Invisible no more.
For the first time ever, the red, white and black colors of the Tulalip flag are soaring over every Marysville School District campus. Tulalip’s iconic orca was raised up at each elementary, middle school, high school, and even District headquarters during the week of November 17th.
In each instance, the 3 foot by 5 foot cloth signifying the Tulalip Tribes as a sovereign nation was raised by a proud student representative and young Tulalip culture bearer.
“About a decade ago, my coworker Ricky Belmont and I started asking the schools we work at to fly the Tulalip Tribes flag out of recognition for the tribe being a sovereign nation and to honor the treaty lands that schools are built upon,” explained Matt Remle, Indian Education Program Coordinator for Marysville School District. “Last spring, Marysville Pilchuck High School became the first school to agree and now flies the flag daily.
“Last month, in collaboration with the Tulalip Tribes and the MSD equity department, [we received authorization] to raise the Tulalip flag at the district office. By the end of November, every school in the district was raising the Tulalip flag. No more erasure, no more invisibility!”
It’s no secret that Marysville and Tulalip have a history rife with conflict and misunderstanding, especially when it comes to the subject of education. However, flying the Tulalip flag is a symbol of hope for the future. It’s an action that intends to create a better partnership between the two communities, while acknowledging the Tribe’s self-governed and federally recognized status.
“I grew up in a time when it wasn’t safe to be Indian in the Marysville School District,” shared Quil Ceda Vice Principal Chelsea Craig. “We had to check being Indian at the door. We didn’t see ourselves in the school. We didn’t see ourselves in the curriculum. So now, this simple act of raising our Tulalip flag on these school campuses becomes a huge act of healing for our Marysville/Tulalip community. This is the joining of two communities on the homeland of our people.
“This is the start of a must-needed change,” she continued. “My dream is seeing our own curriculum in the schools and for Since Time Immemorial to be taught in every classroom, not just in history. And for all the youth here at this history making moment, you are the ones who know how to do this world better. I see you doing that every day. Treating one another with love and respect. You are our future leaders, so I want you all to be witness of this work here today. When you’re older, you’ll remember why we did this. You’ll know what it really means to be one as a Marysville/Tulalip community and you’ll make sure this kind of good work continues.”
From the schools to the District headquarters, every time the orca was raised up it was treated as a moment to educate and celebrate. Tulalip representatives from our own Education division and cultural ambassadors spoke passionately about what this show of respect means for the many Native students within the school district. It allows a more diverse student body to feel accepted and be openly proud of their culture.
After tribal members and school administrators lent historical perspective and words of encouragement for a brighter future to the large gatherings at each school flag pole, a coalition of Native representatives with drum-in-hand offered traditional canoe family songs. The sentiment being in order for both communities to in face move forward together and in a good way, they’d have to pull in synch and in the same direction, like a canoe family.
The final stop on the multi-day mission to raise the Tulalip flag across all Marysville School District campuses was Tulalip’s own Early Learning Academy. The expectation being that for these young ones, they grow up in a school district only knowing what it’s like to be accepted and embraced for their cultural traditions and teachings. A special moment occurred when the group prepared to sing their canoe songs.
“A staff member brought her grandson to me and asked if he could drum with us,” said Matt Remle. “Made my heart feel good. That’s why we do what do for the next generation. So they can grow up in a better society, not invisible but instead empowered and uplifted. Knowing they’re sovereign, knowing that they can be themselves no matter where they are.”
By adding the Tulalip flag to the same pole that holds the United States and Washington State flags, Marysville School District recognizes Tulalip’s inherent sovereignty as an indigenous nation and acknowledges that the best way forward is in partnership, pulling together.