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.

Tribal students receive backpacks and supplies for new school year

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On the morning of August 21, a large crowd of families gathered, forming a line that extended from the Don Hatch Youth Center gymnasium to the sidewalks along Totem Beach Road. In the warm overcast weather, the families visited in anticipation while Tulalip Youth Services prepared for a busy morning during their annual Back to School Bash celebration. 

At twelve-noon, on the dot, the gymnasium doors opened and students rushed in, hoping to get first dibs on the backpack of their choice. Rows upon rows lay a large variety of stylish book bags. The kids received one ticket upon entry and, when finding the backpacks designated for their grade, picked the bag that best suited their personalities. While the preschool through elementary school students gravitated toward character bags, featuring the likes of the Paw Patrol and Marvel crew, the older students went for the trendy fashionable backpacks from Jansport, Adidas and Vans. 

“My backpack looks like fishes in the water, red fish,” exclaimed KaLesa Comenote. “I’m going into third grade at Quil Ceda. I’m not ready for school to start quite yet, but the new backpack makes it a little better.”

Altogether, Youth Services purchased over 1,500 backpacks for young Tulalip learners, as well as for students of the Marysville School District who are enrolled at another tribe. Within the first hour, hundreds of backpacks were distributed, ensuring the students start their first day of school well-prepared. Prior to the event, the department held a breakfast social for local special needs students and their families. After breakfast, the kids had the first opportunity to select their backpacks before the gymnasium doors opened to the community. Youth Services also set 77 backpacks aside for the youth who are in foster care.

“The Back to School Bash is one of our favorite events of the year because we get to see the students get excited for school,” said Youth Services Positive Youth Development & Leadership Manager, Jessica Bustad. “We’re also happy to see the kids because we don’t get to see most of them during the summer. It’s a great time for the students and families to get together, have fun and celebrate the new school year.” 

Youth Services also stuffed each bag with a school supply kit filled with notebooks, paper, folders, crayons, makers, pencils, glue sticks and scissors. 

“I think it’s cool that they do this for us,” expressed high school sophomore, Charles Guss. “It shows support for all the kids. Throwing on our new backpacks gives us something to look forward to when going to school, especially on those early, early mornings. I got an Eastsport and a bunch of supplies too. I’m ready to go back to school now for sure.”

To help get the kids more excited about their upcoming academic year, Youth Services enlisted the Sno-Isle Library Bookmobile. The students and their families were able to sign up for library cards and also check out a number of fun, kid-friendly stories to read together.

“The biggest thing we want to share with our families is to read with your students, invest in books, get a library card and promote reading,” stated Jessica. “Make sure your students read every night, even if it’s just twenty minutes, because reading is important, it creates the foundation for their academic success. And also, we need parent community volunteers for everything going on at the schools, it helps the students thrive when they know they have caring adults there supporting them.”

With their backpack straps fittingly fastened, the kids hurried to enjoy a number of carnival rides stationed at the Youth Center parking lot. A number of departments joined the festivities, including the Lushootseed language teachers who ran a face painting station, as well as the Tulalip Bay Fire Department who gave the kids tours of their fire engine. The Seattle Pacific Science Center taught an interactive physiology mini-exhibit titled ‘Blood and Guts’, giving the students an up-close look real organs from both animals and humans, including the human brain. 

“I have two second graders and this is so great because there’s a lot of families who need this,” said parent Sheena Robinson. “We’re really thankful that the Tribe does this event and it keeps getting better every year. My kid’s look forward to this at the start of each school year. They know they’re going back to school, but they at least get to have this day together before they do.” 

Tribal youth connect to ancestral lands at Mountain Camp

By Kalvin Valdillez; Photos courtesy of Kelly Finley, Michael Lotan, Ross Fryberg, and Tawnya Baggerly

“You would think it’s just another camp but when you get up there, you realize it’s so much more. You experience living how our ancestors used to; no phones and no technology at all. It was nice to get away, I had a really fun time,” expressed Tulalip tribal youth, Ross Fryberg Jr.

With an abundance of breathtaking views of the natural world, the mountainous lands near the Skykomish Watershed area was once home to the Snohomish people who lived upon its plentiful resources since the beginning of time. As the original caretakers, the connection they shared with the land was strong. For generations, the Snohomish gathered cedar from the tall trees on the mountain side to weave a number of every day tools such as baskets and hats. They gathered a variety of plants for both medicinal purposes and nourishment, hunted elk, and fished in nearby rivers and streams, and most importantly, they cared for the land, honoring the living spirit of the mountains, waterways and trees.

