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. 

Roy Robinson Subaru Shares the Love with Tulalip Foundation

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

For the past ten holiday seasons, Subaru dealerships across America collectively raised over $140 million dollars during their annual Share the Love campaign. The event is held during the months of November and December in which the company pledges to donate $250 for each new Subaru sold or leased to a charity selected by the dealership. 

Previously, the dealership’s choices were between the National Park Foundation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Meals on Wheels and the Make-A-Wish Foundation; resulting in the protection of over 100 National Parks, the rescue of over 50,000 animals, the preparation of over 2 million meals for seniors nationwide and over 1,800 wishes granted to youth battling life threating illnesses. In 2013, Subaru added a fifth option, affording their dealerships the opportunity to donate to a local charity or non-profit of their choice. After much consideration, the friendly crew at Marysville Roy Robinson Subaru decided to donate their 2018 Share the Love earnings to the Tulalip Foundation.

The Tulalip Foundation is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to empowering the wellbeing of the Tulalip reservation and its surrounding communities. Since 2007, the Foundation has worked with a number of programs to create a brighter future for the Tribe, programs that are based on three important values to many tribal families: culture, education and justice.

Originally, the Foundation began as a way to raise the last remaining million dollars needed to open the Hibulb Cultural Center. Since the museum’s opening, the non-profit has raised money, accepted donations and applied for a number of grants to provide several programs and departments with the funds for events, incentives and services including the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Parent Committee, Tulalip Office of Civil Legal Aid (TOCLA), Tulalip TERO Vocational Training Center and the Tulalip Veteran’s Quilt Project. The Foundation also hosts a number of fundraisers throughout the year such as the Hibulb Cultural Center Salmon Bake and their annual Giving Tuesday event.

Last November, Roy Robinson Subaru General Manager Robb McCalmon stated his crew would be hard at work during the holiday season in hopes of delivering a ‘big check’ to the Foundation come springtime. On the morning of April 15, Robb and his team did just that by presenting an oversized check to the Tulalip Foundation Board of Trustees – a grand total of $21, 149. 

The Share the Love event helped improve an already strong relationship between the local Subaru dealership and the Tribe, as well as spread the message about the good work the Tulalip Foundation is doing for the community. Over the next few months, the Foundation will convene and discuss which programs to distribute the donation to, ensuring the efforts made by the Roy Robinson crew are well spent. 

“The Tulalip Foundation was extremely honored to be chosen as Roy Robinson Subaru’s community partner for their 2018 Share the Love event,” expresses Tulalip Foundation Executive Director, Nicole Sieminski. “It was a unique opportunity to share our work with the greater community and their generous donation will do a lot of good work in the Tulalip community.”

For more information, please visit Marysville Roy Robinson Subaru or contact the Tulalip Foundation at (360) 716-5400.

Special Olympian Bruce Williams brings home gold

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Since 1968, the Special Olympics have been a global movement used to unleash the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports. They empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.

In Washington State, year-round sports training and athletic competition are provided in a variety of Olympic-type sports for more than 18,000 children and adults who refuse to believe a disability is a limitation. These inspiring individuals are given continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of friendship with their fellow athletes.

Thirty-seven-year-old Bruce Williams is a proud Tulalip tribal member who has competed in numerous sporting events at the Special Olympics for over a decade. Previously showcasing his skills at soccer, basketball and volleyball in years past, Bruce is now focused on track and field. He’s had a long-time passion with running, so it was only a matter of time before he transitioned to track.

Bruce’s collection of previously won medals.

On Sunday, April 28 the Cascade Area Regionals were hosted at Mariner High School in Everett. After months of preparation and sporting his brand new pair of Nike Free running shoes, Bruce was ready to race. His first competition was the 100-meter sprint. In a highly contested dash, Bruce took 2nd place, finishing less than a tenth of a second behind the 1st place runner. For his effort he was awarded a silver medal.

A short while later, Bruce again took to the starting line, this time for the 200-meter sprint. This time he wouldn’t be denied the gold. From the start he jumped out in front of the pack and maintained his momentum all the through the finish line. A huge smile on his face after finishing 1st, Bruce was beaming when he received a gold medal.

