Changing the way we see Native America

Matika Wilbur at Northwest Indian College. Photo by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News.

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High School and attempting to create a photography curriculum with a narrative that our children deserve, I found an outdated narrative,” she recalled.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. 

Darkfeather, Eckos and Bibiana Ancheta, Tulalip. Pictured at the edge of Tulalip Bay, they are wearing traditional regalia that was prepared for their annual Canoe Journey. Every year, upward of 100 U.S. tribes, Canadian First Nations and New Zealand canoe families will make the journey by pulling their canoes to a rotating host destination tribe. Canoe families pull for weeks, and upon landing, there will be several days and nights of ‘protocol’: a celebration of shared traditional knowledge, ancestral songs, and sacred dances.

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. 

Jon Red Corn, Osage Nation and Waxak’olin district Osage, leads boys to the Zonzolin arbor where traditional values and teachings of the Osage people are celebrated.

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. 

 Miss Melba Appawara from the Northern Ute Tribe, born in 1932, and Grandma to many beautiful bear dancers.

“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. 

Swinomish Village. “One of my favorite shots from canoe journey this year. It’s always an epic feeling to watch dozens of canoes paddle up to our shores. I feel grateful that I am among the generation that gets to know this cultural revolution. That we are the descendants of people who refused to let canoe culture go to sleep. We are the generation that gets to see this awaken. For that, I will always be grateful.” – Matika

“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.”

*Source: matikawilbur.com


Feeding the Spirit: Our Native foods with Inez Bill

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“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.” 

Return of the Salmon: City of Sultan celebrates Indigenous culture

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

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. 

Lady Hawks triumphant in season opener

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Tulalip Heritage volleyball is back. For four consecutive years now the program has secured a playoff spot and Heritage girls have played meaningful postseason games. This 2019 team enters the new season with many players returning from last year. They have a new coach in Meaghan Craig, but the mission remains the same – continue to get better and win enough games to advance deep into the playoffs. 

On September 19, the Lady Hawks hosted their season opener at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium against Lummi Nation. Their home debut also allowed most spectators their first opportunity to check out the redesigned gymnasium floor complete with a Native weaving pattern created by Lushootseed teacher and tribal member, Michelle Myles.

In the opening set, Heritage fell behind 0-2 before going on a scoring surge. One Lady Hawk after another served up several aces and got the crowd into the match. After taking a 15-5 lead, the girls kept up the pace and won the set 25-8.

Sophomore Shalana McLean prepares to serve in Tulalip’s home opener. 

The 2nd set was much of the same. Tulalip was making a committed effort to communicating at every position, allowing each girl multiple opportunities to bump, set, or spike for points. After again taking a big lead, this time 17-7, they won the next set 25-10.

Going into the 3rd set, the Lady Hawks were all smiles. It was obvious that by their style of play they were determined to get the ball over the net at a higher rate this year, thereby not costing themselves points on unforced errors. With the much improved service game, they again took a big lead of Lummi 12-3 before closing out the final set 25-10.

Winning the match 3 sets to 0 in their season opener, and doing so in dominant fashion, gave team captains Deachae Jones and Kislyn Parks much to be proud of following the match.

“We scouted Lummi before this match, so we were prepared for them,” said junior, Krislyn. “We want to be more positive with each other and work better as a team and that really shined through tonight.”

 “Our expectations for this game were to work together and lift each other up when we hit the rough patches,” added senior Deachae. “But in this game we really didn’t have any rough spots because everyone played really well.”

About that improved service game as a team that led the Lady Hawks with so many aces the co-captains shared their coach has really emphasized doing whatever is comfortable to get the ball over, whether that’s underhand, overhand, or jump serve. “That really gave everyone more confidence and we only expect to get better as the season goes along,” said Krislyn.

The Lady Hawks host fellow tribal school Muckleshoot tonight at Heritage High School in what’s sure to be another fast-paced volleyball match. 

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.”