Lummi Fisheries archives
Shirey Temple visits Lummi aquaculture in early 1970s.

Lummi Elder Remembers Shirley Temple Black

Tanya Lee

Lummi Nation elder Henry Hillaire, 90, remembers the late Shirley Temple Black not as the the most famous child film star of the 1930s, or as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Ghana and Czechoslovakia, or as Chief of Protocol of the United States, but as a woman who used her renown and her respect and compassion for others to help foster economic development on the reservation when she visited in the 1970s. Here are Hillaire's memories of Black as told to an ICTMN correspondent, with some clarifying notes inserted in italics:

We had a lunch and we talked about the nature of things, the way Native Americans have been treated. She was a very nice lady and she told me all of her feelings about how she felt about people. She was [supportive of] anybody who was taken advantage of by people or the government. The government at that time was in the period when they want to do away with Indian reservations. 

The Lummi had signed a treaty and we talked about that. [Under the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, the tribes and bands in western Washington Territory who were signatories ceded their ancestral lands, with the exception of specified tracts reserved for their use and occupation. The treaty granted the tribes non-exclusive rights to fish "at usual and accustomed grounds and stations" and to hunt and gather on open and unclaimed lands.] After we signed the treaty the government took half of that land back [to sell to non-Indians under the allotment policy. By the end of the 1950s, the Lummi had lost 40 percent of their reservation].

They gave the highlands on our reservation away, then the reservation was all river bottom. The Government created a little peninsula of land on the river bottom; they guided the river to the north and shut that off and guided the river to the south and left us on a little peninsula, the only place where we could live.

The land became more and more unusable—it was a wetland. That was what was left for us to make a living on. The land we tried to use it at first for planting corn and oats, but the source of our survival was the sea, the tidelands. [However, Washington state and local governments had been unrelenting in separating the Lummi from the sea and the exercise of the fishing rights guaranteed to them in the Treaty of Point Elliott.]


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