Native Vote is a nonpartisan campaign initiated by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). It is designed to encourage Native Americans throughout the nation to exercise their inherent right to vote. With the heightened political participation of Native people, Indian Country has become an increasingly powerful voting bloc. In recent years, the Native vote has been publicly acknowledged as making a pivotal difference in national, state, and local elections.
The ability to make such a pivotal difference is 100% reliant on you, the voter. Historically, the turnout rate of registered Native voters is 5 to 14 percentage points lower than the rate of many other racial and ethnic groups. Add in the fact that nationwide a whopping 34% of eligible Native voters are not registered to vote, according to the NCAI, and the need to empower the entire electorate to register and cast their ballot is a clear priority.
Native Vote’s admirable Rez-to-Rez tour intends to fulfill that priority in Washington State by going directly to Native voters on their reservations, speaking truth to power on issues that impact our people, while encouraging each tribal citizen to vote. The Rez-to-Rez tour visited Tulalip on Tuesday, March 3.
“I’m honored to be here with you all on Tulalip land,” said Larry Cordier (Lakota), coordinated campaign tribal organizer. “It is critical that we get together, register to vote, and let our voice be heard by casting our ballot. Your vote is guaranteed to you by the U.S. Constitution. As treaty tribes, we have joined the United States in citizenship. Our men and women have defended this country. No one has to set that table for us. We did that with our veterans.
“The chiefs negotiated those treaties and it’s our responsibility to make sure those Treaty Rights endure,” continued Larry. “In all my travels I’ve heard so many people say, ‘Why should I vote? My vote doesn’t count.’ But if all those people got out and registered, and cast their ballot, we would have this country exactly where it needs to be. We need everyone because everyone counts. So let’s mobilize and make them feel our united power.”
During the two-hour visit, engaged citizens were welcome to ask questions about candidates, register if they weren’t already, shown how to update their mailing address to insure arrival of voting documents, speak with 2020 Census representatives, and, if they were ready, cast their Washington State primary ballot.
“I saw the advertisement for this event in the Tulalip newsletter and was interested in finding out more about the presidential candidates,” shared tribal elder Joyce Alexander (Haida). “I haven’t decided who I will be voting for yet, but leaning between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
“As a Native American citizen, I’m always curious about how any politician or political candidate feels about Native Americans. [Their platform] affects us and our issues should matter to them.”
According to the U.S. Census, Native Americans have one of the youngest populations of any racial/ethnic group in the United States, with those under the age of 25 making up about 40% of the total Native population. Every four years, about half a million Native young people turn 18-years-old and become eligible to vote. This provides an opportunity to engage almost one in ten Native people as new voters.
In order to maximize the Native vote, it is critical that Native citizens become educated in the political process in order to actively participate in tribal, local, state, and national elections. It’s not only the U.S. President and Congress, but state governors and county and local elected officials who make important policy decisions that affect the everyday lives of Native peoples. Increasing the Native vote and in turn our electorate’s participation in non-tribal elections will lead to better responsiveness to the needs of tribal communities across the nation.
“One of the beautiful things about voting is it is open and accessible to everyone. And every vote matters,” explained Theresa Sheldon (Tulalip), Native American political director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). “Please know that it’s not too late for people to register to vote. There is a great online resource iWillVote.com
“Anyone can visit that site to register, check if you are registered, and/or update your mailing address. It’s so important to know that if we want to take back the white house, then we have to show up and vote. Please talk to your friends, your family and encourage them to get their ballot in. Sooner is better. Don’t wait until the last minute,” encouraged Theresa.
You are water vapor rising high up to the atmosphere. With thick moisture in the air, other vapor molecules began to attach to you and you begin to grow. It’s mid-winter and the cold temperature causes you to freeze to ice crystal form and now nearby crystals also cling to you, all while attaching to particles like dust and pollen in the air. And as this process continues, a cloud is formed around you and shortly you’ll begin your descent back to the Earth’s surface. Once you are heavy enough, it happens; you fall quickly to the ground. Your voyage is short lived, however, as you fall to the top of a mountain and now you wait once again, but this time for warm weather while more snow gathers around you.
In what seemed like a few short months, you patiently stood the test of time and, due to the damaged ozone layer, the sun heats up the Earth sooner in the year and at a much faster pace. You leave your frozen state, slowly transforming to liquid and begin a journey through nature. Traveling down the mountainside, rushing through rivers, flowing through streams, passing through culverts and even trickling through underground soil corridors, you eventually find yourself at a standstill. With no wind and not nearly enough water to form a stream, you’re left to wait again either for rain or evaporation.
A nearby farm just received the okay to utilize fertilizer and pesticide on their grounds, and unfortunately for you, they are no longer required to worry about any body of water that is located in close proximity of their agricultural business. When the rain comes, your journey will continue but this time you’ll be accompanied by new pollutants. Wherever your journey ends, whether it’s through consumption by humans, fish, bird, animal, insect or plant, those byproducts will be intertwined with you, and thereby can negatively impact the health of the consumer, and the Earth itself.
In 1972, the Clean Water Act was established to protect the waterways of the United States from harmful pollution. Since then, a political debate has taken place about the verbiage in the act, specifically the term ‘navigable waters’. The divide stems from the lack of a clear definition of which bodies of waters exactly are protected by the Clean Water Act.
Many farmers, land developers and capitalists argue that small creeks, ditches and streams shouldn’t be considered navigable waters and have little to no impact on the environment since they are not directly or constantly flowing through the waterways and ecosystem. Environmentalists and scientists have conducted countless studies, proving that all water eventually feeds back into the ocean, causing further disruption in the food chain and endangering the health of Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants if that water is contaminated.
