Honoring Our Diverse Leaders Banner Project
The Olympia Downtown Alliance (Alliance) updated its strategic plan in 2021with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. To put this idea into action, the Alliance developed a program to design and fabricate street pole banners downtown Olympia that honor past and present community leaders of Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) heritage. The Alliance worked with Olympia High School (OHS) students to identify and research BIPOC community members and develop content for the banners. The City of Olympia served as a research partner and source of information.
“Indians have a right to live, and we have a right to a reasonable quality of life, and we have a right to a sense of permanence.” — Ramona Bennett.
Ramona Bennet is a prominent leader of the Puyallup tribe, known as a strong advocate for fishing rights and as co-founder of several organizations focusing on social welfare.
Ramona Bennett is a longtime leader of the Puyallup tribe. She started her work in the 1950s in Seattle’s American Indian Women’s Service League. She co-founded the Survival of American Indians Association in 1964, which helped bring attention to local fish-ins. She was elected to the Puyallup Tribal Council in 1968 and held the position of Tribal Chairwoman from 1971 to 1978. During this time, she fought against attempts to exclude her from National Tribal Chairmen’s Conferences, serving as a representative for women activists. She also participated in the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Building in Washington, DC in 1972 and Tacoma’s Cushman Hospital takeover in 1976, which was returned to use by the Puyallup Tribe as a medical and social welfare center for its people.
Bennett co-founded the Local Indian Child Welfare Act Committee in 1972. She created a childhood and family service model in Washington, which she used to help co-author a national Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978. She served as an administrator at the Wa-He-Lut Indian School in Olympia in the 1980s. She went on to co-found Rainbow Youth and Family Services and still directs it today. She earned an MA in Education from the University of Puget Sound in 1981 and later received an honorary Doctorate of Public Affairs in 2000. The Native Action Network awarded her the Enduring Spirit Award in 2003.
George Bush was an American pioneer and one of the first African-American, non-AmerIndian settlers of the Pacific Northwest. It is believed that he was born sometime in 1790. He was a key leader of the first group of American citizens to settle north of the Columbia River in what is now Washington. When he was living in Missouri he was a successful farmer, but as a free black man in a slave state, he faced increasing discrimination and he decided to move west. In 1844 Bush and a few other settlers walked the Oregon trail, they found that racial exclusion laws had preceded them. This barred Bush from settling south of the Columbia River. Instead, they settled on Puget Sound. When they arrived Bush started a successful farm, which would be located in present-day Tumwater. Bush raised and farmed cattle and his family was relatively successful.
The Bush family’s exploration of the Oregon Trail inspired other people to move to Oregon and Washington Territories. When the Bush family and settlers arrived, it was very late in the year. Fort Nisqually, operated by the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Nisqually Tribe all helped them with food. As time went on, the Bush family and settlers started making more and more allies and friends with other tribes. After settling into their new home, they began to trade more.
The U.S. Donation Land Act forbids people of African descent from owning land. George Bush’s friends and neighbors appealed to Congress. On January 30, 1855 the United States Congress passed H.R. 70 specifically to allow George Bush to own his farm making him the first Black landowner in what is now Washington State. If Mr. Bush did not travel to the Northwest, this region would not be as it is today. In fact, George Bush’s son, Willian Owen Bush was the first Black person elected to the Washington State Legislature. He was also a founder of what is now known as the Washington State University.
Through her public service, activism, and leadership local and state-wide, Reiko Callner has pushed for fairness in Washington’s judicial system and advocated for positive community change. Reiko Callner, a Jewish and Japanese-American prosecutor and activist, grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later, she attended Oberlin College in Ohio and graduated with a Bachelor of the Arts in 1979. She then moved to Hawaii and eventually to Olympia, Washington, in 1985. In Washington, Callner attended the University of Washington School of Law, eventually graduating with a Juris Doctor degree in 1986.
Since graduating from law school, Callner has stood out as an active and dedicated member of the community through her work in and out of the government. She has served as the chair of groups such as the Washington State Human Rights Commission and the City of Olympia’s Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations and as a member of the Judicial Branch Process Advisory Group. She is also a board member for the Olympia chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), a longstanding civil rights organization. In the government, Callner is a member of the Olympia Civil Services Commission, which influences the employment and work of the Olympia Police and Fire Departments. Furthermore, she champions fairness and honesty in the state and national judiciaries as the executive director for the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct and as a board member emeritus in the Association of Judicial Disciplinary Counsel. Through her work, Reiko Callner continues to influence and impact her community for the better, setting a prime example for activism and public service.
