Bolt Creek Fire takes over Tulalip owned parcels

By Shaelyn Smead; photos courtesy of Natosha Gobin, John Carlson, and Lindsay Ross

All over Washington state, people have heard about the devastating Bolt Creek Fire that started on September 10 at 5:00 a.m. in Skykomish. As of September 13 at 5:15 a.m., a devastating 9,440 acres have been burned, with only a 5% containment on the fire. The fire stretches from Skykomish to Halford, and is leaving people in surrounding cities to evacuate their homes. With wildfires being so scarce in Western Washington, it is leaving plenty of Washington residents alarmed, and scared about the outcome of such a large fire. 

Within the same area as the fire, there are two properties that Tulalip owns. These properties are typically called the Grotto Lake parcel and the Eagle Creek parcel. The properties were originally bought by Tulalip back in October 2019 in efforts to allow a safe and sacred area for tribal members to harvest berries, pull cedar, camp, hike, hunt, collect resources for cultural arts, and hold cultural practices. It was an enticing piece of land because of its proximity to Tulalip and its relation to our Coast Salish ancestors. Along with that, because of the drastic levels of elevations, the parcels’ vegetation grew many different variations of natural resources that tribal members could collect and utilize. 

Director of Treaty Rights and Government Affairs, Ryan Miller, described the properties stretching to about 1000 acres. He said approximately 50% of each property has already succumbed to the devastation of the fire. 

When news broke out about the fire, and the threat it does to our cultural practices, it left some tribal members is disarray. The thought of this land not being accessible for any sacred works anymore is heartbreaking for Tulalip and many are left wondering what will become of it. 

Natosha Gobin and family were harvesting berries at one of the Tulalip properties the night before the fire.

The night before the start of the fire, Tulalip Tribal member Natosha Gobin and her family just happened to be on one of the Tulalip properties harvesting berries. “We went about four or five times this year. This time around, we left the peak at 7:30 p.m. Our hopes were to get up early and head back the next morning because the berries were plentiful. We were so excited to finally be introduced to the space, it felt so healing to be up there. This fire is so heartbreaking,” Natosha said. Luckily her family had a change of plans, and did not go back up the mountain the next morning and none of her family risked any danger of the fire.  

One major change that some tribal members have noticed and attested to is the abundance of trees that have grown over the years. Along with that, the road is really rough making the properties difficult to get to. Something that is later found to be a difficult realization for the firefighters involved. 

The Tulalip Fire Department has been one of the many resources that has been supporting efforts towards battling wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. Currently the department has two task forces stationed out. One of which consists of three members that are located in Oregon taking on the Cedar Creek Fire, just a mere three days before the start of the Bolt Creek Fire. One of the members is John Carlson, who has been with the department for six years. Cedar Creek Fire makes for his first experience with a wildfire.

John spoke about the wildfires and how they are so different in perspective to structure fires in the Tulalip area, “With structure fires, we’re usually well-trained and know the area very well, versus on a landscape, we’re fighting the larger grassland, sagebrush, larger timber, and heavy terrain. We also mainly work off brush trucks when dealing with wildfires, and a problem we face is water supply. We do have a water tender in our strike team, but if it runs out, we have to get resourceful with our water supply. Being up in the terrain we can’t directly connect to a fire hydrant, so sometimes we find ourselves syphoning from pools, streams, lakes, etc. Anything with 100 gallons of water can make a huge difference,” he said. 

When news broke out about the Bolt Creek Fire, the three-man crew had already gotten settled in with the team in Oregon. “This is the first time I’ve been deployed and there was a fire of this magnitude near our home,” John said.  “A lot of us we wondering if we would get redirected back. But with the resources that we have sent up to Bolt Creek, we felt confident in the team’s ability. Much like a lot of fire departments, every summer during peak season our department gets stretched in different directions. But as much we appreciate and are glad to be helping take care of members down here, it is hard when we know our home isn’t safe.” 

Tulalip Bay Firefighter Austin Panek and Tender 60.

Of course with the Bolt Creek Fire being a prominent fire in our area, and the risk it brings to the Tulalip owned properties, an additional two Tulalip firefighters have been sent to Skykomish, Paramedic Lindsay Ross and firefighter Austin Panek left early this week to help Sky Valley Fire Department. Amongst them are the other 20+ fire departments and private fire companies that include North Ridge Fire, American Fire, Zigzag Hotshots, and Patrick Environmental, making up for more than 317 personnel that have opted in for fighting this fire.  

Lindsay has been with the fire department for six years, but has an extensive 10-year  career working as a wildland firefighter. This is her first time working as a line medic, and her role is to help work with the crews onsite to ensure their safety, help with any medical care, and help with the falling rocks in the area.

Tulalip Bay Fire Paramedic Lindsay Ross.

Lindsay explained that even though wildfires of this magnitude are rare in Western Washington, it is something that should be expected for the future. “When fires do take off over here, there’s usually a lot of old debris and old trees that are likely dried up and when it builds up over time, a fire is able to take off easier. There is definitely some prescribe burns that the state will do to try and thin out the forest a little so it doesn’t happen as often. But with the summers getting hotter every year and with having lower humidity, I think a fire like this in our area has been overdue for a while.” 

Hearing from wildfire experts like Lindsay, we learned that even though wet and rainy springs and early summers seem like they would help decrease the risk of wildfires, that isn’t always the case. 

“Rain during that time of the year does make fire danger go lower, but it also will make more sagebrush and longer grasses, that eventually will dry up in the summer and turn into fuel for the fires,” said John. “The more that grows in the spring and early summer, the heavier potential fire fuel load it creates, and the bigger the fire can get. Something we noticed this year was that we had a lot more fire fuels from Spring than I think in years’ past.” 

What is most difficult about Bolt Creek Fire is the heavy terrain that exists in the area. “With the heavy forestry and it being hillside, we have a more difficult time accessing the spots that are burning hot,” said Lindsay. “And with no accessible roads in most spots, heavy equipment cannot be easily moved around.” 

Between hot summers, lower humidity, and lots of drier vegetation and debris, another factor for this fire is the amount of wind that picked up in the area. Local fire departments refer to the ‘Witching Hour’ that falls between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. During this time, wind begins to pick up and is at its heaviest, making this the most dangerous part of any day. Knowing that wind can be so unpredictable with how fast it goes and in which direction, can lead to a lot of variations of disaster. The Bolt Creek Fire had around 30-40 mph winds, which ultimately made for its drastic escalation.

“The reality of this fire is that its burning really close to our backyard”, said Tulalip Fire Chief Ryan Shaughnessy. “There’s people that have family and friends in the area and that we’re concerned about. But we’re working hard and wish for the best outcome by everyone.” 

The Bolt Creek Fire did receive some water and fire retardant dropping from planes flying above. A typical resource used for fires in heavy terrain. Along with that, many firefighters have been working to diminish the terrain and have been putting a dirt dozer line bordering the fire in hopes to create a stopping point. Any houses around the area have also received some treatment and precautionary actions in case the fire continues to spread. 