“Prior to a decision that was made during the Obama administration there was some confusion about what the ‘Waters of the United States’ are,” explains Ryan Miller Environmental Liaison Program Manager of the Tulalip Tribes Treaty Rights Office. “Those are the waters that are protected by the Clean Water Act, which in general terms states you can’t pollute waters of the United States. In 2015, the Obama administration defined the waters in a way that protects the environment, which was the intent of the Clean Water Act in the first place, protecting ephemeral streams or waterways, commonly referred to as seasonal waterways, or wetland that isn’t wet all year round that, during a wet season, feeds into a creek or stream. Essentially their definition stated that anything that feeds into these permanent waterways are considered Waters of the United States because it contributes to a stream or river that flows all year round.
“That benefited tribes because it helped protect the trust resources that are guaranteed to tribes in their treaties,” he continued. “It helped protect water quality for all the different salmon species. It helped protect against the release of toxins which build up in southern killer whales as they consume fish species, it helped protect Native people and all citizens against toxins that build up in shellfish and finfish that we consume. Obviously that’s important for Native people because we consume higher rates of shellfish and finfish than non-Indian people do.”
On January 23, the Trump administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the repeal of the Waters of the United States rule, the evidence-based amendment to the Clean Water Act made by the Obama administration. The EPA rule, also known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, not only removes protection from ephemeral streams and wetlands, it also allows landowners to deconstruct and build over ponds, wetlands and watersheds, which in turn can lead to polluted waterways.
But there’s more. Since the start of his campaign to presidency, Trump has promised the removal of the Waters of the United States rule. He took it a step further by lifting restrictions for landowners and farmers which prohibited them from dumping hazardous chemicals directly into the waterways.
The removal of federal protection from these streams and wetlands could have some serious effects on our health and our drinking water. And the water that is consumed by the food we eat, i.e. animals, plants and fish, is now more than ever susceptible to pollution.
“The repeal was proposed last year and of course the way that these types of processes legally have to take place, they had a public comment period,” Ryan said. “Lots of tribes, environmental groups, states, counties, submitted comments and expressed their concern about what this would do to the protection of waterways and the natural resources that depend on them. The reality is that this administration places a significantly higher priority on making it easy for businesses to make as much money as possible, to extract resources, to damage natural resources. Their priority is that over the protection of the environment, watersheds and even human health.”
With the salmon population already irrevocably damaged by pollution and an endangered southern killer whale population as a result, the Salish Sea cannot afford any setbacks or any more pollution. Unfortunately, this new rule sets the stage for years of struggle as we prepare for a long fight against the government and EPA to protect our natural resources. That fight began when the repeal of the Waters of the United Stated was put in motion last Fall, and fourteen states took initiative by filing lawsuits against the EPA.
It is important to note that at the end of 2019, the Scientific Advisory Board of the EPA, comprised of many officials handpicked by President Trump himself, stated that the regulation repeal and its replacement ‘neglects established science’, is ‘failing to acknowledge watershed systems’, and also there was ‘no scientific justification’ for stripping the protection from the smaller bodies of water. And still, even with those findings, the final decision was made by ‘political management’ within the EPA.
“I believe that there are numerous states who already filed suit over this issue,” Ryan stated. “Washington, I’m sure is one of them. We had conversations with the department of ecology, which regulates toxins in the waters in Washington State, and I’m pretty sure they already filed suit against the federal government over this. It’s probably going to play out in court like many of these things do and hopefully we’re going to have a better outcome. In the long run, this could end up being a good thing if we can get a clear court decision that defines the Waters of the United States in a favorable way, which we really didn’t have before. But, for right now it limits the protection that these ephemeral streams and seasonal wetlands have under the Clean Water Act. Essentially, they no longer have any protection.”
So what can you do to help ensure the waterways are protected and clean? In addition of limiting your single-use plastic products and recycling your plastics and metals, you can also safely dispose of any harmful chemicals including paint thinner, pesticides and fertilizer at the Snohomish County Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Station in Everett. They are open Wednesday-Saturday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. You can participate at local beach clean-ups and utilize your voice to help raise awareness about the fading salmon and orca populations at rallies and gatherings that occur regularly throughout the year.
“My recommendation on anything like this is always, call your representatives; state, county, federal and let them know that you don’t like this and you want them to do something about it. The reality is, for elected officials, there are only two things they respond to; money and pressure from the people who vote for them. And as regular citizens, most of us don’t have the money to influence political outcomes or political campaigns, so what we can do is vote with our voice and tell our elected officials that this is an issue that matters to us and that we want them to do something about it.”
The Tulalip Heritage boys basketball program is coming off of back-to-back years in which the team won at least 20 games and made it past District, Tri-District and Regional playoffs, all the way to State. An historic achievement for any program.
Now, entering the 2019-2020 season, the Hawks look to repeat past success with its current roster of rez ball hoopers. Gone are four seniors from last season, but in their place are five current seniors including standout guards Leno Vela, Josh Miranda and Isaac Comenote. They took to the court on Saturday, December 7 in their season opener. A home game versus the Darrington Loggers.
Tulalip struggled mightily from the jump. Shots weren’t falling, no one was rebounding and meanwhile Darrington took advantage of every opportunity afforded to them with a taller, heftier lineup. The score was 4-19 after the opening quarter, and that deficit ballooned to 11-40 at halftime.
In the 2nd half, the home crowd was anxious for some kind of spark to ignite their team’s offense. It never happened. Instead, the lack of shot making and rebounding continued. Tulalip ended up on the wrong side of a lopsided 32-68 loss. It was the lowest scoring output from a Tulalip Hawks team in nearly 3 years; a December 28, 2016 defeat to Lummi, 31-65.
With only two days between games, the boys had to make use of some selective amnesia and quickly forget about everything that went wrong vs. Darrington and focus on their next opponent. Tulalip hosted the Highlanders from Providence Classical Christian on Monday, December 9.
What a difference a game makes. The Hawks came out firing on all cylinders offensively, while relentlessly locking up Providence defensively. Jumping out to a 25-9 lead at the end of the 1st quarter, the boys kept the pedal to the metal and took a 39 point lead into halftime, up 52-13.
During one stretch, senior point guard Leno Vela went on a 16-0 run all by himself. He caught fire from downtown hitting four consecutive 3-pointers and then came up with back-to-back steals that he converted into layups. His scoring barrage fired up the home crowd and his fellow teammates who cheered him on.
