Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast Through Cross-Cultural Marriages (Paperback)
Throughout the mid-1800s, outsiders, including many Euro-Americans, arrived in what is now northwest Washington. As they interacted with Samish, Lummi, S'Klallam, Sto: lo, and other groups, some of the men sought relationships with young local women. Hoping to establish mutually beneficial ties, Coast and Interior Salish families arranged strategic cross-cultural marriages. Some pairs became lifelong partners while other unions were short. These were crucial alliances that played a critical role in regional settlement and spared Puget Sound's upper corner from the tragic conflicts other regions experienced.
Accounts of the men, who often held public positions--army officer, Territorial Supreme Court justice, school superintendent, sheriff--exist in a variety of records. Some, like the nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, were from prominent eastern families. Yet across the West, the contributions of their native wives remain unacknowledged.
The women's lives were marked by hardships and heartbreaks common for the time, but the four profiled--Caroline Davis Kavanaugh, Mary Fitzhugh Lear Phillips, Clara Tennant Selhameten, and Nellie Carr Lane--exhibited exceptional endurance, strength, and adaptability. Far from helpless victims, they influenced their husbands and controlled their homes. Remembered as loving mothers and good neighbors, they ran farms, nursed and supported family, served as midwives, and operated businesses. They visited relatives and attended ancestral gatherings, often with their children. Each woman's story is uniquely hers, but together they and other intermarried women helped found Puget Sound communities and left lasting legacies. They were peace weavers.
Author Candace Wellman hopes to shatter stereotypes surrounding these relationships. Numerous collaborators across the United States and Canada--descendants, local historians, academics, and more--graciously participated in her seventeen-year effort.