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.

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. 

Young Men’s Team Outreach celebrates an end with a new beginning

Outreach Worker, Cody Monger (right), enjoys a good time, reminiscing with client Darrian 
Solomon (left), at the Young Men’s Team Outreach celebration bbq.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On the evening of June 26, a small gathering occurred behind the Tulalip beda?chelh building. Laughter filled the air as people visited with one another in celebration of achievement in honor of the Family Haven program, Young Men’s Team Outreach. In the middle of the mix was Outreach Worker, Cody Monger, fondly reminiscing with his young clients about their successes over the past few years.

“We’re celebrating the end of our mental health grant from the North Sound BHO (Behavioral Health Organization),” said Cody. “It was a good three-and-a-half-year experience. It was a great grant that opened up a lot of doors for me to explore, to be a part of and help out our community.”

The outreach program was designed to provide support to Tulalip youth, helping teens who are facing hard times accomplish their goals and get life back on track. Through Cody’s guidance, the young men learned how to set, prioritize and accomplish both short and long term goals and were also provided assistance with recovery, physical and mental health, legal issues, obtaining a driver’s license, money management and resumes. The program also assists adolescents by promoting academics, helping dropout students re-enroll into school in order to obtain their high school diploma or GED, as well as providing a space to study every Wednesday. 

Cody meets one-on-one with each of the young men on a weekly-basis, allowing them the chance to vocalize any current difficulties they are experiencing as well as celebrate any new victories. He also meets with his clients where they are most comfortable, whether it’s at the Family Haven office, home, school, a coffee shop or a restaurant. And due to the success of the young men’s outreach program, Family Haven recently established a Team Outreach for the young ladies of the community. 

“Before the program, I noticed there was a lot of kids who were not being helped,” expressed Cody. “I wanted to try to make a difference in the community by helping them out in any way that I could. Now I work with the young guys, the ones who are suicidal, not connected with school or in need of services. I meet with them individually three to four times a week and also take after hour calls or texts.”

Perhaps it’s because of his young age, his sound advice or his intentions, whatever it may be, Cody has received a great response from the young Tulalip men who confide in him on a regular basis. Thanks to the funding from the North Sound BHO, the program assisted upwards of forty young men during the grant’s three-year period. This year alone, Cody managed a large caseload of about twelve clients while also keeping in contact with approximately ten more young adults, routinely checking in to make sure they are doing okay. 

One client, Darrian Solomon, expressed his gratitude for the program during the event stating, “This program and Cody helped me out a lot. He’s been a reliable friend; somebody I can always talk to. He’s really helped me get through a lot.”

As one door closes, another one opens as recently the Tulalip Tribes announced they would take over the funding for the Young Men’s Team Outreach program. The transition from a grant to hard dollars allows Cody to work with larger caseloads and broader age groups as well as plan more activities and events, one idea being a weekly father’s group meet up.

“We’re really thankful that the Tribe picked this program up because otherwise it would go away,” stated Alison Bowen, Family Haven Program Manager. “Some of the things and the growth that these young guys have gone through has been really amazing to witness. Ranging from getting back into school, getting jobs, getting connected with the community and culture, it was a group of individuals who weren’t really involved with anything before and it’s exciting that this is going to continue for them.”

 “It’s important for our kids to know that there is somebody out there willing to go above and beyond for them, to help them through their darkest times,” said Cody. “I know sometimes it’s hard to reach out to ask for that peer support, or help in general. It’s a good feeling for them, knowing that there are people who are genuinely looking out for what’s best for them and their future.”

For more information, please contact Tulalip Family Haven at (360) 716-4402.

Sea of red raises visibility on missing and murdered Indigenous women

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“It is an honor to be here today. We raise our hands to the Tulalip Nation for welcoming us,” said Earth-Feather Sovereign (Colville Confederated Tribes). “We are here in honor of our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and all missing and murdered people, including two-spirits. We are here to bring community together and to hold a space for healing and awareness.”

Earth-Feather’s opening remarks struck a chord in every one of the nearly two-hundred Tulalip citizens and community members who gathered at Greg Williams Court on May 10th for an evening of unified support. The vast majority of supporters wore red to symbolize the violent dangers faced by many throughout Indian Country. Numerous reports detail the severity in which Native American women face a disproportionate amount of violence, and the degree to which victims’ cries are silenced, when compared to others in the United States.

