The Survival of Washington Indians
ʔubutbutlačibitubułǝd čǝł
Traditional Lushootseed greeting: “We raise our hands to all of you.”
Click photo to enlarge

Tribes are racing time to pass on the intricacies of Native languages only mastered by a handful of elders. The woman credited with saving the language of the Puget Sound watershed is the late Vi “taqʷšǝblu” Hilbert, an Upper Skagit. Vi attended 15 different schools growing up and was banned from speaking Lushootseed at Chemawa, an Indian boarding school in Oregon. But Vi later devoted her life to revitalizing the language she learned from her parents. She translated tapes of Leon Metcalf, a music teacher who spent time with the Tulalips growing up and learned to speak Lushootseed while working in the woods.

“I listened to a few words, then stopped the tape and wrote those words down,” Vi recalled. “If I didn't understand something, I left a blank. Sometimes there were lots of blanks. Then I rewound and listened again, then again. Maybe I could fill in a blank.”

Vi co-authored several books, a Lushootseed dictionary, and made good on a philosophy to teach anyone who was willing to learn—no matter the race—no matter the age. She taught Lushootseed at the University of Washington for 17 years.
Willie Frank Sr., a Nisqually elder, speaks Southern Lushootseed

feshiGed veA tiiA sXeviq bedezuf faciAtalbix
We respect the visions of others.

Fuyayus veA FesEuF beU FesEuF dxFal ciA haFA ped tiiA FaciAtalbixveA
We work cooperatively together for the good of our people.

sAaqadeY fe suEabic Gele GaF txdiGicutbuA helGef fal tiiA wiWsuVeA
All natural things are our brothers and sisters, they have things to teach us, if we are aware and listen.

oal tiiA beU fesEuf fesHuLab GesqaleI GeA tiiA fe FaciAtalbix beU stab beU faciAtalbix beU dibeA
We live in harmony within the circle of life, with all natural things, with our community, and with ourselves.

FeshiIteb tiiA luoluo Geseshaydx Gel GebeU stab caqid helGef xif I sesDixbiAebs helGef caqid helGef Dix fa tiiA qa faciAtalbix
We respect the old ones for their wisdom; they are not cast aside, they continue to hold a place of honor in our families and communities.

Courtesy the family of Willie Frank Sr.