Ryan spoke about the awareness of the risk of wildfires and the new potential for them in our area, “This is our first time dealing with a westside fire, but with that being said, we did understand that there was a risk of one in our future. We preemptively have been working with other tribes, and collected burn plan ideas to help mitigate future fires. That’s why, if you went up to the properties, you’d see some of the trees had already been cut. We also applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant of 1.3 million dollars earlier this year. This funding will help us work with partners in the Snohomish Basin and understand more of the interaction between climate change and water and it’s impacts on forestry and likeliness of fire in the basin,” he stated.

With the powerfulness of the fire, it’s easy to see that these thoughts and actions taken by Tulalip were in the right direction in understanding the risks of westside fires. “Now that the fire has happened, it’s even more of a reason for us to understand and gain a better grasp on our forestry, and the FEMA grant will help inform us for the future,” Ryan said.  

Understanding fires in our area and the reality of potential for them, there are definitely steps that can be taken by citizens to help mitigate it. 

“First is knowing that fires have the potential to happen anywhere,” said Lindsay. “People have to be cautious about having fires outside, lighting off fireworks, making sure you have water and mostly listening and respecting burn bans when they are in effect. People never think it’s going to happen to them until it does.” 

As terrifying and devastating as wildfires can be, they do have the opportunity to act as a natural rebirthing for wildlife and vegetation. So far, Ryan has stated that there are plans for replantation in the affected area, and that they plan to work with the Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources in order to create a better plan of action, and get as much fuel load off the forest.

Along with that, he said that tribal members should expect some berry regrowth by next spring, and even though trees take a much longer time to grow to their mature state, Ryan said that we should expect tree shoots by next year. He also spoke about the hunting opportunities that the area will bring. “Deer love to eat young shoots and with the area being more open, hunters will be able to spot deer a little easier,” he said. 

At the moment, the fire is still unpredictable, but firefighters are hoping to button everything up soon. The good news is that the fire doesn’t contain large flames at the moment, making the likeliness for it to spread, lower. 

Thank you to the Tulalip Fire Department and all participating fire departments for your efforts.

BOD members place first bets at Sportsbook

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Gaming Organization held the soft opening for their new sports betting venue, Sportsbook, on the afternoon of September 6. In partnership with Draft Kings, Tulalip is bringing Sportsbook to both of their gambling establishments at the Tulalip Resort Casino and the Quil Ceda Creek Casino. 

“Sports betting is new to Washington,” explained Sportsbook Supervisor Paola Hurtado. “I know there are several casinos that have opened but we are with Draft Kings. Draft Kings have different odds and there are different options of wagering. With us, you are able to bet on a lot of type of sports. Right now, we have MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, MMA, fights, and many more. Our guests are really excited for sports betting, now they don’t have to drive all the way out to Angels of the Wind or Snoqualmie, all they have to do is drive up the road.”

Sportsbook features a ginormous tv screen that can play multiple games, matches, and competitions in real time. Bettors can grab a seat in one of the venues comfy recliners and follow the results of their wagers live. 

Placing the very first bets at Sportsbook were none other than Tulalip BOD members Hazen Shopbell and Marie Zackuse, as well as Chairwoman Teri Gobin. 

Said Teri, “I bet on the Seahawks for $10, the Mariners for $100, and the Storm for $100. It’s really exciting that we are finally opening up our sports betting venue, both here (TRC) and at the Q. We have this big screen, it’s one of the largest in Washington State at this time, and we’re really excited. This has been a long time coming and it’s with one of the premier sports betting organizations in the United States. Our partnership with Draft Kings is really good and is what is really key to what is going to make this a success.”

The kiosks at Sportbook will be available 24/7 following the venue’s grand opening, which is tentatively scheduled for September 20. And according to Chairwoman Gobin there may or may not be some big stars in attendance to help celebrate the grand opening with the people. 

“We were a little slow to get ours up and running, but we wanted to do it the Tulalip way and make it a grand event,” Teri expressed. “I’m so excited and can’t wait for everybody to try it out.”

For more info, please visit https://www.tulalipresortcasino.com/Sportsbook

Kanoe Williams is latest homegrown tribal member to join local police force

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

It’s a common occurrence for American children, especially young boys, to dream of one day becoming a police officer, fire firefighter or army soldier. Whether its socialization from Saturday morning cartoons or play fighting with their prized action figures, there typically comes a point where a child’s hero worship manifests itself into visualizing a future self where they are the actual hero. That may look like a brave police officer catching bad guys, a fearless firefighter running into a blazing fire to save people, or a valiant soldier fighting to defend freedom and democracy.

For some, this calling to be a hero who protects and serves their community never fades. Such is the case with homegrown Tulalip tribal member Kanoe Williams. He recently returned from a lengthy stay in New Mexico where he attended and graduated from the U.S. Indian Police Academy. 

The 29-year-old Kanoe becomes the latest in a long, proud history of tribal members who chose to wear the Tulalip Police Department shield. He sat down with Tulalip News staff to reflect on his journey to this point and what he hopes the future holds for him in law enforcement.

What inspired you to join TPD?

“My inspiration to become a Tulalip police officer is a passion to serve my community. The thought first came to me when I was 24, but I knew I wasn’t ready then to take on this role. Now, I’m a little older, more mature, and willing to take on this responsibility to protect and serve our people.”

Describe the process to become a tribal police officer.

“First things first, you gotta have the courage to apply and put yourself through a series of tests. A polygraph to test your honesty and integrity, a medical to test physical capableness and general fitness, and a series of interviews to make sure you’re a good fit to join Tulalip police.

After passing those required tests, then it’s on to police academy where you learn the basics of the law and other essential skills for successful police work. Attending academy was the longest I’d ever been off the Reservation, so there was an adjustment period, but I knew it was all part of the process to create a better future for myself, my family, and my Tribe.”

What kind of impact do you hope to make in the community?

“A positive one, that’s for sure. What that may look like will vary from person to person and family to family. But in general, I want our people to feel safe and confident that when they need police assistance that we have their best interest at heart, always. By giving our people the respect and empathy they deserve, I hope to earn their trust as an officer who knows what they are doing and is fair in enforcing the law to everyone. 

Looking even further in the future, I hope to become a training sergeant who is able to recruit more of our tribal members into joining and give them the confidence to do this job well.”

It’s a fascinating political and social climate to become a cop, especially when considering social media. Did any of this play a role in your decision?

“It’s funny because if you just looked at the news and social media you might wonder why anyone would want to become a cop today. However, most the time, when you see first responders around large groups of kids like a school, the Boys and Girls Club, or the Youth Center, the interactions are always positive. The younger kids will often share how they want to become a police officer or firefighter. That’s empowering.

