An inspiring life journey

The phrase “rags to riches” is typically used to describe the life story of an individual who rises from extreme poverty to grand wealth. The story — life journey, really — of Tulalip tribal leader (and recent retiree) Stan Jones certainly fits this description.

The riches that Jones, and a host of tribal elders, helped secure for the tribe are substantial. If you measure them in monetary terms alone, however, you miss the deeper value of his journey.

We have to admit, it’s difficult to ignore the economic success and the impact Stan Jones has had in his 44 years of leadership with the Tulalip Tribes. Look no further than the $720 million in annual revenue attributed to the Quil Ceda Village development, which includes a mix of retail tenants surrounding its crown jewel, the luxury hotel and casino.

Along with economic development, Jones insisted that the tribe fight for its historical rights and return to its native language and core values, which had been stripped away by English-speaking educators who believed that assimilation was the only way to teach tribal children.

Looking back at Jones’ humble beginnings, as reported in an April 18 profile by Herald writer Eric Stevick, it’s hard to imagine that the young Indian boy who battled tuberculosis and isolation would one day travel the globe as a tribal ambassador, dining with presidents, wealthy dignitaries and world leaders. While he certainly didn’t work alone, his single-minded determination often served as the catalyst for dramatic change, earning him both allies and adversaries across the table.

Although the impact of his legacy travels far beyond the boundaries of the Tulalip Reservation, the true beneficiaries are the young people who inherit a place dramatically different than the one into which Stan Jones was born. Today, tribal members have access not only to well-paying jobs, but to a host of other services including health care, assistance for seniors, housing and opportunities for higher education.

Last weekend hundreds gathered in the grand ballroom at the lavish Tulalip Resort and Casino to raise their hands in appreciation of the years of service and significant accomplishments of their No. 1 Warrior, Chairman Stan Jones.

It has been said that success is a journey, not a destination. By any measure, the journey of Stan Jones has been defined by his love for his family, a steadfast determination, a responsibility to tribal culture, a respect for tradition and an unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship.

An inspiring success, no matter how you measure it.