Although times have changed and we now live in a fast-paced, technology based society, the Tulalips, as descendants of the Snohomish, maintain that relationship to their pre-colonial homelands. They perform spiritual work like harvesting huckleberries and cedar, as well as hunting and fishing just as their people had generations prior. 

Five years ago, the Tulalip Natural Resources Department, in partnership with the YMCA, debuted Mountain Camp for the youth of the community, offering a chance to get away from the busy world, unplug and enjoy the great outdoors. Since its inception, Mountain Camp has provided an opportunity for Tulalip youth to get in touch with the Tribes’ origins and gain a new perspective about Mother Earth, learning of the many ways she provides for Northwest tribal people. Mountain Camp was such a success, it inspired Fish Camp, a similar summertime experience that takes place on Lopez Island and teaches youth about marine life and the Salish Sea.

Nine kids, ages 11-13, set out for a five-day adventure to the mountains on the morning of August 5. Meeting at the Tulalip Administration building, they received a weaving lesson from Anita (Keeta) and Jamie Sheldon. The kids assembled a number of baskets, and also bracelets and anklets, before the trip, while Lushootseed Teacher Maria Martin shared traditional stories. 

This year, the Natural Resources department added Tulalip youth and Mountain Camp Alum, Seth Montero, to the crew. After showing an incredible amount of interest in natural resources, Seth returned to camp to continue learning from the natural environment and pass his teachings down to his younger peers.  

“We’ve been trying to work on a program for kids who have aged out and still want to participate in the program,” said Tulalip Natural Resources Outreach & Education Coordinator, Kelly Finley. “Seth went to YMCA camp earlier this summer and learned how they do things at their camps. He picked up a lot of leadership skills so that he could come to our camp this year and be a leader-in-training, and hopefully one day a future counselor.”

The campers loaded onto the YMCA bus and officially set course to Skykomish, Washington, a two-hour road trip along Highway 2. After reaching their destination, the campers strapped on their backpacks and made a mile-and-a-half hike to Barclay Lake where they set up camp for the first few days. During this time, the kids enjoyed the sunny weather by swimming and fishing at the lake as well as identifying a variety of plants and bugs. To get a little shade from the heat, the campers went out into the woods and played Prometheus, a fun version of the capture the flag game, where the players objective is to steal their opponents’ flag without being seen. 

After three nights at the lake, the campers hiked back to the YMCA bus and traveled up the mountain to about 5,000 feet above sea level. The kids set up camp here, at the sacred swədaʔx̌ali grounds, where tribal members gather huckleberries during the late summer months. The campers were joined by Natural Resources Senior Environmental Policy Analyst, Libby Nelson as well as Lushootseed Language Teacher, Michelle Myles. Libby provided a fun interactive lesson about the plants of the swədaʔx̌ali area, while Michelle shared stories in Lushootseed and worked on traditional introductions with the kids. Libby explained that during past camps the weather was clear at night and you could stargaze and see meteor showers. This year, however, the fog rolled in as Michelle shared traditional stories, providing a cool, yet somewhat eerie, setting. 

Before calling it a night, the youth gathered enough huckleberries for pancakes the next morning as they were expecting a number of guests from the Tribe, Natural Resources, the Rediscovery Program and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest department bright and early. 

Upon awakening, the kids enjoyed food and company with their many guests before heading to the huckleberry fields to help out with the restoration of the swədaʔx̌ali area.

“The first work was kicked off five years ago by the first Mountain Camp youth,” said Libby. “And we also have Forestry do a lot of work here in September as well. Ross [Fenton] came up from Forestry and led the kids in clearing out some of the area. That’s been our goal, to keep the berries from being shaded out by conifer trees. That keeps the berry patches open, encourages new growth and makes it nicer for Tulalip berry pickers. Since last year, we put up new signs that talk about the elder’s teachings about huckleberries. We had each kid read one of the teachings of the elders and we talked about it a little bit.”

The crew headed back to the campsite where they wove cedar headbands with Tulalip tribal member, Chelsea Craig, and listened to their guests speak about the importance of preserving the resources of the land for future generations. 

“The goal is to go up there and talk to the kids about natural resources, talk about why it’s important for Tulalip tribal members specifically to work in the natural resources field, what it means to us spiritually and culturally,” explained Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “We try to get them excited about that and get them to have some ownership of it. We tend to bring them up there and teach them as much as we can about the huckleberry restoration and let them know that we pass this on to you, it’s your job to continue to pass this on to the next generation and make sure these resources are here for them as well.

