Some 300 expected to celebrate life of Jamestown tribal leader

Public memorial to be live-streamed

Kurt Grinnell.

Kurt Grinnell.

SEQUIM — The life of the late Kurt Grinnell, a man whose life was wedded to the Salish Sea, will be celebrated Saturday morning in a public outdoor service on Jamestown Beach, a historical focal point of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

Tribal planner Luke Strong-Cvetich said Thursday he expects roughly 300 friends, family and community members to attend.

Grinnell, a 57-year-old tribal council member and CEO of Jamestown Seafood, died in a single-car wreck at about 4 p.m. April 20 when his vehicle went off Mount Pleasant Road near his home.

The service will begin at 11 a.m. at the beach at 1272 Jamestown Road north of Sequim.

The family and tribe have granted permission for a live stream of the event, accessible at jamestowntribe.org. In-person attendance is restricted to adults and older children who are asked to wear face masks.

A small amount of parking will be available onsite at Jamestown Beach, while shuttle services will be offered from the main parking lots at 7 Cedars Casino Hotel and Sequim High School starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Photos or video — other than the live-stream by tribe — will not be allowed at the service.

The ceremony will take place on a broad stretch of beachfront in an area where a cultural tradition Grinnell was engaged in over his lifetime blossomed during the last 30 years, nurtured in large part by Grinnell’s devotion and expertise.

“Seafood harvesting and sale has been a longstanding tribal business in various forms,” according to jamestowntribe.org.

“Starting with intertribal trade, then sales to local pioneers from the beach at Jamestown, the tribe continued with seafood sales by individual tribal commercial fishermen through the 20th century, as well as an early iteration of Jamestown Seafood that operated in Dungeness Bay in the 1980s and ’90s, selling oysters, clams, crab and geoduck,” the website said.

“Since then, the tribe has focused on geoduck diving and oyster aquaculture.”

Grinnell’s forebears grew up in Jamestown Village, located on the beach, on land purchased by his and other tribal families around the 1890s, Tribal Chairman Ron Allen said Thursday.

They purchased the 220 acres from the white owners for $500 in gold coins, owning it until around the 1960s, he said.

“It was way ahead of its time in terms of being a privately owned reservation,” Allen said, adding it had an Indian school, health care facilities and Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement personnel.

Grinnell was a great grandson of S’Klallam Chief Chetzemoka, a signer of the landmark 1855 Treaty of Point No Point. Chetzemoka lived in the Port Townsend area from 1808-1888.

A Port Townsend park is named after Chetzemoka, as well as a state ferry.

A plaque at the base of a statue in the city memorializes him, quoting Matthew 5:9.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God,” it says.

“Kurt was a bridge-builder,” according to his obituary published in the Peninsula Daily News on Thursday.

“He brought many people together, was a peacemaker, and he touched the lives of so many throughout his life,” it says.

“Kurt’s legacy will be the innumerable relationships he forged, and those relationships will carry forward for generations.

“His trustworthiness, empathy, leadership, and steadfast resolve earned him the respect of people too numerous to count.”

Grinnell grew up in Port Angeles, graduating from Port Angeles High School before attending Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., and the University of Washington. He returned to the North Olympic Peninsula as an Indian Child Welfare caseworker and chemical dependency counselor.

A gillnet fisherman, geoduck diver and shellfish farmer, Grinnell had served on the tribal council since 2004.

Allen said in an earlier interview that Grinnell led the tribe’s revival of oyster farming and oyster-seed production, pioneered its hatchery operations and piloted its overall aquaculture efforts.

Grinnell headed the tribe’s natural resources committee and represented the tribe on the Point No Point Treaty Council, a tribal consortium for the Jamestown S’Klallam and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes that manages resources and protects treaty rights, according to pnptc.org.

He represented the tribe on the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, a natural resources management support organization serving 20 Western Washington treaty tribes.

“All the natural resources stuff, shellfish, all the natural resources issues, that was Kurt’s bailiwick, that was his niche,” Allen said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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