Mountain Camp brings tribal youth (grades 6-8th) for a week of overnight camping deep into the forests and high huckleberry meadows of swədaʔx̌ali , in the upper Skykomish watershed. Camp days are filled with activity and adventure – with opportunities to get to know a part of Tribes’ ancestral mountain area and to learn from cultural and natural resources staff, tribal elders, Lushootseed language teachers, and invited guests. Kids learn to set up their own tents, cook healthy outdoor meals, play group games and learn to respect and support each other to share and stay safe in this new experience. Campers also have a hands-on opportunity to participate directly in the stewardship work of the Tribes’ Natural Resources Department with our staff in the field. On clear nights we hear from traditional storytellers and from each other under the stars and around a campfire. During the camp, elders and cultural staff serve as mentors to ensure the camp is grounded in Tulalip’s cultural values. Knowledge and skills needed to respect the area and “Step Lightly” (x̌əʔaʔxʷaʔšəd) on the land are taught throughout the camp.
While participating, youth learn how to work together as a team to develop and contribute to natural resource management and research projects, navigate outdoor challenges, and demonstrate leadership that will translate to their lives at home and in school. Youth also learn cultural perspectives combined with scientific perspectives on the plants, animals and the ecology of Tulalip’s unique Co-Stewardship area swədaʔx̌ali and other mountain environments within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
The camp began in 2015 and has occurred every August, rain or shine. Participants have witnessed ground-shaking thunderstorms, counted hundreds of awe-inspiring meteors, hiked into areas filled with huckleberries, and dipped into cold, clear mountain lakes. Every year we partner with the YMCA BOLD/GOLD Outdoor Leadership Program in Seattle. As a national leader in outdoor programs, the YMCA provides camp equipment, transportation, instruction in outdoor and youth leadership skills and safety, and, importantly, takes responsibility for camp risk management and camper safety. This partnership allows us to maintain the curriculum’s focus on Tulalip cultural and natural resource teachings, which has been very successful over these past 3 years. Mountain Camp also draws from staff of multiple departments’ within the Tribes, including the Rediscovery Program, Language, Shellfish, Forestry, Treaty Rights, Environment, Communications and others who have been integral in making these camps a success.
The Tulalip Natural Resources Department is excited to expand the camp experience this year to include the teachings and traditions of our saltwater areas, as well as our mountain traditions. Tulalip’s Fish Camp will be held on Lopez Island, in the San Juan Islands, before “Mountain Camp”.. The schedule of Fish Camp earlier in the summer (July) and Mountain Camp later (August) simulates our traditional summer movement from coast to mountains and the seasonal round of Tulalip Coast Salish peoples. The San Juan Islands were historically important to the tribes as fishing and shellfish areas, for camas cultivation, and for many other uses as our ancestors lived, visited relatives, or traveled through these islands. Today we continue to rely on the rich waters and shorelines of these islands that are in Tulalip’s “Usual and Accustomed” fishing areas. The camp curriculum will include exploration of the many natural and cultural sites at Lopez Island, learning our history, learning about the fish, shellfish and plants of the islands, and outdoor skills in this beach/marine environment.
Project Coordinator: Libby Nelson, Sr. Environmental Policy Analyst, Tulalip-US Forest MOA Liaison, Tulalip Treaty Rights Office of Natural Resources, has worked for Tulalip for 27 years.
Camp Director: Kelly Finley, Natural Resources Outreach and Education Coordinator, has worked for Tulalip Natural Resources for 12 years.
Camp Leaders: Rocky Brisbois, Shellfish Department, has worked for Tulalip Tribes for 20 years.
Matthew Moses, Forestry Department, has worked for Tulalip for 5 years.
“We’ve been learning that this is the land where our ancestors were raised, grew up, and lived. They hunted, they ate, they slept, they did everything on this land right here. It feels good, like I’m doing something they would want me to do.” - Sunny Kennebrew, 7th grade
When asked what he got out of his first camp as a 6th grader, Kaiser Moses, said, “I feel empowered. I feel I can do anything.” He returned to camp every summer after until he aged out of the project and is now working a summer job in the Natural Resources Forestry Department.
“I love the area –how we woke up to thunder this morning. I’ve never heard it that loud. I think every area in the woods is pretty special but here’s special because we’re all together.” Jacynta Myles-Guilford, 6th grade