The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing Indigenous women and girls, though the U.S. Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database only logged 116 cases. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported murder is the third-leading cause of death among Native American women between the ages of 10 and 24, and rates of violence on reservations can be up to ten times higher than the national average.

The Tulalip Tribes hosted the sixth stop of an eight city journey from Olympia to Blaine, organized by Earth-Feather and the MMIW Washington group to further awareness for all missing and murdered Indigenous people. Supporters of the cause were greeted at Greg Williams Court and given a red t-shirt that read ‘Prayer Walk 2019’ along with a special cedar rose wrapped in red ribbon to commemorate the occasion. 

After a welcoming, prayer, and drum circle set the mood, the large contingent of red-wearing community members began their march through Tulalip. Led by the Sacred Riders, the crowd resembled a sea of red as they walked from Tulalip Bay to the Battle Creek neighborhood. 

“Our Sacred Riders motorcycle club was honored to be here today and support this important cause,” explained Tony Hatch. “The organizers welcomed us and our motorcycles because it draws more attention to the march itself, and we’re able to lead the way by keeping the road clear for the marchers and their prayers.”

During the march, many prayers were offered for anyone in need, songs were sang to keep spirits uplifted and tobacco was dropped to honor spirit helpers. It was a powerful demonstration made possible only through a strong sense of purpose and shared mission. 

“This march means raising awareness for our Native women. The ones who have been murdered or gone missing,” shared Winona Shopbell-Fryberg as she walked alongside her father and daughters. “I was taught how sacred our Native women are, that we are the life givers of our people. When these things happen to our women, along with the domestic violence, it’s very disrupting to our way of life.”

  “There’s a lot of us doing our work in our own lives, but we don’t often come together,” added Bibianna Ancheta while taking in the moment. “We’ve been trying and trying to unify our people. This has been a long time coming, a good opportunity for our people to come together.”

Deep, rhythmic drumbeats from the march could be heard all around the bay. Many people stood outside their houses to take in the scene, while others felt the calling to join in. The distinctive sound acted like a locator beacon for those drawn to the drum, like Monie Ordonia who hopped in her car and followed the sound to the march. 

“I was in my bedroom and heard loud drums. I wondered what was going on, so I jumped into my car and drove down Marine until I saw all the red,” she described.

The march continued to the Battle Creek park, where the group formed a large prayer circle and dropped more tobacco, before heading back to Greg Williams Court. Earth-Feather greeted every single participant as they entered the gym with a handshake and thank you. 

Back at the gym, a delicious dinner was served followed by a coastal jam. 

“It’s amazing that as a community we’re coming together to embrace one another, to support a movement and help bring a spotlight to an issue that for far too long has only received a blind eye,” said Jade Carela, Legacy of Healing Director. Jade and Josh Fryberg, on behalf of the Tribe, presented MMIW Washington with a donation to help further their cause as the group makes their way to the international Peace Arch situated near the Canadian border.

“We’ve really enjoyed the Tulalip hospitality and felt so much love today with our march,” reflected Earth-Feather at the event’s conclusion. “This isn’t something that only happens in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a pandemic happening to all our Indigenous people across Turtle Island. Bringing prayers and resolutions to the issue, while raising continued awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women, creates protection now and for generations to come.”

Bringing Culture to the Classroom

Tiyanna Bueno, a second grade student at Immaculate Conception Catholic School teaches her 
classmates about traditional Native American culture and cedar weaving with the help of Tulalip
educators, Malory Simpson and Maria Martin.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

During a recent in-class lesson, 2nd grader Tiyanna Bueno sat at her desk inside Immaculate Conception Catholic School reading about a Native American rug weaver from New Mexico. Suddenly, inspiration struck the 8-year-old Tulalip tribal member and she yelled out excitedly, “My mom is a weaver! She weaves with cedar.”

A dash of persuading here, some finagling there, and Tiyanna had whipped up an hour-long session for her mother Malory Simpson and Lushootseed language teacher Maria Martin to be guest presenters in her Everett classroom. The idea was to teach the 2nd grade class about local Native American culture while giving a cedar weaving lesson in the process. Fancy that: actual Tulalip culture taught by actual Tulalip educators. 

“We want our Native kids from Tulalip to feel like they are represented as an important part of our school,” explained 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Hegg. “Our school’s values are enhanced by promoting the cultures of our students. It’s vibrant, it’s beautiful and goes well with our shared teaching to be good stewards of the Earth.”

1st grade teacher Mrs. Weatherbie gets cedar weaving instruction from Tiyanna.

So on a Friday afternoon in early May, Tiyanna, wearing a traditional cedar hat, beamed with pride as she introduced her fellow students to their special guest presenters. Malory and Maria brought in a treasure trove of cedar along with their life-long experiences from being Tulalip citizens.

“We come from the Tulalip Tribes, live on the Tulalip Reservation, and wanted to talk to you all about cedar and what it means to our culture,” said Miss Maria. “I’ll be reading the story Her First Basket. If you listen carefully, you’ll come away with a few lessons that are meaningful to us.”

Coast Salish tribes believe the Creator gave their people 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, clothes, baskets and carvings in addition to having medicinal and spiritual purposes. The highly sought after golden inner bark is 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, along with many others, and passed down to the next generation. While Malory and Maria shared their stories and personal experiences through cedar teachings to the attentive group of youngsters, an ecstatic Tiyanna embodied the spirit of her ancestors by not being afraid to express herself culturally and modelling a variety of cedar creations.

  Traditional knowledge was shared and memories made, especially when the trio of Tulalip culture bearers gave a hands-on lesson via cedar rose making. They not only received 100% participation from the students during the activity, but after explaining its tradition to give away your first creation, the 2nd graders quickly got to work making a second and, in some cases, even a third cedar rose.

“[Cedar] smells like nature’s perfume,” described one eloquent kiddo. While another quick learner insisted, “Cedar roses are better than real flowers because those die. These ones will live for 1,000 years!” 

A definite highlight was when the students asked how to say ‘cedar’ and ‘thank you’ in Lushootseed. After getting the pronunciations down, they were heard using their learned Lushootseed over and over again amongst each other. 

“It felt so good to be able to share a piece of our culture,” said Miss Malory, Native Education Advocate. “It makes my heart happy to see the students being so welcoming and eager to learn about another culture. Tiyanna is such a free spirit and takes pride in being open to share about herself, her family and our culture.”

Reflecting on an afternoon she got to bring her Native American lifeway into the classroom, 8-year-old Tiyanna shared, “My favorite part was showing off the cedar hats, cedar headbands, and a cedar heart. I liked showing these things to my class because they remind me of my home in Tulalip.”

Mrs. Hegg’s 2nd grade kids received hands-on teachings with cedar weaving, learned how to say ‘cedar’ and ‘thank you’ in Lushootseed, and, most importantly, learned about a local Native culture not from a textbook, but by living, breathing Tulalip educators. 

Save the Date! Annual Community Wellness Conference is May 14-15

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

For its seventh consecutive year, the popular Community Wellness Conference returns to the Tulalip Resort Casino once again on May 14 and May 15. Sponsored by the Tulalip Tribes Problem Gambling Program, the two-day event invites local citizens to focus on their healing journey by providing them with tools, education and resources on how to improve overall health and wellbeing through a number of interactive workshops, professional panel discussions and community talking circles. 

Approximately 200 participants attended each day of the conference in previous years, and Problem Gambling is anticipating about the same number of attendees this year. Both the Tulalip Tribes and the Marysville School District agree that self-care is of the utmost importance, especially in today’s social media led society. For this reason, the school district is allowing their students the opportunity to attend the Wellness Conference during the school day; middle school students on the first day and high schoolers on the second day. Tribal government employees are also often allotted two-hours of paid administration leave to participate in the workshops, upon supervisor approval. 

“What to expect from this year’s Wellness Conference is a great gathering for the community and also for the youth,” says Community Wellness Conference Emcee and Youth Education Advocate, Deyamonta Diaz. “There’s middle and high school days where the students get a chance to be exposed to some great keynote speakers and also some helpful educational workshops that will teach them a lot of things that maybe are too hard to talk about, as far as wellness or self-care, as well as other issues we face in the community. The theme is ‘champions for life’ so it’s a positive message, something that can go a lot farther than just the conference.” 

Each workshop presenter knows about the issues we face in Native America, and specifically in Tulalip, as the conference is a collaborative effort with local departments such as the Child Advocacy Center, Family Haven, Youth Services, the Education Department and Family Services. The conference aims to equip those carrying emotional, spiritual and mental baggage with the tools of how to get through their toughest days and several resources for when they’re in need of a helping hand or an ear to listen. 

Since we are living in a new era, many youths now deal with cyber-bullying, stalking and harassment on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. The Child Advocacy Center is debuting a workshop during the Wellness Conference addressing these issues and teaching the community about the dangers occurring on social media sites. 

“I’m doing a social media health and safety workshop,” says Child Advocate and Wellness Conference presenter, Megan Boyer. “I think it’s important for families of youth, and youth themselves, to learn about what the dangers are when online and how they can keep themselves safe and what parents can do to keep their kids safe. They are going to learn about some of the policies and laws about how law enforcement uses social media as evidence. They’ll learn to identify red flags, what bullying is, what consent is, how social media can be harmful and how it can be helpful, because education is key.”

Sarah Sense-Wilson, Problem Gambling Coordinator, briefly explains the topics the keynote speakers will be touching upon during the Community Wellness Conference.

She states, “Our keynote speaker for day one, Frank Grijalva, is going to be talking about resiliency, and health and wellness, as it relates to overcoming trauma and overcoming various barriers that are experienced within tribal communities, that interfere with individual health and wellness and thereby affects the family unit and the community as well. The idea is that there’s hopefully going to be some stronger, more in-depth awareness and understanding about trauma responses and how trauma responses negatively affect relationships. 

“Day two is Jerry Moomaw.” Sarah continues. “She’s nationally known within the movement addressing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children. We’re hoping people take away prevention strategies and also awareness and understanding about how to keep our communities safer, our women safer and our children safer. And that interweaves with all the rest of the workshops in learning about red flags and warning signs around commercial and sex trafficking.”

And the Wellness Conference committee added a special surprise for those who are fans of Native humor by adding the talents of Toni Jo Hall to the mix. Known nationwide within tribal communities, the Native American comedian will be performing at both conference days as her beloved, yet hilariously inappropriate, character Auntie Beachress. 

“In acknowledging and recognizing that much of the workshop topics are heavy and can stir and bring up trauma and negative experiences and feelings, we felt it was really important to have balance and that we also include comedy relief and have a good time with laughter.  We know that laughter is good medicine and helps us heal,” says Sarah.

Both of the conference days will end with gender specific talking circles where the attendees are welcome to open up, be vulnerable and begin their healing process without judgement. The ladies talking circle will be led by Tulalip tribal member, Deborah Parker, while the fellas circle will be guided by community elder, Jim Hillaire. 

The Problem Gambling program and the Wellness Conference committee invites everyone to the 7th annual Community Wellness Conference. The event is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14 and Wednesday, May 15, in the Orca Ballrooms of the Tulalip Resort Casino. They would also like to encourage local elders to attend the second morning of the conference (May 15) for the Tulalip Youth Council special honoring for all of the wisdom keepers in attendance. 

“We’re hoping participants take away a stronger understanding on how to support their youth,” expresses Sarah. “We’re looking at building tools, building skills, providing resources and education on some of those issues, but also aim to have fun and hopefully build stronger connections amongst each other and with the community. It’s about healing, it’s about wellness, it’s about health. We want people to walk away with a good experience that is valuable for them, that they could apply to their life. The champions for life theme really embodies that idea. We want people to leave feeling empowered and feeling that they are part of that champions for life message.”

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. 

Warm Beach to launch trauma-informed, equine therapy for Tulalip youth

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Warm Beach is well-known as the home of The Lights of Christmas, a popular holiday festival featuring dazzling light displays. Not as commonly known, however, is the fact Warm Beach has one of Snohomish County’s largest horse herds offering year-long equestrian programs. The dedicated staff of Warm Beach’s equestrian program are currently developing a trauma-informed therapy course designed specifically for Tulalip foster children. The first-of-its-kind course is anticipated to debut in September.

