A plethora of baby coho salmon found their way to freedom last weekend, boasting names like Rodrick and Rocky as they made their way down a side-channel of the Sultan River.
The salmon releases were part of the sixth annual Return of the Salmon Celebration, which took place from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, in Sultan’s Osprey Park. In addition to a guided expedition along the Sultan River led by the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD), the event featured tours of the Sultan High School salmon hatchery, watershed education, Native storytelling, covered horse-drawn wagon rides, children’s activities, a Master Gardener clinic, hula hoop demonstrations by Pixie Dance Hoops, Gold Dust Royalty, hand-crafted items made by local artisans and much more.
Native frybread was available for purchase from Big Bear’s, along with freshly-grilled salmon, lemonade and salad, provided by Vick’s Burger Shack.
“The Return of the Salmon Celebration Committee would like to thank everyone who helped make this year’s event a spectacular success,” said committee chairperson Craig Young. “Thanks to all the wonderful residents of the Pacific Northwest who came to enjoy the beautiful day, see the spawning pink salmon, and honor Sultan’s namesake Chief T’seul-ted. We are very grateful!”
Sultan High School student volunteers accompanied parents and kids from the school hatchery into the trails at Osprey Park, where they explained the importance of salmon to our local ecosystem. Although the school hatchery is currently closed for maintenance and repairs, biology teacher Ryan Monger arranged for fish to be available through the Wallace Falls Hatchery. Kids were given their own juvenile salmon to transport from the hatchery to a side-channel of the Sultan River, were they were released.
Meant to celebrate the Sky Valley region’s Native heritage, the Return of the Salmon Celebration embraced Native traditions, including a welcoming ceremony, drumming and Native dance.
It honored Chief John T’seul-Ted, whose 13-foot tall likeness stands near First and Main streets in Sultan’s River Park. Often called “Sultan John,” T’seul-ted was born and raised near what is commonly known as the city of Sultan, and was the chief of a sub-group of the Snohomish Tribe. He was an accomplished trail guide and highly-respected medicine man, well-liked by all who knew him.
It is believed that Sultan is named after T’seul-ted. It has been reported that early settlers found “T’seul-Ted” too difficult to pronounce, so they simplified it to “Sultan.”
The sunny afternoon brought a performance by Swil Kanim, a virtuoso violinist and Lummi tribal member. Kanim paired his original works on the violin with rich, humor-infused storytelling that compelled and mesmerized listeners. He achieved remarkable depth of melody during the performance, which embraced life and all its experiences and lessons.
At times the crescendo sounded like a pair of violins rather than a lone instrument, so adept was Kanim at the transformation of music into art. At the end of his set he was joined by acclaimed Native American flute player Peter Ali, resulting in a duet that captured the essence of everything the Return of the Salmon Celebration was about.
“We thank our sponsors for their generosity and Tulalip Tribal families for the incredible sharing of culture,” Young said. “And our awesome performers, artists and food vendors, who really made this year’s event something special.”
The event also featured performances by storyteller Lois Landgrebe, a Tulalip tribal member, and J.P. Falcon Grady, a guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of the Blackfeet Nation. There were live demonstrations by master cedar weaver Lance Taylor, who featured intricately-crafted items made from hand-woven strips of cedar.
The Return of the Salmon Celebration was made possible by the Return of the Salmon Celebration Committee, the city of Sultan, the Tulalip Tribes, the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD), Sultan High School biology teacher Ryan Monger, Sultan High School students, Sultan Middle School students and school district staff.
“The Return of the Salmon Celebration wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of many groups,” Young said. “We are so thankful for the chance to come together for a day to celebrate our beautiful, natural environment, especially our local waterways, salmon, trees and earth.”
The Return of the Salmon Celebration committee is seeking an infusion of new volunteers. In addition to planning and coordinating the annual celebration, the committee is working to refurbish and relocate the Chief T’seul-ted statue, to ensure it remains a part of the Sultan community. To find out how to get involved in next year’s Return of the Salmon Celebration or the statue project, please contact Craig Young at 425-359-8936 or email at: email@example.com.