A Klallam Tribe Story

Elaine Grinnell

Elaine Grinnell Klallam tribeElaine Grinnell is an elder in the Jamestown Klallam tribe and lives in Sequim, Washington. She was born October 16, 1936, in Port Angeles, Washington. She married Fredrick C. Grinnell in 1960 and they have three children: Jack, Julia, and Kurt. Zackary, Nickolas, and Mackenzie (Jack & Michelle), Khia, Michael, Sarah and Jon (Julia & Jon), Alonah and Jaden (Kurt & Terri) are her grandchildren. Mildred Francis Prince Judson, her mother, was a full-blood Jamestown Klallam. Harold Peter James, her father, was a full-blood Lummi. Her grandparents on her mother’s side were David and Elizabeth Hunter Prince. Elaine’s great grandfather was the Prince of Wales. Her great great grandfather, Cheech-ma-han (Indian spelling) was known as Chetzemoka, Chief of the Klallams.

The tribe has always lived on the Olympic Peninsula, the northwest point of Washington state along the southern shores of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. Here they take advantage of the aquaculture and do a lot of fishing, crabbing, and shellfishing/digging.

Elaine GrinnellElaine is a historian, storyteller and cook. She does traditional cooking at different functions for her own tribe as well as other tribes. In addition, she teaches classes in Native American drum making, basketry and Native American cooking. In her storytelling, she includes legends, creation, animals,s and lots of fish stories.

Her grandmother and grandfather, David and Elizabeth Hunter Prince, raised Elaine. Her grandpa would hook up a wagon to an old tractor to take them to the beach to get devilfish, also called octopus. One time they went to a huge rock and found that there was an octopus under that rock. Her grandpa said to be really quiet and don’t say anything because they could hear you. She was standing there waiting for it. A big arm comes out. She couldn’t stand it and she screamed at her grandpa, here it comes and it went back under the rock. The tide was coming in real fast and she was so short so her grandpa put her up on the rock and he said to be really quiet. Soon one came out and wrapped around his boot. Another arm came and was feeling his other leg. She could hardly stand it and knew if she uttered one sound it would go back under the rock. Finally, devilfish grabbed one of his arms and one came across his face. She was screaming her head off and told her grandpa it’s going to drag him out to deep water. He said he was ok, but the water was above his knees and it was a struggle between the devilfish and the tide. The devilfish started to go back under the rock and take grandpa with it. The grandpa knew they needed the meat of the fish and so he took his knife out and cut the arm off that was under his arm, across his face, and up over his head. He walked away with only part of the octopus and he knew it would grow that arm back. Elaine talked to her grandpa and asked him if he was afraid and he said no because he knew they needed that food. If you don’t get the whole thing right at first just take part of it and don’t touch the head. Take a leg and it will continue to live and you can come back and get the rest another day. Sometimes you start a job and often you can’t get it finished, but you can always come back and complete it another time.

Another topic Elaine discusses is the environment. One of the issues she speaks about is the erosion-taking place along the Olympic Peninsula shoreline. The texture of the sand is getting really soft. At one time a person could walk all over when the tide was out, but now they would sink. Other concerns are how construction is changing the habits of the wildlife and the quality and quantity of water.

I have told the legends of our people in Namibia, Africa; Bangkok, Thailand; Mitsu, Japan; Victoria and Vancouver British Columbia, Canada; White Horse, Yukon Territory; St. Lawrence Island, Kenai Peninsula, Kotzebou, Alaska, New York, and many of our other States. Audiences have consisted of service organizations, educational organizations, and lots of schools, the Olympic Park Institute, elder groups, and universities.

It is my desire to spread the word of the Klallam people, their culture, legends, food, survival, coping devices, dress, and social structure within the community and families. Sharing with all people is the way of my people. Honor is foremost and announcing your family name gives those who receive your permission to decide if you are a good representative, if not, they know whom to contact. It is my intention to always honor my family and Tribe or suffer shame.

I want to take Native American Culture to the classrooms. I feel there is a need and the students are eager to learn of this heritage and teachings. I share the culture, legends, and lessons of the Native Americans. This has not been shared with non-Native Americans in the past, which is sad!

Elaine graduated from Port Angeles High School in 1954, attended Northwest Indian College/Drug and Alcohol Counseling, the University of Arizona/Child Development, and Peninsula College/Biology.

In Seattle, Washington, 1970, she was co-chairman of the first Native American Counselor Aid Conference in the United States. She received a Washington State Teaching Certificate to teach the Klallam language in public schools in June 2003. She retired from counseling Native American students of School District #121 in June 2001. Elaine was the past president (four years) for the Native American Basket Weavers Association and is currently an Advisory Board Member for Northwest Indian Storytellers Association.

Elaine Grinnell
1324 Jamestown Road
Sequim,WA 98382
360-681-6901 fax