“My shooting felt really good and my teammates found me when I got hot,” said Leno afterwards. “They trusted me and I was able to come up with buckets.”
The Hawks defense continued to feast on a Providence team that struggled with ball handling and routinely coughed up the ball via steal or bad pass. And with every turnover forced came the accustomed run-and-gun offense Tulalip is known for. All the starters scored multiple buckets in transition and hit a 3-pointer.
At the end of the 3rd quarter, Tulalip led 73-18. With the result no longer in doubt the bench came in to finish the game. The final score was 81-27. Leno led all scorers with 33 points, while Josh Miranda added 13 points.
A 54 point victory over Providence is a good way to wash away the stain from their opening loss to Darrington.
“We played our style of basketball tonight. I wanted them to be aggressive and attack the basket because we really didn’t do that in our last game,” explained Coach Fryberg after the blowout win. “Their aggressiveness resulted in lots of looks close to the basket and got them to the free-throw line. Defensively, we locked in early and pressed the issue throughout.”
Tulalip basketball is on the road for their next 3 games. They’ll return home on Thursday, December 19 for a matchup with Grace Academy.
A number of signs with red arrows are currently placed throughout the Tulalip Reservation, all pointing toward the direction of the Don Hatch Youth Center. In large text above the arrow, the signage reads: Ballot Box.
Across the country, Native Americans of all nations have a long and complicated history in regards to voting in local, state and congressional elections. In a move that seemed to benefit the assimilation agenda, the United States granted Indigenous Peoples U.S. citizenship in the 1920’s. This, however, did not allow Native people the right to vote. In fact, the government left it up to each individual state to determine if tribal members could cast a vote come Election Day.
For approximately forty years, the tribes fought for the right to vote. With Utah guaranteeing voting rights in 1962, Natives could legally participate in many, but not all, voting events within their cities, counties, states and country. But, the fight was far from over.
From the sixties to present day, Native communities often face a number of obstacles during voting season. Making national headlines in the fall of 2018, North Dakota received a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the state to enforce a voter ID requirement upon its citizens in order to register to vote. The voter ID requirement asks voters to show an identification card with a residential address at polling stations, noting that tribal status cards are not an acceptable form of ID. Being that most reservations adhere to the P.O. box system and generally don’t have physical street addresses, thousands of voices were silenced in result of the ruling.
Another barrier Native voters have to overcome is distance. More often than not, polling places and ballot boxes are located miles away off-reservation.
Unfortunately, due to the many hoops Native people have to jump through in order to have a say, a lot of them feel discouraged from voting, resulting in record low turnouts and thousands of unfilled ballot choices each year.
In a Nation that appears to be deliberately suppressing the Native vote, Washington State passed Senate Bill (SB) 5079, also known as the Native American Voting Rights act, this past February.
“Voter participation is not a partisan issue; it is the foundation of our democratic system and must be protected by all sides,” stated Senator John McCoy, Prime Sponsor of SB 5079 and Tulalip tribal member, on the Senate floor.
The bill passed with a 34-13 vote and addresses Native American voter suppression by allowing voters to register online with a tribal ID, use a tribally designated building as a mailing or residential address, as well as place one ballot box on each reservation, at the tribe’s request. The bill was officially signed into law by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on March 14.
Just in time for Election Day, a new ballot box was recently established inside the parking lot of the Don Hatch Youth Center. An approved amendment to the bill states the location of the drop box must be accessible by way of road to the county auditor. The location must also be central and accessible to all tribal members.
“Historically, the Tulalip gym was a voting place for many years,” said Democratic National Committee Native American Political Director and Tulalip tribal member, Theresa Sheldon. “The Tulalip community would come to the gym every year to cast their vote by machines. Once we moved to mail-in elections, Tulalip lost our voting place. Since then, we have been aggressively requesting from Snohomish County to be an official ballot drop off location. This didn’t happen until Senator John McCoy passed a bill in the State legislature stating a ballot box must be located on every reservation to ensure access to voting.”
A few days after Governor Inslee signed the Native American Voting Rights act into law, he also signed a universal voter registration law, which automatically registers Washington State citizens, who are obtaining an ID card or driver’s license, to vote. This law of course eliminates the issue of utilizing your tribal status card as a form of identification when registering to vote.
“I’m very thankful for any law that makes voting more accessible,” expresses Theresa. “We all live such busy lives so having a designated place to drop your ballot off, any time of day, is very much appreciated. Washington State’s new voting laws also make it so everyone over the age of 18 years old is automatically registered to vote. They use your address from your driver’s license.
If you need to update your address or did not receive your ballot, please contact Snohomish County auditor’s office if you live within Snohomish County. Their phone number is (425) 388-3693, they have an actual human being who answers the phone and is very helpful.
If you misplace your ballot, you can always go to the County office to vote in person. Also, if you would like help with your ballot and the massive amounts of issues, here is a great resource, https://progressivevotersguide.com/Washington/.”
The new ballot box is accessible 24 hours a day, until 8:00 p.m. on November 5, Election Day.
A large circle formation of about sixty Tulalip citizens congregated outside of the Youth Center on the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay. The group, consisting of mostly youth, offered two traditional songs to three tall individuals who were standing at the center of the circle. In the distance was a yellow seaplane sitting on the waters of the bay, which the visitors arrived in moments prior. Leaders of the Tulalip Youth Council and previous Tulalip Mountain Camp and Fish Camp attendees were in for quite the surprise on the chilly fall evening of October 22.
“We were asked to be here by Jessica, our Youth Council Advisor,” explained Youth Council Secretary, Shylah Zackuse. “We were told it was going to be a team building experience. But I had no clue there was going to be former Seahawks players here.”
Three years ago, former Seahawks tight end and Super Bowl XLVIII Champion, Cooper Helfet, started a non-profit organization, the Nature Project, dedicated to getting kids outdoors for recreational fun, along with time away from their phone screens. Since then, Cooper has recruited former teammates, as well as a few current NFL players, to participate in the Nature Project. For the visit to Tulalip, Cooper brought along fellow former Seahawks, Jermaine Kearse and Tyrone Swoopes.
