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Tulalip Tribes open Hibulb Cultural Center
TULALIP — For the members of the Tulalip Tribes, the exhibits of the Hibulb Cultural Center are not dry relics from distant times, but vital items of personal significance that keep the memories of their families and ancestors alive as their culture moves forward into the future.
When the Center opened to Tulalip Tribal members and select guests on Aug. 19, one day before opening to the general public, Tribal member Jean Morris was excited to use its touchscreen computers to map out the roots of her family tree, as she identified Henry Paul and Amelia Jackson as among her ancestors.
“This is so cool,” Morris said, as her fingers traced the lines of her heritage on one of the Center’s walls. “I really didn’t expect to see this. We had an ‘Aunt Jackie’ who we called that because her last name was Jackson.”
James Madison had carved a nine-foot-tall wooden totem for the Center, of an elder woman wearing tribal regalia and carrying a clam basket, but as he, his wife Jessica and his sons Jayden and Jevin browsed through the glass-cased artifacts, he was surprised to find another piece of family artistry on display.
“Ray Moses had asked my dad to paint his drum,” Madison said. “This is the first time I’ve seen it. Seeing how everyone is reacting is very humbling. In my work, I tried to respect the elders of our culture.”
Respect for veterans was also showcased at the Center’s first living history exhibition, “Warriors We Remember,” as Tribal member Brianne DiStefano was gratified to see a photo of her father, Joe Gobin, on its wall of honored veterans.
“I’ve had two grandfathers and numerous uncles and cousins in the service,” DiStefano said. “It’s nice to see them all up there.”
Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. found his own Army Air Cavalry helmet and uniform patch under bright lights in the Center.
“The Tulalip people have a rich legacy of joining the military in both war and peacetime,” Sheldon said. “It makes me proud to see us step up.”
Sheldon suggested that the next exhibition could be devoted to the elders of the Tribes to ensure that their stories are not forgotten.
Hank Gobin, director of the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve, credited the long memories and commitment of several Tulalip Tribal members with keeping the dream of such a Center alive for three decades, and called upon witnesses from Tulalip and representatives of a number of visiting tribes to remember the Center’s opening as a landmark day in the Tribes’ history.
The 23,000-square-foot building cost $19 million, which was funded through proceeds from Quil Ceda Village the Tribes’ casinos, and was designed to bring natural light into its long east-west hallway, following the path of the sun and recalling the layout of a tribal smokehouse. A replica smokehouse within the building shows films about Tulalip Tribal traditions, its screens flanked by four totem poles carved by Tribal member William Shelton for a smokehouse built in 1914. Harriette Shelton Williams, William Shelton’s daughter and an early advocate for such a museum, passed the poles onto her son, Wayne Williams, who kept them on the family’s property.
Gobin credited Wayne Williams with donating more than 280 items to the museum, while Tribal Board member Mark Hatch noted the significant number of similar artifacts that literally came from other Tribal members’ closets, attics and backyards, stored in those places for decades because there was no central location where they could be preserved and presented to the public.
“How many years will our grandchildren talk about us and about this day?” Tribal Board member Don Hatch Jr. asked. “This is good medicine that we’re sharing here today.”