I was recently blessed to meet with two Indian tribes during my visit to Washington to attend the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs 58th Annual Convention. Both tribes have a federal recognition status, and are among a total of 29 federally-recognized tribes in the state of Washington. In this and next month’s columns, I will like to share a little about each visit. This month I will talk about my visit with the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.
The tribal population of Tulalip is more than 4,600 with about 2,600 members residing on the 22,000 acre Tulalip Indian Reservation.
In arriving at Tulalip, I was in awe of their administrative building, an impressive building built from cedar, overlooking Tulalip Bay. We began our meeting in their boardroom, and I was humbled to be greeted by their entire seven-member Board of Directors, led by Chairwoman Marie Zackuse. Chairwoman Zackuse is the first Chairwoman elected since the first board was elected in 1936. It’s also noteworthy that the current board, for the first time in history, has a female majority.
Behind their dais is a wall of photos of all their leaders previously elected to the board. When we later posed for a photo, they were purposeful in capturing all the photos in the background. They acknowledge that the work they do for the tribe in modern day is built upon the strong foundations of their ancestors before them. This mana‘o was so familiar for me, as we also honor our kupuna for the foundations they have set for us.
We connected on personal and cultural levels as we were able to share some of our ‘oli and mo‘olelo with them, and as they shared some of their songs and stories with us. The mana, the power, in their songs, in their prayers, and in the history of their people, will stay with me. I could hear in their songs the struggle of their people to get where they are now, and the long history of oppression they faced from outside settlers.
I not only got to hear about these programs, but was also able to see some of these services firsthand when a tribal member on staff gave us a tour of their lands, while providing personal and historical perspectives.
I am excited to have connected with our ‘ohana in the Pacific Northwest and look forward to building our relationship and friendship.