In 1911, Joyce Simmons Cheeka was 10 years old and taken unwillingly from her Squaxin family to be sent to a government boarding school. Cheeka had to leave her home of Oyster Bay in Lower Puget Sound and attend the Tulalip Training School, which was just one of the many Indian Boarding Schools implemented by the U.S. during the 19th and 20th centuries. These were “assimilation” boarding schools, forbidding Native American children to forget their name, culture, and language by forcing new white viewpoints upon them. They were often very harsh and disciplinary, with schools being susceptible to deadly diseases and children being threatened with severe punishment. Despite these circumstances, Joyce Simmons Cheeka never lost her native culture and identity, fulfilling the role of her tribe’s “rememberer.”
A rememberer is a relatively modern concept in which a tribe member is given a responsibility to carry the memories of their people, which includes marriages, births, celebrations, and more. The job is usually passed down through family relations, so Cheeka was granted the role by the previous rememberer of her tribe: her grandfather, Mud Bay Sam. By being the rememberer, she was able to retain her loyalty to her tribe and prevent her connection to tradition from being destroyed. But it is important to note that in our NW region, community and family structures are dependent on one another, so rememberers or other individuals are not taught everything. Individuality remains, but social interactions with others and the natural world continue to be a central part of traditional structure.
Joyce Simmons Cheeka’s story and her role as a rememberer for her Squaxin tribe were recounted in a memoir she wrote called As My Sun Now Sets, but was more recently retold in a play by Steven Dietz titled “The Rememberer.” These retellings not only allow people to learn more about inspirational figures such as Cheeka, but also allow us to learn that sticking to our roots prevents the loss of individualism and identity - even if outside influence may oftentimes be inescapable. Today, we can honor Joyce Simmons Cheeka as well as the indigenous people of the US by acknowledging that our entire continent is linked to countless indigenous communities that have always lived here. We can always continue to strive to know more about the diverse cultures, customs, traditions, and identities of the indigenous people of the Americas, learning about people such as Joyce Simmons Cheeka and honoring them through our own remembrance.
CIELO is a support and resource center in downtown Olympia founded by a coalition of strong women. Lety Fernandez de Astruc, Sue Cook, Anita Neal, Alicia Cardenas-Short, Angela Bartly, Mariana Heredia, Eunice Santiago, Griselda Perretz-Rosales are the founders of this non-profit. They have committed themselves to offer opportunities for Latino immigrants to succeed and thrive. They work to promote community, self-sufficiency, and leadership to Latinos in South Puget Sound. The education, counseling, and advocacy services that this organization provides gives immigrants the power to realize and achieve their dreams.
CIELO was founded in 1995 when Lety Fernancez dreamed of turning an 8-acre horse farm into a place of community support and social services for the Latino immigrant community. CIELO began providing social services at the ranch for Latino youth and families and other underserved groups: horsemanship programs, outdoor skill-and-team-building activities, and homework clubs. As the organization has grown, they have been able to expand. They now offer English language classes, counseling and mental health programs, and advocacy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
From its beginning, CIELO has also been a bilingual, bicultural center for resources, information and referrals. Its mission has been to promote community, self-sufficiency and leadership of Latino individuals and families.
Through passionate service and leadership in various community groups in the South Puget Sound area, Bill Fishburn has supported many people and helped bolster the Olympia Latinx community. A lifelong Washingtonian, Bill Fishburn grew up in Spokane, Washington. Later, he studied at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. Eventually, he also attended the University of California, Berkeley, to earn his Master of Science in mechanical engineering. With the knowledge from his studies, Fishburn was hired by Intel in 1995 as a manufacturing team leader.
From those years until now, Fishburn has remained in Washington. As such, his involvement with his local community has only grown. In 2002, he became active in the Boy Scouts of America, for which he has now been a troop committee member and a high adventure coordinator and contingent leader. Likewise, since 2015, he has been a board member and part of the Board Development Committee for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. He acts as a representative of the region’s Latinx population. At around that time, he continued to work for Intel and had been promoted many times. During his time at Intel, Fishburn had also started an Intel Latino Network, ultimately representing Intel at the Hispanic Roundtable, a non-profit aimed at strengthening and elevating the local Latinx community in the South Puget Sound area. Later taking a larger role in the Hispanic Roundtable, he soon joined and chaired its registration committee. In time, he assumed the title and responsibilities of the treasurer and eventually the president of the organization. In 2016, Fishburn continued from 11 years as the senior technical program manager and now works for the Washington State Department of Health as the informational technology project manager supervisor. Still, Bill Fishburn remains an active, committed, and passionate local leader despite new achievements and professional developments. Through his engagement in many various local organizations, Bill Fishburn illustrates his positive impact on others and his dedication to service and his community.
Billy Frank Jr. A friend, a father, a leader, a veteran, a Native American. He was destined for greatness since the day he was born, March 9, 1931. At the age of 14, Billy Frank Jr. was arrested for the first time. He was just a boy, fishing on the Nisqually River just as his ancestors had done. State agents approached him and told him he was under arrest for “illegally” fishing on the river. Billy replied, “Leave me alone, goddamn it. I fish here. I live here!”
