From the Director

Help Us Complete 'The Healing Heart of Lushootseed'

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The tragic events of September 11, 2001 not only shook us as a nation, it sent shock waves of disbelief that reached every continent and nation. For the first time in near real time, millions of people worldwide experienced the paralyzing shock of witnessing the sudden loss of so many lives.

Feeling the pain and anguish of the times, Upper Skagit tribal elder, Vi “taqʷšəblu” Hilbert, became increasingly worried about our world and its future. She had witnessed a world that had lost its way, a world that had become sick with violence and meaningless deaths. She believed, "people have lost sight of their human responsibility. They are dishonoring the precious gift of the Creator – they were killing – killing – killing!" She saw a world that needed healing. She had also been deeply moved by her beloved cousin and healer who, on his deathbed pleaded with her to help him stay alive so he could continue helping those in need, she had responded, "I'll do what I can do, my beloved cousin."

Inspired by her cousin, taqʷšəblu responded to the tragic events of 9/11 by commissioning a symphony. At age 83, taqʷšəblu commissioned Canadian composer Bruce Ruddell to compose an original symphony that embodied the healing spirit of the first people. She provided Ruddell with a cassette recording of two cultural healing songs. "He was to listen to their teachings and then put them aside and compose a symphony." She was also adamant the Symphony had to be performed by the Seattle Symphony and conducted by Maestro Gerard Schwarz. On May 20, 2006, the Seattle Symphony performed “The Healing Heart of the First People of this Land” at Seattle's Benaroya Hall to a standing room only audience.

Now, in the midst of all the pain and anguish felt throughout the world, with the ongoing injustices against people of color, the enduring healing power and spirit of “The Healing Heart of the First People of this Land” cries out to be shared once again.

We are fortunate that taqʷšəblu had the foresight to partner with film producer John Forsen to document her journey through the symphonic cultural odyssey of "The Healing Heart of the First People of this Land". Following the historic performance exclusive interviews were recorded with taqʷšəblu, Bruce Ruddell, Gerard Schwarz, musicians, cultural and civic leaders, and others. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding all the interviews and raw footage of the concert have been lying dormant in post-production for more than a decade. Lushootseed Research is currently seeking funding to complete the documentary film chronicling taqʷšəblu’s incredible vision and unwavering mission to heal the world through music and culture.

We are asking for your help. Please, donate and support our efforts to complete this documentary, bringing hope and healing to a wounded world.

iSercombe, Laurel. Ethnomusicology: Native Seattle in the Concert Hall: An Ethnography of two symphonies, Vol. 60, No. 1, University of Illinois. 2016.

Lushootseed Research is pleased to announce the publication of Ron Hilbert č̀adəsqidəb: The Life and Work of a Coast Salish Artist, written by anthropologist Simon Ottenberg, Professor Emeritus of the University of Washington, Department of Anthropology.

Coordination of the project was overseen by Lushootseed Research, directed by Jill LaPointe, the niece of the late Ron Hilbert. The book is rich in biographical information gained from numerous interviews and from the author’s friendship with the artist. Color photographs document the broad range of Hilbert’s work, from watercolor drawings to major installations of cedar and copper. Project activities included the editing of Ottenberg’s draft manuscript, research and selection of artworks by Hilbert, professional photography of the artwork, layout of the manuscript, printing, and distribution. The volume includes 39 illustrations including 35 photographs of Ron Hilbert’s artwork. The book is a unique contribution to the documentation and appreciation of Coast Salish art. This project was made possible with a grant from the 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax Fund.

Board of Directors, Friends & Advisors

Left to Right
Mary Honhongva, Jill "tsi sqʷux̌ʷaʔł" La Pointe, Jay Miller, Barbara Brotherton, Sasha "taqʷšəblu" La Pointe, Holly Taylor, Susan Dunthorne, (Pamela Amoss & Crisca Bierwert, not in picture)

Our Mission

Lushootseed Research is dedicated to sustaining Lushootseed language and culture to enhance cross-cultural knowledge, wisdom and relations, as shared and celebrated by the First Peoples of Puget Sound, through research, recording, publishing and the presentation of oral traditions and literature.

Autobiography of the Founder

Vi "taqʷšəblu" Hilbert

I was born and raised by Skagit (Lushootseed) speaking parents in the Skagit River area.

It was my privilege to become educated from birth to the customs and language of the Indian community to which I belonged. As it was the custom for Indian parents to take their children wherever they went, my parents took me with them. I accompanied them to tribal meetings, Shaker meetings, winter longhouse gatherings, deaths and funerals.

"It was the custom for Indian parents to take their children wherever they went."

In the summertime we met and worked with people from many other tribes from Washington and Canada as we picked berries. This was a hard experience but one I consider valuable. It gave me the opportunity to observe how different people dealt with their lives. It showed me the strength and resourcefulness they utilized under different occasions and their capacity to endure hardship but find pleasure in sharing these experiences.

In twelve years I attended 14 schools before graduating from high school. I graduated from Franklin High School, Portland, Oregon, in June, 1936. The sensitive kindness of Mr. Bell, the school principal, helped me to endure these two years in a big public high school. He recognized that it was a frightening experience for me so helped me in many ways. He took me to each of my classes and introduced me to the teacher. He boosted my self-esteem by charging the teacher to give me extra attention because I was special to him and he was planning to follow my progress. The teachers let me know that I could come to them any time I felt the need. They all kept their word.

I had chosen to leave Chemawa Indian School to work as a domestic in Portland so I could be better prepared to function in an unsegregated world. I was paid $10 a month plus my room and board for the two years that I worked for these people.

"It is a cherished legacy to the memory of our ancestors whose hearts would be gladdened to know that the culture of our people is being passed on to generations to come."

After graduating from high school, I married and had three children. My oldest child, a son, born in 1937, died at age 3 of tubercular meningitis. My daughter was born in 1938 and a second son in 1943.

Because it has always been my desire to see that my family is provided with the tools which will afford them a productive, happy life, I have worked to help provide them. Here are some of the things I have done: planned and operated a combination (café, gas and oil, groceries) business at Tahola, Washington; supermarket clerk; cookie packer, Danish bakery; shipyard welder; waitress, Chinese restaurant; Boeing food wagon cashier; Seattle Railroad School, telegraphy; secretary to the Director of Nursing, Children’s Orthopedic Hospital; Mr. Lee’s Beauty School training; since 1960 owned and operated a hairdressing business in one wing of my home; and currently I teach Lushootseed at the University of Washington.

After meeting Dr. Thomas M. Hess in 1967, he began tutoring me in the study of my language. He taught the first Lushootseed class at the University of Washington in the spring of 1972. It was called Puget Salish that quarter. I audited that class and have since then been involved with teaching the classes at the University of Washington… Dr. Hess and I have written the material in the textbooks.

Since 1972 the Melville Jacobs research fund has supported my research with three grants. The goal of efforts is to achieve the broadest possible corpus of written material in Lushootseed with the English translation. I now have over 700 pages of information typed. Copies are given to the consultants as I complete each topic. Copies of this research are also now housed in the University of Washington...

All of the time I have spent doing this research to date has been an act of deep respect to my elders and a donation to our Indian youth. It is a cherished legacy to the memory of our ancestors whose hearts would be gladdened to know that the culture of our people is being passed on to generations to come. This is a rich inheritance to give each generation strength and pride in their race.

~ Vi passed away in her home, surrounded by family, on December 19th, 2008.

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