“I forget every year how amazing it is up there,” he continued. “I’m surprised every time I go back, just by the utter beauty of the site. There’s nothing but mountains and clouds around you, you only hear the sounds of nature. These kids have the opportunity to go out there and experience something that is much closer to what our ancestors experienced for thousands of years. It’s almost like you can feel the connection to the earth a lot stronger there.”

The campers spent the remainder of their time playing games and picking berries at the swədaʔx̌ali site. Many of the campers had yet to enjoy the tasty berries grown at high altitude, but according to lead camp counselor Michael Lotan, once their taste buds got a hold of the delicious ancestral snack, they couldn’t get enough. 

“A lot of people told the kids they needed to eat the berries to feed their inner Indian,” Michael stated. “So, that’s all they did after that, was roam around looking for ripe berries and eating them. All of them want to go back up and pick more when the berries are ready in a couple of weeks. That’s another good thing this camp does, is show them we have this area that needs to be used otherwise we’ll lose our rights to use it.”

On their last day in the mountains, the youth packed up camp and headed to the river. Ending Mountain Camp with an extreme splash, the kids rafted down the Skykomish River before heading back to Tulalip for a welcome home celebration with their family and new friends.

“I really connected with the land because my ancestors were once there,” expressed first time Mountain Camper, Matthew Hunter. “We picked huckleberries and I even got to bring some home for my mom. The restoration was fun; we cleared some trees out and made a big pile so they can burn them later. It’s important that we grow more berries. This was my first time camping up there and I learned how to weave cedar, harvest huckleberries and connect with the land, campers and counselors. It was totally new experience for me and really fun.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department at (360) 716-4617.

United in our Journey: Marysville School District receives ‘Tulalip 101’ education

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Imagine having just a single solitary day to impart generations’ worth of Tulalip cultural knowledge, experiences and insight onto a group of seasoned (non-Native) educators. It’s a near impossible task, to say the least. However, the noble pursuit of such a cultural exchange is significant for the glimmer of hope it may offer to deepen understanding of a complex history and thriving culture of a modern day Pacific Northwest tribe. Educators involved would gain tremendously by broadening their perspective on Tulalip related issues, while deliberately resulting in an improved learning environment for their Native students.

On August 8, fifty-three Marysville School District (MSD) administrators, including every principal and assistant principal in the District, convened at a Marysville-Getchell High School meeting space for what would be an enriching journey into ‘Tulalip 101’. 

“I thank each and every one of you for this opportunity to share a part of our culture with you. We know the time frame is small, but it is significant,” said Deborah Parker, Indigenous Education Director. “The leaders of MSD have allowed us this time and space to share with you a piece of our culture, a piece of who we are and what we care about traditionally, mentally, emotionally, and physically.”

The Women’s Warriors Song was shared to ground the group with a singular purpose and align the heartbeats for a collective mission…one heart, one mind. What followed as a brief PowerPoint presentation on Tulalip Tribes history, Coast Salish culture, and a lesson on the importance of conducting land acknowledgements in each school. 

“By doing land recognition we honor the sacrifices our ancestors made and make a commitment for true healing of the injustice that has been served in the name of education for Indigenous people,” explained Chelsea Craig, Cultural Specialist for Quil Ceda Elementary. “You have to add that second piece and really understand your value and how your equity statement goes with it – thanks for acknowledging that we lost our lands and this is what we’re committed to doing to promote healing.”

Land acknowledgment by itself is a small gesture. It becomes meaningful when coupled with authentic relationship and informed action. But this beginning can be an opening to greater public consciousness of Native sovereignty and cultural rights, a step toward balanced partnerships and understanding. Considering there are an estimated 1,200 Native students attending MSD schools, the importance of conducting land acknowledgements at school functions, like general assemblies or sporting events, can significantly raise mindfulness while promoting healing.

The fifty-three person group of MSD administrators learned two words in the ancestral Tulalip language of Lushootseed prior to a collaborative Tulalip tour – sduhubš (Snohomish) and τ̕igwicid (thank you). With both Deborah and Chelsea assisting in proper pronunciation, the group repeated the words several times in unison to ensure they would be properly used later in the day. 

The collective group was split into two and shuttled to the Tulalip Reservation via MSD No.25 school busses. Their first visit was to Hibulb Cultural Center & Natural History Preserve where they enjoyed fresh made nettle lemonade and met with senior curator Tessa Campbell. As they were led on a private tour of Hibulb’s special collections, Tessa explained the special meaning and traditional use of several thought-provoking artifacts. 