“I grew up in northern California and I had a lot of opportunities to get out into nature, whether that was hiking, camping, surfing or backpacking, it was a big priority in my family to do so,” said Cooper after thanking the people for the traditional songs. “Some of my favorite memories as a kid were doing those things. And as I got older, especially when I started playing with the Hawks and with different teams in my career, I realized a lot of my teammates didn’t get those opportunities. I started getting them outdoors more and they had an amazing experience developing their own relationship with the natural world.
“And I thought, how do we create these types of opportunities for kids? Especially in a time where video games, TV, the internet are exciting, but taking over our world. So I started this project, bringing out athletes to the kids of local communities to get them outdoors and impress upon them the importance of spending time outside.”
After taking time to snap a photo with the crowd, the football stars hung out with the youth, passing a soccer ball around. Approximately thirty kids introduced themselves to the group and stated one outdoor activity they enjoyed such as skateboarding, hiking, softball and basketball. Next, Cooper passed around sharpies and cedar medallions, asking the kids to write down one goal they hoped to accomplish in their lifetime.
“The real mission of the project is to motivate kids to spend more time outside and do so in a way where they can create positive physical memories with friends,” Cooper explained. “And to use that as a tool they can use throughout their life to be reflective and think about their goals and how to overcome adversity. We know that often times it could be hard for youth to relate, listen and let things soak in. One of the assets we have as athletes is we have an ability to connect with kids and know we’re going to have their ears and attention because we gained that beautiful gift of being their role models, so we try to pass that on to them through the Nature Project work.”
Once everybody’s goals were marked down, the kids had fun participating in an exercise designed to use the power of communication, teamwork, and creativity to find a way to obtain their goals. After putting in plenty of effort and refusing to give up, the kids got a little help from Cooper, Jermaine and Tyrone. However, in order to receive help from the football pros, the youth had to vocalize exactly what they needed from the athletes first.
The youth were shown that it is possible to achieve their aspirations by using teamwork and communication skills. The group then had an open conversation about attaining individual goals through determination, perseverance and utilizing personal resources.
“Perseverance for me is not giving up and overcoming every obstacle,” expressed Jermaine, who is also a Super Bowl XVIII Champ. “Adversity is going to show up in our lives whether it’s in sports, school, life or relationships. For me, in the 2015 NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers I had four targets, four passes thrown to me, and they were intercepted each time. It was a tough moment but I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t quit, go in the locker room, or sit on the bench with my head down. I knew there were going to be more opportunities and if I was going to be ready for the next opportunity I had to stay mentally in the game. My next opportunity so happened to be the game winning touchdown. That’s perseverance, not giving up on yourself and continuing to push forward.
“Sometimes we feel prideful, we have our egos and want to do things on our own. Please know that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s hard to go through life doing everything by yourself. If you have a group of friends or family that are really close to you, if you’re going through hard times in class or struggling, it’s okay to ask for help. Don’t feel ashamed because even the strongest people in the world need help.”
Every year the Tulalip Natural Resources department partners with the YMCA of Snohomish County to bring local youth the outdoor summer camps, Mountain Camp and Fish Camp. Upon hearing about the camps, the Nature Project was interested in hosting an outdoor event with the Tulalip community.
“The Nature Project learned about us through the YMCA,” said Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “Their whole goal is to get kids out into nature and have that experience that Cooper had when he was a kid, that he feels turned him into the person he is today. They felt he was a really good fit to do something with Tulalip and our youth. It’s an opportunity for the kids to learn about the importance of team work, perseverance, leadership and gives them skills that will help them throughout their lives.”
Tulalip youth Seth Montero fell in love with the great outdoors while at the Mountain and Fish Camps. His passion for nature was so strong that when he grew past the camp age limit, he took a course with the YMCA to take on a leadership role at the summertime camps. Seth thanked the former Seahawks for their work promoting outdoor activities.
“Nature is important because it’s all around us and every day we’re losing more and more of it. It’s always good to get outside whenever you have the chance. Go explore new places, appreciate all the views Mother Earth has to offer, because it might not always be there.”
To wrap up the evening, kids were given large water bottles courtesy of REI and all three Nature Project members took a moment to converse with each kiddo as they autographed their names across their bottles.
“It was so awesome,” said Tulalip Youth, Lincoln Pablo. “Jermaine Kearse has always been my inspiration for playing football. His catches are amazing. I always wanted to do what he did and get to the league. For my goal today, I wrote down play on our very own Seattle Seahawks.”
Before taking off in the seaplane, Jermaine and Tyrone were gifted handcrafted masks by Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel, and all three former Seahawks received paddles from the Tulalip Youth.
“You live on a beautiful reservation,” Cooper said. “If you’re looking for ways to get involved in outdoor fun, it’s as simple as walking along the beach or adventuring a little east and getting up in the woods. It doesn’t take much. It’s grabbing a neighbor and going for a walk, it doesn’t need be a planned thing. When I think about my childhood, none of my memories were inside paying video games. They were memories I can feel, hear, see and smell and were with friends. 99% of the time they were outdoors. You just got to take the initiative and go do it. Your ancestors were the original stewards of all this land we get to call home, and I just want to express that there’s an insane amount of gratitude that I have for that.”
The Seattle Children’s Museum is a destination place for people from all around the world. Located at the heart of Seattle Center, the always active and engaging museum sees close to 200,000 visitors every year. With a mission to bring to life the joy of discovery for children and their families through creative, hands-on exploration of the world around them, the museum’s heralded Global Village recently debuted an all-new permanent exhibit titled Tribal Tales.
Created by and inspired from the beautifully diverse and thriving Native cultures encompassing the Puget Sound area, Tribal Tales was development over the past two years in direct collaboration with Native artists from Pacific Northwest tribes.
