Youth keep Tulalip language and culture alive

Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

During the weeks of July 17-28, the Greg Williams court was home to the 20th Annual Lushootseed Day Camp. The camp was open to children age five to twelve who wanted to learn about their culture and Lushootseed language through art, songs, games, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with the Cultural Resources Department, along with a select number of vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week camps. Each camp has openings for up to 50 participants, but, just as with years past, the camp’s first week total of 37 kids was easily eclipsed by the 70+ kids who attended the second week.

A new format brought a renewed sense of excitement and vigor to both the teachers and youth who participated. In previous years, all youth performed in one large play, which marks the end of camp. This year, the youth were divvied up into five smaller groups. Each group were taught a unique, traditional Lushootseed short story, and then performed that story in the form of a play at the camp’s closing ceremony. The stories taught were Lady Louse, Bear and Ant, Coyote and Rock, Mink and Tetyika, and Nobility at Utsaladdy.

Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in eight different daily activities. The following list is what each group accomplished throughout the week:

Camp students use a Nintendo DSi tp learn their lines. photo/Micheal Rios
Camp students use a Nintendo DSi to learn their lines.
photo/Micheal Rios



Art – painting, making candle holders and storybook drawings.

Games – played various outside games to bolster team building.

Songs – learned and practiced songs both traditional and created.

Language – learned key Lushootseed words that were in their play, various Lushootseed phrases and Lushootseed word games.

Play – learned, practiced and performed the plays Lady Louse, Bear and Ant, Coyote and Rock, Mink and Tetyika, and Nobility at Utsaladdy.

Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related to the play using the Nintendo DSi handheld games created by Dave Sienko.

Traditional Teachings – learned various traditional stores and values.

Weaving – paper weaving, story mats, friendship bracelets, bookmarks and hand sewing.


“This year’s camp was dedicated to Edward ‘Hagen’ Sam for the songs, stories and teachings he has passed down,” explained Lushootseed language teacher and co-coordinator of the camp, Natosha Gobin, during the camp’s closing ceremony. “Through the recordings of stories and songs, Hagen continues to pass on many teachings that our department utilizes on a daily basis. Also, we give special acknowledgement to his son, William ‘Sonny’ Sam, for the gifts he gave to our department on behalf of his father.


Story figures, Mink and Tetyika, trolling for fish. Photo/Micheal Rios
Story figures, Mink and Tetyika, trolling for fish.
Photo/Micheal Rios
Celum Hatch reviews lines of ‘Coyote and Rock’ with costumed performers. Photo/Micheal Rios
Celum Hatch reviews lines of ‘Coyote and Rock’ with costumed performers.
Photo/Micheal Rios

“We would also like to honor Auntie Joy and Shelly Lacy for the vital work they did in the early years of Language Camp that have allowed us to continue hosting it as we celebrate the 20th year! They laid the foundation for camp and we raise our hands to them in gratitude for all they have done and continue to do for our youth and community.”

While the plays and closing ceremony for week one’s camp was held in the Greg Williams court, due to a loss in the community week two’s camp held their closing ceremony in the Kenny Moses Building. Regardless of the venue, both week one and two’s young play-performers made their debut to large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.

“We are so thankful to all the teachers, all the staff, and all the parents who volunteered to be a part of Language Camp and help our young ones learn our language. Our language is so important to us. It makes my heart happy that my children get to be here, that our children get to be here, to hear the words of our ancestors and to speak the words of our ancestors,” said ceremonial witness and former Board of Director, Deborah Parker. “Our kids continue to honor our ancestors by learning their songs and stories, then to perform them for us. I just hope and pray we continue to speak the words of our ancestors, to speak our Lushootseed language.”

When the plays had concluded and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave handmade crafts to their audience members, which preceded a light lunch of fried chicken, macaroni salad, baked beans and cupcakes.

Reflecting on this year’s 20th Annual Language Camp, Natosha Gobin beamed with pride, “No matter what goes on behind the scenes in planning and preparing for camp, it is always a success! We had over 100 youth attend camp and they all enjoyed each activity they participated in. I am extremely proud of my co-workers for their hard work and dedication to their activities. I believe that every year camp is offered, we continue to leave a lasting impression on our young participants, just as they do for us.”