The inspiration for a tribal specific version of equine therapy came about after Rebecca Black (Quinault), who’s been raising two Tulalip children for four years now, participated in a parent/child camp with horses at Warm Beach. While there she couldn’t help but wonder how much more impactful the camp could be if it were designed for tribal youth and geared towards healing historical traumas.

“I grew up around horses and, being in an abusive foster care system as a young teen myself, there were literally times where the horses saved my life,” shared Rebecca, now a licensed foster care provider. “I wanted my two boys and other tribal youth to experience the healing that horses make possible. It’s so important that we intercede at a younger age because the health outcomes in our communities, especially for our kids in foster care, can really change.”

Rebecca met with Warm Beach executive staff and engaged in a series of productive meetings regarding a camp that not only establishes a working relationship with Tulalip, but also would break down barriers of opportunity for tribal youth. Months’ worth of meetings and cultural education led to an application to the Tulalip Charitable Table and a subsequent grant award to develop a prototype version of equine therapy for Tulalip foster children. 

Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman, Teri Gobin

On the morning of April 25, representatives from Warm Beach Horsemanship met with Chairwoman Teri Gobin, Board of Director Mel Sheldon, and Charitable Contributions Director Marilyn Sheldon to thank them all in culturally appropriate way for the grant funds making the innovative therapy course possible. A brief introduction of what’s to come and how the children will benefit was also detailed.

“Our intent is to use the grant to run a three day trauma-informed, therapeutic program that will cater to serving eight Tulalip children currently in foster care,” explained Lisa Tremain, Horsemanship Director at Warm Beach Camp. “Through the use of horses we’ll be doing activities both mounted and on the ground that help walk the children through various stages of their healing journey. Building relationships, trust and confidence are critical pieces to the healing process that equine therapy offers.” 

“In a therapeutic and safe environment, horses provide unique nonverbal feedback that can facilitate social, physical and cognitive skill development in people of all ages,” added Ginger Reitz, Therapeutic Horsemanship Coordinator.

Tulalip Tribes Board of Director, Mel Sheldon

Two therapeutic horses, Mirage and Cameo, wore ‘Lightening Horse’ blankets courtesy of Eighth Generation. After making their introductions with everyone in attendance, the horses’ blankets were used to wrap Board members Teri and Mel. 

“Our hands go up to you all for your good work,” stated Chairwoman Gobin. “We understand how important work like this is to help people, especially our children, heal from their own personal traumas. It’s often not easy to speak about, but it’s essential if we’re to move forward in a good way.”

Native Art Festival highlights range of imagination from emerging Tulalip artists

Taylee Warbus, 1st place – Painting. Sophomore at Lake Stevens High School. “I wanted to put something together that represented a lot of things I really care about and love. I love looking at the stars, which is represented with the night sky. I just love succulents and learning about them, so I added a lot of plants. The clock read 5:17 that represents my birthday. It’s definitely a patchwork painting with lots of colors that shows a variety of my passions.”

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Jacynta Miles, 1st place – Culture. Freshman at Heritage High School. “My paddle represents the layers of life. At the top is the sun, then Earth represented by a beach and the ocean, followed by a mermaid, and then finally the salmon. The colors are bright at the top and get darker the further down you go just like in nature.”

Hundreds of artistically inclined students strolled through the makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Center on Thursday, April 18th, for the annual Native American Student Art Festival. Accompanied by their families, friends and teachers, the student-artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed festival attendees and judges with their imaginative creations.

“The Art Festival is an opportunity for each student to express themselves in a positive way. It is the largest community event we have where we get to showcase our Native students,” explained Jessica Bustad, Positive Youth Development Manager. “It’s the pride each of the students have in their artwork, their parents and community members coming together to support our children that make this event so great.”

For more than two decades now, Marysville School District has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene created by emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the district. The Festival gives these young people an opportunity to show off their creative talents to the community, while getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st place ribbon.

Artists were able to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, plus honorable mention, in a variety of artistic mediums. Categories included culture, drawing, painting, writing, mixed media, sculpture, digital art, and pure heart. The top four from each grade and category not only received a ceremonial ribbon as recognition for their talents, but a monetary prize as well.

Peyton Gobin, 2nd place – Sculpture. Third
grader. “My inspiration was Chihuly’s art, like his glass blowing. First, I had to cut all around these plastic water bottles to make the swirly parts. Then I painted every single one a different color because if they were all the same color it wouldn’t be artistic.”