“We thought it would be great if we developed a space that helps us create a real relationship with local tribal communities and members,” explained Amy Hale, director of education for Seattle Children’s Museum. “The artists we collaborated with drew from their own individual experiences in order to create culturally relevant representations of their culture.”
Native storytellers who collaborated on the project include John Edward Smith (Skokomish), Roger Fernandez (Lower Elwha S’Kallam), and Tulalip’s own Ty Juvinel.
“Because of Ty’s trust and active willingness to participate in building up this idea from the very beginning, his efforts had a direct influence on other artists and their willingness to commit,” added Amy. “When I look at this final project, I see not only Ty and his amazing individual pieces, but his influence that led to more artists of other tribal communities working with us and really making Tribal Tales an immersive exhibit.”
Prior to becoming the home of Tribal Tales, the space housed a puppet theatre. The original seed money that created the puppet theatre came via Tulalip Cares, the charitable contributions division of the tribe. It’s only too fitting then that the puppet theatre space was transformed into an interactive, educational exhibit showcasing the richness of Native values and oral tradition, while being co-curated by Tulalip tribal member Ty Juvinel.
“This exhibit really honors the Indigenous peoples of this land and gives the acknowledgment that our people were here before first contact,” shared the Tulalip storyteller. “Tribal Tales is all about acknowledging the past people that were here while honoring the many Coast Salish tribes thriving today.
“I contributed an original story created for my kids How Puppy Got His Ears, a Salish Sea map detailing all the tribes in Western Washington, a couple house posts, and hand puppets that go along with my story that visiting children can play with,” continued Ty. “The fact the museum got money a long time ago from the tribe and now I’m refreshing the concept for my generation is just awesome.”
Tribal Tales explores the universal art of storytelling through a collective showcase of Native art and culture, curated by the actual artists themselves. “As opposed to white bodies dictating and reflecting back to ourselves what other cultures look like, we gave the artists all the agency to share with us their stories,” added Amy.
The direction and attention to detail is what really makes Tribal Tales stand apart from the many other Global Village exhibits. And for the countless children who visit the museum every day, they’ve already shown a fondness to the exhibit’s bright colors and hands-on puppetry that makes the Native stories easily understood.
“The Children’s Museum shares all kinds of fantastic things, like science, knowledge and culture,” said Roger Fernandes, sharer of the prolific Ant and Bear story. “I thought it would be a good way to get our stories out there. Each of the stories were illustrated by the Native artists, so the children could not just hear the story but see some visuals that would help them remember it. Ultimately, this project was well thought out and as a result now more kids will have the chance to hear our traditional stories.”
With over 18,000 sq. feet of play space designed for kids ages birth to 8-years-old to enjoy with families, the Seattle Children’s Museum is open Tuesdays – Sundays from 10:00am – 5:00pm. First time visitors are sure to be blown away by the hands-on exhibits and open-ended exploration, especially those who experience the richness of Tribal Tales.
For the sixth consecutive year, the greater-Seattle area and its thousands of Native citizens celebrated Indigenous People’s Day. Replacing the former misbegotten holiday dedicated to a slave trader and lost navigator, the commemorative day to honor the past, present and future of Indigenous knowledge and cultures takes place annually on the second Monday in October.
“People ask, ‘Why Indigenous Peoples Day and why not American Indian Day or Native American Day?’ It’s only appropriate that we honor the legacy of work that’s been done,” explained Matt Remle. His efforts, along with many other Native advocates, were instrumental in getting a proclamation voted on by the Seattle City Council and signed into law by then-mayor Ed Murray in 2013. “It’s not only honoring legacy, but when we say ‘Indigenous peoples,’ it’s referring to more than just the tribes of colonized United States. We’re talking about all Indigenous peoples who’ve been impacted by settler colonialism around the world.”
Since its inception into the Puget Sound, the Indigenous Peoples’ Day movement has spread to over 120 cities and been embraced by 9 state governments. Even 8 universities and a couple school districts have indoctrinated the holiday to celebrate global Indigenous cultures.
On Monday, October 14, Native people and allies from around the Pacific Northwest gathered at Westlake Park, on ancestral Duwamish land, for a march and rally to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Seattle. The dedicated early morning group proudly wore cultural garb and traditional regalia while traversing from Westlake Park to Seattle City Hall, where a rally of celebratory song and dance was held.
“It’s been a beautiful day to see so many Indigenous people come together and be filled with so much joy,” shared 20-year-old Ayanna Fuentes, a member of Indigenous Sisters Resistance. “Our younger generation is growing up not knowing what Columbus Day is, and that’s an amazing thing.”
In the evening, the festivities continued at Daybreak Star Cultural Center with an honoring celebration for Native nations in the Puget Sound Region and their fellow Indigenous allies. Sponsored by Tulalip Tribes community impact funds, the Daybreak Star gathering included hundreds of urban Natives, dancers from a variety of Indigenous communities, and non-Natives who wanted to share in the memorable event.
The American Indian Movement (AIM) honor song kicked off the evening while Sili Savusa and Feanette Black Bear were blanketed for their longstanding commitments to Indigenous progress. A high-energy hoop dance performed by Ryan Yellowjohn was next, followed by a variety of cultural performances representing Mexico, Chile and the Pacific Islands. For the finale, an overflowing DayBreak Star crowd was treated to several songs offered up by the Tulalip Youth Council.
“I thank the ancestors for giving me this opportunity to be here today with you all and hold the sage,” said Feanette. “There are over 500 Indigenous tribes across this country and we are all here because our ancestors said prayers hundreds of years ago for their future generations. It is up to us to stand up and take care of Mother Earth and our relatives all across Turtle Island.”
A variety of states, cities, counties, community groups, schools, and other institutions observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 14. They all did so with activities that raised awareness of the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.
“Indigenous Peoples’ Day, at its core, aims to celebrate and honor the past, present, and futures of Native peoples throughout the United States and acknowledges the legacy of colonialism, which has devastated Indigenous communities historically and continues to negatively impact them today,” stated Native educator and activist, Matt Remle. “More importantly, however, Indigenous Peoples’ Day moves beyond the narrative of oppression and honors the histories, cultures, contributions, and resilience of contemporary Native peoples.”
