Native youth visualize voices as paintings




By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Well-known Native artist, Toma Villa, traveled to Tulalip and spent July 13 and 14 working with more than 80 summer youth workers on creating mural projects inside the Kenny Moses Building. Toma, who is a registered member of the Yakima Nation, has spent the last few years traveling to various reservations and inspiring Native youth to find their inner artist.

Toma uses Native American themes in the murals he paints. To date he has created 18 large-scale murals in four years that are “all up and down the Columbia River,” he says.

“In my mural workshops the youth work together to visualize their voices as paintings,” says Toma. “The best part of the workshops is watching the creative process play out and seeing how everyone interacts to take ownership over what they are creating. A big part of it is I like to tell them that you are people of the community, this is your home, and so it’s up to you to decide what goes up in your community. With these murals, it’s them putting out their ideas and their culture.”

The two-day crash-course painting workshop was the largest Toma has ever done. Usually he works with 10-15 youth at a time, but he was up to the challenge of working with the large group of 80 summer youth workers Tulalip had in store.




“It took a lot of work building and priming the walls to have enough space for 80 people to work with, but it was definitely worth the time and effort,” continues Toma. “So much good can come from the creating process and when you have young people working together amazing things can happen.”

Among the group of 80 were artists of all skill levels. With Toma helping with inspiration and guidance, every one of the youth were able to find their inner artist. There were teams of youth working on larger murals, while some preferred to showcase their solo talents with their stroke of the paintbrush.

The finished murals are in the process of being hung up around the Tulalip Youth Center for all to see.




“Absolutely amazing artwork took place with the Summer Youth program during their two days in the Kenny Moses Building working alongside Toma Villa. I loved seeing our youth so engaged and involved,” stated Theresa Sheldon, Board of Director, on Facebook. “If you have a youth in the Summer Youth program, you should be so proud of the amazing artwork they have created. Please give them a big hug and thank them for being so awesome! The Youth Services staff has been going above and beyond for them this summer. Next step is to put these master pieces up around our Youth Center. t’igʷicid to all who made this happen.”

Tulalip hosts unprecedented Jr. NBA camp

jr nba web


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

History was made at the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club over the weekend of July 8, as the National Basketball Association (NBA) selected the Tulalip Tribes to host a first of its kind summer basketball camp focused on engaging Native American youth. The three-day Jr. NBA camp was developed to be a youth basketball participation program for boys and girls ages 10-14. With the NBA holding this event on Tulalip Tribes’ land, it marked the first time ever a Jr. NBA camp took place in Indian Country.

“The Jr. NBA is always looking to engage different communities that love basketball,” said David Krichavsky, the NBA’s vice-president of youth basketball development. “Working with Tulalip provides us a unique opportunity to connect with our young fans and their coaches alongside some of the NBA’s best ambassadors.”

Jr. NBA camps are designed to teach the game’s fundamental skills and core values at a grassroots level to help grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches, and parents. Within the Tulalip community, we know how much our people, especially our youth, love the game of basketball. To have NBA players involved, such as SuperSonics legend Detlef Schrmpf and former University of Washington stand-out Spencer Hawes, the opportunity for camp participants to make life long memories and have memorabilia signed added even more benefits.




“Our Native community loves basketball and the NBA,” stated Marlin Fryberg Jr., executive director for the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club. “The Jr. NBA camp acknowledges our Native American passion for the game and will help make NBA fans for life while teaching basketball’s important values.”

With the assistance of NBA and Boys & Girls Club staff, the Jr. NBA camp taught our youth the importance of hard work, teamwork, discipline and self-respect. Their focus was to provide the young Tulalip athletes of all skill levels with the instructions and training that have made some of the NBA’s brightest stars elite on and off the court.

“Skills like teamwork, passion, accountability, and responsibility are at the core of these communities and the core of our game,” said Brooks Meek, NBA vice-president of International Basketball Operations and 1994 graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck High School. “I am especially excited to help bring the NBA to my home community, having grown up with so many friends from Tulalip. We are very fortunate to work with such committed partners as we bring our League to these passionate fans.”