For any questions, comments or to request Lushootseed language materials to use in the home, please contact the Lushootseed Department at 360-716-4499 or visit

The ‘Berry Picking Song’ is performed to bless the meal. Photo/Micheal Rios
The ‘Berry Picking Song’ is performed to bless the meal.
Photo/Micheal Rios


Kaylee Baley narrates ‘Bear and Ant.’ Photo/Micheal Rios
Kaylee Baley narrates ‘Bear and Ant.’
Photo/Micheal Rios


Contact Micheal Rios, 


Troubling trends in depression and suicide among youth

Healthy Youth Survey shows many county students are at risk

Source: The Healthy Youth Survey
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – As students wrap up their school years and head into summer, new data shows that parents and community members should be aware of signs to look for if someone is in crisis and where to go for help. An increasing number of Snohomish County teens say they feel sad or hopeless, have thoughts of suicide, or have attempted suicide.
The latest release of the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey data focuses on issues surrounding mental well-being, social support and risks of unintentional injuries. All fourteen school districts in Snohomish County participated in the surveys distributed last October, adding up to 11,852 sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders whose answers shed some light around the health of our youth.
“Since the school year started in September, we have lost 13 students to suicide, ranging in age from 12 to 19 years old,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director for the Snohomish Health District. “That sobering fact, combined with responses from the students, demonstrates a real need for this community to come together and show our youth that they matter.” 
The main takeaways for Snohomish County youth are:
·         More students say depression significantly affects their daily activities. Youth were asked if they have ever felt so sad or hopeless every day for more than two weeks in a row that they stopped usual activities. While 6th graders were not asked, 28.2 percent of 8th graders, 36.3 percent of 10th graders, and 35.8 percent of 12th graders said that applied to them within the past year.
·         Suicide planning and attempts continue to rise. There has been little to no improvement since 2008 in the number of youth who have seriously considered attempting suicide, have made a suicide plan, or who attempted suicide. Statistics for 6th graders have stayed relatively unchanged, with 15.9 percent saying they have seriously thought about it in 2008, compared to 16.2 percent in 2014. However, the numbers have increased by 3 to 4 percent in all other grades for the same time period. 
·         Sophomores at slightly higher risk. In 2014, 1 out of 10 sophomores admitted to attempting suicide, 21 percent had seriously considered suicide, and almost 18 percent had planned out how they might do so. This compares to 4.8 percent of 6thgraders, 8.8 percent of 8th graders, and 8.2 percent of seniors who had attempted suicide.
·         Youth are in need of adults they can turn to for help. Nearly 1 in 5 students report that they do not have a parent or trusted adult that they feel comfortable confiding in or asking for help from. Among high school students, about 80 percent of teens felt they could seek help from a parent, compared to 86 percent of 6th graders. Only 70 percent of 10th graders had an adult in their life, other than a parent, that they could turn to in a crisis.
“These results are quite distressing, but there are strategies to help our youth,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “Most important is getting young people to ask for help if they need it, and for the adults around them to be engaged, aware and listening. Our students need to know there is hope and something to look forward to. We all play a role in preventing suicide.”
If you or someone you know feels hopeless or contemplates suicide, there are numerous resources available in our community. Visit the Health District’s Youth Suicide Prevention page for a list of sites, phone numbers and apps available 24/7.
Suicide prevention—for both youth and adults—was one of the top three priority areas identified in the Community Health Improvement Plan. The plan lays out a number of objectives and strategies to be accomplished by the end of 2019. Individuals or groups interested in joining an action team working on one of the priorities, please contact us at 425.339.8650 or
The Health District has prepared facts sheets on the depression and suicide data, as well as students’ unintentional injury risks. Each one features the most relevant questions and data for students in our county, as well as suggestions for what parents, schools, community groups, and government leaders can do moving forward. To view all of the fact sheets, visit  
The Healthy Youth Survey is completed every two years and asks a variety of questions about substance use, safety behaviors, diet, physical and mental well-being, and school atmosphere.
To learn more, visit

Tiny house builders celebrate graduation


Tulalip Tribes’ Construction Training Program graduates and instructors. Photo/Mara Hill
Tulalip Tribes’ Construction Training Program graduates and instructors.
Photo/Mara Hill


by Mara Hill, Tulalip News

As summer approaches, students everywhere are graduating from school, or moving up a grade. On June 15, thirteen students from the Tulalip Tribes’ Construction Training Program graduated a 10-week course. A graduation ceremony was held at the Hibulb Cultural Center to mark the event.  The Tulalip Tribal Employment Rights Office partnered with Edmonds Community College to offer a trades program to students, providing curriculum that teaches a variety of construction trades and skills. This program gives students better opportunities for full-time employment and skills that will last a lifetime. Upon completion of the course students are certified in the basics of construction trade, awarded a flagging certification, First Aid/CPR, and an OSHA 10 Hour Safety Card.

