Students at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary got to participate in traditional Native song and dance at the school’s annual Tulalip Day celebration held on Nov. 21.

Tulalip Tribal members performed songs and played traditional drums while students were invited to dance or sing if they wanted to as part of the assembly.

The tradition started about 10 years ago.

“The Tribes acknowledged the days before and after Thanksgiving as Tulalip Day instead of giving a day off for Thanksgiving,” said Chelsea Craig, a cultural specialist at the Marysville School District and at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary.

“We decided to take it on as a school and celebrate it,” she said.

The event is not organized and is open to any of the students or Tulalip community members who want to lead songs, said Craig.

“My heart was full to see not only our kids but the Heritage High School kids join us and continue to be proud of who they are,” said Craig.

About 100 students came to participate this year, she said.

“It’s a good problem when you have too many people who want to drum and sing when we open the floor up for kids to join,” she said.

Students enjoy the performances of traditional Native songs and dance, she said.

“They sit for almost two hours and their attention was with us the whole time,” she said.

To Craig, the event also helps reclaim Tulalip culture.

“When I think about education, there was a time when my great grandmother wasn’t allowed to even speak her language and was beaten for speaking her language,” she said.

“In the name of education, our culture and language was stolen and ripped away from our people,” she said.

Events like Tulalip Day are a way to start healing that damage, said Craig.

“We want to give back what was taken away,” she said.

The day is also meant to honor those ancestors who worked to keep the tribes going, said Tulalip Tribal chairwoman Marie Zackuse.

“As we celebrate Tulalip Day we remember our ancestors, our elders who may not be with us today, our fathers and mothers,” she said.

“Today we honor those early ancestors who signed our treaty and we honor being Native today,” she said.

The day puts a capstone on work that students at the school do throughout the month to learn about local Tribal history, said Douglas Shook, principal of the school.

“It’s a way for us to celebrate the community in a non-traditional way as we’re going into the Thanksgiving holiday,” he said. 

“To celebrate the rich history and the sovereign land that our school is on with the Tulalip community,” he said.

Shook said that Tulalip Tribal members who work in the district do a lot of work to organize the Tulalip Day celebration each year.

“They keep the spirit and fire going every year for this and they do a remarkable job with the community outreach,” he said.

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