Every camp session started with plyometric warm-ups that got the youth primed for the next series of basketball training. After several rotations through four different fundamental skill stations that emphasized proper footwork, ball handling, shooting and defense the campers would get a short water break before moving on to team competitions. Team competitions varied by day and age group. There were shooting competitions showcasing the forgotten art of the mid-range jumper, a team oriented 3-point shot contest, and even a point-blank range, lay-up style competition. But what the youth looked forward to most were the daily 5-on-5 half court and full court games that ended every session.




During the spirited team competitions there were several game winning shots made. Each one was met with a booming celebration from the kids and the NBA staffers. A highlight of day 3 took place during the 5-on-5 full court championship game between the 10-12 year olds. With the score tied and only seconds remaining, 11-year-old Frank Salomon from Lummi corralled a rebound and launched and connected on a fade-away jumper as the game buzzer sounded.

“Hitting the game winning shot was amazing,” boasts Frank. “I didn’t know it would go in. I just shot the ball and can’t believe I made it before the buzzer. It was awesome!”

It was an unprecedented weekend all around. From all the youth who got up and got to the Boys & Girls club by 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday and Sunday, the dedicated parents who made it happen, the NBA and Boys & Girls Club staff and trainers who made this Jr. NBA camp special and memorable for all the youth participants, to breaking down a barrier and hopefully forming a lasting partnership between the NBA and the tribes.




“The Tulalip Boys & Girls Club had a great experience working hand in hand with the Jr. NBA basketball team,” adds Marlin Fryberg Jr. “We were selected to be the first Tribe ever to host a Jr. NBA camp for kids. Talking to the kids over the weekend they really enjoyed themselves. We had approximately 140 boys and girls participate, which involved representation from other tribes including Puyallup, Nooksack, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Swinomish, Klamath, and Alaska Natives.

“We are very proud to say we are the first tribe in Indian Country to host a Jr. NBA camp. To know now that Tulalip has opened the door for the NBA to expand their basketball clinics and resources to include tribes is truly an honor.”





Contact Micheal Rios at

Little pullers, big ambitions

Photo/Micheal Rios, Tulalip News


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Through the commitment and guidance of several Tulalip tribal members, led by Natasha Fryberg, the Tulalip Tribes has its very own youth canoe club. They’ve been practicing three times a week, rain or shine, since April. With a consistent turnout of kids and their dedicated parents, the canoe club has established itself as a safe and fun activity for our youth to practice traditions of our ancestors.

“For most of these kids, this was their first ever experience with pulling canoe. We teach them the skills and proper technique outside of the canoe first,” says Natasha. “We really focus on each kid’s individual comfort level, so that they enjoy their experiences in the water and in the canoe.”




The current age range is of club members is 5-years-old to 16-years-old, with a good mix of boys and girls. A goal of Natasha and her fellow instructors is to train the canoe club members to the point they can participate in the war canoe races circuit. Thus far, the future is bright as the kids have really taken to the water and enjoy the rigorous activity of war canoe racing during their practices.




“My kids had zero previous experience with canoe pulling, let alone being in a canoe until now,” says Nickie Richwine, mother of three daughters participating in the canoe club. “It’s been an honor to watch these kids excel on the water. I’m so thankful for their coaches Natasha and Tawny Fryberg, Alicia and Clayton Horne, and Ryan. They’ve really been a blessing for taking the time to teach and encourage our kids to be on the water.”

For those interested in getting their kids involved with Tulalip’s youth canoe club, please contact Natasha Fryberg at 425-422-9276.



Using sports to inspire lifelong fitness

Throughout the 3-Day fitness camp, Tulalip youth had conversations about how to properly workout and take care of their bodies, and learned the importance of a good warmup that includes stretching to avoid injury.
Photo/Micheal Rios


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Dietreich Rios, Suquamish tribal member and owner/operator of Dietreich Fitness in Orlando, Florida, hosted a Native youth basketball camp and fitness clinic at the Donald Hatch Jr. gymnasium, November 23-25. The 3-day health expo was all about health and fitness, while promoting a tobacco-free lifestyle.