Under the supervision of instructors Mark Newland and William “Billy” Burchett students constructed two tiny houses for their final class project. These houses are approximately 120-square-feet and offer stability and a safer environment for residents of Nickelsville, a homeless encampment located in Seattle where the houses are being donated.

The insulated houses will offer electricity and heat, along with a Native American touch. Tribal members James Madison and Ty Juvinel designed the doors of the houses.

John Hord, an Ojibwe tribal member and Nickelsville resident, spoke at the graduation about the impact these homes will have on people now and in the future and wants, “all to understand that it’s not a short-term gift. The lifespan will be touching lives 15-20 years from now.”


John Hord, Ojibwe tribal member and Nickelsville resident.Photo/Mara Hill
John Hord, Ojibwe tribal member and Nickelsville resident.
Photo/Mara Hill


Hord was pursuing his bachelor’s degree in psychology, human services and urban environmental issues and working in construction before being displaced from his home a few months ago. Hord plans on returning to school and combining his education and construction skills to mentor other Native Americans on his reservation, White Earth, in Minnesota.

The TVTC graduates received a diploma and ceremonial hammer. Congratulations to Matt Charles, Stuart Charette, Arron Charley, William Duran, Philip Falcon, Corey Fryberg, Jess Fryberg, John Primeau, Abrahn Ramos, Maurice Riley, Cole Stanger, Darwin Weaselhead and Sky Weaselhead.

Keeping Lushootseed Language Alive In the Voices of Youth

Maria Martin teaches Lushootseed to preschoolers at the Tulalip Montessori School.KUOW PHOTO/BEN GAULD
Maria Martin teaches Lushootseed to preschoolers at the Tulalip Montessori School.

By Ben Gauld, KUOW


In Maria Martin’s preschool classroom at the Tulalip Montessori School, the children were learning to count to ten.

“Two!” they shouted.

But this lesson wasn’t in English. “In Lushootseed!” Martin instructed her class.

Saliʔ!” their tiny voices rang out.

Linguists estimate that by the end of the century, 80% of all world languages will fall out of use. Maria Martin is trying to prevent her language from vanishing.

Lushootseed is the language of many tribes in the Puget Sound region, including the Muckleshoot, Puyallup, and Duwamish. It’s been around for hundreds of years, but is  in danger of going extinct.

Only a few tribal leaders are fluent in Lushootseed. “You hear people saying how amazing it is that you can speak it, how they wish they could, but they don’t have time,” Martin explained.

One of Martin’s “worst fears” is that her language “dies out and nobody speaks it anymore. Because that’s a big part of who we are.” If the language is lost, according to Martin, “it just seems that much easier to lose everything else.”

“It’s Something To Be Celebrated”

When a language dies, more than just words stop being spoken. Stories stop being told. Songs stop being sung. Preserving cultural values and history is much harder without a way to share them.

“How are you going to sing songs you don’t know the meanings to?” Martin asked. “How are you going to provide any traditional connections without the language? I feel you need to know the language, if only some of it, to really understand the whole culture.”

If Lushootseed is going to survive, Martin believes it must carry on in the voices of youth. The Tulalip Montessori School offers classes in Lushootseed to children ages three though five. They learn to count, sing songs, and tell stories in the language. The lessons in Lushootseed provide a way for the kids to experience their cultural heritage, which they couldn’t find in most preschools.

Martin said the community’s response has been overwhelmingly positive. She sees parents post Facebook videos of their kids singing Lushootsheed songs, or saying Lushootseed words. “You see that pride in the parents. ‘Hey, my child knows this.’ It’s something to be celebrated.”

When Martin was a child, she attended the same school where she now teaches.  She hopes to be the inspiration that some of her teachers were to her.

