(Tulalip) on returning back to her language after growing up in foster care. By Zee Jimicum


A year ago, at the age of 35, I attended my first Lushootseed family night with my children. Family night is an opportunity for Tulalip community members to share a meal together and then learn Lushootseed.  Materials (worksheets, games, videos and cds) are provided with the lesson so families can practice at home.

My children and I also attended Tulalip’s annual language camp this last summer.  Summer camp takes place for two one week sessions.  During that time the kids who attended practice a play based on a traditional story, performed at the end of the week in Lushootseed.  The kids also learned traditional songs, made crafts that were given away at the end of the week in a traditional give away, and learned Lushootseed through modern technology on a Nintendo DS.

The more I learn, the more I want to know.  My kids and I use the few words we know on a daily basis.  I’m excited that my 3 year old is learning at such a young age!  My 12 year old is showing more and more interest the more we learn as well.  I am so thankful that we have such passionate teachers in our Lustootseed department.  They are very knowledgeable and make learning Lushootseed fun.  Classes are more than language classes.  We learn about the history of the words, traditional stories and relevant information about people who helped translate Lushootseed into English.

Returning home
Almost as soon as I was born, around 2-3 weeks old, I was moved between relatives and foster homes until I was eight years old.  At the age of eight, my younger brother and I were placed in a permanent non-Native foster home where we both lived until we were eighteen.  Until we were 12 and 13 years old we were raised near our biological family.  When I was in the 8th grade my family moved from Washington to Oregon where we lived for a year.  After my freshman year in high school we moved back to Washington where I graduated from high school.

At the current age of 36 I feel like I am still trying to understand and absorb all I have experienced in life and the affects it has on me as a whole person, as a Native-Mexican woman and mother.  I cherish and value the upbringing I had.  The trauma and dysfunction of my early childhood is what my life is rooted in. Being in foster care is what led me to become a social worker.  It also led me to become a foster parent and adopt my daughter, and it is the reason I currently work in education with Native students and families (truly the last place I thought I would be).

Life is a journey.  At times I’ve found myself longing to have had a different life experience, less complicated maybe, but I know God uses our experiences to grow us and help others we meet along our journey.  My hope is that I would simply be able to help others; to help others know they are not alone and to help them along their journey the way I have been helped by so many people in my life.

I enjoy learning alongside my children and feel honored to be a part of keeping our language alive!

Zenitha “Zee” L. Jimicum (Tulalip) is the daughter of Mary Spencer Jimicum and Woody and Judith Lovelace.  Her Grandparents are Richard “Butch” Spencer and Mary Johnny Spencer.  She is the Mother of two amazing children Spencer (12) and Cora (3).  She has three brothers and four sisters.  She is a Tulalip tribal member through her Mother, who passed away in 2004 and Mexican through her Father, whom she never met.
For more on the Tulalip Lushootseed family nights go to: http://www.tulaliplushootseed.com

LRI-Language Preservation Matt Remle

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