WWU sits on Coast Salish land. How did the land become appropriated by settler colonialists? Who lived here?
Western Reads is pleased to announce its 2017-18 selection, Tulalip, From My Heart: An Autobiographical Account of a Reservation Community, by Harriette Shelton Dover (edited and with an introduction by Darleen Fitzpatrick). Dover, the first Indian woman to serve on the Tulalip Board of Directors and the daughter of Chief William Shelton (a noted totem pole carver), recounts her life on the Tulalip Reservation in the early 20th century. Dover grew up hearing her elders talk about the problems the tribe faced after resettlement, including the cultural and geographical upheaval of moving from villages to the reservation on Tulalip Bay; the economic hardships that ensued; severe shortages of water and food; and religious persecution (in time, potlatch houses and other ceremonial practices were outlawed). Working from the Treaty of Point Elliott (1855) forward and weaving together the personal, the communal, and the political, Dover writes about her tribe’s fierce resiliency, vibrant culture, and powerful ties to the land now occupied by others, including the area around Bellingham.
What many people at Western don’t realize is that there is a direct tie between between Harriette Dover’s family and the land surrounding Western Washington University. Conducting kinship research with the help of Lummi tribal member Gordon Charles, Kathleen Young (Anthropology) traced the lives of two Coast Salish women, Xwelas (Mary Sehome) and her niece E-yow-alth (Julia Sehome), who were both married to Edmund C. Fitzhugh, a southern slave-owner who moved west and took advantage of the Land Claims Act, claiming Sehome Hill for his association with a mining company. Xwelas and E-yow-alth lived with him on this land. Eventually, part of that original land-claim was designated for New Whatcom Normal School (later, WWU). Harriette Dover’s mother, Ruth Siastenu Sehome Shelton, was the sister of E-yow-alth (Julia Sehome) and the niece of Xwelas. And Gordon Charles, the great grandson of Xwelas, is a friend of Kathleen Young. He has recounted much of the early Coast Salish history, and with his permission, Professor Young will be giving a talk on the indigenous and settler history this fall.
Additionally, Western Reads will be commemorating the 50th Anniversary of “The Right to Be Indian” Conference, held at WWU in 1969. In that year, representatives of tribes west and east of the Cascades came to Western Washington State College to support indigenous youth culture. The entire campus was also reading a common book, in conjunction with the Conference, entitled, The Patriot Chiefs: A Chronicle of American Indian Resistance, by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. This year, Western Reads will be programming a series of events, in collaboration with local indigenous communities. It is our hope that this book honors the Coast Salish traditions that defined, and continue to define, this region.
Tulalip, From My Heart—Short takes by local readers . . .
Even though she has been gone for twenty years, Harriette Shelton Dover continues to be a presence at Tulalip today. For many people she is still a personal guide, and the memory of her courage and commitment to the well being of her people is still a force for good in the community. She was a fearless, outspoken woman with a lively sense of the ironic and ridiculous in the course of history and current affairs. The book is made up of transcriptions from tape-recorded conversations, and because it records Harriette’s actual words it vividly captures her voice, her humor, her anger and the liveliness of her opinions. There is information here that you will find nowhere else about childhood at Tulalip in the early years of the twentieth century, about the boarding school ordeal, about the generation gap caused by the immense changes and losses that the people experienced during the twentieth century, about the history of Tulalip tribal government, about the fortunes of the smokehouse under federal restriction, and much else. It is an important documentary of one family’s intergenerational struggle to be effective in the modern world while keeping faith with the values of ancestors. Harriette gives a loving portrait of the grandmothers who have played a determinative role in the survival of the people, and she provides a nuanced account of her father, the still controversial leader William Shelton, a giant figure in the history of early twentieth century interracial relations. This book is a tonic to those who remember Harriette Shelton Dover and will be an inspiration to those who meet her first in its pages. There is no better introduction to the Tulalip that was so dear to her heart.Toby C. S. Langenc
I met Harriette Shelton Dover once when I interviewed her for an article for the Klipsun magazine at Western Washington University. The article was not published. I remember her saying she couldn’t throw away a paper towel without thinking about the tree it came from. That is a profoundly different way of looking at life and one’s role in it. The editor of this book, Darleen Fitzpatrick was my anthropology instructor at Everett Community College in the early 70s. I learned about Coast Salish culture through her class. Darleen showed great love and dedication in bringing this work of art, this history, this personal story, to fruition. And to having fulfilled Harriette’s wish to have the book published through the University of Washington. Harriette Shelton Dover will live on through her book. She honors her ancestors, family and people in this great book.Roberta Jonnet
About the Author
Harriette Shelton Dover was the first Native American woman to serve on the Tulalip Board of Directors. She died in 1991 at the age of eighty-six.