TELA students learn Tulalip traditions from local tribal youth

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Not so many generations ago, Tulalip youth were once punished for speaking their language and practicing their traditions at boarding schools that were established to erase Native culture by the United States government. Today, the young people of Tulalip are not only proudly drumming and dancing at school, but also passing that knowledge down to the next generation. 

The morning of July 12 marked the tenth Cultural Day celebration of the year at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA). The academy introduced the monthly half-an-hour gathering to their students in October 2018, and since then the students have been engaging in a number of activities, learning about the lifeways of the Tulalip people.

Upon joining forces with the Lushootseed language department, TELA also successfully implemented a language immersion component into their curriculum. Lushootseed teachers frequently visit the classrooms to share stories, sing songs and speak the language directly to the students. 

“I believe that our children need to know from the youngest ages who they are,” says Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Director, Sheryl Fryberg. “Research says, if they are totally connected to who they are as birth to five children, they’re going to be more successful in their lifetime because they have that solid sense of self.”

Over the years the Tulalip Tribes has made strong efforts incorporating cultural teachings at each academic level, partnering with the Marysville School District to ensure Tribal students know about their art, food, history, language, sovereignty and traditions. So as the kids make their way through their educational journey, they will continue building upon the vision their ancestors set forth seven generations prior. And the work TELA is doing is helping strengthen that bond between each student and their culture, providing a strong foundation for the future leaders. 

Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary (QCT) is one of the schools teaching their students about Tulalip’s rich history and heritage. Under Cultural Specialist Chelsea Craig, the school has established a morning assembly where the students begin each school day singing and dancing to Tulalip songs, such as the welcome song and the paddle song. QCT also hosts a number of cultural events throughout the year including Billy Frank Jr. week and the 5th grade potlatch. 

Through the development of QCT’s morning assembly, Chelsea cultivated a strong group of young singers and dancers who proudly honor their ancestors by performing at every assembly. Those students, some of whom are now in middle school, continue drumming and dancing at local cultural gatherings and coastal jams, sharing their teachings with their pupils. 

Combining efforts to ensure the youth have a strong connection to their cultural way of life, TELA invited Chelsea and company to lead a culture jam for one of the last Cultural Days of the school year. 

The young TELA students were invited to participate in the jam and enthusiastically followed the lead of the older kids, some picking up a drum and singing while others took to the open dancefloor. For thirty exciting minutes, the kids enjoyed themselves to no end, getting lost in song and dance.

During this interaction, the students learned some important and valuable lessons from their older peers such as to only drum when offering a song, and also how each dance correlates to the message of the songs. By hearing the songs early in life, the kids are more likely to remember the words, the drum patterns and dances, so when the time comes for them to share their knowledge, they too can lead with confidence, respect, gratitude and purpose just like Chelsea’s young group of traditional singers and dancers. 

“It’s such a blessing to be invited today because these students are our future drummers and singers,” Chelsea expresses. “To start making those connections with their next transition in school is something that we’re purposefully doing to start instilling these songs at a very young age. And to see their peers as leaders, that’s important. Our drummers are our leaders and they’re someone to look up to and inspire to be. It warms my heart because some of the little ones here may have never danced before this morning, but they feel it in their heart and feel safe enough in this school to get up and express it a very young age.”

Kids soak up knowledge at a young age and with TELA’s monthly Cultural Days and the Lushootseed language immersion-based curriculum, the newest Tribal members will have a lifelong connection to their heritage and a deeper understanding of their ancestral teachings.

“They all loved it,” Sheryl stated. “I’m just so grateful that our teachers, our children and our visitors are so in love with the culture and the language; we just keep doing the work and it keeps growing.”

The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy will officially wrap up the school year with the Paddling to Preschool event on August 13, as well as an end of the year celebration on August 16. For more information, please contact TELA at (360) 716-4250. 

Tulalip Forestry preserves cultural teachings through wood program

Tulalip Forestry technicians Steven Gobin and Philip Solomon deliver wood to Tulalip elders free of cost as part of a special wood program under Tulalip Forestry. (Tulalip Forestry/ Ross Fenton)

Tulalip Forestry technicians Steven Gobin and Philip Solomon deliver wood to Tulalip elders free of cost as part of a special wood program under Tulalip Forestry. (Tulalip Forestry/ Ross Fenton)

Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – Since time immemorial the Snohomish people have used wood as an essential element to survive. Wood was used to cook, stay warm and conduct cultural ceremonies. Today cultural values are being preserved through a wood program run by Tulalip Forestry that supplies seasoned wood to Tulalip elders, 70 years and older, free of cost.