“We are a certified archeology repository with archives full of collections not currently on display, including some rather large items,” stated Tessa while leading the tour. “We have an ocean going canoe carved by the Edwards brothers (Swinomish) that was used to travel as a family to and from Whidbey Island, Camano Island, and the area now known as the City of Everett. We also have a growing collection of story poles carved by Tulalip tribal member William Shelton. Currently, we have five of his poles with the oldest being a spirit pole carved in 1913.”

Following the guided Hibulb visit, the group’s next stop was the Tulalip Administration Building. They took in the amazing artistry of two story poles that welcome visitors to the Tribe’s central government offices. The Tulalip Youth Council shared a song as everyone took a seat in the largest meeting room. 

“Did you know that over 60% of our tribe of nearly 5,000 members is 18 or younger?” asked Patti Gobin, Natural Resources Special Projects Manager. “The importance of the good work going on right now is vital to our young ones because in the most literal sense, they are our future. We’ve been waiting a long time for you to accept, understand, and uplift our people in the area of education. There is a sense of urgency to have our MSD educators know our treaty and to know, that as Coast Salish people, we still live our lifeways out here.”

“As Indian people, we need to have an education to navigate this modern world and build a better future,” added Board of Director Glen Gobin. “Marysville public schools have an obligation to help educate our students. But to do that you need to understand who we are and the social structures we deal with on the reservation. It’s so important we find a way to work together and the only way to do that is to commit to knowing who each other are. There will be struggles, but there will be successes as well. The only way to get through this is to build upon the successes and learn from the struggles, together.”

A powerful exercise in understanding and learning from history was then led by Heritage High School teacher Ms. Ervanna Little Eagle and Quil Ceda Elementary teacher Ms. Gina Bluebird. The lesson was titled Tulalip Boarding School Experience. The goal was to examine how colonized education affected generations of Tulalip people. 

Using heartfelt and gut-wrenching testimonials from those who were forced to attend boarding schools in the early 1900s, the group participated in several listening and writing activities.

“I considered what it would be like to lose my identity and it was unimaginable,” shared one MSD administrator. 

“The underlying goal was to assimilate the Indians. Boarding school were then a means of committing cultural genocide carried out by the federal government,” stated another. 

After taking a few moments to let the full weight of the boarding school era and its historical trauma that affects many of their young Native students today, the group moved quietly from the meeting space, still thoroughly in reflection, and back to the school busses. The assembly of MSD leadership then visited the Don Hatch Youth Center, Tulalip Long House, and Boys & Girls Club. At each stop they chatted with longtime employees and students who were out and about enjoying summer vacation. 

Finally, their journey came to its last destination on the reservation when they visited the present day site of the Tulalip Indian Boarding School. The group then formed a prayer circle led by Tulalip tribal member Monie Ordonia on those profane grounds in an effort to bring strength to power.

“For us to stand here is healing for our people because this is a very powerful circle,” said Chelsea. Her grandmother Celum Young attended the boarding school and once recalled being put in an outside jail cell for speaking just one word of her traditional language. “We have an opportunity to change our story in Marysville, not just for Native people. This isn’t just about our Native kids. This is about all of our kids. There are lots of historically underserved children in our district that we need to think differently about. We are growing and hopefully become stronger as leaders to make changes that benefit the entire district.”

There was a shared optimism after a full day designed to help MSD administrators and educators better understand their Tulalip students’ culture and community. Deeply rooted words like ‘healing’, ‘hopeful’, and ‘forgiveness’ were collectively expressed as the group reflected on their opportunities to become agents of change for the betterment of their diverse student population.

“It’s so important that we, as educators, make sure we are doing everything we can to help our Native American students become successful and reach their full potential,” said Eneille Nelson, Principal of Kellogg Marsh Elementary while taking in the Tulalip Bay view. “Being here to see where our students live and come from is very humbling. This space and land is so beautiful, and our students are just as beautiful as their surroundings.”“I didn’t know the history of the tribes and the painful experiences they’ve had with education,” admitted Tara Jeffries, Assistant Principal at Grove Elementary. She moved from Oregon last year to work for MSD. “It was so moving to have the opportunity to experience Tulalip culture in such an authentic way. This experience not only changed our perspective, but it changed our hearts. We now have a deeper understanding and can apply that in a way we couldn’t have before.”

With the 2019-2020 school year starting in a matter of weeks, only time and experience will determine how significant an impact the MSD/Tulalip cultural exchange has on new and returning students. But if all meaningful and lasting change starts on the inside, then a few changed hearts and minds can go a long way.

