In the past, many historians chose to ignore the historical significance of indigenous wives during the birth of Bellingham Bay communities, typically mentioning only the first white women. Yet these mid-1800s alliances played a crucial role, with the women serving as cultural interpreters and mediators, aiding settlement, and reducing regional conflict between native peoples and newcomers. The newest book from Washington State University Press, Candace Wellman’s Interwoven Lives: Indigenous Mothers of Salish Coast Communities, depicts the lives of four of these intermarried Native women.
A companion work to Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast through Cross-Cultural Marriages, Wellman’s first book on Puget Sound’s cross-cultural marriages, Interwoven Lives describes each wife’s native culture, details ancestral history for both spouses, and traces descendants’ destinies, highlighting their contributions to new communities. Wellman’s research also reveals new details about the Northwest life of Captain George W. Pickett, who later became a Civil War brigadier general.
Jenny Wynn, daughter of an elite Lummi and his Songhees wife, owned a farm with her husband Thomas and donated property for the region’s second rural school. Many descendants became teachers. Snoqualmie Elizabeth Patterson, daughter of Patkanim, western Washington’s most powerful native leader, married a cattleman. After tuberculosis took her life, foster parents raised her daughters, who enhanced Lynden’s literary and business growth as adults. Mary Allen was the daughter of an Nlaka’pamux leader on British Columbia’s Fraser River. The village of Marietta arose from her long marriage. Later, her sons played important roles in southeast Alaska’s early development. Mrs. Pickett, the Haida wife of Fort Bellingham’s commander, died young and left no name to history, but she gave birth to one of the West’s most important early artists, James Tilton Pickett.
Wellman holds undergraduate degrees in sociology from Washington State University and history/secondary education from Western Washington University, and has pursued graduate work in sociology. Born and raised in Washington, the Bellingham resident is a local history consultant and speaks regularly about women’s history and regional settlement. Peace Weavers won the 2018 WILLA literary award for scholarly nonfiction from Women Writing the West.
Wellman attributes much of her success to the generous assistance of mentors and numerous contributors. An expert researcher, her methodology combined disparate primary and secondary sources in academic and local history as well as genealogy and family memory—and her discoveries help destroy common stereotypes about these cross-cultural marriages. Coll Thrush, University of British Columbia professor and author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, agrees. “Candace Wellman’s years of painstaking research and work with local families have brought to the fore these crucially important histories of Indigenous-settler relations in the far Northwest, and challenge much of the received wisdom about the workings of colonialism in this place.”
Interwoven Lives is paperback, 6″ x 9″, 310 pages in length, and lists for $27.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360 or online at wsupress.wsu.edu. A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.
(The book’s cover image, featured here, is “Mt. Rainier,” an oil painting by James Tilton Pickett of Portland, Oregon. Courtesy of the Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington.)