In the name of Chetzemoka: Jamestown S”Klallam descendants receive traditional names in historic ceremony

SEQUIM — Chief Chetzemoka. His son, Lahkanim. His grandson, Steteethlum.

These names evoke faded images from the pages of the history of the North Olympic Peninsula.

Now the names take human form and walk the land again.

On Saturday, 12 direct descendants of Klallam Chief Chetzemoka (ca. 1808-1888) received the names of their ancestors during a ceremony at Guy Cole Convention Center in Carrie Blake Park.

Marked by prayers, gifts, singing and dancing, it was the first naming ceremony held in the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe in almost a century.

“It’s easily been 75 years,” said Ron Allen, chairman of the Tribal Council.

“After the turn of the century, there weren’t a lot of those kind of cultural activities going on.

“Now we’re shifting back, restoring the practices, the singing and art. It’s a kind of a renaissance.”

Other tribes represented

The naming ceremony drew several hundred people from neighboring tribes around the Olympic Peninsula, Puget Sound and Canada.

It was hosted by Elaine Grinnell, who is related to Chetzemoka through her mother, Mildred Prince-Judson, who also attended Saturday’s ceremony.

Prince-Judson’s father was Steteethlum, Chetzemoka’s grandson.

“This gathering marks an historic occasion for her and her family,” said Frank Nelson, a First Nations chief from Canada who spoke at the event.

“You are called to witness the raising of the spirit of our ancestors. The ancestors are here today to provide strength to this family to once again bring the names back to life.”

As the oldest son, Jack Grinnell, a commercial contractor who grew up in Port Angeles, received the name of T’chits-a-ma-hun (which anglicized becomes Chetzemoka).

Honored with Chief Seattle as a peacemaker, Chetzemoka — inexplicably nicknamed the Duke of York — persuaded the Puget Sound tribes of the futility of war with the settlers.

Chetzemoka’s grave is a pilgrimage site in Port Townsend, which also has a waterfront park named for him.

The great chief’s image was also incorporated into the stonework on the Port Townsend post office, formerly the Customs House, and a statue of him stands on the rise where he signaled to settlers that they were safe from attack.

“I can’t underscore how big an honor it is,” Jack Grinnell/T’chits-a-ma-hun said.

“When my mother told me, I had to sit down.”

Other family names

His sister, Julie Grinnell-Donahue of Sequim, took a version of her mother’s name, Kwel-tsid.

Her brother, Kurt, a commercial geoduck diver and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council member, took the name of his great-grandfather, Ste-tee-thlum.

For Elaine’s nine grandchildren, ages 11 to 19, who also received new names, it was a very big day.

“We’ve been preparing about a year, learning our dances and songs,” said Zack Grinnell, a Sequim High School who took the name of Ha-qwin-elh.

He and his cousin, Michael, have also been studying the language with the help of a Lower Elwha Klallam tutor, he said.

The boys as well as their sisters and parents made black and red felt vests and aprons, decorated with the wolf crest and adorned with deer-horn buttons.

Led by Elaine Grinnell, the family sang a welcoming song, and after other tribal members sang a dinner song, the younger generation served the elders and guests salmon dinners.

‘Rebirth’ blankets

Then the tables were put away and blankets — likened to birthing blankets –were brought out and placed on the floor, four for each family member receiving a name.

“We call it a rebirth,” Jack Grinnell said. “It brings into focus the deeper meaning of who I am.”

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