The Quileute (pronounced ‘kwileoot) people live on the Pacific coast of Washington state. The Quileute Nation is a federally recognized tribe of 700 enrolled members (2005 census) based in La Push, Washington. From a linguistic perspective, these recordings are valuable because the Quileute represent the last speakers of the Chimakuan language family. During the 1840s, the Quileute population was severely reduced by warfare and disease. Quileute survivors intermarried with neighboring cultures and learned the Salish language and later, through assimilation, adapted to the English language. Anthropologists speculate that this slow historical process was the result of language shift, the loss of the native language through the process of acculturation into other indigenous and non-indigenous societies.
The APS has extensive holdings in Quileute ethnography and linguistics. The recordings here were all made by the linguist Eric Hamp in 1969 and 1970, in collaboration with Quileute elder Beatrice Black. During these recording sessions, they worked from original Quileute stories and speeches that had been collected by Manual J. Andrade and published in a bilingual format in Quileute Texts (1931). In addition, Hamp recorded vocabulary on many topics, and Mrs. Black gave numerous explanations of Quileute culture and traditional crafts.
The photograph above was taken by Albert Reagan, a teacher at the Quileute Day School, in 1912 or 1913. The drawing to the right most likely was made by one of Reagan's students. It shows a traditional manner of decorating and suspending the portion of a whale given to the spearman in a whaling party. Whales and whaling traditionally have been an integral part of Quileute life, bringing an important source of food, but also holding great religious and social significance in their whale-hunter society.
Collections with Quileute audio recordings: