TELA students learn Tulalip traditions from local tribal youth

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ball Is Life: Empowering and creating lasting impact through basketball

Gary Payton with Native  youth during basketball camp.Photo/Micheal Rios
Gary Payton with Native youth during basketball camp.
Photo/Micheal Rios


by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On Saturday, September 19, the Tulalip Youth Center hosted Gary Payton’s youth basketball camp. Targeting basketball players in the 5-12 and 13-18 age range, the camp offered skill development under the supervision of the Seattle SuperSonics Hall of Famer and legend, “The Glove”. Presented in partnership with RISE ABOVE, Elite Youth Camps and the Tulalip Tribes, the basketball camp marked the launch of a new movement to empower and create resilience in future leaders in Indian Country using sports as a modality.

RISE ABOVE was founded by Jaci McCormack, an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe, to empower Native youth to live a healthy lifestyle and provide awareness, prevention and character enrichment using the sport of basketball as a platform. The purpose is to connect with the urban Native youth on a level that they can relate to and understand in order to create a lasting impact on their lives.

“I have worked with some extremely talented and passionate people who helped develop the Native youth initiative: RISE ABOVE,” explains McCormack. “Although the vehicle to attract youth is basketball, we are dedicated to empower youth through education and prevention. RISE ABOVE basketball, RISE ABOVE your circumstance to live your best life each day. Along with our message, we are excited to bring the star sizzle to tribal communities, while creating more local heroes for our youth.”


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


Elite Youth Camps organizes camps, clinics, tournaments and non-profit community events for professional athletes and their respective teams. In our case the professional athlete was Hall of Famer Gary Payton and his team of 100+ Tulalip youth who were registered for basketball camp.  With the assistance of Payton, Elite Youth Camps taught our youth the importance of hard work, teamwork, discipline and self-respect. Their focus was to provide the young Tulalip athletes of all skill levels with the instructions and training that have made some of the NBA’s brightest stars elite on and off the court.

“This organization was developed from its love for education, athletics, and philanthropy,” says David Hudson, affectionately known as Coach Dave by his campers, and owner of Elite Youth Camps. “We emphasize that sports are similar to life; what you put in, you get in return.”

Coach Dave uses his immense background in basketball, as well as his relationships with professional athletes to plan and execute the best camps around. He graduated from Rainier Beach High School in Seattle before playing college ball at the University of Washington. When his playing career concluded he decided to combine his love for basketball and his passion for helping the youth and made Elite Youth Camps a reality.

As an urban youth just wanting to play basketball, Coach Dave remembers attending Gary Payton’s youth basketball camp as a child and the lasting effect Payton’s camp left with him.

“He was my favorite player growing up. I do what I do because of my experiences at his camp.” says Coach Dave. “I try to do for kids what camp did for me: spark an interest and just teach work ethics, discipline and all the skills you’ve got to have in life no matter what you want to do. Even if you are a doctor or a librarian, you have to know when to be quiet, know to project yourself when you speak, and work hard at whatever you do. We want to teach life lessons that are bigger than basketball.”


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


Though Coach Dave primarily leads the basketball drills with help from his assistance coaches, “The Glove” is ever-present with campers who get plenty of opportunities for autographs and pictures with the nine-time NBA All-Star.

The camp started at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning and continued until 4:00 p.m. The camp was broken up into two 3-hour sessions. The early session was all about basic basketball fundamentals and technique on the individual level, while the afternoon session focused on group drills emphasizing sportsmanship and teamwork.

In between sessions the 100 or so Tulalip campers had a 1-hour break to enjoy their catered lunch provided by Youth Services. During the lunch hour, camp coaches and volunteers were able to explain and pass-out a wellness survey to the kids. The survey, consisting of questions regarding drugs, alcohol, bullying and self-awareness, will be used as a barometer to get a general feel for the wellness of the Tulalip youth. Results of the surveys will be compiled and processed by RISE ABOVE before being passed on to our own Youth Services department.

Also, during the lunch break it came to the attention of the syəcəb that there was a handful of Native youth who made quite a journey to Tulalip to participate in the camp and meet Gary Payton. A family with three eager young basketball players came from the Confederated Tribe of the Colville Reservation, while another family, the Vanderburgs, journeyed all the way from the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) of the Flathead Reservation, located in northwest Montana. The Vanderburgs held a frybread and chili dog fundraiser at their local community center in order to pay for their kids’ entry fees and travel expenses for the Tulalip basketball camp.


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios



Proud mother Chelsi Vanderbug said, “It was a lot of work to get my son and daughter here, but I knew it would pay off. All the staff and coaches of this camp are people who really care about the youth. They had very good speeches about their journeys in life and provided lots of motivation on the importance of education and making good choices. Gary Payton was all about getting the right message to the youth about how they are our future. I was very impressed. My kids truly enjoyed this camp and opportunity to attend.”

Concluding the camp, each coach shared heart felt words with the kids and thanked them all for allowing the coaches the opportunity to work with them. The last to speak was the icon Mr. Gary Payton.

“It’s been a pleasure for me to be here today. This gave me the experience to go back home and be able to say that I worked with a group of kids who love the game of basketball, but who love themselves even more. I love and admire each and every one of you. I hope that when I come back, all of you who are here today will be able to tell me your goals in life and plans to achieve them. Everything will not always go your way. There will be both losses and wins, like with basketball, but if you give everything your best shot and learn the lessons along the way, you will come out a winner.”


Photo/Micheal Rios

WNBA all-star Shoni Schimmel returns to sellout crowd

Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On Saturday, July 18, Seattle’s KeyArena was home to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm second annual ‘Native American Heritage Night’, as the Storm hosted the Atlanta Dream and their Native all-star guard Shoni Schimmel. For the second straight year, KeyArena reported a sellout crowd of 9,686 fans against the Atlanta Dream thanks in large part to the growing popularity of Schimmel to urban tribal youth. The sellout crowd was made up primarily of Native American tribes from all over the Pacific Northwest who journeyed to Seattle to root for Schimmel. In fact, every time Shoni “Sho-Time” Schimmel came into the game or had her name announced, the crowd went wild with excitement and joy.

Schimmel, a 5-foot-9 guard, is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and was raised on the reservation just outside Pendleton, Oregon. Many fans in the building wore her image on t-shirts and waved homemade signs celebrating Schimmel. The fan base even helped vote her to next week’s All-Star Game as a starter, but Schimmel is far from the player who last year became the first rookie to win the game’s MVP honor.

Schimmel’s popularity among Native Americans has made her one of the more recognizable names in the WNBA, and nowhere is her popularity on greater display than in her annual trip to Seattle. Fans from as far away as the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana made the journey to Seattle just to watch her play.


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios

Prior to the game, Schimmel spoke on the tremendous outpouring of support she receives on the west coast.

“It’s a bunch of support out there, especially in Seattle. There’s a lot of people coming out there because it’s the closest to home I get to play. My whole family has traveled to Seattle to watch me play, it’s going to be special for me.”

The Tulalip Youth Services department seized the opportunity of ‘Native American Heritage Night’ to provide a fun and exciting activity for our tribal youth. Over one hundred tickets were purchased and given to youth who showed on Saturday afternoon at the Don Hatch Teen Center, where they were then transported via shuttle bus to Seattle’s Key Arena.

According to Shawn Sanchey, Youth Services Activity Specialist, the youth were abuzz all week about the chance to see Shoni play in person.

“The kids all know who Shoni is and the excitement was building all week leading up to the game. A lot of it has to do with her being Native and growing up on a reservation. It helps a lot for the kids to see someone with a similar background succeed on the professional level, she inspires them. They really like her and look up to her,” said Sanchey.


Photo/Micheal Rios
Photo/Micheal Rios


The Storm got off to a scorching start, outscoring the Dream 27-16 in the first quarter. By halftime, the Storm had torched the befuddled Dream for 48 first-half points and took a 48-33 lead to the locker room. All those Shoni fans in attendance were given a very lackluster 1st half performance, as she hadn’t even attempted a field goal.

In keeping with the Native theme of the night, the Storm provided a half-time entertainment consisting of pow-wow dancers and drummers from the Chief Seattle Club, Young Society, and Northwest Tribal Dancers.

After Seattle went ahead by 19 points to start the 4th quarter, Schimmel, who had been held scoreless to that point, finally got in rhythm and displayed why she’s called “Sho-Time”. She recorded all eight of points, two of her three rebounds, and one monstrous block that sent the crowd into a short frenzy during the final quarter. The biggest cheer was when she hit her first 3-pointer with 3:59 left in the game. Her late game efforts come up short though, as the Storm would go onto claim victory after scoring a season high 86 points.

Following the game, many of the fans who came to see Shoni remained in their seats after it was announced she would be addressing the crowd and signing autographs. In her post-game interview, Schimmel took to the mic to talk to the all-Native crowd and thanked them for their support. She was asked about the hundreds of young Native American girls in the stand who idolize her and what message she wanted to send to them.

“I never thought I would be in the WNBA, but here I am. Follow your dreams! Look at me now, this little Native girl from Oregon playing professional basketball.”

Photo/Micheal Rios


Contact Micheal Rios,


New backpacks, fresh supplies

BackpackDist2014 from Tulalip News on Vimeo.

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – The annual Tulalip Tribes Youth Services backpack distribution kicked off the farewell to summer as hundreds of Tulalip youth attended a block party held on Tuesday, August 26, at the Don Hatch Jr. Youth Center.

The annual event, held at the Quil Ceda & Tulalip Elementary School in the past, was held for the first time at the youth center, which accommodated space for a large lunch, education booths, backpack distribution, and the highlight of the event: games and carnival-like activities.

Tulalip tribal youth and other Native youth, Pre-K through 12th grade enrolled in the Marysville School District, were provided a backpack filled with basic school supplies required by grade, which helps to lessen the back-to-school cost experienced by parents.

Tulalip Tribes Youth Services distributed over 1,400 backpacks during the event. Youth not present at the block party to receive a backpack may contact the Youth Services Department at 360-716-4902 to collect their backpack.


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;


Girls Group boosts teens self-esteem

Tatiana Bumgarner is joined by younger sister Priscilla as they show off their summer scrapbook full of photos they have taken during the groups field trips. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Tatiana Bumgarner is joined by younger sister Priscilla as they show off their summer scrapbook full of photos they have taken during the groups field trips.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – Native teen girls, age 14-17, have been busy this summer at the Tulalip Family Haven’s Girl Group building pride in their accomplishments as well as building self-esteem.

The group provides teen girls the support they need to become the most successful person they can be. Using the “Canoe Journey, Life’s Journey” curriculum guide by June LaMarr and G. Alan Marlatt, the young women are taught to make choices that promote positive actions and learn to avoid the hazards of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.

Fifteen-year-old Jaylin Rivera plans to be a teacher and one day serve on the Tulalip Council. She says the girls group has been instrumental in helping her prepare for college and enjoys the mentoring and support from staff. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Fifteen-year-old Jaylin Rivera plans to be a teacher and one day serve on the Tulalip Council. She says the girls group has been instrumental in helping her prepare for college and enjoys the mentoring and support from staff.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

To promote positive experiences, the group has participated in a whirlwind of summer activities that have included a rope course to teach overcoming one’s fears and learning to trust, a tour of the University of Washington campus to learn college preparation, a chance to watch basketball star Shoni Shimmel at a Storm’s Game played in Seattle –a reward for good group attendance and a visit to listen the Seattle Pixar Symphony, among others.

“Our mission is to help girls experience and learn life skills to help them through their teen years. We want to build positive memories and confidence so they can be successful in their goals,” said Sasha Smith, Girls Group lead youth advocate.

Girls Group is held Tuesday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Tulalip Family Haven building across from the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club. Transportation is available. For more information about the Girls Group, please contact them at 360-716-4404.


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;


Youth become government employees though summer program

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Fifteen-year-old Tulalip tribal member Demery Johnson, in her second year participating in the Tulalip Tribes Youth Employment Program, says her position in Tulalip Probation is helping her gain work skills she hopes to use in business administration one day. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Fifteen-year-old Tulalip tribal member Demery Johnson, in her second year participating in the Tulalip Tribes Youth Employment Program, says her position in Tulalip Probation is helping her gain work skills she hopes to use in business administration one day.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – Each year Tulalip youth, 14 -18 years old, have a chance to gain work experience before graduation through the Tulalip Tribes Youth Employment Program. The program, funded by the Tulalip Tribes Youth Services Department, is designed to provide Native youth with a positive work experience to foster future growth.

