Tulalip Tribal members, other Native individuals and Marysville community members gathered on Nov. 27 at Quil Ceda Elementary to celebrate Tulalip Day.
The local tribes recognize the days before and after Thanksgiving as Tulalip Day.
“Tulalip Day came about to recognize our heritage and our culture,” said Glen Gobin, vice-chairman of the Tulalip Tribes.
“We did this in honor of and to celebrate who we are as Tulalip people, where we are located on the Tulalip Reservation and most importantly to honor our ancestors,” said Chelsea Craig, a Tulalip Tribal member and a cultural specialist at Quil Ceda Elementary.
The school has held an annual assembly for almost a decade now that recognizes the day.
During the event Tribal members sing traditional songs, perform traditional dances and talk about their history.
“One thing our elders always taught us is to remember who you are, remember where you came from and remember you’re teachings,” said Gobin.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a member of Tulalip Tribes, or wherever you come from, what matters is you remember the strength from your family,” he said.
All students from the school are invited to participate in the celebration and some of the dances.
“I think the students enjoy seeing their people and sharing culture with other people, and that they’re able to participate with it and knowing they have the knowledge that they can come out and dance,” said Craig.
She said she thought this year’s assembly went well and said many students were proudly sharing their culture as part of the day.
“I thought it was just beautiful. Before the assembly even started I saw people walking the hallways in their regalia. Not all tribal members, some Hispanic people wearing their regalia and that warmed my heart that we’re doing something right,” she said.
“It’s a good day to be indigenous in a time in the world where that is not always the case,” said Craig.
It wasn’t always the case that tribal members could speak their language or talk about their culture so openly at American public schools, she said.
“All of what you witnessed today was attempted to be taken away through cultural genocide, but we are a resilient people,” said Craig.
Gina Bluebird, a Quil Ceda Elementary fourth-grade teacher and a member of the Lakota Nation, said she was happy to be at the school for the past two years.
“I wear my feathers with honor and pride,” she said.
“I want to thank the tribal people and elders for being so welcoming to me and allowing me to teach your children. It’s been such an experience here to teach and share culture,” said Bluebird.
She was one of the dancers at this year’s assembly, where she performed a ‘northern walk-around’ style dance, which originated from areas of what is now Idaho.
“I did that style of dance to honor the area from where I am at,” she said. “It feels so good to put my clothes back on and wear my hair braids."
Craig said that the assembly and cultural work at the school allows that sort of environment.
“You can honor who you are when you are in this school,” she said. “We started doing this in our school, a public school, in the name of healing and changing our story of education.”