“Everyone that attends is a winner by the end of the event because they’ve helped to create unity and teamwork,” said Josh Fryberg, Youth Services Manager. “The Festival turned out amazing. From all of the families sharing a meal together to seeing the looks on each person’s face when they win a raffle to seeing all the art being showcased for all to see.”

This year’s Native Art Festival received a whopping 700+ submissions, with the most popular category being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. Taylee Warbus and Samara Davis were two such overachievers who claimed top honors in multiple categories.

Irista Reeves, 1st place – Sculpture. Ninth grader at Heritage High School. “My sculpture depicts sadness, which is the black layers, and its peeling away to show an underlying happiness, which in my case is my family. When your sad it’s important to remember who are the ones that love you and are truly there for you.”

“It was amazing to see just how talented our Native students are; the new ideas and concepts they come up with every year continue to surprise us judges,” marveled Native Advocate Doug Salinas. “Every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”

Native culture and art are often thought of us intrinsically tied together or, in the case of Savannah Black Tomahawk and Lilly Jefferson, they are sewn together. According to their mothers, neither Savannah nor Lilly had ever sewn before prior to creating traditional ribbon skirts to enter in the Festival. By putting a modern twist on a traditional concept, Savannah’s Disney princess skirt and Lilly’s metallic blue with shimmery pink ribbons both received high praise and earned an additional ribbon – 2nd place and 1st place, respectively. 

“As coordinating staff, we look at every single piece of artwork and recognize how much work each student puts in. Some art pieces show real vulnerability in the students, they are showing themselves and expressing their thoughts, feelings and dreams,” added Jessica. “It is also very gratifying when students are already coming to us with their creative ideas for next year’s Art Festival.”

If you missed out on this year’s Student Art Festival, each and every piece of authentic Native American art that received a winning ribbon will be on display at the Hibulb Cultural Center from now – May 5th.

Officer Powers receives grand send-off

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

On April 19, Officer Phillip Powers walked into the Marysville Mountain View Arts and Technology High School for his last day on duty as a School Resource Officer and his last day as a Tulalip Police Officer, until he returns to the country in 2020. As a member of the United States Army, Powers was called up to serve a yearlong deployment overseas to protect our Nation’s freedom. 

Officer Powers found a home within the Tulalip community upon graduating from the Police Academy and becoming a member in blue for the Tulalip Police Department. Shortly after, he was named the School Resource Officer for all of the schools in the Tulalip area including the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, Heritage High School and Marysville Arts and Tech, where he built strong connections with the community members, instructors and students. 

As he said his final goodbyes at each school, he was met with cheers and applause at Marysville Arts and Tech, where the students organized a surprise farewell party for the officer. A look of shock, followed by a large smile spread across his face as he made his way through the school’s cafeteria to the center stage, while the young adults honored the local hero with a well-deserved standing ovation. 

The law official was presented with a goodbye card, which all of the students signed, before a number of youth, school faculty, family, friends and fellow officers shared memories as well as expressed words of gratitude for the impact he’s had within the community. During the emotional morning assembly, nearly each speaker wiped away tears before embracing Officer Powers with a hug. The teens recalled games of gatorball and conversations about movies and pop culture. And some kids simply thanked him for acknowledging them on some of their toughest days. 

“Powers, my man I love you dude,” stated an Arts and Tech student. “I just want to thank you. I know cops get a lot of crap nowadays, but I think you changed the way that’s perceived, especially in this community. You’re fun, you know the culture, you listen to hip hop, which is lit. I think you changed the way a lot of young people think and feel about law enforcement, because we got to know you on a more personal level. I want to thank you for dedicating your life to protecting and serving our country, whether it be locally or globally. Thank you for protecting our freedom.” 

The sendoff ended with students lining up on both sides of the hallway while Officer Powers walked through, giving each student a high-five.

“I feel very appreciative,” said Officer Powers. “I try to make a positive, lasting impact on the kids as much as I can just by being genuine and bringing a caring aspect. Sometimes you don’t see the effect you have on people, some of the kids won’t ever show it. To hear some of them talk about their interactions with me in a heartfelt manner, that’s different than what I normally see on a daily basis, and it was so special.”