The Special Olympian proudly wore his two medals every day the following week. He made time to sit down with Tulalip News staff and share his thoughts about winning gold and silver in his two athletic events. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation:

Q: How does it feel to be a gold-winning Olympian?

A: “Feels great! Very proud of winning. Want to show everybody my medals.”

Q: What was your training routine like? 

A: “Train on the treadmill, do laps at the Marysville YMCA, and lots of track stretches. Very important to stretch.”

Q: Any special foods you like to have on race day?

A: “Strawberry yogurt is my favorite and lots of water.”

Q: You raced in a pair of Nike Free shoes. What do you like about them?

A: “They make me run fast!”

Q: Were you nervous going into your races?

A: “A little. Lots of people racing, but I’m the fastest one around.”

Q: You’ll be competing at the Spring State Games next month. What are your expectations?

A: “Win more gold, the big one this time.”

Bruce will be prepping over the next several weeks to compete against the best Special Olympians in the state. The 2019 Spring State Games will be held May 31 – June 2 at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. Bruce asks that anyone who isn’t busy those days to come out and cheer him on to victory. 

A perfect day, a perfect moment’: UNITY mural revealed

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Don “Penoke” Hatch Youth Center. Kenny Moses Building. Greg Williams Court. Alpheus “Gunny” Jones Ball Field. Debra Barto Skate Park. 

These locations have become five common place names in everyday Tulalip lexicon. However, the people these locations are named after are anything but common.            They were influential individuals who dedicated much of their lives to supporting, bettering, and empowering tribal youth. 

Each a Tulalip citizen, their commendable spirits are now immortalized in paint as part of a five portrait project known as the UNITY mural. The highly anticipated mural reveal took place on Saturday, April 13.

 “This is a perfect day, a perfect moment,” declared Herman Williams Jr., a representative from Greg Williams’ family shortly after the murals were unveiled. “This is what we are about as Tulalip people, honoring those who had a positive effect on ourselves. Each mural is of someone who was very influential to us as young people, old people, and everything in between.” 

More than 150 community members gathered at Greg Williams Court to share in the special moment as the curtains were pulled down and the vibrant portraits were put on full display. This type of gathering was exactly what the project coordinator had in mind.

“Initially, I envisioned something that would bring the community together and bring families together,” explained mural coordinator Deyamonta Diaz. “These murals tell the stories behind our buildings, who they are named after, and the legacy these people left. To see all five people together gives the families an opportunity to share memories. 

“Also, for the people who don’t know them, they are going ask ‘who are these people?’ and ‘why are their pictures up?’” added Deyamonta. “I think that’s a great conversation starter for the community to keep these people’s legacies alive.”

Legacy was a concept routinely mentioned as speakers and representatives for each painted figure shared loving words and fond memories. A shared hope for future generations to carry on their family member’s legacy through resolve and action, while looking to each painting as a symbol of support when needed, was also expressed repeatedly at the podium. 

Don “Penoke” Hatch gets an up close and personal view of his portrait, while daughter Denise speaks of his long-time commitment to the youth.

Four of the five mural honorees have passed on, with Penoke Hatch being the lone exception. 

“As we look at these murals, it’s important to know each one of them is still here with us. They are here in their families who tell their stories,” shared Penoke. “Each one of them made an impact in different ways. They always took care of everybody, especially the young ones. Thank you to the artists, Youth Services, and the Tribe for what they did here to honor us.” 

Honoring those represented on the Tulalip Bay athletic campus with a UNITY mural was made possible in partnership with Youth Services and local Native artists, Monie Ordonia (Tulalip) and Jordan Willard (Tlingit).

Tulalip artist Monie Ordonia (right) and assistant Jordan Williard (Tlingit) reflect on their painting process during the mural reveal.

“They had a vision of having portraits in mural form of all the legends that these building are named after,” said Monie. “The concept incorporates Native colors, so we used red, black, yellow, and white as the backgrounds. For Debbie, we used gray as the background and then incorporated her grandchildren’s hand prints.

“I like to feel the energy of who I’m painting, like an activation, it helps bring the person to life,” continued Monie. “Once the murals are complete and I look into the eyes of the painting, then I can feel them communicating with me. Hopefully, that helps other people have the ability to do the same.”