To pursue and accept a role to serve your community is empowering as well. And something I want do so that our next generation continues to dream of becoming heroes and choosing careers where they serve others instead of only themselves. Deterring and preventing crime may not be glamorous to everyone, but knowing those we love and care about are safe is the ultimate reward.”

Why is it important for Tulalip to have representation in its police force?

“There are many tribes that don’t have their own police force. They are instead policed by outside agencies and county police who don’t understand what its like for our people who live on a reservation. When we have Tulalip tribal members hear the call to serve their own people by becoming officers, we are not only embracing our sovereignty but creating a better community. 

Growing up on the reservation, we see and hear things that are very different from outside communities. Our experiences make us more compassionate and understanding because we know there all different kinds of traumas at work and those traumas can be healed in a variety of ways. Through community outreach and creating networks with all the departments that want to make our people healthy, our police department actively works with our people, not against them.

In my short time in the department I’ve witnessed firsthand how much our officers, tribal and non-tribal, respect and care for our Tulalip community. I’ve also been hearing the stories of past tribal members who built the police department into what it is today. That’s a legacy I intend to build upon for all of us.”

From walk-on to scholarship recipient, Zues Echevarria latest Tulalip athlete to compete on collegiate level

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Tulalip history is filled with stories of athletic achievement. Ranging from grandiose tales told by elders reminiscing about their glory days, to standout high schoolers showcasing their skills in front of adoring families, to proud parents posting on social media about how amazing their child’s latest bitty ball performance was.

Sports have become as valuable to passing on traditional teachings as any other element of Tulalip culture. Think about it. Passing down knowledge and insight from one generation to the next, check. Learning invaluable lessons about patience, determination and hard work, check. Teaching the importance of mind/body connection with an emphasis on balancing nutritious foods with physical activity, check. Each generation of Tulalip youth being able to connect and participate regardless of family ties, check. An entire community being able to unite and root for the success of an inspiring tribal member, check. 

It should be no surprise then as to why recent success stories of homegrown athletes like Tysen and Bradley Fryberg (Salish Kootenai College basketball), Adiya Jones (Skagit Valley Community College basketball), Collin Montez (Washington State University baseball), RaeQuan Battle (University of Washington basketball), and Mikail Montez (Everett Community College basketball) have spread like wildfire on the Tulalip Reservation. Their stories stretch the imagination of what’s possible for a rez kid with a sports dream, while also giving parents a clear cut example that all the long practices, tournament-filled weekends, and substantial financial investment is worth it. 

Enter 6-foot-2, 290 pound Jesus “Zues” Echevarria Jr. The latest Tulalip athlete to compete on the coveted D1 collegiate level. A former team captain of the 2016 state championship winning Archbishop Murphy, Zues made the bold decision to attend Washington State University the following fall and endeavored to make their football team as a true walk-on. His prowess on the grid iron, focus during film study and tenacity in the training room earned him a spot as a redshirt freshman.

“The key is to be patient because every athlete that goes to the college level learns that you have to start all over. No matter how big of a high school star you were or how many programs were recruiting, once you get to college you have to earn your spot every day and work for every opportunity,” said Zues. “Gotta keep your head down and keep working, knowing that the patience will pay off when given the opportunity. A lot of times it comes down to the simple things like eating the right foods, getting enough sleep so your body can recover, and having the discipline to do the little things every single day knowing that you gotta stay ready for whenever opportunity presents itself.”

Unfortunately, injuries derailed his college career before he had opportunity to shine under the bright lights. He suffered a gruesome leg injury that forced him to miss most of the 2019 season and made it difficult to regain a top position on the depth chart in 2020. Instead, of taking the easy road and quitting on his football dream, the headstrong defenseman shifted his focus on rehabbing his body and conditioning in a way to minimize future injuries.

“Injuries are always gonna be a part of sports, especially at the higher competition levels, and I’ll admit the recovery process is more a mental challenge than anything else, but at no point did I think of giving up,” reflected Zues of his near 15-month recovery and rehab from a devastating leg injury. “I’ve worked way too hard to get to this point. My dream of playing football at the highest level is something I’ve had since being a little guy. My support system of my mom, my grandparents, and my teammates kept me up when I was down. The whole process just fueled me to want to get back on the field even more.”

The determination that fuels him as a defensive tackle combined with the mental strength to preserve over injury, to not give up, and to keep on working at his craft was something his coaches took notice of.

“Even when he was unable to practice with the team because of injury, Zues was coming out of the training room just as sweaty as our players who had gone through a two-and-a-half-hour practice,” explained WSU D-line coach Ricky Logo. “That’s how he showed us his commitment to coming back and getting healthy. When he finally got his chance to step back on the field and see game action, it was like he didn’t miss a beat. That’s what I love about him most. His will to fight through adversity and overcome separates him on and off the field.”

All the countless hours of rehabbing through injury, conditioning to keep his body at peak performance, and film study to ensure when his opportunity presented itself he’d be ready came to fruition on Saturday, October 9. It was WSU’s homecoming game and the stakes couldn’t have been higher as the Cougars hosted the Pac-12 North’s leading team, Oregon State.

On the field pre-game, the now 5th year senior and recent scholarship recipient warmed up with the same tenacity and vigor that his coaches had anxiously been waiting to unleash on their opponents. With a near packed house cheering on their home team at Martin Stadium, Zues got his chance to seize a meaningful role in the Cougar defense. He was on the field for twenty defensive snaps and came up with two crucial solo tackles that were met with a thunderous roar from the WSU faithful. His impactful play helped his team secure a huge 31-24 upset win over a Pac-12 rival. 

In what may have been his most extensive playing time in any game of his collegiate career thus far, his head coach offered praise for the 22-year-old Tulalip tribal member. 

“It’s good to see [success from] young people who have gone through some adversity and worked hard to get something,” said WSU head coach Nick Rolovich postgame. “[Zues] was really productive before getting hurt. He’s a hard worker and attacked rehab the same way, and we knew he was going to add to our defensive-tackle play as he got healthier. If he didn’t get hurt, I think he would have had a big part in all of our games this year.”

Zues intends to climb the depth chart further and become a fulltime defensive stalwart for the Cougars, whether that happens this year or next is of no concern because he understands the process is part of a much larger picture.

When asked if he still dreams of playing in the NFL, Zues responded without hesitation, “Absolutely! That’s my number one dream. Everything I do in practice, film study, and in games is geared towards continuing to get better, developing my skills to dominate on the college level. Then maybe NFL scouts will take notice. That’s the dream anyway.”

In the meantime, the student-athlete understands that he has to prepare for a career outside of football. Zues is close to earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Tenchology that will allow him to continue his family’s longline of tribal artistry in the digital realm. 

Zues’ grandmother, Judy Gobin.

Zues’s grandmother Judy Gobin is his self-described #1 fan. She and her husband Tony make the five-hour drive from Tulalip to Pullman every home game to cheer on their grandson. Their support has proved to be instrumental, as has the support Zues receives from his Tribe in assisting with college related expenses.

