i decided to include a rather lengthy excerpt from the preface of a book called "Native American Wives of San Juan Settlers," by Karen Jones-Lamb. i resonated with many of the passages in this book, and i have long believed that stories very similar to these were common throughout the 'american' continent, especially in the areas of chesapeake and delaware bays where my mother's people were from. in my opinion, this is the story of the earliest american pioneers who lived near the great bodies of water, the oceans and to a lesser extent the peripheral rivers and streams of the continent. please, read and enjoy.
"my interest in Native American wives of the settlers of the San Juan Islands goes back to my childhood at Decatur Island.
"my father, William Jones, was 1/4 Tlingit and was fond of his mother's family; she and her siblings being 1/2 Indian as substantiated in all census records. They resided most of their lives in this county. Dad always talked of his 'Grandma Reed' with warmth and personal pride.
"unfortunately, I only have known those people through letters and photos and Dad's remembrances for they had all died prior to my birth. I did know Uncle Joe Reed's wife, Auntie Ella Moore Reed, whose ancestry on her mother's side was Native American as well. Knowing her and having me Mrs. Lemaister, a descendant of Mary Brown, a full blooded Native Americn from Lopez, gave me a real admiration for these special women.
"the most fulfilling part of my research has been visiting old friends and meeting descendants of the well-loved friends of my parents and grandparents. Many were people I have always known of. Some have helped identify old photos of my families and have brought to life information in old letters and autograph books by their recollections of the past. I will never forget nor be able to repay all they have done to help me sort out my memorabilia.
"Many Native American families were connected with one another in friendship and marriage from the 1850's on into the early 1900's. In the earliest part of the pioneer era from 1855-1885 most wives were Native American. Many descendents of these families are still in touch with one antoher whether they reside here, on on private mainland properties or on the reservations.
"Some families were raised more in the white ways and others in the Native American traditions. The women I have chosen to write about in Volume I have come from various islands from Waldron to Guemas and have contributed to the unique historical development of The San Juan Islands.
Native wives blended aspects of their original culture with that of the man they chose as their lifemates. That in itself represents a markedly adaptable personality. Most marriage survived which is a testament to the good personalities of the women. They were beloved in their communities by their neighbors, children and grandchildren. In my own childhood I always knew of Auntie Chadwick, who was not my aunt and Mtoher Brown who was no relation to me. On Decatur, no one spoke of Mrs. John P. Reed or Mary Reed or Tacee Reed, (her Tlingit name) but of 'Grandmother Reed.' By this, she was always lovingly referred to by all of the island residents.
Respect was indeed due them. Their relationships and marriages were long lasting. One settler whose Indian wife died decided to marry a proper and prim English girl only to quit that marriage and to look for another Native American wife.
In such difficult times, isolated from the mainland these women could make do without luxuries and could preserve and use the foods of the land and the sea and the beach. Many of their food preparations in the realm of seafood are still used in the islands today. Some made baskets and some could sew and others did fancy embroidery and lovely crochet work. Many could draw. Most could hunt with rifles and did, to help feed their families. Many taught their daughters. Indeed, when I think of my great aunts it amazes me that those ladies whose crocheted doilies are at my home and whose beautiful velvet autograph books and photo albums the height of femininity, grace my bedroom are also the stern rustic women in the photos standing beside a nicely hunted 2 point buck. They were indeed unique women in a rapidly changing world.
"Most importantly, in what the great Chief Sealth called the 'change of worlds' these played vital roles in the development of The San Juan Islands. Because despite sweeping changes in their lives they seem to have remained friends with other Native wives throughout their lives. Some became good friends to early white wives that lived near them but even after the influx of white women after 1880 there was a cohesiveness among the Native families who had known each other for so long.
"It must have been odd for them to have lived in the natural and spiritual world of their tribes and to see th coming of the steamers and the industry, high fashion, formal homes and gardens now supplanting their canoes and longhouses and entire way of life. In these islands especially it must have been a source of pride that their people were often times still the most reliable navigators and fishermen and fisherwomen. Self-sufficiency belonged to them.
"It is fitting now to honor these women with one foot in each world who are so responsible for the survival of many early island husbands and children. It is fitting to honor the love they and their husbands and children bore for each toher and the lasting contributions they have made here.
"This book will not be perfect. It will just be an attempt to honor that love and will hopefully lead the readers to even more interest in pioneer San Juan Islanders." (pages 1 and 2)