““I’ve trained a lot of athletes, from professional basketball players to body builders, but my passion is motivating and helping our Native peoples stay healthy and strong individuals,” says Dietreich while in the midst of a stretching routine he does before day one of the basketball clinic. “Over the past couple years I’ve become more involved in not only the fitness community, but in Native American health across the nation.

“I try my best to reach and help inspire, motivate, and teach as many people as I can. I preach fitness and basketball since that’s what I grew up doing; playing basketball was all I did as a kid then as I got older I got heavily into fitness. I try to integrate the two whenever I can.”


Dietreich Rios, a Suquamish tribal member and owner/operator of Dietreich Fitness in Orlando, Florida.Photo/Micheal Rios
Dietreich Rios, a Suquamish tribal member and owner/operator of Dietreich Fitness in Orlando, Florida.
Photo/Micheal Rios


Dietreich grew up in the greater Seattle area before moving to Florida to pursue dreams of opening his own fitness center. He has become a renowned personal trainer and basketball skills coach to many high school hoopers, D-1 college athletes, and has even added the likes of Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis (an NBA player) to his clientele.

We’ve all witnessed how the health and fitness movement has grown immensely over the past several years. Currently, there are no shortage of gyms and workout areas in Marysville, and it wasn’t too long ago that the Tulalip Teen Center and Tulalip Bay Crossfit opened their doors to our reservation based community.

“Getting Natives to keep their minds and bodies healthy through fitness, exercise, and sports is a big movement right now. We’ve always had basketball, rez ball you know, but from what I’ve been seeing there is more of an emphasis on overall fitness and health within tribal communities,” explains Dietreich. “Our people are getting inspired from seeing the Nike N7 movement and by seeing famous athletes like WNBA all-star Shoni Schimmel. More Native youth are seeing people who look like them have success on the professional level, especially young girls who look up to Shoni and her sister Jude, they are motivated play basketball.”

Preaching and advocating for a healthy lifestyle that includes being active through exercise and sports is nothing new for Native Americans. Natives have always been known for their athletic ability, but in the last couple generations the numbers say that athletic skill isn’t being utilized like it once was. Obesity, diabetes, and heavy alcohol/drug use have been running rampant through our communities, making it harder and harder to find the well-conditioned Native athlete above the age of 30.

Whatever the reason may be, tribal departments and communities nationwide have ramped up their focus on engaging Native youth to stay active through sports and fitness. Get them started when they are young and the hope is they’ll continue to maintain that healthy lifestyle and be a role model to others later in their life.

“The movement is definitely growing. Through my travels I’ve seen more community fitness centers and youth athletic centers being built on reservations,” reflects Dietreich. “Now there’s a big emphasis to have a gym, to have places for our people to work out and stay fit, and to have departments getting our young ones involved in sports and fitness.”




The Tulalip Tribes Youth Services Department has been monumental in creating activities, services, and teaching fitness based curriculum to our youth. Since opening the Tulalip Teen Center, the Youth Services Department has been steadfast in reaching out and bringing motivational speakers, fitness experts, and Native celebs to engage with our youth.

Shortly after we hosted the Gary Payton Basketball Camp, Youth Services, with the help of DeShawn Joseph, learned of Dietreich and his assortment of fitness skills he uses to motivate and energize Native youth. Within the past year Dietreich has taught fitness and basketball camps on the Jamestown S’Klallam Reservation and within the Navajo Nation. He is also preparing to do some fitness camps up north for a few First Nations tribes in Canada.

Throughout the 3-Day fitness camp, Tulalip youth had conversations about how to properly workout and take care of their bodies, learned the importance of a good warmup that includes stretching as to avoid injury, and covered tobacco prevention.

“Tobacco prevention is an interesting topic to me because it should be a no brainer for all athletes, but still there are so many young athletes who choose to smoke,” asserts Dietreich. “If you are going to play sports, then you shouldn’t smoke tobacco because it’s detrimental to what you’re trying to do.”