The memories of Kenny Moses, Debra Barto, Greg Williams, Penoke and Gunny Jones are kept alive by those who knew them best. Some were beneficiaries of their admirable determination, while others were fortunate to witness their heroic exploits in action. For everyone else, the UNITY mural serves as a reminder that legends are never forgotten. 

Tulalip seniors visit Tulip Festival

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Every April, people travel from around the world to the outskirts of Mount Vernon, Washington to witness thousands of tulips burst into bloom at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, officially welcoming the arrival of the spring season. At two featured sites, Roozengaarde and Tulip Town, spectators are treated to a stunning visual experience provided by Mother Earth, and the bulb growers as well. 

Since its inception thirty-four years ago, the festival continues to grow in popularity, garnering more and more tulip enthusiasts each year. The tulip festival is in fact Washington State’s biggest festival, attracting over one million participants annually. 

This year, the Tulalip Senior Center organized a trip for the local elders of the community to join in on the outdoor fun at the festival and witness the beauty of Mother Nature firsthand. Eleven elders met bright and early at the Tulalip Dining Hall on the morning of April 9, and made the hour-long journey north to Roozengaarde Flowers and Bulbs, a family owned establishment that has been in the tulip growing business for over seventy years. 

Arriving well before the rush, the seniors had plenty of time to walk about the enormous garden and admire the tulips without feeling overcrowded or pressured to hurry along. Rows and rows of tulips, varying in all different types of vibrant red, pink, yellow, purple and white colors, were just beginning to bloom during the seniors visit, generating a lot of oohs and ahhs as well as several smiles from the elders, as they stooped low to get an up-close look at the flowers. 

The idea was originally presented by Tulalip elder, Barbara Jones, when brainstorming field trip destinations for the seniors. She stated that she thought it would be a great way for the fellow elders of the community to enjoy a springtime activity as well as get some fresh air and ‘to get out and get moving’.

“We thought it was a fun idea to bring the seniors out here today,” explained Jessica Leslie, the Senior Center Manger’s Assistant. “We left at nine this morning to come and walk around the tulip fields. It’s beautiful out here. They’re not fully in bloom yet, but we just wanted to get out and go for a walk. We like to get our seniors out and about to see different things. Some of them don’t drive, so we try to bring them places to do fun stuff like this and get them out of the house to break up the routine a bit.”

The elders broke off into small groups as they made their way through the garden, enjoying company and exploring hundreds of acres of tulips, as well as daffodils, for approximately an hour-and-a-half. The seniors finished their self-led tours just on time as people began to arrive by the carload with their cameras in hand, to capture the gorgeous flowers as they began to open up.

The group also enjoyed a picnic lunch and visited the Roosengaard merchandise shop where they could purchase any of the tulips that were on display to take home and add to their personal garden.  

 “It finally feels like spring is here,” expressed Tulalip elder, Tina Lyle. “It feels great to be out here, it wakes you up and brings your senses alive and strengthens our connection to the Earth. The tulips are all so beautiful, the blood orange ones are my favorite so far. And to come out here with other Tulalip seniors is special. If you get a chance, you got to come up here and enjoy it and see the tulips in-person for yourself.”

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival will continue for the duration of April and will feature a variety of events including the annual Tulip Parade. Roozengaarde Flowers and Bulbs is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., while Tulip Town is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For directions and more information, please visit www.TulipFestival.org

To Peace and Beyond: Gala benefits Domestic Violence Services

Tulalip tribal member Jadin Thompson Sheldon (right) donates to the cause.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The 27th annual Chocolate Lovers’ Gala was a sellout event attracting 550 thoughtful attendees to generously give from the heart and wallets to make a difference in the lives of domestic violence victims, survivors and their families. Benefiting Domestic Violence Services (DVS) of Snohomish County, the annual gala transformed the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca Ballroom into an out of this world experience with the theme “To Peace and Beyond!”

“It’s our number one event of the year,” said DVS Executive Director Vicci Hilty of the high-energy gala and accompanying auctions. “Last year was the first time we raised over $200,000 and from the way it feels tonight I think we’re going to top it once again. These dollars we raise are the most important ones because they literally keep the lights on. Money raised helps every client we have and funds all the services we provide to help anyone who’s been abused and are a victim of domestic violence.

