November is Native American Indian Heritage Month. It is an opportunity to pay tribute to the contributions of indigenous people to national history and culture. It’s also a time to reflect on the complex and difficult relationship between native cultures and the dominant culture.
While Native American Indian Heritage Month is observed nationally, it has important resonance locally. Everett was built on land ceded to the United States government in 1855. On January 22, 1855, leaders of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other tribes signed the treaty with the United States government. They agreed to cede their ancestral lands and relocate to a permanent home on the bay at what is now Everett. In exchange, they would be recognized as a sovereign nation with certain fishing and water rights. These tribes became collectively known as the Tulalip Tribes.
In the pre-World War I era, several white photographers from Everett entered the Tulalip reservation to document various aspects of tribal life, community, and customs. The photos of J.A. Juleen (1874-1935) form a key part of the Everett Public Library’s Northwest Room collections. Juleen’s outsider perspective created a unique body of work documenting a new longhouse, the dedication of a story pole created by William Shelton, portraits of tribal members, and life at the reservation school. His photos of Tulalip are available in the Northwest Room’s digital collections.
As useful as these images are for recording and preserving aspects of Tulalip heritage and history, it’s critical to explore these issues through the native perspective as well. One such native perspective is presented beautifully in the book Tulalip, From My Heart. This book presents an autobiographical account by Harriette Shelton Dover (1904-1991), daughter of the famed Tulalip storyteller and wood carver William Shelton (1868-1938), and a tribal leader in her own right. Blending history, anthropology, and memoir, Dover draws on her culture’s oral traditions to tell the stories of her community back to 1855. Her story includes heartbreaking reflections of her experiences at the government Indian boarding school she attended as a child.
While the Everett Public Library has numerous resources available to commemorate Native American Heritage Month, the Hibulb Cultural Center is the expert on presenting and interpreting the stories of the Tulalip Tribes.