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Preserving a Culture by Nancy Kolsti
Summer 2003      


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Thomas Charles Sr.

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Preserving a Culture

Come Away With Me



Thomas Charles Sr.
By Timothy Montler

Thomas Charles Sr.Tribal elder Thomas Charles Sr. his real name was Watanaqhn passed away in 1999. (This picture was taken in 1996.) He was around 80 years old.

I'd known him for more than 20 years. He was one of the last people who could tell stories fluently in the Klallam language and he taught me a lot. He'd call me long distance once in a while just to have someone to talk to in Klallam. He liked me to bring him red Texas dirt good for making face-paint for the longhouse winter dances.

He was born on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and was raised in several places on southern Vancouver Island. He was a member of both the Becher Bay Reserve in Canada and the Elwha Reservation in Washington. His wife, Flora, is a very distinguished lady from the Nitinat tribe.

His family made their living fishing. As a young man he picked hops in the Yakima valley, did cannery work, hauled coal to rich people's houses and worked a long time as a boomer (one who walks on the floating logs and sorts them before they go to the mill). When I met him he was working as a guide for sports salmon fishermen.

In his last few years he was one of a small group of Klallam elders dedicated to getting as much of their knowledge of the Klallam language recorded as possible. He had enormous knowledge of Klallam language and culture; we only managed to get a small part of it on tape and paper.


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