For reference, the national average for high school student graduation, regardless of race, is 82%, according to recent publications from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Enter Clear Sky, the crown jewel of the Urban Native Education Alliance, a non-profit 501(c)(3), Native-led, grassroots, volunteer-based organization. Clear Sky was founded by urban Native students in Seattle as a youth centered program, serving thousands of Native youth since its inception in 2008.
The marvel of Clear Sky is that since its humble beginning ten years ago, Clear Sky continues to uphold a 100% graduation rate and academic advancement of Native learners who actively participate in its tutoring and mentorship offerings. Read that again, a 100% high school graduation rate for these Native students.
Sustained success via a decade of dedication and mentorship to Native youth is worth celebrating, so on February 27th a 10-year celebration was held for all Clear Sky has achieved and continues to strive for. The location was none other than Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Seattle’s newest public school named for a beloved Native American educator of the 1980s and ‘90s.
Clear Sky’s decade of dedication celebration featured a host of influential leaders, educators, activists, and former students who spoke about the immensely positive impact Clear Sky makes in the Native community.
“There are many aspects of our ten years I take pride in, given the unconventional model of being the flagship program of our Native-led, non-profit organization Urban Native Education Alliance,” stated UNEA Chairwoman, Sarah Sense-Wilson (Oglala, Sioux). “Clear Sky has flourished, expanded outreach, and has become part of the fabric of our urban Seattle community. The number of alumni students returning back to volunteer and support Clear Sky is astonishing, and a testament to the impact Clear Sky had on their success. These young adults serve as healthy, positive role models for our youth.
“I’m proud of our ongoing 100% graduation and academic advancement of Clear Sky students throughout the many years of our program. The results are a reflection of our organizations core values and the fostering of leadership through academic achievement, civic service and stewardship.”
Shared values of culture and tradition was on full-display as well, through the sharing of drum circles and song. The UNEA women, led by Roxanne White, brought out the Women’s Warrior Song to honor and remember missing and murdering Indigenous women. The A.I.M. song was performed by a group of proud Lakota men, while Roger Fernandes led the young men of the Clear Sky youth council in a Warrior Song.
“Shout out to Clear Sky and UNEA. Seattle’s Native community has an abundance of incredible leadership making this place one where Native kids can flourish,” remarked Matt Remle, local Lakota activist and Native Liaison for the Marysville School District. “To the volunteers of Clear Sky who have showed up day after day, week after week, and year after year, for the sake of our kids…to the founders, past and present board members, staff, tutors, coaches, mentors, teachers, speakers, student leaders and families, thank you and wow!”
Among the student leaders and athletic coaches is Tulalip tribal member, Cullen Zackuse. Cullen is a Clear Sky Co-Coordinator and Native Warrior Athletics basketball coach. He serves as a youth mentor and provides leadership through positive role modeling. Cullen has strong roots and cultural ties with Tulalip and he brings those cultural/traditional values into every interaction with the urban Native youth.
“I took on a formal role with Clear Sky about six months ago so I could work with the youth after school on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday, but mostly I coach the basketball team for Native Warrior Athletics,” said Cullen of his leadership role within UNEA and Clear Sky. “Working with tribal kids and teaching them the fundamentals of basketball, coaching them at tournaments is making a difference and creates a positive environment for learning.”
Two other notable guests in attendance for the celebration were Seattle Public School Board Member, Scott Pinkham (Nez Perce), and Seattle City Councilmember, Debora Juarez (Blackfeet). They shared in the festivities, spoke on the importance of Clear Sky, and gave special recognition by way of a City of Seattle official Proclamation declaring it “Seattle Clear Sky Day”.
“The content of the Proclamation addresses several decade long issues UNEA and Clear Sky youth have been addressing through Seattle Public Schools public testimony, rallies, community meetings, documentaries, and countless news media interviews and letters, and petitions,” explained UNEA Chairwoman, Sarah Sense-Wilson. “We plan to share the City of Seattle Proclamation with other youth groups and at various venues to illustrate that the City of Seattle supports our initiatives and our vision as a legitimate voice for Indian Education.”
