Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe

Elaine Grinnell is a storyteller representing her people, the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe. She maintains many roles as a wife, mother, grandmother, family and friend to many. Elaine calls her birthplace home -- the northwest corner of Washington State. In her story, Elaine describes how addictions have affected her people, the S’Klallam people. She shares stories of how her family found the strength to deny the power of addictions, and she shares how the tribe is working towards the task of supporting those finding themselves in the powerful grasp of addictions. Read Elaine’s account of how addictions are losing the war over control of her people, the S’Klallam people of Washington State.

Elaine Grinnell Transcript

Discovering Our Story

Transcript for

Elaine Grinnell, Jamestown S’Klallam

30 July 2009




Speaking in S’Klallam language – What I said to you is Welcome. That’s a gathering.  Welcome, something that we say to everyone that comes to us, you know.

Like the Canoe Journey coming and so we all have to have a welcome speech.  This is one of the normal ones we say:  My name is Elaine Grinnell.  I’m also known as???    ???   I am Jamestown S’Klallam.  I welcome you all here and wish you continued health and a good trip; today is going to be a special day my friends, a special day my friends.

My Great, Great Grandfather

Cheech-ma-hong newcomers call him???  He was my great, great grandfather.  I gave that to my oldest son – that’s his name now.  Cheech-ma-hong was a person that knew very well that at certain point – of the first coming –of the settlers –that it was of no use to fight.  As he peered around, he could see that there were more people in the cemetery than in the villages.  He could see his people that were not treated right.  These people were very abused – very abused.

They moved them in canoes

That was before they were finally towed out of their own homes and taken down to Skokomish.  It was decided on the way down there as they were towed into Skokomish - a long line of canoes attached to a big boat – a sail boat.   They decided that they didn’t want to stay down there.  While they like the Skokomish just fine – they knew them and they fished with them and they would migrate with them according to the fish and the berries and all.  But they didn’t want to live down there because that wasn’t their home.  They were up here at the head of the Puget Sound.  Soon as the Clipper ship cut them lose, they just turned around and went into the beach and they’d wait until he went around the corner.  Then they all filed out going back home.  And when they got there, they saw their houses burning.  And you can read it in books, too.

Our home was once thousands of acres

Anyway some of the S’Klallams went to Port Gamble – now known as Port Gamble, (??? City). And then some were down at the lower (??? City) – that was a good size tribe, too.  (X-wah and the (???? People) were along this area here.  But Roger probably already told you that we owned all the acreage between Hoko – which is out west – up to the top of the Olympics – down to the Hama Hama which is down on the Hood Canal – so it is a few acres alright – many, many thousands.  And I think we finally settled at a $1.00 per acre and that’s how we got our start to really development here.  But you know that the people really felt that to have it within their own – kind of like destiny within their own hands –in their own minds meant freedom.  And it did.  (Crying) Excuse me. We take freedom for granted so much.  If they just knew what history we’ve gone through, I think they’d appreciate every single day…more.

Anyway that’s the beginning of the migration of the S’Klallams; we broke up, I think there was 15,000 S’Klallam up here; and then we started breaking up and we died of diseases and then we got into the alcoholism.  The addictions really started a long time ago.

Some succumbed to addiction

Some of them succumbed to addictions.  The addiction – one of them was not working.  The other one was alcohol.  Some succumbed to diseases that were brought in that we had no actually   -we had never seen it before.  Typhoid, you know measles, whooping cough, and diphtheria.  All of those took a great big percentage of our people down because we had not immunity to it.  The other thing that we don’t have immunity to is … is alcohol.  We really have a hard time within my own family.  I’ve lost many.  I was caught up in that and we decided that we were going to make a change.  And both my husband and I quit drinking.  And that was the best thing that ever happened because I – I was like the designated driver but I would participate, too.  I won’t say I didn’t but that was probably one of the hardest times in my life even though it was easy for me to quit drinking.   But when I think back on it –some of us -   it was some of the best times of my life, too.   I really enjoyed it.   I liked to laugh.  I like to be around the people that were happy… all that kind of stuff.   But it was that addiction that I knew what was going to happen if we didn’t stop.  And we had children and I was really interested in the kids not getting involved in that….but they did.  And our youngest son said, “We’ve got to stop.”  And so at 23, he talked to all of us.  We had a family meeting.  And he was able to stop us all.   My husband said, “I don’t have any problems.”  Oh yes you do. (laughter)  We almost started laughing because you know, that is the reaction that we expected.  But it was so darn serious; we couldn’t laugh about it.