“We are so fortunate as Tulalip because our kids have the opportunity to go to any school in the nation and excel,” said Judy at a postgame dinner, where her grandson was approached by random WSU fans applauding him for his efforts. “They can study to become whatever they want knowing our Tribe will pay for the vast majority of costs. We have so many great success stories because of the resources our tribal gaming allows us to access. Yet, so many of our children don’t do it. Stories like Zues show them what’s possible and can incentivize the next generation to take their education seriously. When they see Tulalips succeeding at college it breaks the stereotypes and lets them know they can accomplish great things in academics and sports.”

Because of the pandemic, Zues has gained two extra years of eligibility to play college football. The WSU football program hopes to see him accomplish great things with the extra years and awarded him with a scholarship as a sign of further commitment in his potential. Two extra years is plenty of time for him to become a Cougar legend. To this point, he’s already a Tulalip legend. 

Careers in the construction industry are booming, TVTC can be your entry point to a better tomorrow

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Educators, parents and others often place strong emphasis on college preparation and earning an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree by traditional means. But that lengthy and expensive route often means accruing a ton of debt just to enter a highly competitive job market. College degrees may be the preferred goal for many, however there are a growing number of students who see a more hands-on future for themselves. For these individuals, unafraid of getting their hands dirty and learning the true meaning behind a hard day’s work, there is an abundance of opportunity within the construction industry.

Whether it be laborer, carpenter, ironworker, electrician or heavy equipment operator, there are countless positions available for work and advancement within the trades, especially for sought after minorities like Native Americans and women. A major access point for entry into these desirable career paths for tribal citizens and their families continues to be Tulalip’s own TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC).

“Not everybody wants to be a doctor or lawyer. Not everybody wants a desk job. I’m a lifetime fisherman that started a construction company when it became apparent we could no longer sustain ourselves simply by living off the land,” said Tulalip Vice-Chairman Glen Gobin. “Some want to be outside working with their hands. That’s what brings people to our training program, it gives them an opportunity to get exposure to all the different trades, learn how to function on a job site and how to get work. Graduates of TVTC enter a section of the workforce that is in high demand.”

In fact, a quick glance around the greater Seattle area and onlookers are sure to see more cranes than they can count. Along the I-5 corridor, from Tacoma to Everett, construction projects are booming and many on-site jobs continue to go unfilled. While other career pathways may be oversaturated and hard to come by, those within construction trades are thriving. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, open construction positions are expected to increase by more than 700,000 jobs nationally through 2028, a faster growth than any other occupation. In Washington State alone, there are nearly 3,000 unfilled construction jobs that pay much more than the average state wage. 

Brighter horizons and prospects galore were among the reasons so many gathered to celebrate the TVTC autumn cohort’s achievement on a December morning at the Tulalip Resort’s orca ballroom. Fifteen students (including eight Tulalip tribal members and three women) were honored with a graduation banquet for their commitment to building a better future. Nearly 200 guests attended, including trade union representatives, several construction employers, and many cheerful family members.

“Our TVTC program is 100% supported by grant funds,” explained TERO director Summer Hammons. “Our TVTC graduates earned various certifications and college credits, while learning many skills that will undoubtedly make an impact on their future. We thank the Tulalip Tribes, Washington State Department of Transportation, Sound Transit, and the Tulalip Cares charitable fund for always supporting us. These organizations and community partners are ensuring our future leaders have viable career paths.”

TVTC is the first and only state and nationally recognized Native American pre-apprenticeship program in the entire country. The program is accredited through South Seattle Community College and Renton Technical College, while all the in-class, hands-on curriculum has been formally approved by the Washington State Apprentice and Training Council.

The sixteen-week program provides 501-hours of hands-on instruction, strength building exercises, and construction skills that can last a lifetime. In addition, students are trained and awarded certifications in flagging, first aid/CPR, industrial fork lift and scissor lift, 40-hour HAZWOPER, and OSHA 10-hour safety. 

Homegrown Tulalip citizen Demitri Jones opted to retake the class after not being able to complete it his first time around.  To jumpstart an all-new career path as a carpenter, he had to grit and grind. He maintained his full-time position as a security officer working the dreaded graveyard shift, while sacrificing convenience and lots of sleep to take the TVTC class during the day.

“My biggest takeaway is learning the benefits of hard work and dedication,” reflected Demitri. “My advice to those who already have a job but are interested in taking the class, if you really want it then make it happen. Creating a routine was so important, but knowing in the end it’ll all be worth it kept me going.” 

His instructors noted he was the first in his class to gain employment. “I’m a carpenter’s apprentice right now and looking forward to journeying out, becoming a foreman or even superintendent,” added the ambitious 26-year-old.

Along with gaining a wide-range of new employment opportunities via the trades, seven diligent students took advantage of the educational aspect and earned their high school diploma.

Three hardworking ladies were among the graduates, Carla Yates (Haida), Cheyenne Frye (Arikara) and Shelbi Strom (Quinault). Each wanted to acquire a new skillset while creating a pathway to a better and brighter future.

“I really liked the class. I met some really cool people and learned so many new skills that I would have never been exposed to if I didn’t try it out,” said 20-year-old Cheyenne. Originally from North Dakota, her family relocated to the area so her mom could take the TVTC program. After graduating and seeing all the opportunity now available to her, she convinced her daughter to follow suit.

“I had zero experience with construction tools, like the nail gun and different saws. All of that was pretty intimidating at first, but after I learned to use them properly it became a lot of fun using them to complete projects,” admitted Cheyenne. “Both my parents have jobs as plumbers on the new casino project now. Hopefully I can join an electricians’ or sheet metal union and get work on that project, too.”

With hundreds of skilled-trade workers retiring every day across the state, the construction industry is in need of the next generation workforce to help build an ever-growing Snohomish County and surrounding Puget Sound communities. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area alone, construction employment increased by 6,400 jobs between March 2018 and March 2019, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. These are well-paying jobs that are available to people straight out of high school. It takes some grit for sure, but for those folks with a strong work ethic and can-do attitude, they can find themselves running a construction company of their own someday.

“When our student graduates go out into the world of construction, they can compete on equal footing with anybody,” declared TVTC instructor Mark Newland during the graduation ceremony. “We’re gaining traction with union companies and construction employers all over the region. 

“I just can’t say enough about this class,” he continued. “From day one, they were engaged, helping each other out, and understood what they had to gain by putting their nose to the grindstone. Really amazing stuff! They’ve given me so much as their instructor and I wish them all the best.”

Those interested in being among the next available TVTC cohort or would like more information about the program, please call (360) 716-4760 or email Ltelford@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov 

‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ felt at Potlatch Fund gala

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Potlatch Fund is a Native-led nonprofit that provides grants and leadership development in tribal communities throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The Fund’s driving mission is to expand philanthropy within Northwest tribal nations by inspiring and building upon the tradition of giving. From potlachs to powwows, building community and sharing wealth has always been a part of Native peoples’ way of life.

