Chehalis Stories

Chehalis Stories

Chehalis Stories

Chehalis Stories

Excerpt

Weaving is a vital tradition within the Chehalis community, and Chehalis weavers emphasize the importance of going to the places their ancestors gathered to collect bark, grass, and roots. They spend months preparing this material—stripping, soaking, shredding—until it is ready to be used in the making of something. Each thing they make is connected to the land that Chehalis people have called home for millennia. So, too, the stories in this volume have come to be through many generations of gathering, preparing, and making. Chehalis people have carried and shared these stories, first with their families and communities and then with those of us who want to be part of the preservation of these stories—though at times we are complicit in, even responsible for, their displacement and disappearance. These stories, and the traditions and values held within, are firmly rooted in Chehalis ancestral lands. But many of these stories have been taken to places far away from where they originated, both geographically and ideologically. We are making this volume to bring these stories back—to gather them here so that they may once again be held by the families that first generously shared them.

These stories were collected at a critical moment in Chehalis history. By the 1920s, assimilation efforts had affected almost every aspect of Chehalis life. Many Chehalis families had been removed from their ancestral villages and relocated to the Chehalis Reservation near Oakville, Washington. These families were assigned allotments—secured through homestead—on which they were expected to farm; traditional fishing, gathering, and hunting were regulated by government officials. in the name of formal education, children were sent to government schools. There were boarding and day schools on the Chehalis Reservation, but many children were sent to other boarding schools, some of which were hundreds of miles away. At these schools, speaking one’s native language was punished and traditional religious practices were forbidden. Stories, which were the means of transmitting cultural knowledge from one generation to the next, were still told, but as the knowledge contained within them became less relevant to day-to-day survival, many of these stories wereCERPT

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