Day Trip Discoveries: Tulalip Tribes’ Hibulb Cultural Center is Coast Salish gem

Hilbulb Cultural Center entrance.
Hilbulb Cultural Center entrance.

Have you heard of – or visited – the Tulalip Tribes’ Hibulb Cultural Center, just north of Everett? Hibulb (pronounced “hee-bolb”) opened in 2011 but continues to be a relatively undiscovered Snohomish County attraction.

Why is the question, because the Hibulb Cultural Center is easily accessible from Interstate 5 (unlike other tribal cultural centers in Washington state). It is located on the Tulalip Reservation, but perhaps folks miss Hibulb because it is reached from Marysville exit #199 rather than exit #200 to the Tulalip Resort Casino and Seattle Premium Outlets shopping mall.

But you don’t want to miss this gem of Native American Coast Salish heritage! The Tulalip Tribes –Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other Coast Salish tribes signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot – spent years putting together a cultural center that preserves and interprets their traditional lifestyle. The goal was to have all the key elements of their culture displayed in one place – both to show to the world beyond the reservation and to educate their youth about their past. The 23,000-square-foot Hibulb Cultural Center is a wonderful accomplishment on both counts.

Hibulb’s front doors are yellow cedar, carved with a “people of the salmon” design, and fitted with bronze handles sculpted into Orcas, the tribes’ totem animal. Inside, the long entry hall showcases several historical canoes, backed by photographic settings of the local waters where they were used.

Inside the Hibulb Cultural Center.
The long entry hall showcases several historical canoes.

Larger-than-life cedar carvings of two Coast Salish figures welcome you to enter the main exhibit area. Inside, the permanent exhibit showcases the traditional hunting, fishing and gathering lifestyles of the Tulalip Tribes with interactive displays, murals, artifacts, story poles and videos. There is an extensive collection of historical and archaeological artifacts including baskets, stone work and tools, totems and other carvings. Included in this permanent exhibit is a fascinating display of cedar and its many uses – from clothing to baskets and tools – by the Coast Salish.

The Hibulb Cultural Center contains fully certified collections, making it the only tribal facility so certified by the state of Washington.

It also features a traditional cedar long house interior where you can sit and watch a video on Coast Salish heritage narrated by tribal elders telling their stories – punctuated by a “fire pit” in the center for appropriate atmosphere. Special visiting exhibits rotate though the Hibulb Cultural Center about every six months.

Currently and through June 30, the special exhibit is Project 562, an extraordinary collection of photograph portraits of Native Americans from all 562 recognized tribes when this project was begun by Photographer Matika Wilbur several years ago.

The Hibulb Cultural Center’s main exhibits also include the boarding-school era (latter-1800s to 1930s), when tribal children were separated from their parents and sent to boarding schools. There they were forbidden to speak their native language and stripped of their culture, heritage and spirituality. This sad tale is poignantly told in historical photographs and quotes from tribal members describing their experiences.

Adjacent is an interactive exhibit I found most intriguing: audio phones which translate Coast Salish Lushshoot words into English – so you can hear what the Lushshoot language sounds like as well as understand specific words’ or phrases’ meanings. Looking at printed Lushshoot – with all of its strange accent marks – you wouldn’t have a clue, so this exhibit provides a real appreciation for the complex Coast Salish language.

Another exhibit celebrates Tulalip military veterans with their portraits and descriptions of battle experiences – sometimes fighting for a country that did not grant them citizenship until 1924.

Curious what “Hibulb” means? I was — and learned it may mean “place of a thousand fires” when it was the Salish stronghold camp near the mouth of the Snohomish River. It also may mean “place where white doves live” — a reference echoed in the figure of a bird often woven into early Snohomish basketry.


Tulalip Tribes’ Hibulb Cultural Center
6410 – 23rd Avenue NE
Tulalip, WA 98271

Phone: 360-716-2600

Hours: Tues. – Fri. 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m.

Admission:  adults $10, seniors $7, students $6, military & veterans $6, families $25 (2 adults and up to 4 children), children under age 5 free.

Tip: free admission on the first Thursday of each month, when the Hibulb Cultural Center is open until 8 p.m. instead of its normal closing hour of 5 p.m.

Julie - headshot 2013— By Julie Gangler

Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.




  1. Wonderful article! I have never heard about this treasure and am anxious to see the Matika Wilbur show. I read about her journey several years ago and think this is a show not to be missed. Thanks for the information.

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