The exercises the kids enjoyed most during the camp were undoubtedly those that called for dribbling or shooting a basketball. They were all able to participate in a multitude of basic and semi-advanced basketball skill building exercises. Each exercise is something Dietreich hopes the kids will continue to make part of their fitness routine.

Following the fitness camp, Dietreich took to Facebook to thank the Tulalip community. “In the spirit of being thankful, I want to thank the Tulalip Tribes for hosting me this week while I put on this youth basketball and fitness clinic. I had a great group of kids! Hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.”

National Native organizations come together to release new Native Children’s Policy Agenda: Putting First Kids 1st

Washington, DC – Native children form the backbone of future tribal success and someday will lead the charge to create thriving, vibrant communities which is why four national Native organizations – the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the National Indian Education Association, and the National Indian Health Board – have come together to update the joint policy agenda for Native youth. The goal of this policy agenda is to set forth specific recommendations to improve the social, emotional, mental, physical, and economic health of children and youth, allowing them to achieve their learning and developmental potential. In short, this initiative calls on key stakeholders to put First Kids 1st.

This agenda is intended as a tool to assist tribal leaders and other policymakers in their work to create and implement a vision for a vibrant, healthy community. It is also intended to guide stakeholders as they prioritize legislation and policy issues that may affect Native children and youth. The partners have identified four overarching themes as guiding principles for improving children’s lives and outcomes. Within each theme, the agenda sets forth tribal strategies and policy objectives to implement these principles.

Native Children’s Policy Agenda: Putting First Kids 1st is the updated work of the 2008 National Children’s Agenda, created by the same four organizations, and generously supported by W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This joint work for Native youth is part of the “First Kids 1st” initiative, which was announced last year and focuses on changing federal, state, and tribal policy to create conditions in which American Indian and Alaska Native children can thrive.



About The National Congress of American Indians Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit

About The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) NICWA works to support the safety, health, and spiritual strength of Native children along the broad continuum of their lives. The organization promotes building tribal capacity to prevent child abuse and neglect through positive systems change at the state, federal, and tribal level. For more information visit

About The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) NIEA is the Nation’s most inclusive advocacy organization working to advance comprehensive education opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Formed by Native educators in 1969 to encourage a national discourse on education, NIEA adheres to the organization’s founding principles- to bring educators together to explore ways to improve schools and the educational systems serving Native children; to promote the maintenance and continued development of language and cultural programs; and to develop and implement strategies for influencing local, state, and federal policy and decision makers. Through advocacy, capacity building, and education, NIEA helps Native students, and their communities, succeed. For more information visit

About The National Indian Health Board The National Indian Health Board advocates on behalf of all Tribal Governments and American Indians/Alaska Natives in their efforts to provide quality health care. Visit for more information.

#WeNeedYouHere: Native youth working to change the way teens deal with suicide

Tulalip tribal member Jo-E-Dee is one of three We R Native youth ambassadors reaching out to young Natives by promoting World Suicide Prevention Month in a YouTube video featuring Native youth who are survivors of suicide or suicide attempts. Their message: #WeNeedYouHere.Photo/Micheal Rios
Tulalip tribal member Jo-E-Dee is one of three We R Native youth ambassadors reaching out to young Natives by promoting World Suicide Prevention Month in a YouTube video featuring Native youth who are survivors of suicide or suicide attempts. Their message: #WeNeedYouHere.
Photo/Micheal Rios, Tulalip News


by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

When it comes to suicide prevention, every day matters. In honor of World Suicide Prevention Month (September), the Tulalip Tribes thank those that work in our community and take action every day to bring suicide prevention services and awareness practices to our tight-knit community.

World Suicide Prevention Day, which first started in 2003, is recognized annually on September 10 and aims to:

  • Raise awareness that suicide is preventable
  • Improve education about suicide
  • Spread information about suicide awareness
  • Decrease stigmatization regarding suicide

Tulalip tribal member Jo-E-Dee Fryberg is only 17 years-old, yet she has found a passion for helping her people. She has focused on suicide prevention by helping youth in her Tulalip community and other communities succeed by finding hope where hope doesn’t seem to exist.