On November 2, the Potlatch Fund held its highly anticipated annual fundraising gala. With venue location and theme changing every year, the one constant the gala promises is attendees will  be inspired and given ample opportunity to show their generous side. This year the location was Little Creek Casino Resort and the theme: ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’. 

“This gala brings together people of many different tribes, from many different communities, from many different organizations, and unites us in the common goal to raise money to help us meet the needs of Northwest Indian Country,” said Dr. Charlotte Coté, Potlach Fund board president. “Our theme ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ really captures the essence of our organization’s mission to expand philanthropy for and among tribal communities, while empowering community leaders with the tools they need to succeed.

“We have gathered here in the spirit of the potlatch tradition with the sharing of song, dance, art, and of course delicious food,” Dr. Coté continued. “The support we’re so thankful to receive allows us to keep alive the spirit of reciprocity. I raise my hands to everyone who joins our Potlatch Fund canoe and helps us paddle to our fundraising goals.”

Since 2005, Potlatch Fund has re-granted over $4.5 million in the support of tribes, tribal nonprofits, Native-led nonprofits, Native artists, and Native initiatives in their four-state service area. Through a focus on youth development, community building, language preservation, education and Native arts, they are building a richer future for all that they serve.

The Potlatch Fund’s annual gala is their major fundraising event and brings together people from a variety of neighboring tribes, organizations, corporations and communities. Close to 20 Washington State tribes were listed as event sponsors, including the Tulalip Tribes listed as a Raven-level sponsor.

At the gala, Native community impact makers are given a chance to share their plans for the future and learn how other like-minded individuals and groups are striving to make a positive difference for the benefit of Indian Country. This is an invaluable benefit for up-and-coming leaders and organizations who can sometimes struggle to get their message broadcast to larger audiences. 

“At Potlatch Fund, we recognize the importance of bringing people together to share our stories and experiences,” added Dr. Coté. “Our intent is to generate deeper connections and conversation among Native professionals and our extended community. All are welcome to attend and build relationships with our Native communities.” 

A dynamic and truly benevolent event that brought together tribal leadership, representatives and impact makers from all across the Pacific Northwest, the fundraising gala also had additional benefits for guests. In a setting befitting those who strive to make the world a better place than they found it, the mostly Native gathering took in the sights of Squaxin Island Tribe drummers and dancers, heard the enchanting violin sounds of Lummi musician Swil Kanim, and perused a silent auction filled with unique Native art.

“Potlatch Gala is the most fun event of the year,” shared Suquamish Foundation Director, Robin Little Wing Sigo. “Not only does it raise money, but it raises spirits, energy and excitement. Everyone gets to get dressed up and connect with people they may only see once or twice a year. Also, so many incredible artists donate their artwork for the silent auction that gives us a good opportunity to purchase wonderful Native bling.”

 “We lovingly call it ‘Native Prom’ because it’s one of the last gatherings of the year and we all get dressed up to celebrate being Native,” added Colleen Chalmers, program manager at Chief Seattle Club. “There is representation from so many different tribes yet we’re here as an Indigenous community proving we are still here and we are thriving.”

The ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ gala provided the opportunity to share culture through song and dance performances, to support and celebrate Native art and artists, and to assist Potlatch Fund with its fundraising efforts as it continues to undertake important work throughout Northwest Indian Country. The evening centered on generosity and was a success as pre-   and post-dinner networking receptions brought people together to create future impact opportunities, while close to $60,000 was fundraised that will ultimately go to where it’s needed most, Native communities. 

27th annual Raising Hands celebration

Lifting our hands to those that make our communities stronger

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On the evening of Saturday, October 26th, the Tulalip Tribes recognized and gave thanks to more than 482 Washington nonprofits and community groups who made a significant difference over the past year at the annual Raising Hands celebration. Held in the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca Ballroom, the always stylish space was filled to max capacity as representatives of these high-impacting organizations came together to create an atmosphere of appreciation, while sharing their common vision to make our communities better.

“In the Tulalip tradition, we raise our hands to show appreciation to the numerous organizations whose good works help to make our communities strong,” stated Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “It is truly remarkable how many of our citizens, non-profits and community organizations are involved in efforts to improve the well-being of our communities. [We] hold this event every year to let these individuals and organizations know we value their contributions.”

This year’s Raising Hands recognized the prior year in community achievement stimulated by an astounding $7.2 million in tribal support to more than 482 nonprofits and community groups. Since 1992, the Tulalip Tribes charitable giving program has donated over $98.8 million in critical support to the community and, indirectly, to their own membership by supporting regional efforts to improve education, health and human services, cultural preservation, public services, the environment, and the economy.

But the Raising Hands event isn’t all about dollars and cents. At the annual celebration, our community’s change makers are given a chance to share their plans for the future and learn how others like-minded charities are striving to make a difference for the benefit of so many. This is an invaluable benefit for organizations who can sometimes struggle to get their message broadcast to larger audiences. 

“Each and every one of the organizations represented here truly do make a difference. Their dedication is not just to our Snohomish county area, but to the entire Puget Sound region,” stated board of director Mel Sheldon who co-emceed the event.

The theme of this year’s event highlighted the Orca and its importance to the Tulalip Tribes and the region at large. Prior to guests and attendees enjoying a delectable five-course dinner, the Tulalip Honor Guard presented the flags, a prayer was given by Lushootseed teacher Maria Martin and a traditional welcoming given by Tulalip drummers and singers.

For 11-year-old tribal member Amaya Hernandez, the greater concept of showing thanks and giving back was why she volunteered at the celebratory event. “My mom raised me to know that volunteering is important. I volunteered today and wrote out peoples name tags and handed out gifts,” she smiled. “It feels good to give back.”

For the 27th Raising Hands, six standout non-profits received special recognition for their exceptional creativity and effectiveness. Spark Northwest, March of Dimes, Lhaq’Temish Canoe Journey, Operation Homefront, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Friends of the San Juans were each highlighted for their innovative work serving local communities. 

“When you see people coming together to have these amazing, positive conversations, that is when we know we are helping make a difference,” asserted Marilyn Sheldon, manager of Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund. “We try to show respect and honor these charities that give so much of themselves for this community. We want them to feel like the red carpet got laid out, and that it’s just for them.

“Each year, as soon as the event is over, we ask ourselves how we can help make the next one better,” continued Marilyn. “Giving people the opportunity to work together is priceless. We are so fortunate to be able to work with these amazing organizations in Snohomish and King Counties, and throughout Washington State that do so much good in our communities.”

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 allows tribes to conduct certain types of gaming if they enter into a gaming compact with the state. Tulalip’s tribal-state gaming compact, like most, includes a provision to donate a percentage of gaming earnings to organizations impacted by gaming, as well as other charitable organizations. From this provision the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund was created.

