Native Village Youth and Education News
November, 2009  Volume 3

Honoring tradition, Tulalip hunter shares meat from first kill

By Gale Fiege

Condensed by Native Village

Washington:  Bagging his first deer was a rite of passage for 13-year-old Josh Hamilton. After bringing home the three-point buck, Josh had another tradition to honor.

The young Tulalip tribal member gave his butchered deer to the Chief Seattle Club. CSC provides support to about 200 low-income and homeless urban American Indians and Alaska Natives. Josh's deer will help feed the people at the club's day shelter.

“Our tradition is that when a boy gets his first deer, he must give it away to those who would appreciate the help,” said Josh's mother Andrea Hamilton. “Josh knows his grandpa brings fish to the Chief Seattle Club, so he wanted to give his deer to our people here on the streets.”

Following another tradition, Chief Seattle's executive director Jenine Grey, a young Tlingit woman, pinned a blanket around Josh as an elder sang and kept a beat on his deer-skin drum.

“We are humbled and honored by your gift,” Grey said. “It will nourish the bodies and spirits of people who don't often have the chance to eat traditional foods. In this urban world where we live, a gift like this will bring tears to their eyes.”

Josh's grandfather, Don Hatch, hoped the deer meat, fish, and smoked salmon he brought along would be received as medicine by people at the club. He also praised the Tulalip Tribe and those who helped  prepare the food for delivery.

“And thank you for taking our gift,” Hatch told the group. “I hope this is a day Josh will remember forever.”

The brief ceremony concluded with prayer and a round of thank-yous in several native languages.

Josh raised his hands in thanks and smiled. “It's good to be able to help out our Indian family in Seattle, people who don't have a place to stay,” Josh said. “And it's an honor to get the blanket from the elders here.”

At 6 feet tall and more than 200 pounds, Josh Hamilton has a tribal name, KweKwaWeChud, that doesn't seem to fit.  It means “Little Elk. His dream is to be a professional  baseball, basketball or football player.

For now, though, Josh is a hunter.

Steve Hamilton had taken his son Josh hunting many times. Hamilton, a Muckleshoot, hunts early in the season to stock up for the large meals following funerals and special ceremonies on the Tulalip Reservation.

“You have to give to get,” he told Josh.

Hamilton taught Josh that animals sacrifice their lives to feed the people, and that every bit of the animal must have a purpose. A craftsman, he uses the hooves for ceremonial regalia and the hides for drums.

“The deer lives on as long as the drum beats,” Hamilton said.

In the high hills east of Arlington last Friday, Josh asked for his dad's permission to shoot his first deer while out during the tribal hunting season.

The kill was quick, with a shot right to the heart.

“I was excited and very happy for the gift,” Josh said.

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