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

 

The heart of a cedar

CedarPulling6-27-14A from Brandi Montreuil on Vimeo.

Sisters continue tradition of cedar harvesting

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Tulalip tribal member Chelsea Craig separates the inner bark from the outer bark on a strip of red cedar she harvested during an annual cedar harvesting event organized by Tulalip Forestry on June 27-28.Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Tulalip tribal member Chelsea Craig separates the inner bark from the outer bark on a strip of red cedar she harvested during an annual cedar harvesting event organized by Tulalip Forestry on June 27-28.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Leaning over a long strip of red cedar placed on her lap, Tulalip tribal member Cerissa “Pipud” Gobin, asked her 4-year-old daughter, Emmy “Pipud” Ramsey, if she knew what was in the center of the cedar tree.

“What is in the center of you? That is right; it is your heart. So in the center of the cedar tree is a heart,” said Gobin, as she continued her methodical rhythm of peeling inner bark from the outer bark on a strip of cedar that was recently cut from a nearby group of trees.

“When I first started pulling I had no idea what I was doing,” said Gobin.  “I learned as I went along. I learned to get the little pieces of bark left on the inside off before you leave, otherwise you are going to spend a lot of time trying to get it off later,” she continued, occasionally looking up from the long strip on her lap to watch her son, Coen, pull another strip of bark off a tall red cedar.

Clustered around Gobin and her sister, Chelsea Craig, also a Tulalip tribal member, were long strips of cedar waiting to have their inner bark stripped, which will be used to make cultural items. Outer bark is left for the forest to reclaim. Both women are educators who plan to use the cedar for in-class projects next year.

Gobin, a high school art educator at Heritage High School, uses the cedar to teach students how to make traditional headbands or bracelets, some of which are later used during graduation ceremonies. Craig, a teacher at Quil Ceda & Tulalip Elementary, uses the cedar to teach youth to make baskets, hats, and pins for potlatch giveaways. Although they teach students how to weave different items, together they weave a cultural foundation for Tulalip youth.

These women are part of a large group of Tulalip tribal members participating in a cedar harvest organized by Tulalip Forestry

Cerissa 'Pipud' Gobin harvested nearly 3 dozen bundles of cedar during the harvesting event organized by Tulalip Forestry on June 27-28.

Cerissa ‘Pipud’ Gobin harvested nearly 3 dozen bundles of cedar during the harvesting event organized by Tulalip Forestry on June 27-28.

Department on June 27-28. The event, and others like it, is made possible by a growing partnership between the Tulalip Tribes and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. The land is owned by DNR, with Sierra Pacific owning the timber. Department of Natural Resources notifies Tulalip Forestry when an area is scheduled to be cleared. This season, 83 acres were available for harvesting cedar.

“Tulalip Forestry worked in conjunction with both agencies’ representatives to coordinate the event and establish ground rules regarding allowable and non-allowable trees to be pulled,” explained Ross Fenton with the Tribe’s forestry department. “The relations Tulalip Forestry has established over the years for cultural cedar bark gathering has gone exceptionally well. Some tribal members base their sole incomes on products they make from cedar bark, so it’s very important we continue to maintain these positive relations.”

“Traditionally we would come out to harvest when the sap would run. That makes it easy to pull it off the tree. This stuff peels so nicely, I am loving it,” said Craig, pausing for a moment to survey the large expanse of trees swaying in the afternoon wind. “It is amazing to sit here and think about how our people used to do this. How they would all come together with their families and gather cedar. Of course they didn’t use the same tools we are using today, but they came out and gathered and made things, some of which we still have today.”

Many Tulalip youth participated in the two-day cedar-harvesting event, gathering strips for elders and learning techniques of separating the smooth inner bark from the rough outer bark. For many, this was their first trip gathering cedar.

“Do you know how the cedar is related to us?” asked Craig to her nephew and nieces, who were struggling to bring the long cedar strips up the steep incline. “She is our grandmother and she is giving us this gift of cedar and we need to thank her.”

“I love being out here,” said Gobin, as she tightly wound her cedar into a bundle tying it off with a scrap of thin cedar. “It is really addicting to be out here stripping the cedar, it is one of my favorite things to do.”

“Yes, grandpa would be proud of us,” remarked Craig.

For more information regarding future cedar harvesting events, please contact Tulalip Forestry at 360-716-4000.

 

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