Jo-E-Dee is one of three We R Native youth ambassadors reaching out to young Natives by promoting World Suicide Prevention Month in a YouTube video featuring Native youth who are survivors of suicide or suicide attempts. Their message: #WeNeedYouHere.

“We’ve been losing a lot of kids to suicide. It’s something that never stops. But I’m hoping that with this generation we can finally stand up, talk to someone, and seek help for what we’re feeling, instead of letting this cycle of youth suicide continue,” says Jo-E-Dee. “The #WeNeedYouHere message, it speaks to people my age and from communities like mine.”

We R Native is a multimedia health resource for Native teens and young adults run by the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. They are a comprehensive health resource for Native youth, by Native youth, providing content and stories about the topics that matter most to them. We R Native strives to promote holistic health and positive growth in our local communities and nation at large.

Native youth ambassadors from across the nation began spreading the message for suicide prevention and awareness over the summer, “helping to spread positive vibes and create positive change in their local communities,” We R Native said in a press release.

Creating awareness that suicide can be prevented is their first project. To increase the visibility of their campaign they created the hashtag #WeNeedYouHere, and individually they are speaking out.

Suicide has personally affected ambassador Jo-E-Dee. She shares how her involvement in canoe journeys and pow-wows helped her cope with her brother’s death, and how she feels personally invested in spreading the #WeNeedYouHere message.

“My brother [Clinton “Crazy Wolf” Fryberg] committed suicide in 2010. His death changed me forever. I became suicidal and didn’t know how to deal with those thoughts and feelings. I didn’t know how to talk about it,” recalls Jo-E-Dee. “Those of us who struggle with suicidal thoughts and feelings, we don’t really understand what it is we’re going through. I went to treatment, and through therapy learned how to talk about what I was feeling. I learned why I was feeling suicidal and how to find my way back to living a good life.”

This challenge of suicide prevention hits home for a lot of us. Suicide is a very tough issue, but addressing the tough issues and speaking openly to let our people know that we care is crucial to the healing process.

“Here’s some things I can do if I’m having suicidal thoughts: call someone and flat out tell them ‘I’m feeling suicidal and I’m scared. I don’t know what to do’,” says Joe-E-Dee. “Going to church and staying invested in our cultural activities warms our hearts, you know, like you feel happy when go and it makes you want to keep on going back and doing what you are doing. I felt hopeless before, and if you feel hopeless this is what you need to know: there’s always room for something new and it’s never too late to start something good.”

If you need help, or to give help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text START to 741741 to chat via text.




According to the World Health Organization, nearly 3,000 people on average commit suicide daily. About one million people die by suicide each year. Suicide rates are at an all-time high for U.S. military veterans. In addition, for every person who commits suicide, 20 or more others attempt to end their lives. What’s obvious from the World Health Organization statistics is that suicide does not discriminate upon race, age, or gender. It is a social issue that plagues everyone, whether directly or indirectly.

The effects of suicide are not limited to those who die. Suicide is a serious public health problem that has shattered the lives of millions of people, families, and communities nationwide. We can all take action to reduce its toll. A variety of strategies are available for individuals and organizations across the United States to help prevent suicide.

On the local, tribal level the Tulalip Tribes have been hard at work on a Suicide Prevention Plan that aims to stop Tribal member suicides, based on the belief that suicide is preventable in our community.

Although suicides occur everywhere in the world, Native Americans are disproportionately affected by suicide and the lasting impact it has on our tight-knit communities. In Tulalip, we recognize the role that historical trauma plays in the mental health of our people. The events of history cannot be changed and the effects of trauma now exist in our bodies and the struggle for healthy coping skills and mental resiliency is a challenge. This plan is vital in our journey to healing; we know that every life is important and we are dedicated to educating our people and preventing unnecessary death.