For more information on the Urban Native Education Alliance and Clear Sky, or to contact about mentorship and tutoring opportunities for the youth, please reach out to Sarah Sense-Wilson by phone at (206) 941-0338 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
On Wednesday, December 20, fourteen Native students were honored at the Dining Hall with a graduation banquet for their commitment to training for a better tomorrow. The fourteen students, five of whom are Tulalip tribal members, were the latest cohort to complete an intensive, fourteen-week pre-apprenticeship construction trades program offered by the TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC).
As far as we know, the program, which is managed by the Tulalip TERO department, is the first and only state and nationally recognized Native American pre-apprenticeship program in the country. The program is accredited through South Seattle Community College and Renton Technical College, while all the in-class, hands-on curriculum has been formally approved by the Washington State Apprentice and Training Council.
The fifteen-week program provides curriculum that teaches a variety of core construction skills that can last a lifetime. Upon completion, the graduate’s dedication to a better future is rewarded with a wide-range of new employment opportunities now available to each graduate as they navigate the construction trades career path. In addition, students are trained and awarded certifications in flagging, first aid/CPR, and OSHA 10-hour safety training. Graduates have also received certification on three pieces of lift equipment, specifically the scissor lift, boom lift, and industrial fork lift. TVTC students graduate trained and ready to safely and productively enter the construction work environment.
“This TERO program is an amazing opportunity for any Native American, regardless of which tribe you’re from,” says Tulalip tribal member and now TVTC graduate, Brando Jones. “I was living in Tacoma when I first learned of this class. After meeting with Lynne and Robert from Tulalip TERO I knew this class was the best chance for me to reconnect with Tulalip, while at the same time building a foundation for a better future. Now that I’ve graduated, my goal is to use this experience as a stepping stone towards success. I’m really going to miss the teachers and students. To my fellow graduates I say this, ‘We have the tools to build and keys to unlock doors, so let’s get it!’”
The TVTC pre-apprenticeship program is a unique, nationally known model that supports tribal members from sovereign nations across the United States. The program is not dependent on tribal hard dollars. In fact, zero hard dollars are used to fund it. Instead, due to the dedication and commitment of so many individuals the TVTC program continues to grow and gain more recognition while being funded by the graciousness of the Tulalip Charitable Fund, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, DOT’s Ladders of Opportunity Grant, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Pass Grant.
This Fall session gave TVTC students plenty of opportunities to showcase their newly acquired construction-based skill set with a series of projects. Community projects included a two-day demo and refurbishing of the Hibulb Cultural Center’s fence, constructing a presentation booth for Hibulb, and making a concrete sidewalk at the apprenticeship training headquarters in Seattle.
“This particular group of students was a very together, cohesive unit,” describes instructor Mark Newland. “They looked after one another real well and were always willing to help each other out. When it came to the culminating project, building three tiny houses, the students showed a lot of passion in their work and did an awesome job.”
Under the supervision of instructors Mark Newland and Billy Burchett, the students constructed three tiny houses for their final class project. These houses, which are approximately 120-square-feet in size, are being donated to homeless families located at a yet to be named, newly created homeless village in Seattle. The insulated houses will be a major upgrade for their soon-to-be residents as they offer electricity, heat, a much safer environment and, most importantly, a measure of stability.
“TVTC works with Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). To date we have built 18 tiny Homes for this organization, which donates all supplies and materials required. This has saved TVTC thousands of dollars as these houses are used for training purposes, and lumber that was previously purchased for class is no longer needed,” explains TERO Coordinator, Lynne Bansemer.
“This most recent TVTC session we added a specialty course – a forty-hour scaffolding course – that was developed by the Carpenters Union Training division,” adds Lynne. “TVTC is excited to bring this opportunity to our students as scaffolding is used across many trades and this allows more employment opportunities for our students.”
Since the Fall of 2013, when TERO took over the program, 141 students have graduated the pre-apprenticeship program. Of those 141 graduates, 57 have been Tulalip Tribal members, and 17 have either been Tulalip spouses or parents. That’s 74 graduates from Tulalip and 67 fellow Native Americans from all over the region who have opted to train for a better tomorrow by completing the construction training program.
TVTC has seen an increasing number of persons who balance a full-time job while attending the training program. This term they had several students who came to training school every day who held full-time jobs by working swing or graveyard shifts. These students wanted more opportunities in their future and were willing to put in the dedication and sacrifice necessary in order to open more doors.
