Tribes salute their graduates
August 28, 2008 · Updated 8:50 AM
SMOKEY POINT It was a different kind of graduation recently as the Tulalip Tribes put their hands up for 46 recent graduates and a Tribal member won a coveted teaching award from the University of Arizona.
It wasnt too long ago that Stephanie Fryberg couldnt even conceive of having a Ph.D. much less earning a professorship at a major university.
The Marysville-Pilchuck High School Class of 1989 graduate and Tulalip Indian is now Dr. Fryberg and a popular member of the University of Arizona faculty, serving as assistant professor of psychology. A graduate of Stanford University, Fryberg won the Five Star Excellence in Teaching Award from the Tempe, Ariz. School. Only one award is given each year and she said she was stunned.
I fully did not expect to win because I was so young, Fryberg said in an interview a Marysville School District headquarters earlier this month. I was quite honored.
At the other end of the scale, the Tribes honored recent high school and college graduates locally at their Adult Education Awards Banquet on June 20 at the Hawthorne Suites. Almost two dozen Tribal members at the collegiate level were saluted for their achievements and 29 more were honored for passing their GED tests.
Mathew Tait and Eliza Davis earned bachelors degrees and were cited for their hard work, persistence and determination. Education is going to be the key to the Tribes future, and the Tulalips guarantee the tuition of any member who gets into college.
That was a huge leg up for Davis, who told her extended family thanks for the support. She graduated high school nine years ago and bounced around a few jobs such as being a barista to a bingo floor runner. She now is a teaching assistant, helping a new generation learn the Tulalip Lushootseed tongue.
I do know that Im in debt to my people, Davis told a crowd of several hundred Tribal members and leaders, choking up as she promised to pay it forward to the benefit of future generations just as her grandfather Francis Sheldon did for hers.
Im glad to say that my grandfather passed that vision on to me, Davis said.
Tait earned a degree from Washington State University, and he thanked the Tulalip Education Department for all their support. Now that he had his degree he felt the weight on his shoulders and promised to repay the Tribes. It was clear he was not talking cash, but commitment.
As educated people we have a responsibility to set the bar for those who come behind us, Tait told the crowd, citing the example of hard work he knew from his parents and grandparents.
Tribal chairman and University of Washington alum Mel Sheldon Jr. paused the gentle ribbing his collegiate rival.
Wherever you go, were proud of you, Sheldon said.
He likened the Tribal college tuition support to the GI Bill, which put the Vietnam veteran through college, where Sheldon majored in political science.
Its a good thing, it was a great journey, Sheldon said. They cannot take that education away from you once you have it. That toolbox is with you.
That toolbox will be crucial to the future of the Tribes, as the Tulalips want homegrown leaders to run their enterprises in an increasingly complex world. Sheldon echoed other Tribal leaders, joking that when hes is eligible to receive the generous support for elders, he wants to know there will be smart Tulalips to ensure the money is there.
Inspirational speaker June Lamarr has a Ph. D. in clinical psychology and told of the hardships and discrimination she faced as a Paiute and Pit River Indian from the high California desert. Classrooms often had harsh histories for Native Americans and Lamarr cited the achievement of Fryberg and two other Tulalip Doctors in the making. She admitted feeling helpless in school, facing a gauntlet of seven statistics classes. Now two of her kids have or are graduating from college.
You graduates are defying the negative experience, Lamarr said, singling out the GEDs for special praise. It is a hard task.
Tribal director Marie Zackuse thanked the graduates and reminded them how the Tribes are doing well today because of the hard work, planning and foresight of past generations.
We wouldnt be here today but for our elders who have passed and the sacrifices they made, Zackuse said.