“Having Tulalip’s Charitable Contributions Fund be this year’s title sponsor means so very much,” continued Vicci. “To have a community partner that understands what it’s like to be in these situations is absolutely paramount. The Tribe is such an important partner for us and are a critical piece for everything we do every day as an organization.”

Soon to be Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin enjoying the photo opportunities.

There was a variety of eye catching space-themed props and backdrops perfect for photo opportunities, along with a seemingly limitless supply of flavorful wine and decadent chocolate keeping the atmosphere fun and upbeat on the evening of March 29. The popular gala also featured a silent auction with hundreds of items ranging from a Russell Wilson signed football to handmade quilts and jewelry to limited edition bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon. 

During the live auction, 35 big-ticket items, including several destination vacation packages and international cruises, resulted in exciting bidding wars with all proceeds benefitting the DVS. The local nonprofit has served Snohomish County since 1976 and provides comprehensive, confidential services to all victims of domestic abuse. Services include a 50+ bed emergency shelter, 24-hour hotline, supportive housing, support groups, legal advocacy, children’s programs, and community education.

Switching tones from lighthearted to serious, a video montage of domestic violence survivors played on several large Orca Ballroom projector screens. Courageous stories were shared followed by podium speakers giving voice to victims who all too often suffer in silence. 

“Think about this: if someone’s father has Alzheimer’s then we rally around them. If someone’s mother has cancer or someone’s kids are sick then we donate our vacation time, we cover there shifts at work,” shared guest speaker Dr. Robin Fenn of Verdant Health. “For these individuals we bring them home cooked meals and send texts saying ‘thinking of you’ or ‘hope everything is okay’. But with domestic violence we avert our eyes, we whisper at the water cooler, and we don’t ask questions. 

“Isolation is one of the biggest contributors to domestic abuse. If you see something, then say something. Please have the courage and grace to make eye contact and ask the hard questions. And if you have the stories be brave enough to share them because if we don’t give voice to this, then who will?”

Domestic violence affects millions of people in the U.S. every year. All divisions of society are impacted regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey found that every minute, 20 people in the U.S. are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner. One in three women and one in ten men, or 45 million adults, experience physical violence, rape, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lives.*

A victim’s life may be in most danger when they attempt to leave or seek a protection order against their abusers. Which is why organizations like DVS of Snohomish County are dedicated to ending domestic abuse by providing a wide range of services to victims and by facilitating social change. The agency believes every individual has the right to live in a safe, nurturing environment.

“Our partnership with Domestic Violence Services is extremely important to take care of our people,” shared soon-to-be Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “In the past, people stayed in abusive relationships because they had no safe place to go. If there were kids then they suffered watching the abuse happen and often got abused themselves. It’s another historical trauma that’s happened to our people.

“I’m excited for our DVS partnership because it makes more options available for our people, and our current programs utilize these resources to help those in need of assistance,” added Teri.

The 27th annual Chocolate Lovers’ Gala was a huge success because of the community, business partners, and generous individuals who collectively contributed a record breaking $276,000. All funds raised support the services needed to stop domestic violence, and the fear it brings into the lives of countless victims and their precious children.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County can help you. For information, please call their 24-hour crisis hotline: 425-25-ABUSE (425-252-2873).

*Source: 2016 Biennial Report to Congress, D.O.J. Office on Violence Against Women

Tulalip and Stanford partnership strives to cure opioid-based addiction

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Native Americans are hit hardest by opioid addiction. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that Native Americans have the highest drug overdose death rates and the largest percentage increase in the number of deaths over time from 1999-2015, compared to all other racial and ethnic groups. Indian Country is all too familiar with the opioid epidemic.

Opioid epidemic, seems like a trendy phrase that’s received national recognition recently. But on reservations across the country, Native families have been dealing with the pain, trauma, and loss associated with opioid use, from drugs like heroin and OxyContin, for a couple generations now.

With an aim to successfully combat a crisis that’s run rampant through the community for years, the Tulalip Tribes partnered with the brightest minds at Stanford University’s School of Medicine to create a one-of-kind medical cannabis research project. The goal: curing opioid-based addiction. 

An eagerly awaited community meeting took place on March 11 led by tribal leadership and Stanford scientists to share the leading edge study’s early indicators.