For more information on Tulalip TERO’s TVTC program or to inquire about admission into the next pre-apprenticeship opportunity, please contact Lynne Bansemer, TERO Coordinator, at 360-716-4746 or visit TVTC.TulalipTERO.com
Tulalip community participates in International Overdose Awareness Day
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
The opioid and heroin crisis has continued to escalate over recent years in America. The state of Washington sees approximately three-thousand deaths annually due to drug abuse, according to the Washington State Department of Health. In Snohomish County there are nearly seven-hundred drug-related causalities per year, with the largest amount of overdoses occurring in the Everett-Marysville-Tulalip area. A recent study conducted by the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute shows that thirty-one percent of deaths statewide can be credited to drug overdose.
International Overdose Awareness Day is held each year on August 31 to bring attention to the drug epidemic, educate community members and remember the loved ones who have fallen to their addiction. This year the Tulalip community participated in International Overdose Awareness Day with the Fed Up? Wake Up! Overdose Awareness event hosted by the Tulalip Community Health Department.
“One of the important things that Community Health believes in and wants to bring to the community is meeting the people right where they are,” explains Tulalip Community Health Nurse, Suzanne Carson. “This event is to share with community members what they can do to educate themselves about the overdose problem; what overdoses look like, what withdrawal looks like, what the risk factors are – that kind of education, so they know what they’re looking at when they see someone who is struggling.
“We also want to acknowledge those loved ones who we have lost to an overdose and the lives that have been affected by an overdose,” she continues. “An overdose not only affects the person who took the drugs, but everybody in the community. The hearts are impacted every time the community loses or almost loses somebody and our goal is to give the community a chance to reflect on the lives that have been affected.”
Internationally, people are encouraged to show support by wearing purple and silver on Overdose Awareness Day. A trail of shoes, spray-painted purple and silver, were lined from Marine Drive, alongside Totem Beach Road, leading to the new Tulalip Community Health Department. According to Suzanne, each shoe on the ‘trail of empty shoes’ symbolizes a life lost or a life affected by an overdose.
In 2014, the Tulalip Tribes adopted a Good Samaritan aw, the Lois Luella Jones law, which shields addicts from arrest and prosecution when reporting an overdose. Sergeant William Santos of the Tulalip Police Department and Tulalip tribal member Rico Jones-Fernandez were in attendance to speak to the community about the law. In 2011, Lois Luella Jones lost her life to an overdose. Authorities believe she could’ve been revived, however her peers did not call for medical assistance, fearing they would be arrested. Her son Rico created the Good Samaritan law and has since dedicated his life to raising overdose awareness in the community by running the Tulalip Clean Needle Exchange Program.
During the event, community members painted rocks, in dedication to those who lost their life to an overdose, and placed them in the Remembrance Rock Garden, located in front of the Community Health Department. Many of the rocks in the Remembrance Garden display the names of overdose victims as well as personal messages from the community members. Tulalip community member and Yakima tribal member, Scott Rehume, explained the story behind the rock he designed for his brother, Kevin.
“I just went to his funeral the other day,” he emotionally states. “When they said he passed away, I asked how – they said he OD’ed on heroin. He never even messed with it before, at the beginning of his usage he ends up doing too much and dying. When I came back to Tulalip from the funeral, I saw they had this overdose awareness event, so I decided to show up and make him a rock.”
The event concluded with a Naloxone training to better equip community members with the knowledge of how to revive someone who has overdosed.
“Naloxone is the opioid antagonist,” says Suzanne. “The receptors in the brain that opioids and heroin bind to, Naloxone goes in there and kicks them of those receptors so that the opioid is out of their system immediately. It’s what can save a life when somebody is overdosing. By taking the training, Tulalip tribal members are sent home with a free Naloxone kit that they can use to save a life.”
The Fed Up? Wake Up! event brought valuable information to the Tulalip community. Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman, Marie Zackuse, believes that events like the Overdose Awareness are a step in the right direction during these trying times of the opioid and heroin epidemic.
“When this affects your family member, you become helpless,” Marie expresses. “You don’t know what to do because you love them and you want to be able to help them, but you lose the ability to figure out what you can do to help – these types of get-togethers can help us. Seeing the flyer brought me to bring my daughter and we’re hoping to bring more family members together to just talk about it, because it is hard to talk about and we need to be able to support one another.