“I was lucky enough to start out in Montessori and learn some Lushootseed, but after I left I didn’t get much exposure. It wasn’t offered in school anymore,” she explained. She said that much more work needs to be done.

An Evolving Language

The Tulalip tribes are working to train more teachers, and get language programs into higher levels of school.

But for Lushootseed to remain relevant, it must also adapt to the changing lifestyles of its speakers.

David Sienko is not a Native tribe member, but he’s been working with the Tulalip Tribes for the past decade. He’s a media developer in charge of all the technological aspects of the Tribes: managing the website, creating weather forecasts in Lushootseed, and anything that helps to reconcile the language with the technology of today.

“Technology has changed,” said Sienko. “So we have to create new words for modern life, and in doing so that’s going to help preserve the language.”

For example, tqad ti səxʷč̓əɬab means “turn off the TV.” And  x̌alalikʷ čəd ʔal ti səxʷʔayilali means “I am typing on the computer.”

Sienko is confident that Lushootseed won’t go extinct any time soon. “All the Lushootseed-speaking tribes are really putting in a concerted effort, and they are starting to work together more readily,” he explained.

Ultimately, it is up to the next generation to keep Lushootseed alive. That’s why Maria Martin does her work.

“The kids inspire me to get up every day and come into work,” she said. “Next year they might go onto kindergarten and forget all about me. But for that little bit there was something there. Maybe they’ll have the chance to take away what I took away.”


RadioActive is KUOW’s program for high school students. This story was produced in RadioActive’s Spring Workshop. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

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,


Heritage students mix art with traditional teachings

Students in the video production class get hands-on experience working with cameras and conducting interviews. Photo/Mara Hill
Students in the video production class get hands-on experience working with cameras and conducting interviews.
Photo/Brian Berry


by Mara Hill, Tulalip News 

Students at Tulalip Heritage High School were given the opportunity to experience different types of art in a program called Artists in Residency (AIR). Eight artists from the area came to the school to instruct students in a fourteen-week course, giving each student an option to learn, create, and perform two different types of art. The art classes offered were cedar weaving, carving, yoga, pow wow 101, Native American flute making/playing and video production. The teachings from each instructor allowed students a hands-on and individualized experience.

Shelly Lacy, the principal at Heritage, explained that the students not only learn the craft that the artist is sharing, but they learn traditional teachings as well.


Heritage students with the paddles they made during carving class. Photo/Mara Hill
Heritage students with the paddles they made during carving class.
Photo/Mara Hill


The video production class, instructed by Brian Berry and Rick Valentine, video producers from the Tulalip Tribes Communications Department, introduced students to the basics of video production and film making and then progressed into some of the more technical aspects. Students learned about framing, lighting, b-roll, audio, and editing. They were also taught how to interview people and operate a high definition video camera.

Nina Fryberg, a senior at Heritage, talked about why she chose video production. “At first I decided to take yoga and cedar weaving, but I asked to switch into film-making for both periods instead.” Fryberg had experience working on a short-film last year in another program, which helped with her decision to participate in video production this year. She also earned a position as a student producer, which allowed her to give other students instructions and tell them which crew positions they were assigned to.

Berry explains that students weren’t selected as producers, but that they more or less “earn the position by showing a significant level of initiative and attention.” Student producers also run the productions and make editing decisions.

“It takes a lot of effort to put into film-making. You have to plan everything out and make sure everything is okay and ready to go before you start filming” said Fryberg.

In the final weeks, students in each class finished their projects and prepared to perform for the other students, instructors and faculty members. The video production class created a short film, “Heritage High School – A Small Learning Community” which previewed on May 15th, about what makes Tulalip Heritage High School unique and why students chose Heritage over other schools in the district. The video was a product of what the students learned over the course of 14 weeks.

“The student body, faculty and fellow AIR artists screened the video and it received a round of applause and cheers” said Berry.


Students from the Pow Wow 101 class perform for students and faculty. photo/Mara Hill
Students from the Pow Wow 101 class perform for students and faculty.
photo/Mara Hill


The six additional artists who shared their gifts, teachings, knowledge, and talent with the students were Clarissa Johnny, Kelly Moses, Mytyl Hernandez, Ian LaFontaine, Sheri Thunder Hawk and Paul Wagner.

