The Muckleshoot Tribe.
It was November in 2016, way before I perfected my signature when signing books; We were invited to a community gathering from the tribe. Me, and my parents were with me and I was fully ready for this engagement. In its own way, this felt very personal.
For a very long time, I have always been fascinated with the native tribes of the nation. In elementary school, I would go to the library and learn more about the different cultures in the many tribes all around the country. Navajo, Apache, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Comanche, Cree, Seminole, Nootka, Klamath; all of them outstanding! I remember when I was very little, I was so extremely bummed out realizing I did not have any native blood; It is all European descent for me. There are ninety six tribes here in Washington state, and one of the tribes is Muckleshoot. Only tribes I was familiar with in the state were Spokane, Snoqualmie, and Muckleshoot; And I was fortunate and grateful to be reached out by Muckleshoot.
Little known secret is you never ever invite yourself to any tribe. That is a rule I have always known by; They invite you. Being invited by the tribe, that was one of the biggest privileges in my career! To me, the tribe is a lot like royalty; Be the best self you can be and give them all your utmost respect. Soon as we parked and went up to the community building, I saw this like any other speaking engagement at first, but then was reminded that this was the Muckleshoot tribe and I was so nervous! It was like an army of horses galloping in my stomach ready to burst out and be free; Deep breaths, and went in with a straight back.
The people were extremely welcoming and very kind. Was greeted warmly and so excited to learn more about how to help children with autism. We spent a good amount of time getting to know each other. I met with the event coordinator, that is the woman with the red shirt on my right; Amazing person! The sweet woman on my left is the linguist that teaches the language, Lushootseed. I was excited to meet her! She was very kind and full of knowledge; A wonderful member to the community. I love the language too! I get so excited when I hear a language I’m not familiar with; Really share so much about their culture. Then there’s the Chief! I instantly recognized him as the chief by that unique tie he wore, and he was a tall man! He has so much history spanning from multiple generations in the Muckleshoot tribe in his family. I literally and figuratively looked up to the chief and I still do today; All chiefs of the nation. The Chief of Muckleshoot, this man was big in everything! Height, power; to put it simply, the man in charge. I was extremely honored to meet him!
Saving the best part for last, I want to get to the main event. The only two things I would have done differently was wore a white V-neck under my red button up shirt, and an answer to a question that I felt like a complete fool. The question was: “What do you like to collect?” And I said: “Hundred dollar bills.” The community and my parents thought it was funny and heard laughter. I was surprised and confused why they were laughing. I explained that those bills would be so rare (to me anyway) and wouldn’t want to spend them. Then I thought about the accidental joke and felt really bad because it sounded as if I was being greedy. I felt very bad. Should have said CDs instead; I collect CDs. Other than those two things, everything else was everything I had hoped for in a speaking engagement. I shared my story and offered advice and strategies that can work for the tribe. These are good people, the children were well behaved; I was happy to be invited to inform and give out some guidance for the community.
This is now the paragraph where I describe the best part of the experience. The feast! Showing their genuine hospitality, the tribe provided a feast for everyone. Salmon! A grand meal of salmon with rice and vegetables. Freshly caught and cooked to perfection! It is a rich tradition involving salmon in many of the tribes in Washington State and this feast in particular was something extraordinary. Felt like I was part of the tribe at that moment! I would do something like that again instantly, but I know the rule; Invitation only, I never would invite myself to communities such as Muckleshoot. Like I said before, it is a privilege to be welcomed, and once I was in temporarily for the evening, I wanted to make the most of it all before having the hope that one day I may have one of those special invitations once again. After this event, they offered a big warm blanket that I still use for my bed. Thanked them for the warm gift and I still treasure it always.
Muckleshoot. I could not thank you enough for the time. We could not thank you enough. I am currently having salmon for dinner right now thinking about the event. Thank you for your kind generous hospitality.