TULALIP — The word “potlatch” means “to give” or “gift.”
It’s also the name of an ancient tradition practiced by the Coast Salish people, when families invited guests for a feast and shared what they had.
The Tulalip tribal members are continuing this tradition in a new way.
The tribes’ charitable donations program gave away a record $5.5 million worth of grants this year to more than 300 nonprofit organizations.
“When goodwill comes to a family, at some point, they re-distribute that for the whole community,” Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have goodwill.”
To celebrate community service and recognize nonprofits supported by the program, the Tulalips are hosting their annual Raising Hands banquet today at the Tulalip Resort Casino.
Snohomish-based veterans’ organization Heartbeat — Serving Wounded Warriors received $10,000. The funds are helping to cover requests for emergency assistance with rent, gas and food bills, said founder Janice Buckley.
“We are very excited and very grateful,” she said. “It’s allowing us to say ‘yes’ to more wounded warriors and their families.”
The tribes also made the final payment this year of a $500,000 pledge to the Providence General Foundation, said Randy Petty, the foundation’s chief development officer. A total of $400,000 went toward the new Providence Cymbaluk Medical Tower and $100,000 went for the new cancer center.
“The cancer center is a tremendous resource to the community,” he said.
Sheldon is a member of the foundation’s board of directors.
The tribes’ charitable program supports education, health and human services, public safety, the environment and cultural preservation.
“Our culture was once so starved because we weren’t allowed to practice it.” Sheldon said. “We realize how important culture is to other members of our community.”
The program was created in 1992, said Steve Gobin, general manager of Quil Ceda Village commercial center. The tribal confederation’s board of directors decided to donate 2 percent of its casino’s table games revenue to charitable causes.
They now give depending on the level of need and try to stay as local as they can.
The funds come from three sources: the casino, Quil Ceda Village and a general tribal fund.
In February, the tribes committed $1.26 million to the Marysville School District to save programs that were on the chopping block in the cash-strapped district. The money is helping to cover, among other things, a new science curriculum for middle schools, math materials and teacher training.
“Tulalip Tribes has been a wonderful partner in education,” said Marysville school Superintendent Larry Nyland. “We are grateful for their support of student learning, our district goals for student achievement and our schools.”
Red Eagle Soaring, a Seattle-based theater program for urban American Indian youth, received $10,000. The money paid for the free, two-week camp this summer for 40 native teenagers, said Managing Director Fern Renville. The camp culminated with a production called “Zombie Pow Wow.”
The program combines contemporary theater with traditional American Indian arts — drumming, singing, dancing and storytelling.
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, email@example.com
To learn more or to apply for funds, go to www.tulalipcares.org.