“Through Stanford’s expertise and reputation, our partnership will scientifically prove cannabis can cure addiction”, said Les Parks, Tulalip Tribes Board of Director.

“This meeting has been a long time coming,” stated Board of Director Les Parks. “We’ve been working on this medical cannabis research project since 2014, and this is the first time membership will be briefed with its details and results to date. Stanford is one of the most renowned universities in the country, if not the world, and happens to have a one-of-a-kind laboratory dedicated to the neurosciences. Through Stanford’s expertise and reputation, our partnership will scientifically prove cannabis can cure addiction.

“Nobody in this country has yet to scientifically prove that cannabis is an actual healer,” continued Les. “In partnering with Stanford University, our goal is to be the first to produce those scientific results. We think the cannabis plant has miraculous properties about it, such as healing the body and potentially curing type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and specific forms of cancer. First and foremost, we think cannabis can cure heroin addiction and all forms of opioid-based addiction.”

A painful, yet illuminating, moment was shared by all eighty community members who attended when Les asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if you have not been personally affected by the opioid crisis? If you have not had it affect your family or loved ones?” Not a single hand went up.

“Here in Tulalip, we’re losing 7 to 8 people a year to overdose,” shared Tulalip Tribes Vice-Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “This study and the implications for creating addiction therapies and remedies would be not only a game changer, but a life saver for our community.”

Tulalip Tribes Vice-Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, speaks on the benefits of using cannabis for healing opioid addictions.

People have used marijuana, also called cannabis, for a variety of health conditions for at least 3,000 years. More recently, individual components of marijuana or similar synthetic substances have also been used for health purposes. These substances are called cannabinoids.

Balancing traditional values with the realities of the 21st century means embracing a changing culture that views marijuana and cannabinoids as natural medicines, especially when compared to prescription pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals with countless side-effects and man-made chemicals that receive FDA approval, only to come out later those same chemicals cause a litany of damaging health concerns with sometimes fatal consequences.

The changing tide in not only popular opinion, but science-based evidence as well with regards to medicinal properties of cannabis is rapidly gaining momentum. Since 2014, when retail marijuana became legal in Washington State, consumers have spent $2.95 billion on various forms of cannabis, according to the state Liquor and Cannabis Control Board.

Remedy, the Tulalip-owned retail cannabis store and one of the first legalized marijuana dispensaries in Indian Country, opened its doors in August 2018. Tulalip was originally seen as embracing cannabis for business purposes only, but now with the Stanford partnership and the study’s implications for saving lives that narrative is changing. 

  “The intellectual property, any and all results found in this study, whether it be related to diabetes, Alzheimer’s or whatever it may be, will be owned by Tulalip,” added Vice-Chairwoman Gobin. “The medical applications of cannabis are really exciting because not too long ago we declared a state of emergency for opioid addiction and if this research project can save just one life then it’s worth it.”

Dr. Annelise Barron, Stanford Associate Professor and bioengineer, was on hand to share early results of the study and to answer any questions concerned community members may have had.  

“It’s important for people to know this research we’re doing with whole cannabis oil, meaning it came from the whole plant, the leaves and the flowers, and its effect on addiction has never been studied before,” explained Dr. Barron. “This is the first time a study of this kind has been done, and it’s only possible because Tulalip invested in our ability to do the research.

“We’ve undertaken a research project to study the ability of cannabis oil extract to treat heroin addiction. In order to scientifically address this question we are conducting controlled studies at Stanford Behavioral and Functional Neuroscience Laboratory. We’ve essentially done large-scale experiments that demonstrate cannabis oil suppresses the craving and desire to continue using heroin. This means, I think with high certainty, we would see the same effect on people if we treated them with cannabis oil after they stopped using heroin.”

Striving to cure opioid-based addiction, the Tulalip and Stanford partnership has a lot of work ahead of them including the peer review process and submission to medical journals. Yet, only ten months into a thirty month study, the early indications are most promising. Reiterating an earlier sentiment, if lives can be saved then it’s all worth it.