“I’m so thankful for the staff that brought this all together because it shows that we do care for our members,” continued Marie. “Each and every one of our families in this community are affected and we don’t want to lose one more person, because that person is our child, our grandchild. If we can all come together and take back our community, we can save some lives.”
President Trump’s latest immigration order suspended refugee resettlement in the United States for 120 days and indefinitely for Syria. In the same order, Trump suspended entry for 90 days for citizens of Muslim majority nations such as Iran, Iraq, and Libya. The President’s reasoning is national security, as he believes the countries harbor potential terrorists. The order was controversial, to say the least, and resulted in protests across America and a temporary halt to the order by the U.S. Federal Court. On social media, Native America showed support for refugees with the hashtag #NoBanOnStolenLand.
In a divided country, amidst the controversy surrounding Trump’s immigration order, Quil Ceda Elementary recently held a cultural fair to celebrate diversity by teaching their students about different cultures. School staff of varying cultural backgrounds prepared interactive stations to give students a look into the lives and cultures of other nations.
Upon arrival the students received paper passports. As they “traveled” around countries such as Guam, Peru, Mexico and China, they filled their passport with stamps from each country.
Quil Ceda Elementary also celebrated the culture of the Tulalip Tribes. The school dedicated four learning stations to the Tribe, each station representing different cultural aspects the Tribe values such as the Lushootseed language, the Hibulb Cultural Center, and basket weaving. An exclusive coastal jam was held in the school library, complete with a powwow rendition of the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song.
Cardboard presentations, prepared by students, were on display in the school cafeteria. The topics varied from Martin Luther King Jr. tributes to recent movements such as Black Lives Matter and Water is Life.
The after-school-hours event attracted a large amount of families, as parents and siblings joined the students in celebration. For many, the highlight of the evening was the international cuisine. As the students passed through different nations, they tasted traditional homemade dishes such as egg rolls, tortilla chips with pico de gallo, coconut candy, and frybread.
Once the students completed their passports they received a free book of their choice to take home.
During a time when the President is signing executive orders that violate the rights of Native, Muslim, and Mexican-Americans (not to mention the women of America) events such as cultural fairs are vital to communities in America. Through the cultural fair, the youth learned the importance of diversity as well as the history and traditions of several countries in a fun, interactive yet respectful manner.
Many students enjoyed the event, as evidenced by student Colt, as he excitedly exclaimed, “I had a blast! I really did. It was so awesome reading about Vietnam and China.”
“And I liked the egg rolls the best!,” his younger brother, Evan, quickly added.
Donald Trump is President. For many in the Pacific Northwest and throughout Indian Country that is a gut-wrenching fact that will take some time to fully process. But it is a fact of life and we must adapt to a changing political climate like we have always done.
Local Lakota Activist and Marysville School District educator Matt Remle summed it up best when he released the following statement via Facebook on Inauguration Day. “People keep asking how we’re preparing for Trump. I keep responding ‘same way we prepare for any new colonizer in chief.’ Today is the same as yesterday as we continue to protect our lands, protect our water, protect our treaty rights, and fight for our children and future generations. #NoDAPL #BattleforMotherEarth.”
And that’s just it, we as Native people have always been fighting to protect our lands, water, treaty rights and future generations. There’s never been a pause to our fight, no one has ever said let’s take a break from resisting Western assimilation because of whoever happened to be in a local, state, or federal office. We honor our ancestors for their gifts of teachings to be strong, resilient and compassionate every day with every breath we take, just by being able to say we have endured and we are still here.
Now, Donald Trump is President and seemingly by the hour we are getting updates as to how he plans on weakening our treaty rights and depleting our resources. From signing executive orders to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, to freezing Environmental Protection Agency grants and contracts, to potentially eliminating the Violence Against Women Act, there have been no shortages of offensive and egregious legislative actions being aimed at the tribes by the Trump Administration.
However, none of this should come as any shock or surprise. It’s all been completely in line with who we know him to be and what we know him to stand for. If anything, it’s surprising to see a President follow through on several key promises he made during his campaign as quickly as Trump is.