By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News. Photos by Matika Wilbur and Micheal Rios.
In 2012, Tulalip tribal member and visual storyteller Matika Wilbur sold everything she owned in her Seattle apartment and invested the proceeds into a vision: to unveil the true essence of contemporary Native issues, the beauty of Native culture, and the magnitude of tradition. Her vision’s name? Project 562.
Reflecting her commitment to visit, engage, and photograph all 562 federally recognized Native American tribes (in 2012), Project 562 reveals a name that serves to both inspire and educate.
“While teaching at [Tulalip] Heritage High School and attempting to create a photography curriculum with a narrative that our children deserve, I found an outdated narrative,” she recalled. “It’s an incomplete story that perpetuates an American historical amnesia. It’s a story that’s romantic, dire and insatiable…it’s the story of extinction.”
Matika points out the extinction theme often associated with Native America is easily perceived by doing a quick Google Images search. If you search for ‘African American’, ‘Hispanic American’ or ‘Asian American’, then you’ll find images of present day citizens who represent each culture. You’ll see proud, smiling faces and depictions of happy families.
But if you search for ‘Native American’ the results are very different. You’ll see mostly black and white photos of centuries old Natives who are “leathered and feathered”. Making matters worse, you’ll also find more images of white people wearing headdresses than of modern day Native families.
“All of these images and misconceptions contribute to the collective consciousness of the American people, but more importantly it affects us in the ways that we imagine ourselves, in the ways we dream of possibility,” explained Matika.
And so began her 7-year journey to photograph and collect stories of contemporary Native citizens from tribes all across the United States. As her photographic portfolio continued to expand, so too did her realm of possibilities.
Project 562 has driven her to travel hundreds of thousands of miles, many in her RV dubbed ‘the Big Girl’, but also by horseback, train, plane, boat and on foot across all 48 continental states, Hawaii, deep into the Canadian tundra and into Alaska. The number of federally recognized tribes has risen to 573, according to the Department of the Interior, since the inception of her vision back in 2012, but that fact is just superficial.
Presently, the now 35-year-old Matika has come to realize that Indigenous identity far surpasses federal acknowledgement. There are state-recognized tribes, urban and rural Native communities, and other spaces for Indigenous identity that don’t fall under the U.S. government’s recognition. Astonishingly, she estimates she has photographs that represent about 900 different tribal communities.
In a respectful way, Matika has been welcomed into hundreds of tribal communities, and she has found that people support the project because they would like to see things change. Conversations about tribal sovereignty, self-determination, wellness, recovery from historical trauma, decolonization of the mind, and revitalization of culture accompany the photographs in captions, videos, and audio recordings.*
“For the past six-years I’ve been sojourning in my big girl. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey, an amazing experience!” beamed the Tulalip photographer who routinely has her brilliant images displayed in museum galleries and college campuses across the nation.
“I started in Washington and worked my way south through Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico,” she detailed. “I went to all the pueblos, so many places in Navajo Nation, then down to the south and into the bayou. I continued on to the Everglades and then all the way up the East coast into Haudenosaunee country where I learned about the Great Law. I then zig-zagged across through the country until finally making it up to Alaska. Now, I am back home.”
She’s returned with an unprecedented repository of imagery and oral histories that accurately portray present-day Native America. Project 562 will ultimately culminate as an awe-inspiring hardcover, series of exhibitions and online resources filled with a dynamic variety of proud Native Americans telling their stories their way. But until that long-awaited day comes, Matika gave adoring fans and devote followers of her project a glimpse into her 7-year journey during the first weekend of October. From October 3 – 5, she held a four-part project preview at Northwest Indian College, Ferndale Library, Nooksack Community Building and the Deming Library.
The Project 562 creator spoke passionately at each venue while sharing stories about overcoming historical inaccuracies, stereotypical representations, and silenced Native American voices in mass media. She shared about meeting one of her real life heroes John Trudell, being at Standing Rock during the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and offered powerful stories detailing Native citizens from around the nation rising up from racism and injustice to create a better world for themselves and future generations.
“If I’m here to bring a message at all, it’s the message that Indian Country is alive and well,” said Matika during her NWIC presentation. “It’s the message of hope and resiliency. It’s the story of Indigenous intelligence.
“There are still Ghost Dances, Sun Dances and long houses filled with songs and traditional medicines. Our story is worth knowing, telling, and inspiring one another with. Because doing modern things while gathering and encouraging the collective consciousness to uplift Indigenous intelligence is the only pathway forward. That is the dream.”
“I remember my aunt, she stood up once to speak at a gathering. She was talking about our Indian food, or lack thereof, and asked ‘what am I supposed to feed my inner-Indian, spaghetti?” recalled Tulalip Elder and Rediscovery Program Coordinator, Inez Bill, while letting out a small chuckle. “That always stuck with me. And also, when Chief Seattle said, ‘when the tide is out, our table is set.’”
For nearly fifteen years, Inez has led the Rediscovery program, reincorporating a number of cultural aspects that were once considered common, back into the practices of the modern-day Tulalip tribal community. Through colonization, assimilation efforts and the decades of generational trauma that followed, many of these teachings were lost, or kept closely and taught within individual families.
A relatively recent revitalization resurgence saw the art, language and true history of the Northwest tribes come to light and today those cultural traits are often recognized and celebrated throughout the area. And while our lifeways such as fishing, hunting and gathering are rights that may be known to the general public, the spiritual connection to that work is an experience that is unique to the Coast Salish people.
The Rediscovery program has put an emphasis on helping Tribal members, youth to elders, experience that connection by hosting hands-on workshops at local events, teaming up with several departments to spread their teachings. If you’re lucky, you may have made lip balm or salves out of local Indigenous plants with Inez and her team, while learning about the medicinal purposes each plant contains. Or perhaps you attended Mountain Camp as a youth and learned the many uses of cedar, carving walking sticks and weaving baskets. The program also oversees the Tulalip family canoes Big Sister, Little Sister and Big Brother, awakening them every spring, preparing them for Canoe Journey and putting them back to rest after the summertime event ends.