The Charitable Fund, also known as Tulalip Cares, provides the opportunity for a sustainable and healthy community for all. The Tulalip Tribes strives to work together with the community to give benefits back to others to help build a stronger connections to local neighborhoods. That’s why, in Tulalip, it is tradition to ‘raise our hands’ to applaud and give thanks to the numerous organization in our region that strive to create a better world through positive action. 

Nonprofits and community groups are encouraged to apply for quarterly awards through the Tulalip Cares program. For more information, visit the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Funds website at www.TulalipCares.org 

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“The Lhaq’Temish people are the people of the sea. Our relatives are up and down the coast and throughout the Indigenous territory of the American continent. What we’ve been able to do with the funds we received from Tulalip’s Charitable Contributions are to provide hospitality and appreciation for our many guests at the Paddle to Lummi. In addition, we provided services to our community with the Stepping Stones project that helps the homeless. 

This year celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Canoe Journey that has been brought back to our communities. This is really who we are from the elders to the young ones. With the Paddle to Lummi we continued to hand these teachings down to the next generation, to the next seven generations, so they have something to celebrate and honor in a good way.”

– Candice Wilson, Lhaq’Temish Foundation executive director

“Spark Northwest is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing locally controlled, clean energy across Washington and Oregon. We make planned community solar projects and have cooperatively owned wind turbines. The idea is the local community decides what they need and we help them achieve that envision. 

For so many years, our economy has depended upon burning fossil fuels for our wealth. We’re facing rising seas, ocean acidification, increasing wild fires…all of these threats to our wellbeing and it’s because of this legacy of polluting energy. We’d like to change that story and have people use clean fuels, like solar and wind.” 

– Linda Irvine, Spark Northwest program director

“The future of March of Dimes is really fighting those issues that are stigmatized. People don’t like talking about opioid addiction, especially talking about opioid addiction in mothers. There’s a lot of judgment that comes with it and so we are really advocating to start the conversation and be supportive of those women, to find them the help they need so that they can then help their babies.

One of the other ways we are really breaking down barriers is looking at ethnic disparities. In Washington State, Alaskan Native and American Indian women have significantly higher risk of having a premature baby because they don’t have the health care access. We are excited about increasing the access to group prenatal care. If we can create the opportunity for every mom to have access to that resource, then we can literally save thousands of babies every year from being born premature.”

– Kristen Miller, March of Dimes development manager

“The San Juans Islands are in the center of the Salish Sea. We’re home to critical habitat for southern resident Orcas, 119 federally endangered species, and over 8 million residents that call the Salish Sea home. Tulalip has been an advocate for the Orca since time immemorial, so to work together on the legal and cultural spectrum to represent our ancestors from the deep has been so wonderful.

To be honored by the Tulalip Tribes for the work our organization does is so uplifting and fuels us spiritually. To be celebrated with so many worthy recipients that share a deep love for the Salish Sea that we all do is amazing. The awareness that this event gives to the greater community is truly a gift.”

Former Seahawks bring outdoor fun and leadership skills to Tulalip youth

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A large circle formation of about sixty Tulalip citizens congregated outside of the Youth Center on the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay. The group, consisting of mostly youth, offered two traditional songs to three tall individuals who were standing at the center of the circle. In the distance was a yellow seaplane sitting on the waters of the bay, which the visitors arrived in moments prior. Leaders of the Tulalip Youth Council and previous Tulalip Mountain Camp and Fish Camp attendees were in for quite the surprise on the chilly fall evening of October 22.

 “We were asked to be here by Jessica, our Youth Council Advisor,” explained Youth Council Secretary, Shylah Zackuse. “We were told it was going to be a team building experience. But I had no clue there was going to be former Seahawks players here.”

Three years ago, former Seahawks tight end and Super Bowl XLVIII Champion, Cooper Helfet, started a non-profit organization, the Nature Project, dedicated to getting kids outdoors for recreational fun, along with time away from their phone screens. Since then, Cooper has recruited former teammates, as well as a few current NFL players, to participate in the Nature Project. For the visit to Tulalip, Cooper brought along fellow former Seahawks, Jermaine Kearse and Tyrone Swoopes.

“I grew up in northern California and I had a lot of opportunities to get out into nature, whether that was hiking, camping, surfing or backpacking, it was a big priority in my family to do so,” said Cooper after thanking the people for the traditional songs. “Some of my favorite memories as a kid were doing those things. And as I got older, especially when I started playing with the Hawks and with different teams in my career, I realized a lot of my teammates didn’t get those opportunities. I started getting them outdoors more and they had an amazing experience developing their own relationship with the natural world. 

“And I thought, how do we create these types of opportunities for kids? Especially in a time where video games, TV, the internet are exciting, but taking over our world. So I started this project, bringing out athletes to the kids of local communities to get them outdoors and impress upon them the importance of spending time outside.”

After taking time to snap a photo with the crowd, the football stars hung out with the youth, passing a soccer ball around. Approximately thirty kids introduced themselves to the group and stated one outdoor activity they enjoyed such as skateboarding, hiking, softball and basketball. Next, Cooper passed around sharpies and cedar medallions, asking the kids to write down one goal they hoped to accomplish in their lifetime. 

“The real mission of the project is to motivate kids to spend more time outside and do so in a way where they can create positive physical memories with friends,” Cooper explained. “And to use that as a tool they can use throughout their life to be reflective and think about their goals and how to overcome adversity. We know that often times it could be hard for youth to relate, listen and let things soak in. One of the assets we have as athletes is we have an ability to connect with kids and know we’re going to have their ears and attention because we gained that beautiful gift of being their role models, so we try to pass that on to them through the Nature Project work.”

Once everybody’s goals were marked down, the kids had fun participating in an exercise designed to use the power of communication, teamwork, and creativity to find a way to obtain their goals. After putting in plenty of effort and refusing to give up, the kids got a little help from Cooper, Jermaine and Tyrone. However, in order to receive help from the football pros, the youth had to vocalize exactly what they needed from the athletes first.

The youth were shown that it is possible to achieve their aspirations by using teamwork and communication skills. The group then had an open conversation about attaining individual goals through determination, perseverance and utilizing personal resources. 

“Perseverance for me is not giving up and overcoming every obstacle,” expressed Jermaine, who is also a Super Bowl XVIII Champ. “Adversity is going to show up in our lives whether it’s in sports, school, life or relationships. For me, in the 2015 NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers I had four targets, four passes thrown to me, and they were intercepted each time. It was a tough moment but I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t quit, go in the locker room, or sit on the bench with my head down. I knew there were going to be more opportunities and if I was going to be ready for the next opportunity I had to stay mentally in the game. My next opportunity so happened to be the game winning touchdown. That’s perseverance, not giving up on yourself and continuing to push forward.