“Heritage High School – A Small Learning Community”can be watched on demand at and found in the Tulalip Culture section of the main menu.

The video will also be included in the May 25th edition of Tulalip Matters, which will air daily for a week, beginning May 25, on Tulalip TV channel 99, at 12: a.m., 8:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.

Tulalip Matters can also be viewed anytime, on demand, at


Contact Mara Hill,

Cobell Scholarships in the Works

iStockInterior transferred $5M to the Scholarship Fund for American Indian/Alaska Native students authorized by the Cobell settlement. So where are they?
Interior transferred $5M to the Scholarship Fund for American Indian/Alaska Native students authorized by the Cobell settlement. So where are they?



The U.S. Interior Department has transferred $5 million to the Scholarship Fund for American Indian/Alaska Native students authorized by the Cobell settlement.

So where are all the scholarships?

Turk Cobell and Alex Pearl, members of the Board of Trustees for the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, spoke with ICTMN about the status of the scholarship program recently.

Some of the $5 million will go directly to scholarships and some will be held back, Pearl said. “This is meant to be a perpetual fund so that Indian students can be going to college and receiving Cobell Scholarship Funds well after we’re long gone. It operates like any other Scholarship Funds where you restrict a portion of it so that the fund can continue for years and years and years.”

RELATED: Interior Ends Year with Total Transfer of $5M to Cobell Scholarship Fund

How much money will be available immediately for scholarships is something the American Indian Graduate Center and the trustees are still talking about, Pearl said.

The AIGC and the trustees are also working on the eligibility criteria for the scholarships. “Since we’re just sort of getting the wheels going on working with the American Indian Graduate Center [eligibility criteria are] something that we’re working with them on, just trying to figure out what makes sense, what’s feasible, what we need to do,” Pearl said.

One thing is certain: the scholarships will go only to AI/AN students. Pearl said, “That is set by statute; the settlement requires that the scholarship funds be used for American Indian/Alaska Native students.”

The American Indian Graduate Center is the “recipient organization” for the Scholarship Fund. Its duties include establishing the eligibility criteria for the scholarships as well as managing and administering the fund. A few months ago, the American Indian College Fund was selected to be the recipient organization, with the AIGC getting 20 percent of the funds to support graduate students, but that arrangement has been changed. Now the AIGC will administer the funds for both undergraduate and graduate students. Scholarships will also be available for certificate programs and vocational training.

A five-member Board of Trustees will oversee the fund and report on the AIGC’s work. Two of the board’s members were selected by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and two by the lead plaintiffs in the Cobellsuit.

Jewell appointed Jean O’Brien, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Mississippi Band of the White Earth Ojibwa, of the University of Minnesota, a professor of history and chair of the University of Minnesota Department of American Indian Studies. Jewell’s other appointee is Pamela Agoyo, Kewa, Cochiti and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblos, director of American Indian Student Services and special assistant to the president for American Indian Affairs at the University of New Mexico.

The plaintiffs selected Turk Cobell, Blackfeet, Elouise Cobell’s son and founder and president of Native Hospitality Advisors, and Alex Pearl, Chickasaw, an assistant professor of law and associate director of the Center for Water Law and Policy at Texas Tech University School of Law. The AIGC will select the fifth member of the board.
The $3.4-billion Cobellsettlement, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, ended the 16-year lawsuit brought by Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet, against the U.S. government for mismanaging trust funds for AI/AN landowners.

As part of the settlement, copy.9 billion was set aside for the Lands Buy-Back Program for Indian Nations. Under the program, the federal government is buying back fractionated land interests from individual owners and putting them in the hands of tribal governments.

RELATED: Two Tribal Nations Sign Land Buy-Back Agreements

Contributions to the Scholarship Fund, which is intended to be an incentive for landowners to sell, are based on the payments made for fractionated land interests, according to a formula specified in the Cobellsettlement. If the amount of the land purchase is less than $200, copy0 will be paid to the holding fund; if it is between $200 and $500, the payment is $25, and if it is more than $500, five percent of the purchase price goes to the fund.

How much money will eventually end up in the scholarship fund is not yet known. “It depends on the type of sales that occur through the Land Buy-Back program and we won’t know how much that’s going to be until 10 years have passed since the settlement agreement,” Pearl said. The maximum amount that could go into the fund from the program is $60 million.