Tulalip community members who are interested in receiving assistance with mental wellness should call the Family Services main number to schedule an intake for individual or family counseling: 360-716-4400 (18 and over) or 360-716-3284 (under 18).



Warning signs of suicidal behavior

Everyone can play a role in preventing suicide by being aware of the warning signs of suicidal behaviors:

  • Talking about wanting to die; feeling hopeless, trapped, or in unbearable pain; being a burden to others.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

What you can do

If you believe someone is at risk of suicide:

  • Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. (This will not put the idea into their heads, or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.)
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifelines at 800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
  • If possible, do not leave the person alone.



Contact Micheal Rios,

Senate Adopts Thune Provisions to Address Youth Suicide

By Ryan Wrasse,

US Senator John Thune, South Dakota. Image/
US Senator John Thune, South Dakota. Image/

WASHINGTON (KELO AM) – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) applauded the Senate’s adoption of his amendments to the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), a bill that would reduce federal interference in education, and put governors, school boards, parents, and teachers back in charge. Thune’s amendments would require the secretary of education to coordinate with other federal agencies to report on efforts to address youth suicides in Indian Country and expand the use of Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) funds to include preventative efforts against youth suicide and other school violence.

“There is no greater tragedy for a family than losing a child, sibling, or friend, especially to suicide,” said Thune. “Sadly, according the Indian Health Service, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Indian youth in Indian Health Service areas, with a death rate four times the national average. While there is a wide range of known factors that contribute to youth suicide, I think it’s important for us to get a better understanding of how we can better address both prevention and response to suicide in Indian Country.”

Thune’s amendment would require, within 90 days from the date of enactment, the secretary of education to coordinate with the secretary of interior and secretary of health and human services to report on a variety of information, including:

  • The federal response to the occurrence of high numbers of student suicide in Indian Country
  • A list of federal resources available to prevent and respond to student suicide outbreaks, including the availability and use of tele-behavioral health
  • Interagency collaboration efforts to streamline access to programs, including information on how the Departments of Education, Interior, and Health and Human Services work together on program administration
  • Any existing barriers to timely program implementation or interagency collaboration
  • Recommendations to improve or consolidate existing programs or resources
  • Tribal feedback to the federal response


The Senate also adopted Thune’s amendment that would expand the authorized use of Project SERV funds to include initiating or strengthening prevention activities in cases of chronic trauma or violence, such as the suicide crisis in Indian Country or gang violence in schools.


Local educational agencies and institutions of higher education seeking approval to initiate or strengthen prevention activities would be required to:


  • Demonstrate a continued disruption or a substantial risk of disruption to the learning environment that would be addressed by such activity
  • Provide an explanation of proposed activities designed to restore and preserve the learning environment
  • Provide a budget and budget narrative

Such requests would be subject to the discretion of the secretary and the availability of funds.

Thune also introduced amendments to ECAA that would exempt K-12 schools and higher education institutions from Obamacare’s employer mandate, allow Tribal Grant Schools to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, and provide parity for tribal colleges to compete for certain funding sources. These amendments were not adopted during the Senate’s consideration of ECAA.

White House Hosts Tribal Youth, The ‘Heart Of The American Story’

"I know that you may have moments in your lives when you're filled with doubts, or you feel weighed down by history ... But when you start to feel that way, I want you all to remember one simple but powerful truth — that every single one of your lives is precious and sacred, and each of you was put on this earth for a reason," Michelle Obama said addressing the gathering.Jacquelyn Martin/AP
“I know that you may have moments in your lives when you’re filled with doubts, or you feel weighed down by history … But when you start to feel that way, I want you all to remember one simple but powerful truth — that every single one of your lives is precious and sacred, and each of you was put on this earth for a reason,” Michelle Obama said addressing the gathering.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP




First lady Michelle Obama spoke to Native youth at the White House last week, saying their customs, values, and discoveries “are at the heart of the American story.”

“Yet as we all know, America hasn’t always treated your people and your heritage with dignity and respect. Tragically, it’s been the opposite,” Obama continued.