“Sometimes we feel prideful, we have our egos and want to do things on our own. Please know that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s hard to go through life doing everything by yourself. If you have a group of friends or family that are really close to you, if you’re going through hard times in class or struggling, it’s okay to ask for help. Don’t feel ashamed because even the strongest people in the world need help.”

Every year the Tulalip Natural Resources department partners with the YMCA of Snohomish County to bring local youth the outdoor summer camps, Mountain Camp and Fish Camp. Upon hearing about the camps, the Nature Project was interested in hosting an outdoor event with the Tulalip community. 

“The Nature Project learned about us through the YMCA,” said Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “Their whole goal is to get kids out into nature and have that experience that Cooper had when he was a kid, that he feels turned him into the person he is today. They felt he was a really good fit to do something with Tulalip and our youth. It’s an opportunity for the kids to learn about the importance of team work, perseverance, leadership and gives them skills that will help them throughout their lives.”

Tulalip youth Seth Montero fell in love with the great outdoors while at the Mountain and Fish Camps. His passion for nature was so strong that when he grew past the camp age limit, he took a course with the YMCA to take on a leadership role at the summertime camps. Seth thanked the former Seahawks for their work promoting outdoor activities.

“Nature is important because it’s all around us and every day we’re losing more and more of it. It’s always good to get outside whenever you have the chance. Go explore new places, appreciate all the views Mother Earth has to offer, because it might not always be there.”

To wrap up the evening, kids were given large water bottles courtesy of REI and all three Nature Project members took a moment to converse with each kiddo as they autographed their names across their bottles. 

“It was so awesome,” said Tulalip Youth, Lincoln Pablo. “Jermaine Kearse has always been my inspiration for playing football. His catches are amazing. I always wanted to do what he did and get to the league. For my goal today, I wrote down play on our very own Seattle Seahawks.”

Before taking off in the seaplane, Jermaine and Tyrone were gifted handcrafted masks by Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel, and all three former Seahawks received paddles from the Tulalip Youth. 

“You live on a beautiful reservation,” Cooper said. “If you’re looking for ways to get involved in outdoor fun, it’s as simple as walking along the beach or adventuring a little east and getting up in the woods. It doesn’t take much. It’s grabbing a neighbor and going for a walk, it doesn’t need be a planned thing. When I think about my childhood, none of my memories were inside paying video games. They were memories I can feel, hear, see and smell and were with friends. 99% of the time they were outdoors. You just got to take the initiative and go do it. Your ancestors were the original stewards of all this land we get to call home, and I just want to express that there’s an insane amount of gratitude that I have for that.”

Global Village adds permanent Tribal Tales exhibit

Artist and storyteller Ty Juvinel (center) with Devin Leatherman and Amy Hale at the opening of Tribal Tales exhibit.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Seattle Children’s Museum is a destination place for people from all around the world. Located at the heart of Seattle Center, the always active and engaging museum sees close to 200,000 visitors every year. With a mission to bring to life the joy of discovery for children and their families through creative, hands-on exploration of the world around them, the museum’s heralded Global Village recently debuted an all-new permanent exhibit titled Tribal Tales.

Created by and inspired from the beautifully diverse and thriving Native cultures encompassing the Puget Sound area, Tribal Tales was development over the past two years in direct collaboration with Native artists from Pacific Northwest tribes. 

“We thought it would be great if we developed a space that helps us create a real relationship with local tribal communities and members,” explained Amy Hale, director of education for Seattle Children’s Museum. “The artists we collaborated with drew from their own individual experiences in order to create culturally relevant representations of their culture.”

Native storytellers who collaborated on the project include John Edward Smith (Skokomish), Roger Fernandez (Lower Elwha S’Kallam), and Tulalip’s own Ty Juvinel. 

“Because of Ty’s trust and active willingness to participate in building up this idea from the very beginning, his efforts had a direct influence on other artists and their willingness to commit,” added Amy. “When I look at this final project, I see not only Ty and his amazing individual pieces, but his influence that led to more artists of other tribal communities working with us and really making Tribal Tales an immersive exhibit.”

Prior to becoming the home of Tribal Tales, the space housed a puppet theatre. The original seed money that created the puppet theatre came via Tulalip Cares, the charitable contributions division of the tribe. It’s only too fitting then that the puppet theatre space was transformed into an interactive, educational exhibit showcasing the richness of Native values and oral tradition, while being co-curated by Tulalip tribal member Ty Juvinel. 

“This exhibit really honors the Indigenous peoples of this land and gives the acknowledgment that our people were here before first contact,” shared the Tulalip storyteller. “Tribal Tales is all about acknowledging the past people that were here while honoring the many Coast Salish tribes thriving today.

“I contributed an original story created for my kids How Puppy Got His Ears, a Salish Sea map detailing all the tribes in Western Washington, a couple house posts, and hand puppets that go along with my story that visiting children can play with,” continued Ty. “The fact the museum got money a long time ago from the tribe and now I’m refreshing the concept for my generation is just awesome.”

Tribal Tales explores the universal art of storytelling through a collective showcase of Native art and culture, curated by the actual artists themselves. “As opposed to white bodies dictating and reflecting back to ourselves what other cultures look like, we gave the artists all the agency to share with us their stories,” added Amy.

The direction and attention to detail is what really makes Tribal Tales stand apart from the many other Global Village exhibits. And for the countless children who visit the museum every day, they’ve already shown a fondness to the exhibit’s bright colors and hands-on puppetry that makes the Native stories easily understood.

“The Children’s Museum shares all kinds of fantastic things, like science, knowledge and culture,” said Roger Fernandes, sharer of the prolific Ant and Bear story. “I thought it would be a good way to get our stories out there. Each of the stories were illustrated by the Native artists, so the children could not just hear the story but see some visuals that would help them remember it. Ultimately, this project was well thought out and as a result now more kids will have the chance to hear our traditional stories.”

With over 18,000 sq. feet of play space designed for kids ages birth to 8-years-old to enjoy with families, the Seattle Children’s Museum is open Tuesdays – Sundays from 10:00am – 5:00pm. First time visitors are sure to be blown away by the hands-on exhibits and open-ended exploration, especially those who experience the richness of Tribal Tales. 

Showtime at Hibulb: Cultural Center Hosts 7th annual Film Festival

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Cinephiles from near and far gathered at the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) on the afternoon of September 21. The always popular film festival welcomed the works of local filmmakers who wished to showcase their modern storytelling abilities with the community. Each year, word about the festival spreads throughout the region, continuingly expanding the list of films on the following year’s docket. Now in its seventh year, the festival saw its largest attendance, as well as the largest number of film submissions to date, supporting local artists and encouraging them to share their stories through film.

“The inspiration behind the festival initially was to celebrate films and filmmaking, to showcase communities in our area and around the world the values that keep them moving forward, and to elevate the perspectives and voices of our community and our ancestors,” said Lena Jones, film festival organizer and Hibulb Cultural Center education curator.