“The program exists to help the elders,” said Philip Solomon a forestry technician with the program. The Elder Wood Program follows the Tulalip cultural teaching of taking care of your elders.

“It is part of our culture to take care of our elders and check on them. These teachings are fulfilled through this program,” explains fellow technician Steven Gobin.

For a little over five years the Tulalip Forestry has supplied this service to elders. Forestry technicians, Solomon and Gobin, both Tulalip citizens, fell the trees selected for the program, cut it to fit into wood stoves and delivered.

“Last year we did 180 cords, but this year they [The Tribal Council] cut back the program so we have done 20 elders and each gets two cords,” said Solomon, who has worked in the program for more than a year.

Many of the elders’ only source of heat is their wood stoves and fireplaces. The program also ensures that elders are not burdened with an extra cost, guaranteeing that elders don’t have to pay the current market price of firewood ranging between $160 to $250 per cord.

Gobin, who has been with the program since it has come under the Tulalip Forestry umbrella, explains that selecting the wood is a science that few consider. “When we deliver to an elder, usually we try to explain to them what type of wood we brought to them. If we bring them Maple, it burns longer for them.”

Maple is optimal for burning in wood stoves. Its dense nature makes it burn slow and hot. Alder is good for cooking and smoking. Douglas Fir is used for ceremonial burning and stove-heat because it burns the hottest due to the high volume of pitch; it also burns with less smoke. Cherry wood is used for cooking and for smoking fish, deer meat and clams. All wood must be dry or there could be issues, such as chimney fires from a build up of creosote in acrid smoke from burning unseasoned wood. Cotton Wood is considered the worst for burning in fireplaces and wood stoves and is on the technicians blacklist of wood not to deliver to elders.

Gobin and Solomon also stack the wood they deliver for elders who have no help. Last year the two received some help of their own through the Tribes’ summer youth work program. James Jimicum, Cody Johnny, Anthony Cooper, Austin Paul, Moy Flores, Kaley Hamilton and Lenora James helped to provide 120 cords of wood to elders.

“They were a big help. We really appreciated them. This year we didn’t have any youth due to the budget cuts. We would work them for four days then on the fifth day we would give them a break. On those days we would talk to them about how important the work they were doing was, and elders would come and talk to them and thank them,” said Solomon.

“When we bring a cord to an elder, what uplifts me is the smile on the elder’s face and their thank you,” said Gobin. “We get a short visit with them. We check on them, ask them how is it going and how are they doing, if they need anything. That is an important part of our culture.”

“We provide a lot for the culture, which is what I really like besides being in the woods and knowing that we are providing good quality wood,” said Solomon, about the laborious work. “It is thinking about the generations ahead of us.”

 

Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; bmontreuil@tulalipnews.com

 

Lushootseed Camp begins July 21

Lushootseed teacher, Natosha Gobin, shares traditional stories with youth during the annual language camps.Photo courtesy of Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department

Lushootseed teacher, Natosha Gobin, shares traditional stories with youth during the annual language camps.
Photo courtesy of Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – The Tulalip Lushootseed Language Camp will begin July 21, marking its 19th consecutive year of connecting Tulalip youth, ages 5-12, to the Lushootseed language and Tulalip culture.

This year youth will learn the traditional Tulalip story, “Seal Hunting Brothers,” told by Martha LaMont. Through the use of activity stations that include art, weaving, technology, traditional teachings, songs, and games among others, youth will learn the traditional story in Lushootseed. Youth will then perform the story in a play for the community at the end of the weeklong camp.

“This story is passed down from Martha LaMont and is one of our vision, mission and values story. Each year we pick our theme and pick our story. We ask ourselves, what story do we want them to learn; what morals do we want them to learn?” said Tulalip Luhootseed teacher Natosha Gobin, who has been teaching at the camp for over a decade.

The story, “The Seal Hunting Brothers,” explores topics about greed, honesty, providing for family and community, as well as explaining how the killer whale became the Tulalip Tribes emblem.

Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil

Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

This year, teachers from the Quil Ceda & Tulalip Elementary School will be joining the camp in a collaborative effort to continue building a trust relationship between Marysville School District teachers and Tulalip youth.

“We’ve been doing this for 19 years, and I have been helping to lead the camp since 2003. After this many years, it is hard to hold back on all the ideas that we want to do. This year in our art station we will be teaching about Southern Coast Salish art.  Kids will be able to start learning about the art design elements and how to put those elements together, while learning about positive and negative space,” said Gobin.