“Our people have learned and passed things on generation after generation through oral teachings,” explained Inez. “Our teachings are not made up, I’ve heard what I heard many different times. If you go to Upper Skagit, Swinomish, Lummi, Tulalip, you hear the same thing and that’s how you know it’s a teaching.”
Inez is always willing to pass on her knowledge of traditional Salish foods. Long before western civilization arrived to the region, the land was abundant with resources, with tall cedar trees encompassing the land, huckleberries high up in the mountains, elk that walked amongst the forests and salmon that populated the Salish Sea in large numbers. The tribes of the Northwest cared for those resources, ensuring that their people would be provided with sustenance for generations to come.
“Native foods were how our people remained healthy for years,” she said. “As a young girl, I grew up going to the winter ceremonies at our smokehouse and celebrated the spiritual life. During those ceremonies, I worked in the kitchen with some of the older lady cooks. There are a lot of things I learned from them, as well as from my parents and grandparents. It was there where I learned how to gather and prepare some of our traditional foods.
“When we serve you our Native foods, we are giving you our very best. There are teachings and values that go with everything we do. From the hunter preparing for a hunt and the gatherer gathering, knowing it’s going toward a ceremony or whatever work that’s going to take place, that’s their gift to that occasion, to share in the gathering. There were times during my life where my family would host gatherings for namings, funerals, memorials and ceremonies. It was always important to have our Indian food there. I came to know and recognize the food, and you see those same foods today, our BBQ salmon, deer steak, deer stew, clams, canned fruit, clam chowder, oysters and crab. All of that not only provides nutrition for us, but it feeds our spirits and the spirits of our ancestors.”
Any given year there are several celebrations hosted within an Indigenous community and the meal is an integral piece to the ceremony. The food’s flavor, serving size and overall presentation speaks volumes about the hosting tribe. During smokehouse ceremonies, Inez explained that she and the other cooks would set a table full of traditional foods, specifically for the spirits of the Tulalip ancestors, early in the day before any guests arrived.
“We usually had the first table around three o’clock in the afternoon for our ancestors from the other side who came to witness the festivities going on. When we put the food out there, they’re the first to eat. Then when our visitors come, we serve them next, before we eat. We always prepare and serve our best and that shows that we are rich in our resources and shows that we are sharing with our people and visitors.”
Prayers and songs are offered before and after a hunt, thanking the land, Creator and the animal itself for the nourishment. And not an ounce of meat, hide or bone goes to waste; people fashion garb, jewelry and drums from the animal’s remains. And, although it varies from tribe to tribe, the Salish people hold annual Salmon Ceremonies, thanking the fish for its sacrifice at the start of each fishing season.
“How you prepare yourself to conduct that work is just as important as the hunt, as the harvest, if not more. That’s where the berry picking songs come from, to make the work easier and not so difficult. And whatever you’re harvesting, you never let it waste. You take care of it, you honor it, respect it and give thanks, because it will continue to provide for you into the future.”
The Rediscovery program hosts traditional foods workshops and during these classes, Inez and crew provide the history of the Coast Salish foods while also showing their participants how the meals were prepared in ancestral time with bentwood boxes and cooking stones. They also prepare an assortment of food samples including teas, seafood, deer and elk meat, and usually a berry dessert concoction as well. Each dish is created combining traditional plants, herbs, berries, nuts and meat with the recipes that are popular in modern times.
“We are always experimenting,” Inez proudly stated while showcasing a large mason jar filled with a berry mixture. “I always wanted to make a pie filling, this was the first year we took time to make this. I think our pallets have changed a lot. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to try something unless its palatable. Our people didn’t have the modern convenience of table salt or pepper. So today, a lot of people will look at those foods and say they are unseasoned.
“If you look at other cultures, such as the Koreans and Germans they have sauerkraut and kimchi, foods that have been fermented. We had fermented foods too, and we haven’t done a lot of experimenting with those just yet, but we know they served a purpose. Like the sourness of Indian ice cream, a soap berry that’s whipped up to the consistency of whip cream. If you ate it today without using some sort of sweetener, it could be considered too sour by some. We like to add apple juice, it makes it more palatable, but I don’t think our ancestors added that to their recipe.”
Inez explained that she began blending traditional and modern recipes when her late husband, Hank Gobin, was diagnosed with diabetes.
“He wasn’t supposed to eat bread. I kept thinking of ways to get him bread. And I found a way to make flour out of hazelnut. It doesn’t have any salt or sugar and we grinded the nuts down to the consistency of flour. He was so happy to get that bread, and since then we kept on experimenting, trying to figure out how to make today’s recipes healthier for our people by substituting some of the ingredients with our Native foods. Or we’ll take a Native recipe and figure out how to cook it in an oven or on a stovetop.”
Today, many people around the globe are attempting to switch back to the traditional diets of their culture. For Native people specifically, that includes giving up many of those dishes that we formulated from government commodities, like frybread and hangover soup. The lack of access to healthy foods combined with the diminishing salmon and wildlife populations have caused serious, and often deadly, health issues throughout Native America. But since many tribes began educating their people about some of the dangers of modern processed foods and incorporating pieces of their traditional meal plans into their diets, diabetes and hypertension are on the decline for the first time in decades for Indigenous people as a whole.
Several tribal and Indigenous chefs have documented their journey in reclaiming food sovereignty. And more often than not, the individual claims to feel better and healthier. However, that is just a start. There are many foods that we have grown accustomed to over the years that can initially be hard to cut out. And until we do so, we may very well continue to have health concerns due to the way foods are manufactured and mass produced.
Now that we are in the middle of the hunting and gathering season, Inez urges the younger people to go out and experience the traditions of the Snohomish people, practice their treaty rights and help provide for their people.