The festival began with a lifetime achievement award ceremony, honoring two Lummi tribal members for their work in the film industry, actor and storyteller Swil Kanim and playwright and filmmaker Darrell Hillaire. Both individuals are locally renowned. Swil is known for many his talents as a violinist and Darrell is the founder and executive director of the multimedia production company, Children of the Setting Sun, which produces contemporary Coast Salish content on film and podcasts. Darrell also allowed HCC to hold an exclusive screening of his new thirty-minute project, Waiting for God, a story of a young Lummi girl’s journey to finding herself, as well as the way back to her ancestral homelands.  

“I had the honor of being recognized today, but I represent a whole team,” Darrell expressed. “I’m proud of our team because we’re in the middle of a lot of work and we don’t get to celebrate enough, so we came here to celebrate with the Tulalip people and it means a lot to me. We try to meet the young people where they’re at, with all the technology of today like podcasts and short films, and introduce them to the stories of our ancestors. This a great way to preserve history. As our elders move on to the next life, we need to capture their stories about their time here.”

It was showtime after festival-goers enjoyed a lunchtime feast prepared by Tribal member Chandra Reeves and her daughters, one of whom gave a heartfelt welcome speech to the visitors. For nearly six hours, the attendees were treated to a selection of visual art created by ten filmmakers, both tribal and non-tribal. This year’s viewing had a good amount of variety, ranging in a number of genres, for a total of eleven films. 

Inspired after his first submission received a standing ovation at last year’s festival, local music composer and film scorer, Ed Hartman, returned with two new projects this year, including Time for No One, a four-minute short film where Ed displays his piano skills set to images of the World Trade Center. Perhaps his most impressive piece submitted thus far, Ed worked diligently for an entire year, preparing a scored edition of As the Earth Turns, an unreleased Seattle-based silent film made in the late 1930’s. Ed’s music had movie goers on the edge of their seats during suspenseful moments, and fully invested throughout all of the movies emotional scenes. 

The crew of the critically acclaimed fantasy film, Chosen One, wins the third best feature award at the HCC Film Festival. Writer/Director Thomas Meyer pictured at center.

A crowd favorite this year was a fantasy film which involved a battle between elves and vampires titled Chosen One. Written and directed by Thomas Meyer, Chosen One has been featured at several national and international film festivals, winning awards for Best Fantasy at many of them. 

Music, paintings, carvings, treaty rights and decolonization were the topics highlighted by eight Native American filmmakers who submitted one project each this year. Over the years, HCC has made it a point of emphasis to encourage local Native creatives to explore the medium of film to express their views and share what it means to grow up Indigenous in the Northwest. 

“We’re very proud of our artists and storytellers,” Lena stated. “They remind us of how wealthy we are and how important it is to remember our values. Filmmakers, as artists, help us do that as they share the stories and heroes of our culture.  They give us role models of how we can support our environment or our community.”

The art of storytelling has been passed down through the generations since the beginning of time. Our stories are shared to teach youth valuable lessons and they often incorporate our traditional language, dances and songs. Indigenous stories explain the mysteries of the universe like how the sun, stars and moon came to be and emphasize cultural values like respecting our elders, helping our communities and practicing our ancestral teachings. As technology advances, storytellers will continue to explore new forms of storytelling through art, publications, music, film and animation. Attention will be brought to social issues and current world problems like climate change, declining fish runs, MMIW, suicide and overdose, promoting awareness to protect our people, waterways and land, and begin the healing process from years of generational trauma.

Among the many standout Native films was a documentary called A Quiet Warrior, which follows the life and works of the late and highly respectable leader of the Yakama Nation, Russell Jim. Russell was an environmental activist who dedicated his life to protecting the Colombia River waterways. During World War II, a nuclear reservation was established in the nearby town of Hanford where they produced plutonium. Russell fought the U.S. Department of Energy in court to prevent Hanford from becoming a repository for nuclear waste and endangering salmon and local wildlife and habitat. 

Coeur d’Alene Filmmaker Jeanne Givens (left) with family members of late Yakama leader, Russell Jim, after a screening of her documentary A Quiet Warrior about Russell’s life and times.

“I met Russell several times and I found him to be such an intriguing individual,” said filmmaker and Coeur d’Alene tribal member, Jeanne Givens. “He was a person who walked in so many worlds, most importantly the political world. He didn’t just know political people, he helped write the Nuclear Waste Regulatory Act, very important work.”

While the film festival carried on through the night, the crowd enjoyed thought provoking and interesting pieces that touched on the effects of colonization, such as We Only Answer Our Land Line by Cherokee and Klamath tribal member Woodrow Hunt, and the two-hour award winning special feature ωαατšι?αƛιν: Coming Home by Brandon Thompson of Huu-ay-aht First Nations. HCC was also sure to incorporate Indigenous art into the program with Makah War Clubs by Jason Roberts, which delves into the traditional weapons of Northwest tribes as well as A Modern Creation Story, which follows Tlingit Artist, Preston Singletary, as he combines the past and the present by creating traditional designs through glass art. 

Perhaps the film of the evening, the reception of Could You Imagine? came just as much of a shock to the filmmaker as it was to the attendees. As the five-minute video ended, nearly every person in the HCC Longhouse exchanged stunned looks after they witnessed the works of an artist by the name of MomentumX. Combining many elements of his background, MomentumX incorporated his Swinomish heritage, passion for music, artistic abilities and storytelling talents into one project. Between two long thirty-two measure rap verses, he urged his audience to study their treaty rights and utilize the power of their voice. Not only was MomentumX rapping in the video, he was also spray-painting a large 3-D Salish design onto a canvas. The time-lapse music video impressed the festival attendees who erupted in loud applause by the end of the film. And when Marcus Joe, a young man who sat at the back of the room, introduced himself as MomentumX the crowd rose to their feet and praised him for his talents.  

“It’s important that we use our own voice and create our own art,” Marcus expressed. “As an Indigenous youth who grew up in the big city of Seattle, a lot of times I felt alienated and alone. But I always knew who I was and was proud to be Indigenous. It’s important that we tell our stories, our true story, because it was already told wrong once. It’s up to us to set the record straight and let people know who we are in today’s society.” 

“He did all of that on his phone,” said film festival judge, Robin Carneen, still in awe over the MomentumX video. “A hip hop Native American film, wow. It just goes to show how prevalent technology and social media is today.”

The film festival aims to preserve the traditional teachings of Native peoples in a modern day format that future leaders can look back to reference or draw inspiration from. 

“We hope folks watch the films and are inspired to recognize how important our ancestral culture is to the recent environmental and cultural needs of the nation,” Lena stated. “We hope our younger ones will build their storytelling and technical skills and support their elders work in the communities by sharing important Native perspectives. We hope filmmakers will continue to share their work here and come together for an enjoyable day, viewing the films at our festivals.”

The Hibulb Cultural Center will continue their monthly film series, the next event is scheduled for October 17. For more information, please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600.