Moms Group is working to empower all mothers

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Every Tuesday, Tulalip Family Haven hosts a two-hour gathering for expectant, new and experienced moms, as well as grandmothers and aunties who are currently caring for their younger loved ones. Known as Moms Group, the class was created over ten years ago in an effort to build community and empower local women of all ages who are raising children. The program is currently hosted at the old Tulalip elementary and has continued year-round since originally debuting, delivering a positive and powerful experience for its participants throughout the years.

“We are a support group that allows mothers and women raising kids the opportunity to come together,” says Sasha Smith, Family Voices Coordinator and Moms Group moderator. “We wish to provide a sense of belonging, a sense that there’s other women in our community to support each other. This is a place where we can come and just talk about motherhood and ask questions that are hard to ask your doctor or anybody in your family. They’re able to open up and just have a healthy discussion about childbirth, raising your children and adolescents. It gets the moms out of the house and gives them something to look forward to every week.” 

The group enjoys a home cooked meal prepared by Sasha at the beginning of each gathering while catching up with one another. The moms then participate in daily activities such as crafting, working on their baby books or simply taking in wisdom from a variety of guest speakers.

“Lushootseed comes in and teaches the language during the first week of the month,” Sasha stated. “We have nutritionists, Annie Jensen and Brooke Morrison (SNAP-ED), who teach about healthy foods, how to prep and cook food. They guide us through some exercises and talk about the importance of being active. We also do a lot of arts and crafts and just enjoy spending time together.”

Sasha explained that the group members participate in an incentive program in which they create baby books. Moms take the time to recount the events that happened during the week and mark down whenever they performed a positive task, whether it was in the best interest of their family, such as taking their child to their doctor’s appointments, or if they set aside some time to recalibrate, focusing on self-care with a relaxing bath or a refreshing walk outdoors. Their points are then tallied and converted into a credit in which the moms can spend at the Moms Group store, purchasing essential items such as diapers, clothing and car seats. 

Moms group, by extension of Family Haven, is currently in a partnership with Tulalip Community Health and WIC (Women, Infants and Children supplemental program) to help young mothers learn and sign-up for the WIC program, providing rides to those moms in need of transportation to the monthly WIC event in Tulalip. And as an added bonus, those who attend three WIC events receive a gift card incentive.

Kids are welcome to tag along with their moms to the group. One mom notes that it’s an excellent way for her children to interact, meet and have fun with other youth of the community. On special occasions, participants bring in their newborns to meet the ladies of the group whose voices they heard during their mother’s pregnancy while she attended Moms Group.

Family Haven would like to send a shout out to the Tulalip Charitable Fund who continues to support Moms Group by funding a program where moms can learn from each other’s experiences and lend advice, as well as few tips and tricks to other mothers who are bringing up the future generations. 

“I came because I wanted to get connected with other moms,” expresses young mother Alayna Helland. “This is my first child. I don’t know anything about being a mom, so I wanted to learn some basic things and get some advice from other moms. A lot of my questions have been about labor and anticipating that – like what to expect during the actual birthing process. I enjoy learning about other resources like WIC and we do a clothes trade here [at Moms Group] as well. The main thing though is support, you get to talk to other moms and get that support and feedback. It’s nice to have a place where you can go and the people are kind and in the same situation as you are.”

For more information about Moms Group or the monthly WIC event, please contact Family Haven at (360) 716-4402.

Finding Your Way with Diabetes

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

On the evening of March 7, the Tulalip Diabetes Care and Prevention program hosted their first Finding Your Way with Diabetes gathering of the year in the newly constructed conference room at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic. After great success last summer, the interactive course was brought back to help local diabetics get a better understanding of how to manage their diabetes.

Finding Your Way with Diabetes is led by Diabetes Educators, Miguel Arteaga (RN) and Natasha LeVee (PharmD) who guide the participants through an hour and a half long class that includes games, snacks and plenty of laughter. Participants are encouraged to share their stories with their fellow diabetics to give insight into the disease and how it can affect others in both similar and different ways. 

The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that Native Americans are still at great risk and twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, but because of programs like Diabetes Care and Prevention, Indigenous Peoples living with diabetes are learning how to responsibly manage their blood glucose levels, eat healthy nutritious foods, and participate in physical activity as well as gain more general knowledge about diabetes. 

