Weaving Words – 1990 Suquamish-Indianola Oral Histories
Thirty years ago, some White land owners from the community where I live attempted to block the sale of land to the Suquamish Tribe. For most of time, this land was known to be a part of Traditional Suquamish Territory, so the Tribe persisted and eventually purchased enough land in Indianola so that some of their members could return to live there. Tribal Council was concerned that when their community members would move into the new Tribal housing development, they might not be welcomed by the mostly White Indianola community.
Meet Marilyn Wandrey, a Suquamish Tribal member who grew up in Indianola, and was then working for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker action group often called upon to help communities develop ways to resolve conflicts. Marilyn facilitated meetings at the Suquamish Tribal Center and invited Indianola residents to meet with the Suquamish families who would soon be their neighbors. These meetings ran from 1989-1991 and resulted in committees spawning events and projects that would cultivate friendships and strengthen connections between Suquamish and White Indianola residents.
The Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project sprouted from one committee’s desire to learn about the history of Indianola, and to better understand cultural perspectives of the Suquamish and White residents, by recording oral histories of Indianola locals. In 1990, because of the generosity of Janis Cyr, a professional Audio Engineer who then lived in Indianola, the Storytelling committee was able to record over ten hours of analog audio. A dozen spools of old fashion reel to reel tape held the voices of Suquamish Tribal members and their non-Native neighbors interweaving their connections to each other.
What is an analog recording, you young folks may ask? Well, before the digital age of today, where sounds are represented by patterns of 0’s and 1’s, sounds were then preserved by magnetically carving wave forms onto tape. But in 1990, the post-production requirements to finish this project were beyond the budget and time constants of all the Storytelling committee members. So the tapes sat, frozen in analog time, until a raging viral pandemic reached around the world in 2020, simultaneously exposing the deeply entrenched mechanics of racism for everyone to see, even here in Indianola.
For thirty years I’d been waiting for someone to offer to digitize these tapes so the stories could be brought forth into the 21st century. These voices of old friends and neighbors telling stories about people, places, and life experiences growing up in Indianola during the first half of the 20th century were clamoring to be heard.
Enter, Paul Kikuchi, Musician, Audio Engineer, Professor, and Social Justice Advocate. Born and raised in Indianola, now living elsewhere, Paul reached out in August 2020 to offer his expertise in digitizing and curating the stories, devising a way for them to be shared through today’s technology.
Marilyn Wandrey, Suquamish Elder, now one of the last two living Storytellers included in this collection, generously jumped at the chance to finish up this project, giving essential guidance and support at every turn. I’m grateful that the Suquamish Museum has offered to accept and protect the tapes and files in their archives, along with all the notes about the circumstances and the many people involved in creating these oral histories thirty years ago. I’m appreciative of the volunteers from the Good Neighbors community group in Indianola who helped with creating new transcripts in 2020.
Marilyn Wandrey and I, on behalf of all the Storytellers, will provide you access to these stories here on my website until the Suquamish Museum is able to make them available through their website.
In the Storytellers own words there are examples of: resilience and hope in the face of injustice; implicit bias and white privilege; the established systems of caste at the time; how the ferries and canoes on the water highway connected communities; how the Suquamish People were removed from their land to Indianola; how Indianola came to be; the nuts and bolts of logging, hunting and fishing; bootlegging operations during prohibition; a little Suquamish girl and her adventures in Seattle with her cousin; and much more, about life in a small town on Traditional Suquamish Territory from 1900 through 1990.
There are so many people right now who are recognizing the horrible wrongs that have been done, and are still being perpetrated to Indigenous, Asian, Black and Brown People in the name of government, religion, education, commerce and ignorance. As was the wish of all the Storytellers represented in this collection, and of those who worked hard to bring these stories to you, we hope listening will help educate and provide inspiration for your art. Perhaps you will be motivated to share your own stories.
Please contact the Suquamish Museum if you have any questions about using the audio or would like a transcript. Suqumish Museum
Please click on the brown caption beneath each picture to hear those particular Storytellers through the YouTube channel that Paul Kikuchi has provided.
Ida Purser (Daughter) & Ethel Kitsap Sam (Mother); Recorded 8-23-1990 by Janis Cyr; Interviewed by Melinda West; Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project; Digitized by Paul Kikuchi 2020.
Eva Meacham & Reine Enschede; Recorded 8-23-1990 by Janis Cyr; Interviewed by Helen West, Patty Pickard & Melinda West; Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project; Digitized by Paul Kikuchi 2020.
MacKay Family; Bill Sr, Bill Jr, Jo MacKay Imeson; Recorded 9-16-1990 by Janis Cyr; Interviewed by Melinda West; Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project; Digitized by Paul Kikuchi 2020.
Pickrell/Cookson/Maston Family; Audio recording and interview by Dan Nichols 9-9-1990; Voices of Three Generations; C.Elliott & Ruth Pickrell, Bettie Cookson (daughter), Robert Maston (grandson); Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project; Digitized by Paul Kikuchi 2020.
Joan Sunde; Recorded 8-24-1990 by Janis Cyr; Interviewed by Melinda West; Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project; Digitized by Paul Kikuchi 2020.
Lawrence Webster; Recorded 9-16-1990 by Janis Cyr; Interviewed by Marilyn Wandrey, John Hansen, Melinda West; Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project; Digitized by Paul Kikuchi 2020.
Marilyn Wandrey; Recorded 9-16-1990 by Janis Cyr; Interviewed by Melinda West; Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project; Digitized by Paul Kikuchi 2020.
Ed Carriere; Recorded 8-23-1990 by Janis Cyr; Interviewed by Melinda West; Suquamish-Indianola Storytelling Project; Digitized by Paul Kikuchi 2020.
All rights for the use of these oral histories belong to the Suquamish Museum, Suquamish, Washington, USA, 2021.
2020 Co-Producers: Janis Cyr & Paul Kikuchi; Co-Curators: Paul Kikuchi & Melinda West; Advisor: Marilyn Wandrey; Transcriptions by Debbie Engel, Sarah White, Ellen Schiff, Kathy Caldwell, Janice Gutman & Melinda West. Special thanks to Marilyn Wandrey, Robin Sigo, Janet Smoak, Paul Kikuchi, Debbie Engel, Barbie Brooking, Doug Hayman & Paul West, for inspiration to finish this project.
1989-1991 Storytelling Committee Members: Ida Purser, Sam Mabe, Jim Armstrong, Patty Pickard, Helen West, Ann Langlitz, Dan Nichols, Zann Jacobrown, Mary Bowden. Co-chairs: Marilyn Wandrey & Melinda West.
Advisors: Janis Cyr, Leonard Forsman, Ellen Schiff, Chuck Deam, Charlie Sigo, Reed Ruddy, Jack Swanson, Carter Bannerman, Marcella Hanson, Steve Lawson; original transcriptions Barbara Starkey.
Gratitude to these Storytellers: Marilyn Wandrey; Ed Carriere; Lawrence Webster; Ida Purser; Ethel Kitsap Sam; Joan Sunde; Eva Meacham; Reine Enschede; C.Elliott & Ruth Pickrell; Bettie Cookson; Robert Maston; Bill MacKay Sr; Bill MacKay Jr; Jo MacKay Imeson.
I acknowledge that I reside on the traditional territory of the Suquamish Peoples, People of the Clear Salt Water, whose ancestors have lived here from time immemorial, preserving the land and waters that five generations of my own family have benefitted from. I express my deepest respect and gratitude for all Indigenous friends and neighbors living today, particularly for the Suquamish Tribe and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways, and for healing and preserving this place for future generations.