Held at the Tulalip Kenny Moses Building, the interactive camp is held in two sessions and open to 100 youth. Registration is open until July 28. Both camp sessions will feature a play based on the “The Seal Hunting Brothers,” held at the Hibulb Cultural Center’s Longhouse, followed by a potlatch and a traditional honoring of community members.

For more information about camp times and registration please contact the Tulalip Lushootseed Department at 360-716-4499 or visit their website at www.tulaliplushootseed.com.

 

Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; bmontreuil@tulalipnews.com

Hibulb adds new events for May

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

hibulb logoTULALIPHibulb Cultural Center is changing up their event series this month. The center, known for its monthly events featuring cultural demonstrations, lectures, traditional storytelling and workshops, has added a children’s reading series, Hibulb Reading Time, and a new film event, “Bring your own family history film night.”

The two new events resulted in creative ideas being exchanged between staff and volunteers earlier this spring. Hibulb Reading Time features Tulalip tribal members, including Tulalip Tribes board member Theresa Sheldon, volunteering to read books that explore Native American themes and identity, followed with a craft based on the story.

“Bring your family history film night,” is a special film event based on local family submissions that honor and capture family history.  The event will be held May 29, in the center’s longhouse, and continues the center’s history of screening films that highlight Coast Salish life and Indian Country issues. Film submissions for this event will be accepted until May 28, and should include a 15-minute video that focuses on your family or family history.

Tulalip elder Sandra Swanson is hosting a quilting class every Sunday throughout the month, featuring her quilting expertise and the basics of quilting. You will need to provide your own fabric for this workshop.

This month also marks the last chance to view the Coast Salish Inheritance: Celebrating Artistic Innovation exhibit featuring art from Tulalip artists. The exhibit will close on May 21.

Events and workshops are included in the Hibulb Cultural Center admission price. Admission is free for Tulalip tribal members. Adults (18 years and over) $10.00, senior (50+ and over) $7.00, students (6-17 years old), military and veterans $7.00, children (5 years and under) free, and families $25.00. The first Thursday of each month is free admission.

For information on Hibulb Cultural Center events and lectures, please visit their website at www.hibulbculturalcenter.org. Please contact, Lena Jones at 360-716-2640 or Mary Jane Topash at 360-716-2657 regarding film submissions for “Bring your family history film night.”

 

Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; bmontreuil@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

 

 

Keeping the cultural fires burning

 

Seattle University Prep students learn about the wedding dowry canoe during a school tour on March 11. The canoe was donated to the Hibulb Cultural Center by Tulalip member Wayne Williams, and was carved around the 1880s. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Seattle University Prep students learn about the wedding dowry canoe during a school tour on March 11. The canoe was donated to the Hibulb Cultural Center by Tulalip member Wayne Williams, and was carved around the 1880s.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Hibulb Cultural Center breaks down Native American stereotypes through school tours

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

“We call ourselves a cultural center not a museum, because we are still an intact and living culture. What you see here is how our lifeway’s were then and are today,” greeted Mary Jane Topash, Hibulb Cultural Center’s Tour Specialist to Seattle University Prep students on Tuesday, March 11, at the beginning of their tour.

The 23,000 square feet center with 50-acre natural history preserve will be celebrating it’s third year this August. Since its opening, it has become an important representative of Tulalip culture to hundreds of visitors through the use of tours.

Seattle University Prep students take time to read text about the Treaty of Point Elliot , which established the Tulalip Reservation. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Seattle University Prep students take time to read text about the Treaty of Point Elliot , which established the Tulalip Reservation.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

While most who visit the center have little or no prior knowledge of Tulalip, or Native American heritage, Topash says every school tour is treated as an opportunity to change perceptions and educate youth, who may one day work with tribal

As part of the special tour students were able to learn about traditional plants and how they were used. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

As part of the special tour students were able to learn about traditional plants and how they were used.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

councils.

Staff at the center is faced with an uphill battle. How do you engage youth to learn who you are as a cultural community when they have no idea you still exist?

“Our biggest problem is people think we are a static culture, that we have died off. Often times, I am the first Native American the students have met,” says Topash, who starts her tours with a video in the center’s longhouse to give visitors a foundation of who Tulalip people are and what they believe.

“I always like to make a point to show them our traditional headdress that we [Tulalip people] wear. It helps to quickly squash the Native American stereotype. A lot of patrons come in and say ‘I didn’t know you have canoes,’ or ‘I didn’t know you didn’t live in teepees.’ That is why I also explain in my tours why we are a cultural center. We are not done, we are still living,” said Topash.