Walking with the Ancestors: Annual cedar harvest carries on essential traditions

Jadin Thompson-Sheldon, Jessica Oldham, and siblings Alyius and Dyani Sheldon proudly 
display their cedar pulls.

By Micheal Rios; Photos courtesy of Denise Sheldon & Ross Fenton, Tulalip Forestry

Coast Salish tribes believe the Creator gave them cedar as a gift. Traditionally, a prayer was offered to honor the spirit of the tree before harvesting its bark, branches and roots. Their ancestors taught them the importance of respecting cedar and understanding how it is to be used, so it will be protected for future generations. 

Cedar was the perfect resource, providing tools, baskets, bowls and carvings in addition to having medicinal and spiritual purposes. The highly sought after inner bark was separated into strips or shredded for weaving. The processed bark is then used like wool and crafted into clothing, baskets and hats.

Those same traditional teachings are practiced today and continue to thrive by being passed down from one generation to the next. Over multiple weekends in June, the Tulalip Tribes membership was given the opportunity to participate in the cultural upbringings of their ancestors by journeying into their ancestral woodlands and gathering cedar. “I enjoy cedar harvesting and get excited as the time to pull gets closer,” shared Tulalip tribal member Denise Sheldon. “I find myself checking out the cedars wherever I go, thinking hmm it must be season. I love taking my grandkids out to teach them how to pull and separate the outer bark. It’s an important tradition for our family.”

Led by Forestry staff from Tulalip’s Natural Resources Department, participating tribal members like Denise and her family ventured just north of Sultan to a cedar-filled bounty located on the outskirts of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. 

The yearly cedar harvest showcases a partnership between several agencies working as a team to coordinate this culturally significant opportunity. The Tulalip Natural Resource’s Timber, Fish, and Wildlife Program generally arranges a cedar harvesting site for the upcoming season by utilizing existing relationships with off-reservation landowners and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The annual cedar pulling event is a collaborative effort between multiple parties and agencies, both internally within Tulalip Natural Resources and the WA State DNR,” explained Ross Fenton of Tulalip Tribes Forestry Program. “Typically we try to arrange a bark pulling site up to a year in advance, to ensure a continued opportunity for the Tulalip membership. Our Timber, Fish and Wildlife program staff has been integral to maintaining a partnership with DNR over the years to allow for continuing gathering opportunities. There are many logistics involved, and the results of our work is tangible.

“I’ve been attending the annual cedar harvest for nearly ten seasons now. For me personally, it is an honor to witness an event that has been ongoing for millennia. I really enjoy watching younger generations grow and then teach the skills to their own children as they grow. There are many generations participating, and that’s really neat to observe,” added Fenton.

The relationship Coast Salish peoples have with cedar cannot be understated. Their ancestors relied on the magnificent tree as an integral part of life on the Northwest Coast. From birth to death, the powerful cedar provided generously for the needs of the people – materially, ceremonially and medicinally. Those teachings have not been lost.

“We pray before we start harvesting, so it is done in a good way, and ask for protection from animals or spirits that might harm us,” reflected Denise of her days spent walking in the shadows of her ancestors. “I haven’t been pulling as long as my mom, Keeta, or sisters, Marilyn and Jamie. It has taken me some time to get the hang of it, but I really love being out in the woods with my family. I tell my grandkids they need to learn as much as they can because they will be pulling for me when I get too old to do it anymore. One day they will be the elder teaching their kids and grandkids.”

Employees from Hibulb and Tulalip Natural Resources worked with tribal members to gather a cedar bounty. 

Master weavers, elders, and youth alike all echo the very same cedar harvesting technique employed by their ancestors. With a small ax and carving knife, they skillfully remove strips of bark from designated cedar trees. They then shave off a small section of the rough bark, revealing a smooth tan inner layer. After harvest, the cedar strips are typically laid out to dry for a year before being made into baskets and hats or used in regalia. 

Many Tulalip youth participated in the multi-day cedar harvesting occasion, gathering strips for elders and learning techniques of separating the smooth inner bark from the rough outer bark. For some tribal members it was another step in their continual journey to connect with the spirits of past and present, while for others it was their very first cedar harvest experience.

10-year-old Sophia Quimby had a lot of fun during her first ever 
cedar harvest.

 “The cedar was kind of hard to separate at first, but the more I pulled the better I got,” beamed first time cedar harvester, 10-year-old Sophia Quimby. “It was a lot of fun pulling the cedar and seeing how far we could get it to go. Me and my mom are going to make roses and baskets from our cedar.”

Safe to say the essential teachings from cedar gathering have successfully been passed on to yet another generation of Tulalip culture bearers. The ancestors would be pleased.