Gambling addiction

When a mother will come in and spend her week’s grocery money gambling…that doesn’t make me feel good.  It’s like an alcoholism….you just have that drawing; it just pulls you right in there.  And you always think just give me 40 dollars and then I’m going to get back my 200.  Now you’re 240 dollars in the hole.

They don’t care what happens.  They’ll leave kids alone at home by themselves, you know, when they are much too young to be left.  And so it is painful that way. They don’t have anything to eat in that house either because either mom or dad has spent the money for the groceries while they’re gambling.  And they live paycheck to paycheck.  In fact they don’t even live that far.  They have to go down and get a loan and they will pay it back with their paycheck when they get it.  I find that quite painful because children will come to school without any breakfast…and usually no lunch and if they can’t go, then they are just so angry.  It’s very difficult to be around this person. And – because that draw to that is just so strong!  And then pretty soon you don’t pay your utility bills – and sometimes you don’t pay your house bill, and then all at once you are evicted.  And then you are upsetting everything.  The kids don’t any longer have a home to go to and they are malnourished.


And I’ve seen a lot of it – in the schools – you can tell.  Those kids are up late at night, you know.  It just affects their education so much.  That’s what disturbs me I guess.


Even though my Grandmother and Grandfather – that was their first language.  And they changed.  And when I came along, my mother had to go off to work over at Keyport.  She stayed over there so I was primarily raised by them.  And so they were instructed not to teach me my language because it would reflect back to my English.  You’d be able to tell the speakers because of the dialect. And that was very painful and that probably was one of the most painful things because I had it in my hand…I had it in my hand and then yet refused.  And so… and then by the time I got older, I was so far into English, you know, that’s a whole lot easier.  Youth will take the path of least resistance.  They spoke S’Klallam up to the first grade and then they had to switch over- nevermore to speak any more S’Klallam because they were punished severely for doing that.  It was felt at the time that we should do away with the language and learn only English.  It would be a lot easier for the children to do that. This was a well- known fact.  So that’s how we lost our language and now we’ve worked so hard to get it back.


I do actually live at the first village, one of the first villages that the Jamestown inhabited – created actually after they left Port Townsend.  They were driven out of there by the new people and finally settled at Jamestown.  There were people - about 25 people that had gathered 500 dollars and they bought 125 acres – which was actually their own but they bought it back.  But they could see that it was going to be a good thing to own their own property and no one could push them or take it away from them.  And so that is what they decided:  that they would pay taxes.  They would do anything that they could to town the property because you see they have been told to get off their own property many times.  They were actually chased out of Port Townsend and were very unfortunate.  And so they wanted a very stable life so they went to Jamestown.  And from there, they divided the land of 225 acres – divided that land between the families that contributed to the 500 dollars on strips of land that they held.  Then it was connected to the beach because everyone had to have a portion of the beach so that they could pull up their boats and canoes. And so that’s the way it is up to this day.    We have 100 feet and that’s a large portion down there but it’s long.  It is 4 ½ acres deep… actually 4.9.  But we’re still very proud of it. We still boat and we need that.  Its part of our culture and tradition, you know.



We had to be willing to give up our friends

Someone has to be strong.  In this case, it was the baby of the family.  And I think that that’s what probably affected me more than anything.  It was the baby of the family finally saying, “Hey, I don’t like you this way.”  “I might love you, but I don’t like you that way.”  “I’m going to change if you change with me.”  That’s what we did. 


You have to be willing to give up your friends, for one thing.  You have a lot of friends that you can party with – and then once you give up that drinking –it seems like that they don’t trust you any longer.  You know you’re not as fun as you used to be.  You don’t dance as hard as you used to.  Well, all those silly things, you know.  But I am not running dancing – I just love to do that yet!  But the people will drop away – after a while.

And so you have to be ready…to entertain yourself...as a family.  And it made up grow much stronger together.  It was good for the grandkids.  I remember my son saying, “My sons will never ever see me insane;”saying that drinking alcohol is a state of insanity. And they haven’t.  They’ve never seen him like that.

You will find new friends. You’ll find new things to do. And then you will be in control of your own life because alcoholism causes such a desire to get off work real early or get off work and go drink.  You spend so much money on alcohol that should probably go to other places.  Be serious and get well.  Live longer.  Live better.  Have a healthy family.  Be strong.  Educate yourself.

You have to want it and fight for it.

We all have services now.   We all know where we can go in order to get them.  And there are places you can go that are totally non-alcoholic.  Not only that but the desire for it does dwindle and then pretty soon gone.  And it’s totally worth it.  And then reach out.  Reach out to others in your extended family.