“The inspiration behind the class is we we’re trying to figure out a way to provide something for [diabetics] that was kind of like the Wisdom Warriors,” says Miguel. “The Wisdom Warriors is a self-help group where people learn skills and get together like a family, have a meal and share with one another. We wanted somethingthat lets us facilitate discussion between all the people, where they’re all learning from one another and they see that they’re not by themselves. They end up teaching each other, and we just provide some friendly expertise along the way.”

At the start of each class, Miguel and Natasha ask the participants if there are any topics they would like to discuss, compiling a list of subjects to touch upon as the class progresses. The students then use a road map, which looks like a giant board game, for the remainder of the class. The road map provides several games like ‘Fact or Myth’ as well as a variety of discussion topics allowing the participants to engage in healthy conversation regarding nutrition, insulin, medication, types of diabetes as well as their daily successes and struggles as they work their way through the map. 

“The reason why this is in a real colorful format is to give people some talking points,” Miguel explains. “We’re talking about living your life better and we treat it like a road map. That’s why it has the road and multiple stops where we talk about certain topics, later on when we get into nutrition, we’ll talk about places where you can eat, getting fast food and where to find more nutritious foods. We talk about things that happen in real life and the decision process of how to keep ourselves safe. We’re trying to get good information out to people so they’re more empowered and they can make better decisions about how they’re going to live their lives.”

The Finding Your Way with Diabetes class provides an opportunity for local diabetics and their families to find a sense of community. The first class was an intimate gathering where three individuals became acquainted and shared their personal journey. Community member Jim Dunham and Tulalip tribal member Marvin Jones, who both have type 2 diabetes, welcomed newcomer Daniel Charlie to the group. Daniel shared his history, explaining how he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few short years ago. He nearly lost his life due to a rough bout of pancreatitis that put him into a hospital for ten months, in which he was in a coma for over four of those months. Jim and Marvin were both flabbergasted as he described his story. They commended him for fighting for his life and also encouraged him to keep pushing forward, advising him to take it one day at time while also extending their support as he continues living with diabetes. By the end of the class Daniel was embraced with hugs and personal discussion from both the participants and the instructors.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Miguel states. “To provide something that’s more like a self-help group than just telling them information and giving them papers, saying here read this. We want to let people know that they’re welcome, that they have something to share. This is not something that anybody needs to feel bad about, ashamed or guilty about. It’s something that happens and there are certain ways we need to act or skills we need to develop to take care of it. I hope people will read this article and want to be a part of this or if they know someone with diabetes and want to learn more about it, to get their family member here so we can help them have a better life.”

Finding Your Way with Diabetes is hosted at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic every Thursday in March from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. The Diabetes Care and Prevention program has an eventful year planned for the community, including several garden days at the clinic and cooking classes with Britt Reed, as well as a new class, Seven Skills to Live with Diabetes, where they will go into further detail about diabetes management. 

If you or a loved one is living with diabetes, Miguel and Natasha encourage you to drop by the Diabetes Care and Prevention program at the clinic so they can answer any questions, provide you with resources and set you up with a personalized plan to help manage your diabetes. For further information, please contact the Diabetes program at (360) 716-5642.

Community learns traditional Coast Salish art during weekly ‘Honor Our Culture’ Night

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The people of Tulalip have a strong connection to their artwork. A walk through one of their many establishments, whether it be the Tulalip Resort Casino, the Hibulb Cultural Center or the Tulalip Administration building, you are sure to be blown away by the Coast Salish masterpieces that are proudly on display. Such art includes masks, story poles, drums, and art prints, all of which depict stories about the rich history and traditional lifeways of the Tulalip people. 

Recently, the Don Hatch Youth Center began incorporating more artwork throughout their hallways. Upon entry to the center, you are now greeted by a totem pole that stands at the center of the lobby, and if by chance you glance up, you will notice traditional paintings of a variety of animals lining the ceiling. If you’re lucky enough to find some free time around 5:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, you can learn how to create traditional Salish art at the youth center by attending their weekly Honor Our Culture Night. 

Lushootseed language instructor, Celum Hatch discusses the three shapes that comprise most of the art of the Pacific Northwest tribes; the circle, the crescent and the trigon.