During the hour-long tour, the nearly 30 students quietly trailed along, peering at hundreds of items that are distinctive to Tulalip culture. A few students lagged behind showing little interest in the beautifully handcrafted cedar woven baskets or interactive exhibits, but majority of the group listened. As Topash began to talk about why Tulalip is a federally recognized tribe and has sovereign rights, it became clear how much educating still needs to be done in public schools about the history of Native Americans.

“It isn’t what they typically learn,” said Topash about the lack of response from the students in the Treaty of Point Elliot portion of the tour. “They are not exposed to that. It is mainly based on what they have learned in textbooks, so to come

Hibulb Cultural Center Tour Specialist Mary Jane Topash discusses the craft of the welcoming figures carved by James Madison and Joe Gobin. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Hibulb Cultural Center Tour Specialist Mary Jane Topash discusses the craft of the welcoming figures carved by James Madison and Joe Gobin.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

in and see it for themselves is different. The biggest reaction we get is from teachers on how their students reacted to what they have learned in the classroom after coming here.”

A diversity of visitors in age and race populate the weekly tours with each one having a different level of Native American exposure. This spring Marysville School District, through the Indian Education Department, has signed up to have all district third graders visit the center.

“There are three portions that I make a point to reinforce in each tour, which is the treaty portion, the boarding school, and when I explain the inside of the basket structure, because that is how we have sustained ourselves through the three topics highlighted in that structure,” said Topash. “It is always a different reaction depending on the age group. I like educating people about Tulalip, it is a personal thing as a tribal member to teach about what we have done, and what we are still doing. It can be taxing, but it is rewarding because you get those light bulb moments where people understand who we are, that is my favorite part of the tours.”

 

Hibulb Cultural Center is located at 6410 23rd Avenue N.E., Tulalip, WA and is open Tuesday through Monday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. For more information on group tours and rates please visit www.hibulbculturalcenter.org or contact 360-716-2600.

 

Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; bmontreuil@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Morning assemblies create community

Cultural values teach kids about respect and responsibility

At Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary, each day is begun with a song and a presentation of core Tulalip cultural values. Photo/Andrew Gobin

At Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary, each day is begun with a song and a presentation of core Tulalip cultural values. Photo/Andrew Gobin

By Andrew Gobin, Tulalip News

Tulalip – Entering the main hallway of Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary you hear the drum beat. Nearing the gymnasium you begin to feel the beat resounding through the corridors. Kids stream in off busses, excitement building as they find a seat. Others come to school, drum in hand. This is the norm for students at Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary, where each day is begun with a song and a presentation of core Tulalip cultural values.

Started at Tulalip Elementary in its final year, the morning assemblies are an excellent forum to create a community, where students and teachers can communicate about respect and the responsibilities they have. The school’s canon of learning, GROWS, is visible in almost every aspect of the school day.

“The students have really taken to GROWS. It stands for Grow your brain, Respect for all, Own your actions and attitudes, Welcome all who come to our community, and finally Safety is paramount. The morning assemblies are used as a way to teach a value that ties into one of the GROWS,” said Dr. Anthony Craig, school principal.

The songs are led by students, with the help of occasional community volunteers. The students are seated in a fashion similar to Coast Salish traditional gatherings, which is in the round.

In an effort to build a stronger educational community, some classes are trying a technique called looping, where the students of a class will not change as they progress to the next grade. Some classrooms have dividing walls that are opened up the majority of the time, so that two classes become one larger learning group.

“We are trying to develop groups of students that learn well as individuals and as a collective,” explained Dr. Craig.

This year, Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary will develop a cultural aspect to their educational community. The Marysville School District created a cultural specialist position in the school in an effort to incorporate traditional aspects of life into the learning process. In doing so, the district supports and encourages what the faculty of the school is trying to achieve.

Former Tulalip teacher and new cultural specialist for the district Chelsea Craig said, “Here at school you see kids walking around with a drum and a school bag. They don’t have to be a native student; they can just be themselves, at school, as they are meant to.”

The Tulalip Tribes Youth Services department created two comparable positions, with the intention of collaborating with the school. Tenika Fryberg and Taylor Henry are the cultural specialists for Youth Services.

“This has never been done [in Tulalip or Marysville] before, so I plan to develop a program where the community decides what they would like to have brought into the curriculum,” noted Craig. “I’d like to see more community involvement too. Why can’t we have a grandma in the back of every class? We should make this school ours. It is ours; it belongs to the community as every school does. We shouldn’t wait for our own k-12 program, nor do we need to,” she added.

Both she and Dr. Craig acknowledge that some families are not comfortable with their children participating in these cultural activities and have other activities available for children to opt out of the cultural practices, though all of the students are still brought together as a whole for the group message in an effort to continue to develop the learning community that is Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary.