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Book of the Fortnight:
Tulalip, From My Heart:
An Autobiographical Account of a Reservation Community
HistoryLink.org Essay 10672 • Printer-Friendly Format
By Harriette Shelton Dover
Edited and Introduced by Darleen
Foreword by Wayne Williams
Hardcover, 307 pages
Photographs, bibliography, appendix, index
University of Washington Press
Tulalip, From My Heart, published in October 2013 by the University of Washington Press, is a good reminder that the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855 was not that long ago. Its author, Harriette Shelton Dover (1904-1991), was the daughter of famed Tulalip storyteller, woodcarver, and cultural leader William Shelton (1868-1938) and following his death, Harriette continued his work of preserving and restoring their suppressed Native heritage. This book is more than Harriette's life story. It is, as subtitled, An Autobiographical Account of a Reservation Community.
Harriette loved being Indian and her keen awareness of people and events in her lifetime make her an especially powerful witness. She serves as a bridge between the treaty-signers and modern-day Tulalips. Harriette says her clear memories went back to when she, at about 5 years of age, began listening to stories told by her elders. Many had lost their entire families. In the early pages of the book, Dover lists many of these people as sources and briefly describes each.
Stories she passes on in the book include the way things were before the Treaty of 1855, the strategic meetings of tribal members before the treaty signing, the treaty day itself, and the confusion and poverty that followed when the tribes, totally dispossessed, began moving from their villages to the reservation on Tulalip Bay.
The treaty was not be ratified until 1859, so when the tribes first arrived at Tulalip, there was no housing, no food, no government agent, not even a close source of fresh water.
Dover recounts elders' stories of Father Casimir Chirouse (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) and the missionary settlement at Tulalip's Priest Point, the harsh economic conditions both the tribes and missionaries experienced, the misuse of Indian land allotments (the Dawes Act) and the government suppression of their ceremonial practices.
Dover also tells her own heartbreaking remembrances of the government Indian Boarding school that she attended 10 months a year as a child. The school was run in military style where punishment was harsh and frequent. She received a severe lashing for speaking Lushootseed, as did many of the children. Their education included constant drills, hard menial work, and seemingly endless marching. The marching was so intense and such a bad memory that her first choice for the book's title was Marching on to Victory.
An appendix recounts an average school day at the Tulalip Indian boarding school. Meals there were meager and of poor quality and rooms were kept cold. A number of children died as a result of the conditions, including Harriette's sister.
In sharp contrast, Dover tells of the teachings she received from her own kind elders, particularly her grandmothers -- one of whom seemed always to be knitting socks. Clomping into a room one day, Harriette writes that this grandmother told her it was time she became a lady and learn how to enter a room quietly. Harriette simply was asked to exit and enter again correctly, which she did. At home, the children were tucked into their beds by loving family at night, but, at the Indian boarding school, they were hungry, cold, isolated, and felt despised.
Without the help of Dover's teacher, friend, and editor, Darleen Fitzpatrick, Tulalip, From My Heart might not have been published and Fitzpatrick can be credited with shepherding the project through many delays. In her fascinating introduction, Fitzpatrick tells the evolution of the book from idea to print and writes about some of the choices that needed to be made in the process. And always, she attempted to retain Harriette's way of telling her story. As Fitzpatrick explains, the Indian way of storytelling is not chronological but topical, which in the book often led to repeating content previously told. Dover understood this and both author and editor worked to find a good compromise.
Dover and Fitzpatrick met when Fitzpatrick taught an anthropology class at Everett Community College and asked Harriette to come in as guest speaker. Harriette also enrolled in college and became a student as well. Over the years, the two became friends. Harriette hoped the book would be published by the University of Washington Press and Fitzpatrick helped make that happen.
Dover's life spans much of the twentieth century and in this book she tells about the events of her adult life. There is an excellent chapter on treaty rights and she tells of the Tribes' revival of the seasonal First Salmon Ceremony at Tulalip as well as the revival of their native language.
Dover was a strong political force, serving as the second female elected to the Tulalip Tribes' Board of Directors and the first woman elected to the Tulalip Tribal Council.
Tulalip, From My Heart is well written but parts of this real life story are hard to read, let alone to have lived, and as a reader, I came away doubting that I would have been as strong as she. Harriette lived a long life but she did not live to see this book published, nor did she live to see the current real estate and casino economy that has brought many Tulalips into the middle class and made the Tribes prosperous.
Her son, Wayne Williams, had a part in this success and carries the love of their heritage into the present day. He has added a foreword to the book as well.
Dover loved the old ways but was quick to point out that she could never experience the world in the same ways as her parents. This is touchingly evident in the book's final paragraphs. Describing a visit to a mountain meadow with her father, Harriette describes the wildflowers there and, at one point, her father looked off in the distance and said, "There are mountain goats across there." She couldn't see them until he brought her a pair of binoculars. She asked if they could walk to see them and he said, yes, but it would take several days. In her own mind, she had imagined the spot was only 15 minutes away. As she expresses it, "He could see they were mountain goats and not mountain sheep. It seems to me it was kind of deceiving, because I never saw the world like they did -- like my mother and dad did."
Tulalip, From My Heart is an intense read, an important book, and highly recommended.
By Margaret Riddle, November 21, 2013
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