On the evening of February 26, a group of fifteen young adults rushed up to the second floor of the youth center. As the kids settled in and found their seats, they were given blank sheets of paper and pencils to practice three shapes that comprise most, if not all, art of the Pacific Northwest tribes; the circle, the crescent and the trigon. As the students worked on the shapes, Lushootseed Language Instructor Celum Hatch shared the Tulalip story, The Bear and the Ant, incorporating the traditional language into the lesson plan. After drawing a few designs and listening Celum’s story, several kids left the room to participate in other activities at the center while a handful of students stayed behind to perfect their artwork. 

“This was my first time coming to Culture Night,” expressed young participant, Susan O’Day. “We drew animals and shapes today. I drew an owl with lots of detail using the crescent, circle and trigons. I want to come to more Culture Nights because I had a lot of fun learning about the art.”

Honor Our Culture Night focuses on the vast elements of Coast Salish art while simultaneously explaining the history of each project. Currently, Culture Night is in the middle of a three-part drawing series that was actually inspired by the youth who requested the class in order to explore their heritage. 

Susan O’Day working on her design.

“It’s a program that brings the community together, people of all ages from youth to elders,” explains Youth Services Activity Specialist, Rachel Steeve. “We do different activities; we’ve done a few drum making classes where we also painted them, we’ve done cedar weaving, beadwork like necklaces and we did moccasins last year. I ask the community what they want to do and I’m always surprised by the answers, it’s always something different. I didn’t realize there were so many cultural activities and crafts. A lot of times people are making their art for the first time. And with our traditions and our teachings, your first project is the one you put the most love and work into and then you gift it away. It’s nice to see their relatives wearing and showing it off, being so proud of that work.”

For the past three years, the night of traditional art has been organized by Rachel who watched the class evolve since it originally debuted in 2013. Not only has participation grown from the youth within the center, word has spread throughout the community and adults and elders now often frequent the upstairs classroom to learn more about the artwork. Many students are also young Tulalip tribal members who live off the reservation as well as Wellness Court participants who are fulfilling their cultural hours required by the court. 

“My absolute favorite thing I get to see is the elder and youth classes,” says Rachel. “We do specific activities for the elders and youth, like our past drum making class. It’s nice to see them together. The kids just listen, they slow down for a minute and take in everything the elders have to say. I’m always surprised by the people who are interested in the classes, those who we don’t necessarily get a chance to see at the cultural events here, they come and are so enthusiastic and want to learn. Or, they already know and they want to help and assist others. I think it gives them a sense of happiness and pride of their knowledge, that they’re able to pass that down to other people.”

Loretta Frye has fun learning about Pacific Northwest art styles.

The students get to keep their finished projects which in turn can lead to further cultural enrichment, allowing the artists to use their work at traditional ceremonies. For instance, past Culture Night participants have used their handmade drums at local events including several coastal jams and drum circles. Rachel states that seeing the art being used in the community, as it was originally intended centuries ago, is a great way to connect the future generations with their ancestors. 

“Our goal for the spring is to get a regalia class going so we can make regalia for the Salmon Ceremony and Canoe Journey. We have a drum class here every Friday and they just jam out, a group of boys come every week. We’ve also had a couple drums that we made and donated to the Native liaisons at the schools. At MMS (Marysville Middle School), Saundra Yon-Wagner, the Youth Services Native Liaison, has two drums that we made during these classes and the kids fight over who gets to use them every day, because during lunch they have a daily drum session. It’s nice to see that they’re actually being used enthusiastically.”

 Ask any Coast Salish artist, carver or storyteller, there is a great deal of spiritual work that goes into constructing these projects. Youth Services wants to continue to produce items where the people can experience that medicine and continue to pass down that knowledge generation after generation. 

“There’s a lot of importance in carrying on these cultural activities,” Rachel states. “As years go on, we get busy and we either forget or push back our teachings. Our community needs programs like these because whether it’s a community or personal issue, everybody needs a little healing and working with your hands is healing. I want to extend our hands out from Youth Services and welcome and invite everyone. I ask that people invite their family, don’t just come yourself. Bring your cousin, your uncle, your auntie and bring an elder who doesn’t have the means to get down here or needs a little extra company.”

Honor Our Culture Night is held every Tuesday at the Don Hatch Youth Center from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information, please contact the Youth Center at (360) 716-4909.