Vision finally became reality for the Tulalip Tribes with the recent opening of their new Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve.
An interior shot of the Hibulb Cultural Center. Courtesy photo.
"It was the vision of the Tulalip people to build a cultural center where we could gather as a community to share our knowledge and stories with one another, a place where we could rediscover our traditions together, and a place that offers our children an educational experience so that they can carry our culture into the future," explains Mel Sheldon, chairman of the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors. "And now the time has come when we can also share with the surrounding community our own story in our own words – so that visitors can learn in a place that truly expresses the spirit of the Tulalip people."
The $19 million center was 30 years in the making and its development was carefully planned and guided by the Tulalip Tribes’ elders and leaders.
It was named for a village that the tribes once lived in, which was located at the mouth of the Snohomish River. Translated, Hibulb means "place where the white doves live" or "place of a thousand fires."
The state-of-the-art facility includes a 23,000-square-foot cultural center, a 10,000-square-foot collections and archeological repository and a 50-acre natural history preserve.
Within the cultural center, there is a main exhibit wing, a gallery for temporary or rotating exhibits, two classrooms, a cedar longhouse, a research library and gift shop.
Aimed primarily at assisting young tribal members in learning about tribal traditions and history, the museum was created to be highly interactive with a variety of hands-on activities.
Themes within the permanent collection include the boarding school era in Tulalip, dating from the mid-1800s to the 1930s, when tribal children were taken from their parents to become "civilized" and assimilated into American society.
They were forbidden to practice their ways or speak their language and as a result, the Coast Salish culture and spirituality was suppressed and family life severely compromised during this time. A series of historical photographs and quotations from tribal members describing their experiences helps to illustrate this harsh period. The impact and effects of this era on four to five generations still lingers today, adding urgency to the role of tribal government in sponsoring cultural rediscovery.
There’s also an exhibit that tells the story of the Point Elliott Treaty, the land settlement agreement, which the Tulalip Tribes, along with other tribes in the greater Puget Sound region, signed in 1855.
A display on cedar honors the tree for its strength, beauty and ability to provide an array of materials for the people. Considered "the tree of life," cedar was used in all aspects of the tribes’ daily existence. Salmon is also given its proper homage with a colorful display depicting the salmon cycle and various fishing equipment and techniques utilized by the people.
For centuries, the Tulalip Tribes depended on the region’s natural environment for food, clothing, commerce, culture and protection. They hunted and gathered wildlife, seafood, cedar and plant life, and traded and socialized with hundreds of other groups around the area.
A large wall map indicating ancestral lands shows the extensive holdings of the Tribes within the Puget Sound region. In a display case nearby, there are clamshell discs and beads once used in trading. Of special interest is a value scale, explaining the worth of the various types of shells.
Four Dentalium strings, for example, were equal to one canoe.
In "Tulalip Today," the structure of the Tribes’ government is detailed, along with information on business and education.
The language of Lushootseed, the Tulalip’s native tongue has survived despite efforts in the past to vanquish it and it is now a mandatory subject for all elementary school students.
There are about 4,000 members of the Tulalip Tribes, with 2,500 living on the reservation.
A genealogy wall within the center lists every tribal member, past and present, providing a detailed ancestry record. Any Tulalip member can learn about their roots by entering an enrollment number into a system, which then lights up the names of their family relations. "Warriors: We Remember" is the subject of the exhibit in the temporary or rotating gallery.
It tells the stories of the Tulalip Tribes’ military tradition, which was born of a warrior spirit.
Here, the Tulalip men and women who served the country in times of conflict and peace are honored and celebrated on a wall covered with their portraits and quotations describing their experiences in battle.
A number of these veterans fought for a country that didn’t admit them as citizens, as Native Americans did not gain U.S. citizenship until 1924. Large handmade canoes, story poles, carvings and art-stenciled design elements adorn the main corridor of the museum.
They are examples of the beautiful craftsmanship of the Tribes’ contemporary artists. And then there’s the cedar longhouse, which has been built into the museum.
With the assistance of an interactive media system, visitors can sit, listen and experience a traditional Tulalip gathering place, learning about the role the longhouse has played in the Tulalip Tribes’ spiritual, political and everyday lives.
The Natural History Preserve, which adjoins the center, will eventually include large-scale environmental restoration projects, walking paths, an observational platform to view the estuary, a totemic sculpture garden, visiting artists’ accommodations, a carving shed, a canoe storage facility and various gardens that will supply food and medicine to the tribal membership.
"We have dreamt about this day for many years," says Hank Gobin, Hibulb’s Director. "Words cannot express the joy we feel that our cultural center is open and ready to educate and inform the Tulalip community and the world about our vibrant culture. While our priority will be helping our Tulalip youth and membership with the rediscovery of our traditions, values and life-ways, we will share our dream with everyone." He adds, "With our service to the community, we hope to remove stereotypes and barriers and promote more understanding and respect for our history, traditions and future direction."
The Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve is located at: 6410 23rd Avenue N.E. in Tulalip. For more information: (360) 716-2600 or HibulbCulturalCenter.org.