The moment Trump took office and became the 45th President, the White House website received a digital makeover to reflect the values and missions of the Trump Administration. As a result, White House policies on several high-stake issues were no longer available. One such issue was climate change, an issue that is critically important to the health of the world, but not so important to our President who routinely refers to climate change as “a hoax”.
What took the place of climate change policy is what’s titled An America First Energy Plan. The plan in its entirety is posted at the end of this article. There are some fascinating remarks made within this energy plan, such as “President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.” Then there is this statement as well, “The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.”
“Trump’s plan is not a surprise – it’s consistent with what he has said throughout the campaign – a no holds barred approach to development of oil, natural gas, and coal, especially on federal lands and under federal waters,” says Libby Nelson, Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Environmental Policy Analyst. “Climate change policy is seen as ‘harmful’ and there is no mention of ‘renewable energy’ (e.g., wind, solar) in Trump’s energy plan. Lifting environmental regulations, weakening the EPA, and increasing drilling may lead to more jobs and more revenue in the short term, but at what cost? At the cost of healthy, functioning and yes, economically valuable natural ecosystems that we need to sustain us long after the ‘shale oil revolution’. We will need to watch carefully as this new administration begins to translate its energy policy to proposed actions on the ground, and be prepared to act on behalf of the environment and tribal interests.”
So we will continue to watch and listen carefully as Trump continues to follow through on promises he made on his campaign trail because he did make these promises, but many didn’t listen. Now he’s doing exactly what he promised to do and there are a lot of progressives, our so-called allies, who are complicit in the legislation for policies like the pipelines going forward.
“I honestly believe that this monumental loss of faith in DC is a step in the right direction. No matter the President or who was Senator or Congressperson, DC has always been an obstacle, not an aid to our communities,” stated Native activist and renowned speaker Gyasi Ross via Facebook. “Our solutions are at home. Simple. That is shown by the fact that we have a home, a homeland – our communities were supposed to have been wiped out. Physically. Genocide. Extermination. But we weren’t wiped out and because of that we’re still able to improve, evolve and grow. Of course we can point to dysfunction, but that’s normal. That’s growing pains. We’re learning how to love ourselves again, to believe in ourselves again, to trust us and our own brilliance and spirituality. When we learn that fully, the solutions will be self-evident.
“Our solutions are not in DC and they never have been. If the cavalry was coming, they would have come a long time ago. Marshall would have stopped the Trail of Tears; Obama would have stopped DAPL. Neither one did. It was the thousands of organizers on the ground who did. No saviors. The only meaningful transformation or revolution that will really improve life for our communities will come from our communities, not an outside savior or great white father.”
Indeed, there must be a transformation and necessary resistance to defend against the likes of the Trump Administration and all other levels of government and establishment that seek to exploit the Earth and weaken our treaty rights. That resistance has been ongoing for the Tulalip Tribes because, again, organizations of all sorts have sought to lay claim to our lands, waters, and way of life long before Trump.
“The Tulalip Tribes has been legally fighting against any coal, oil, pipeline, or anything else that will ruin our Mother Earth and negatively impact our fresh water, our air quality, and our salt water,” says Theresa Sheldon, Tulalip Board of Director. “We will continue to oppose any policy or legislation that may make it easier for the federal government to exploit our lands and our way of life.
“As we go into a Republican Presidency with a Republican Congress, please do not lose faith. Treaty rights are not party based. The Point Elliott Treaty does not belong in the republican camp or democrat camp. Our issues are independent from party, but based in the fact that treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land as stated in the U.S. Constitution. We will continue to work with this new administration to educate them on our rights and we will fight hard to protect our rights as the Indigenous peoples of this country. May we stand together and support each other. Do not get distracted with the noise and rhetoric of two parties, but find balance in our teachings and in our way of life as our ancestors have always done.”
Within minutes of Donald Trump’s swearing in as 45th president of the Unites States, the pages on climate change, previously found on whitehouse.org, went dark. They were replaced with the following on a page dedicated to an energy plan.
An America First Energy Plan
Energy is an essential part of American life and a staple of the world economy. The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.
For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.
Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well.
The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.
In addition to being good for our economy, boosting domestic energy production is in America’s national security interest. President Trump is committed to achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to our interests. At the same time, we will work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy.
Lastly, our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.
A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health. Under the Trump Administration’s energy policies, that future can become a reality.