RELATED: ICTMN Exclusive: Interior’s Mike Connor Discusses Tribal Land Buy-Back Program

In addition, “the principal amount of any class member funds in an Individual Indian Money (IIM) account for which the whereabouts are unknown and left unclaimed for five years,” and “any leftover funds from the administration of the Settlement (after all payments under the Settlement are made)” could boost the fund later, according to the Department of Interior.

The AIGC and the board of trustees are focused on getting scholarships into the hands of students as quickly as possible. P. “Sam” Deloria, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is director of the AIGC. He said in an email: “At the moment, it is safe to say that we expect to be funding Cobell Scholarships for this fall.”

Pearl said: “We are really excited to start distributing some funds as quickly as is feasible and we’re excited about the potential for Native students to succeed in undergraduate and graduate programs.”



Secretary Jewell to Kick Off Native Youth Listening Tour

Obama Administration Officials to meet with young people across Indian Country to better understand and act on unique challenges facing Native Youth 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s Generation Indigenous (“Gen-I”) initiative to remove barriers standing between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will kick off the Obama Administration Native Youth Listening Tour tomorrow, Tuesday, February 10, in the Phoenix, Arizona area with tribal visits and student discussions at Salt River Elementary and Gila River Crossing Community Schools.

During the sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Obama announced that members of his Cabinet would visit Indian Country to hear directly from Native youth on how to bolster federal policies to help improve the lives and opportunities for the next generation of Indian Country. Over the coming year, Obama Administration Cabinet Secretaries will hold listening sessions with native youth across the country.

As part of her visit with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Secretary Jewell will learn about the tribe’s Family Advocacy Center which follows a ‘co-location’ model for social services, such as counseling, law enforcement and other professional social services. The Center serves as a national model for taking a ‘whole-of-child’ approach to youth and social services.

At the Gila River Crossing Community School, Secretary Jewell will meet with students who are part of Akimel O’odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council, an active and well-established youth council that has served to provide an avenue for empowerment and mutual support for native youth within the community.

According to a recent White House report, nearly half of Native American people (42 percent) are under the age of 24; more than one-third of Native children live in poverty; and Native youth have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools.

North Dakota Natives Win Eagle Feather Fight for Graduating Students

Change.orgA Native American group in North Dakota has won the fight for students to wear eagle feathers to graduation ceremonies.
A Native American group in North Dakota has won the fight for students to wear eagle feathers to graduation ceremonies.


Indian Country Today Media Network


After conversations with the Native American Parent Committee, a more than 20-year-old policy at Grand Forks Public Schools is changing and Native American students will be allowed to wear eagle feathers on their graduation tassels.

“We are in unanimous consensus that our district’s high schools will allow Native American students, who have earned the eagle feather honor, to wear their eagle feather attached to their cap’s tassel during high school graduation ceremonies,” says a letter to the committee from Dr. Larry P. Nybladh, superintendent of schools.

The social media world was happy about the change in policy as well. Leah Thaldorf @leahjoy0523said: “Thank you GF public schools for being willing to learn about why eagle feathers are sacred and a cultural right #LetTheFeathersFly.”

Others were proud of the Natives who stood up and made it happen. Dani @xodanix3said: “#LetTheFeathersFly is another example of Natives making things happen. When you stand up for what you believe, you can make change.”

In his letter, Nybladh even commented about the learning process. “The input received during the Native American Parent Committee meeting on January 14, 2015, regarding the sacred history, symbolism, and origin of the eagle feather is useful. In a follow-up meeting with my administrative staff who were in attendance at the meeting, I understand the meeting was an opportunity for constructive and meaningful dialogue.”

Before the decision was even made Tracy Jentz, Grand Forks Public Schools Communications Coordinator, told ICTMN that the “administration has a greater understanding of the eagle feather” after meeting with the committee. She said the meeting was “very informative” and that the parent committee provided information “about the significance and history of the eagle feather” that administrators had not been aware of before.

Other Twitter users thanked the school for the change. Twyla @Indigeniasaid: “As a former long-time resident of GF, I commend the @GFPublicSchoolsfor their decision. #RightSideOfHistory #LetTheFeathersFly.”