Obama addressed the inaugural White House Tribal Youth Gathering, which brought together more than 1,000 youths from around the country. The conference featured sessions on safety, health and education, moderated by young people.

“Your traditions were systematically targeted for destruction,” she said, speaking about forced relocation, young people sent to boarding schools and other regulations that “literally made your cultures illegal.”

“While that kind of blatant discrimination is thankfully far behind us,” she said, “you all are still seeing the consequences of those actions every single day in your Nations. You see it in the families who are barely getting by. You see it in the classmates who never finish school, in communities struggling with violence and despair.”

Obama embraces Deandra Antonio, 17, of Whiteriver, Ariz., after her speech.Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Obama embraces Deandra Antonio, 17, of Whiteriver, Ariz., after her speech.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Obama read the names of some of the 240 tribes represented.

The gathering coincided with an announcement from Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who announced new funding and grants devoted to education in tribal nations. Education was a focus for many at the gathering as well, including a session with Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, who spoke on the importance of science and technology.

Obama also touted Gen-I, the President’s initiative focused on empowering Native youth. To be invited to the conference, individuals ages 14-24 were required to enter the Gen-I Challenge.

The afternoon sessions ended with remarks from Cheyenne Brady, Miss Indian World and member of the Sac and Fox Nation in North Dakota. Brady emphasized the importance of education to the American Indian population. The day also included a performance from Canadian artist Inez Jasper, who encouraged the youth to join her on stage.

The first lady was introduced by 15-year-old Hamilton Seymour, a member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe in Bellingham, Wash., who wore traditional attire, as many attendees did.

“We have made a difference,” Seymour said. “This day signifies that our voice has been heard.”

Miccosukee Indian School Receives Historic Flexibility to Meet Academic and Cultural Needs of Students

By DOI Media Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced today that the Miccosukee Indian School (MIS) has received flexibility from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), to use a different definition of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) that meets their students’ unique academic and cultural needs. The Miccosukee Indian School in Florida is funded by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

As part of the Obama Administration’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative to remove barriers to Native youth success, granting flexibility for the Miccosukee Indian School to define AYP specifically for their students is an important step in making the BIE work better to support individual tribal nations and Native youth. This is the first tribal school to be approved to use a definition of AYP that is different from the state in which it is located, and the flexibility is the first of its kind from the Department of Education.

“The plan that Miccosukee put forward will support culturally-relevant strategies designed to improve college and career readiness for Native children and youth,” said Secretary Duncan. “We believe that tribes must play a meaningful role in the education of native students. Tribal communities are in the best position to identify barriers and opportunities, and design effective, culturally-relevant strategies to improve outcomes for Native students.”

This flexibility builds on the work that MIS has already accomplished through its transition to higher standards and more rigorous assessments, and will allow MIS leaders to further their work to ensure students graduate high school college- and career-ready. MIS serves approximately 150 students in grades kindergarten through 12 and is the only school of the Miccosukee Indian Tribe.

“I applaud Chairman Billie and the Miccosukee Indian School for developing this innovative and culturally-relevant plan for guiding and measuring their students’ academic progress,” said Secretary Jewell. “This flexibility will help the Miccosukee Nation achieve their goal of maintaining a unique way of life, cultural customs and language by transmitting the essence of their heritage to their children. This not only advances Tribal self-determination but can also serve as a model for other tribes within the Bureau of Indian Education school system seeking to achieve the same goal for their students.”

The announcement was made during a ceremony at the Department of the Interior with Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, BIE Director Dr. Charles ‘Monty’ Roessel, Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education William Mendoza, Chairman Colley Billie of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, and MIS Principal Manuel Varela.

According to recent U.S. Department of Education statistics, the graduation rate for American Indian students has increased by more than four percentage points over two years, outpacing the growth for all students. The graduation rate for American Indian students increased from 65 percent in 2010-11 to 69.7 percent in 2012-13. Despite these gains, the graduation rate for American Indian students is lower than the national rate of 81 percent.