“I marvel at the wisdom of our ancestors to include the right to hunt, fish and gather in the treaty because those are the lifeways of our people,” she stated. “It’s more important to share and do that work for the elders in your family or community in-need. It says a lot of a person who does that type of work. It shows that you must be good people, you listened and learned the teachings of our ancestors. When families do that, they are remembered and those good thoughts and feelings will bring a blessing upon them for sharing with the people. As far as an Indigenous community, that’s exactly what we want to happen. We should continue to rely on our Native foods; the fish, deer and berries. We can’t completely go back to the way it was for our ancestors, but if we went back to a-ways, then we would be a lot healthier.”
Approximately 25 miles east of the Tulalip Reservation is the city of Sultan, located exactly at the confluence of the Skykomish and Sultan rivers. After the search of gold brought many settlers to the area, the town decided to pay respect to the chief of the Skykomish at the time by naming the city in his honor, T’seul-Ted, or Sultan spelled out phonetically.
A man of many relations, Chief T’seul-Ted, locally known as Sultan John, had ties to Tribal nations throughout the region, was highly-respected amongst Salish people, and known for his work as a healer. If you’re an outdoor recreational enthusiasts and spend your winters skiing and snowboarding at Stevens Pass, you may have seen Chief T’seul-Ted fishing along Highway 2 as you entered the city, or the 13-foot wooden statue built in his likeness. Every year, for the past eight years, the town gathers at Osprey Park to celebrate Chief T’seul-Ted’s legacy as well as Indigenous culture at the Return of the Salmon Celebration.
A little rain didn’t prevent the Sultan community from coming out for some family fun time at Osprey Park on the morning of September 28. Since the Washington autumn weather is unpredictable, the daylong event saw a mixture of precipitation and sun rays through the duration of the celebration. Luckily, the majority of the festivities took place under a covered basketball court, allowing the people to stay dry while they feasted on frybread and salmon caesar salads.
“This is our eighth year,” exclaimed Mars Miller, Return of the Salmon Celebration committee member. “It started with Matthew War Bonnet (Lakota), wanting to honor Chief T’seul-Ted as the namesake of Sultan because it often gets lost. This celebration is our way to honor Chief T’seul-Ted and bring back the real history of our area and honor the Native people of the Northwest.”
It’s important to note that along with honoring Chief T’seul-Ted, the community is also commemorating the restoration of the local salmon habitat. The Tulalip Tribes dedicated time, funds and efforts to remove and manage a series of dams, clean up debris and restore riverbeds along the Sultan and Skykomish Rivers for spawning salmon.
The Return of the Salmon Celebration is a way for locals to learn about the salmon habitat. The city enlists a number of local non-profit organizations, such as Sound Salmon Solutions, to help raise awareness and educate attendees about current recovery efforts taking place around the state. Snohomish County PUD hosts guided tours of the rivers for festival goers to show the environmental work they are doing, monitoring the river’s water quality, temperature and flow.
Every half-hour a horse drawn carriage arrived at the park, picking up those celebrating the return of the salmon and transporting them a few blocks to the Sultan high school. Once at the school, they received a first-hand look at how the students are making strong efforts with Coho salmon recovery.
“Sultan high school has one of the only hatcheries at a school in the state, maybe the whole country,” said Mars. “We are thankful to Tulalip who offers support through a grant to keep that work going because it’s an important opportunity for students to get hands-on experience and learn how to take care of the salmon. And who knows, hopefully from that program some students will find a career path and develop a passion for fisheries.”
Among the vendors selling jewelry, salves and native artwork, sat Tulalip’s own Taylor Family Basket Weaving. Tribal members Lance and Tammy held a live weaving demonstration that sparked plenty of interest as onlookers watched the couple work their magic, turning strips of cedar into baskets.
“This our fourth year and we just love this event,” Tammy stated. “Usually we don’t travel outside our Native community of Tulalip, but we enjoy being here. It’s a great way to honor the salmon and the Indigenous culture in the Sultan area. We like visiting and hearing stories from the local community who talk about their great grandparents and their lineage. We love the medicine that happens here. We love seeing people enjoy our gift and we love teaching, especially the young kids. Giving back is why we’re here, it’s our duty, we need to let our people know why we do this. ”
A highlight for the kiddos was visiting the arts and crafts station by Skykomish Valley Indian Education. Incorporating the culture of the Snohomish people, the art activities included beading necklaces and bracelets as well as painting cedar salmon blocks.
The entertainment for the day included performances by Lummi violinist Swil Kanim, Native American flutist Paul Nyenhuis as well as a mini powwow with beats provided by War Bonnet Drum, a group led by Tulalip tribal member, Don Carpenter.
“It’s our first time here, it’s neat,” said Tulalip Elder, Virginia Carpenter. “My son is drumming here today. It’s a real good event for the kids and a great way to share our culture and get our people together.”
Following the celebration, guests were asked to meet at Traveler’s Park, located off of Highway 2, for a special unveiling. A large boulder was positioned facing the highway and painted on its front was decorated war hero and proud Tulalip tribal member, Sam Wold Jr. Sam served in the Army during World War II, where he received two purple hearts, a silver star and a bronze star for his service. Sam’s medals, gear and uniform are on display at the Hibulb Cultural Center.
Sam passed away at the age of 81 in 2006. A lifelong local of Sultan, the city submitted an application to the 50 State Freedom Rock Tour, an event created by artist Ray ‘Bubba’ Sorensen II. Initially, Bubba began the project in his home state of Iowa, painting a large boulder to pay tribute to the United States Veterans. Each year, Bubba has painted a new image on the rock to commemorate Memorial Day, dedicating the rest of the year to painting one boulder to honor a veteran in every state. This year’s Washington State freedom rock dedication to Sam was sure to include his Salish roots, as Bubba incorporated the Tulalip killer whale into the painting.
“It was amazing to experience that ceremony and witness that honoring,” said Tribal member Sarah Jean Hart. “To see a Tulalip tribal member honored that way was beautiful and absolutely amazing.”
The 9th Annual Return of the Salmon Celebration will take place on September 26, 2020. For more information, please contact event chairperson, Craig Young for additional information at (425) 359-8936.