This year funding was available originally for 70 positions with a stipulation that youth applying attend a three-day orientation and meet a 2.0 GPA standard. After receiving additional funding allocated by the Tulalip Board of Directors, the GPA restriction was removed and 30 additional positions added. The program, at the time of this article, had 75 youth employed.
“The most important role of this program in the community is that we are showing our youth that work and dedication is important. Starting work at a young age is a good thing, then they they turn 18, they are more prepared to get a job and be successful employees,” said Jessica Bustad, Tulalip Youth Services Education Coordinator.
The goal of the program she says “is to have youth gain skills, confidence and knowledge that they can use to obtain a full time job in the future.” This essentially puts youth who participate in the program ahead of their peers when applying for future jobs. These youth will have already established critical job skills that ensure success, such as abiding by professional standards, keeping confidentiality, and time management.
In fact, the Tribe has hired youth who have participated in the program said Bustad, due to the youth’s excellent work while in the program. “There have been several throughout the years and it is an awesome thing to see. Two years ago we had an 18-year-old start the Youth Employment Program and resign from it because she applied and received a regular position with the department she was assigned to.”
Youth are treated like regular employees, which means they are required to work a typical 40-hour workweek, a task that may seem daunting for those who are suddenly required to conduct themselves in a professional manner in a government setting, such as the Tulalip Tribes. However, many youth relish in the opportunity to be responsible. Demery Johnson is one of them.

Despite being only 15, and in her second year working in the program, she chose to work in the Tulalip Tribes Probation Department at the Tulalip Tribal Court, a position that requires strict confidentiality and professionalism.
“I chose this department because I wanted to get a more business feel,” said Johnson who worked last year at the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club and plans to open her own bakery one day. “I wanted to be able to put on my resume that I have worked in a professional environment. I have learned how probation works and how the court operates.”
Although a court house and a probation department may seem like high-risk positions to have youth work, Bustad explains the Tribe’s youth services education staff decide job placements based on surveys youth fill out that ask questions such as what their interests are.
“We provide the youth with a survey and look at what requests we have for youth. We try to place youth where they will be successful and interested. This can also be a challenge if we do not receive youth worker requests from departments that youth wish to work at,” said Bustad.
“This program helps in many different ways,” said Bustad. “Supervisors and co-workers provide youth with training and other learning opportunities within the departments. This program is teaching them good work ethics and how to communicate properly with others in the workforce.”
“This program benefits me and other youth in a way that we can actually experience what the real world is like and be put into real world situations and actually experience them with a little bit of training wheels instead of just being put into them without any guidance,” said Johnson, whose job duties include office tasks, such as answering phones, greeting clients, taking messages, and filing and data input. Her position in probation teaches her how court cases are processed and how to interact with clients in addition to how a probation department supervises clients during criminal proceedings
“What I like most about the probation department is that I am not treated like a child. I am treated like an equal. I thought it would be boring but what surprised me was going into court and seeing how it works. I am glad to be here and gain this experience. I would encourage everyone to participate,” said Johnson.“The GPA requirement wasn’t a problem for me. A 2.0 is a C-, and having a GPA requirement is a good thing. Last year there were many kids who didn’t want to work, and this is actually achieving a goal. They are hanging a paycheck in front of you saying you have to be able to at least get this, and it is doable. I think that it is a great thing to do. Just like making them take a drug test, which is perfectly normal, it is what you would do in the real world. It shows you that you have to actually work to get stuff in the real world. I don’t see what would hold anybody back. Other than amusement parks, I would be just sitting at home. There is nothing to lose, you get paid and you get experience.”


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;



iheart Go! hosts block party at Tulalip Boys & Girls Club

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
TULALIP – The Grove Church in Marysville hosted a block party for the youth at Tulalip Boys & Girls Club as part of their iheart Go! kids campaign on Friday, August 8. The campaign is designed as a local summer mission trip that aims to connect church youth with their communities in positive ways, such as giving back to their communities.
The group, comprised of volunteer youth in grades fourth through eighth in the Marysville area, and church staff, are spent the week of August 5-9 reaching out to the Marysville/Tulalip youth through fun block parties that feature, games, bouncy houses, face painting and crafts.
The Tulalip Boys & Girls Club is one of five locations that iheart Go! youth, known for their identical bright neon green t-shirts, reached out to.
“It’s wonderful what you [Tulalip] dofor the kids at the Boys & Girls Club and the Grove Church is excited to be a part of this learning partnership. I love outreach and I love working with kids,” said Patty Thometz, Children’s Pastor at the Grove Church in an earlier interview with Tulalip News. “We couldn’t ask for a better day, the weather was gorgeous and we are so happy to be here. I think the kids are enjoying themselves.”