If you’re all by yourself and everyone around you is indulging in these things – you know addictions – it’s so hard.  I can understand a desire to do something.  Losing weight!  I totally understand that it’s difficult and I am a loser right now.  I mean I’m not losing weight.  I have lost the war but now I’m coming back.  I just lost three pounds last week so I’m pretty proud of that.  But you know that’s only like one week if you are in addiction for alcoholism.  I don’t know. Maybe it’s only like two days.  I have no way of comparing that.  But you have to be committed.  You have to have people around you that are willing to help you at your lowest point when you are so weak.  You know, if someone puts a jellyroll out there in front of you – HEY! (Laughter)

There are good times and there are bad times so you have to have someone to help you. In our case we’re lucky.  We’re really lucky we have people that will help us.

There are so many things that you can do for others.  You can really do a lot for others.  You don’t have to concentrate on yourself.  You can form an addiction to care for others.  You know, you can volunteer – say the Boy Scouts.  Oh, they just love volunteers.  What about all the different…..going to read for an elderly person that’s down here in the rest home.  Or if you like things that are more exciting, then you know find that!  Find it and let that become an addiction to you if it’s a healthy one.  But don’t….don’t trade beer for meth or anything like that. 


Work addiction

Oh yea,  that can be a really serious problem too because it is neglect    You are out there working for money while your little boy is not attending cub scouts….or whatever you know.  Or maybe he doesn’t have a father going to a son/father dinner.  He’s the only one that has to have his uncle go along with him because Dad’s in New York or something...doing business. That’s a very painful because you are just   - because you are lonesome…and you don’t have that guidance from your father.  And it’s very dangerous because, you know, there is a chance you might be the same; same as abuse.  I mean it really is a form of abuse – like abuse toward your wife or your family.  Addiction is abuse to yourself.

The Canoe Journey

It is wonderful thing to behold when you see the teams of canoes that come in and how everyone comes around the corner of the Dungeness Bay and they are singing.  They are so glad to be at the destination and the pride that they have as they paddle so hard coming into the Dungeness Bay. And to know, too, that they have their people all behind them – their own tribe.  But then they have an entirely other tribe that’s looking forward to their arrival – the arrival of their traditions and their culture and their tribe and the new friendships that are made when they arrive. But when they really have to work together, they can do it.  Like if they know if they are in danger, when strength and the mind meet.  They can do feats that you never can believe – that they can handle those canoes.  And then they can just think, the people that are in their family – their ancestors – used to do it all the time and didn’t think too much of it.  But now I can really appreciate what they did – really appreciate what they did - and how they used to travel. It was a magnificent thing.  They would jump in their canoes and they would go out fishing.  I can remember Billy Hull coming in the evening on the ebb tide.  He would have his canoe and the sail up.  He would be sitting back and be low in the water because he had so many fish.  And we’d all grab our pans.  Grandma would grab her pan and we would all go down in front of his house and he would share those fish with everyone.  And I think that’s part of being a tribe.  That’s part of being interconnected.  What a marvelous thing – and we’d all watch for him!  Here he’d come – and he’d be sitting back – really leaning back and holding onto that sail, sail rope, you know.  And now our canoe is starting to sail. And when they got to Dunkin last year, they were going so fast they passed up the port and they had to turn around. And they turned around with such grace…that everyone was just clapping for them. And they turned around and came into shore.  That’s pride! That’s leadership capabilities!  That’s what it’s all about – everyone working together.


It’s almost like a rite of passage for some of these younger people

Oh it is!  It’s fear that you can’t almost overcome.  But you are there and you have to do it and you can overcome it.  And you walk away with such exhilaration.  It just picks you right up and you think:  If I can do that, I can do anything!  If I can do that, I can do anything! If I can do that, I can do anything!  If I can do that, I can do anything! And it lets them know, when they dig down deep, there’s always another 10%. They can do it.

Our Children and the Business World

Our best resource is our children.  Our natural resources are our children.  Those are the ones we have to educate; those are the ones we have to keep from the addictions.  Those are the ones we have to work hard for to keep them very healthy; in all ways.  Give them every opportunity because it’s a tough life out here.  We have to keep one foot over here.  Keep that one a strong one – if you are talking about culture and those things.  But you have to understand.  You have to be politically sophisticated in order to become successful in the business world. And we all strive to do that and be happy, too.



Well for any healthy life, you have to have that resiliency.  And they are right when they use that.  We have to keep on going anyway –and with delight.  I mean we’re here to live and we’re here for a short time.  And you’re are going to leave people behind and they have to be healthy.  And that’s what we’re working on – that health – from everything.  When I go, I am going to go peacefully because I know my family can take care of themselves.  I know they can.  Because they’ve had as much education as they have – we know all of the things that can affect you badly.  And so I am proud of my family and I am proud of my tribe and everything they do.