A 2014 White House Native Youth Report cites Bureau of Indian Education schools fare even worse, with a graduation rate of 53 percent in 2011-12. To address the critical educational needs of these students, the Obama Administration’s Blueprint for Reform, an initiative of the White House Council on Native American Affairs chaired by Secretary Jewell, is restructuring Interior’s BIE from a provider of education to a capacity-builder and education service-provider to tribes.

In addition to reforming the Bureau of Indian Education into a service-provider to tribal schools, the Obama Administration is supporting other efforts to improve educational opportunities for Native communities, through initiatives such as:

Generation Indigenous (Gen-I): focuses on improving the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and opportunities to succeed.

Native Youth Community Projects: provides an estimated $4 million in grants from the Department of Education to help prepare Native American youth for success in college, careers and life as part of Gen-I.

National Tribal Youth Network: supports leadership development and provides peer support through an interactive online portal.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Initiative Guidance: permits states to share FAFSA completion rates with tribes to help Native American students apply for college financial aid as part of President Obama’s FAFSA Completion Initiative.

Later today, Secretary Jewell will convene the sixth meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs (Council), formed by Executive Order of the President, to work more collaboratively and effectively with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders to help build and strengthen their communities. Obama Administration Cabinet Secretaries and other senior officials will continue discussions focused on several core objectives for the Council, such as reforming the Bureau of Indian Education, promoting sustainable tribal economic development, and supporting sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. The discussion will also include follow-up from additional areas of focus based on consultation with tribal leaders.

Heritage H.S. applauded for Earth Day efforts

Inez Bill, Hibulb Cultural Center Rediscovery Coordinator, shakes the hand of each Heritage student in thanks for their Earth Day efforts. Photo/ Micheal Rios
Inez Bill, Hibulb Cultural Center Rediscovery Coordinator, shakes the hand of each Heritage student in thanks for their Earth Day efforts.
Photo/ Micheal Rios


by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On Thursday, May 14, the students of Heritage High School received a special in-person recognition by Inez Bill, Rediscovery Coordinator, for their efforts in cleaning up the natural history preserve located behind the Hibulb Cultural Center on Earth Day. All the Heritage students assembled in the main hall of the high school, received a traditional refreshment (nettle tea), and were recognized by a deeply appreciative tribal elder.

“You’re investing in your own future. It’s you young people that will come up after me and will take care of the museum and take care of the natural history preserve for the future generations, for your children’s children’s children,” said Bill to the Heritage students as they stood attentively around her. “That’s what our ancestors said when they signed the treaties. We wanted to preserve the rights of our people for their children’s children’s children. Today, this is where we are. You’re the ones that our ancestors talked about, they talked about this. It’s up to you to take care of this land, to carry on the teachings and values of our people. You will be the caretaker of our culture and our land….the beliefs, the respect, the honor.

“In doing what you did, you made a contribution to your own future. And so I wanted to acknowledge all those who came to Hibulb and invested in their future because I wasn’t there at the time and that’s the reason why I’m here today. Because I do need to acknowledge that because we can’t let something like that go by and not say thank you, take time and say thank you. I wanted to acknowledge that because you are important to your teachers and your teachers are important to you. That’s the way of our people. All of this is going to mean a lot to you later. I am a person who has had many teachers in my life and have teachers even today who continue to teach me. I am nothing without my teachers. I am nothing without having them people in my life. I appreciate the people who take the time; who teach me how to be a good person and live in a good way. Remember to honor your teachers because in our way of life we will have many teachers.

“Remember to take care of our environment. We’re at a critical time in our lives where our water is polluted, where there are a lot of things going on that are taking up the land, things are happening to our Mother Earth. It’s going to be up to you to help save our environment, to help save the purity of our water. Water is sacred. Everything that is living requires clean water, whether it’s salt water or fresh water, for the salmon and the fish and all Mother Earth.

“I just wanted to come here and share that with you today. Thank you. Try to be good stewards of the Earth 365 days of the year, like our ancestors were. Try to think about it and keep it in your prayers. Thank you.”


Contact Micheal Rios,