This began his legacy and lit a fire underneath him. After this, Mr. Frank continued to fight the unfair treatment of Native Americans and ended up getting arrested more than 50 times. In his 83 years on earth, he dedicated his life to advocating for treaty rights and environmental preservation. In the 1960s and 1970s, he helped organize demonstrations called “fish-ins” where Native Americans would protest and exercise their right to fish reserved by the Treaty of Medicine Creek in 1854. These demonstrations finally led to the case being brought to court. The case was assigned to Judge George Hugo Boldt, and on August 27, 1973, Billy Frank Jr and 49 other tribal members, including his father, testified. Finally, on February 12, 1974, the treaties were declared to be the supreme law of the land, and the state of Washington could no longer overrule any Native American tribe's right to fish.
Billy Frank Jr. continued to advocate for Native American rights for the remainder of his years and stayed in his homeland all his life. He went away for two years to serve in the Marines but said that his roots called him back to the 6 acres owned by his family just downstream from the reservation. Although Billy Frank Jr. was a busy man, that never held him back from building strong relationships with everyone he met. He was enrolled in the Nisqually Tribe, but he advocated for all Native Americans. The state of Washington honored him with the Washington State Medal of Merit to thank him for all of his service to the community. He changed the minds of so many with his wisdom and regained stolen land for his tribe. Although he is gone, he will never be forgotten.
A Latina, originally from Colorado. Kathy’s work career was in the public sector, primarily in executive level positions across six different state agencies over 30 yrs. Since retiring from state government in 2000, Kathy’s community service focus has been regarding social justice issues. A sample of involvements are: Strengthening Sanctuary Alliance, Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, Interfaith Works, The Hispanic Roundtable, the Dispute Resolution Center, as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care system, and Community Youth Services. She has been the recipient of many acknowledgements because of her nonprofit work, including the Peacemaker Leadership Award from the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County. As a mediator, Kathy has conducted over 500 hours of mediation since she began this work in 2000.
Shawna Hawk is the Executive Director of Media Island International, a black-run nonprofit cultural center, and the founder of the Women of Color in Leadership Movement. She has devoted her life to the empowerment of women and youth of color, particularly Black women and girls. Hawk first began her career as an early childhood and youth educator, focusing on bringing cultural diversity into the classroom as a teacher trainer and family education specialist. She also spent many years doing child abuse prevention classes and being a domestic abuse survivor advocate and facilitator of support groups around this topic.
When asked why she started the Women of Color in Leadership movement, Hawk says that as Olympia is a predominately white town, she “saw the need to create a place for women of color, meaning Black and Brown, to share a safe space to discuss issues that directly affect them. A place where they can discuss these issues without fear of persecution and feeling the need to take care of or nursemaid our white sisters' feelings.” Having places where people of color, especially women of color, are safe and protected is central to Black representation and diversity work. “Black women’s successes, personal thriving, safety, and positive representation seems always to get pushed back to the end of the line, especially in current social justice movements," she said. "This is one of the reasons I still do this work, to work for the advancement of Black women and children/youth. By focusing on this very vulnerable group, we influence and make strides for the betterment of all marginalized groups."
Rebecca Groundage was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1827. Much later in her life, Rebecca Groundage married Alexander Howard and moved to Olympia, Washington. Rebecca Howard climbed the social ladder due to her hard work and dedication. She became a successful businesswoman, bringing a great reputation to her hotel and restaurant: The Pacific House.
Rebecca Howard had many obstacles in her life: her social status, racism, and stereotyping. However, she used her voice and her mind to overcome any obstacle thrown at her. Her social status improved because of her dedication to her business, helping her gain respect in the community. She proved stereotypes wrong by becoming focused and achieving her goals of being a successful businesswoman. She blocked out the racism and condescending comments and used her voice to clearly correct other’s comments. Setting a precedent for women and people of color alike, she has influenced many individuals to achieve their goals through her actions.
Outside of her work, Rebecca was a mother to Isaac I. Stevens Glasgow, a part-native American child of an American settler with the name of Thomas Glasgow. Although Howard didn’t have blood-related children, she prevented other kids like Isaac from being mistreated like she once had. She was also able to voice her opinion through the church, where she was “a faithful message and liberal supporter of St. Johns.” Overall, Rebecca G Howard fought against the odds and for the better environment of minorities like herself.
Having served as the first Asian American President of Saint Martin’s University (SMU) and the first Asian American college president in Washington State, Dr. John Ishii is credited to have been a major influence on the promotion of diversity within our community. Dr. Ishii held many unusual positions for Asian Americans, such as working in the U.S. State Department and advising world leaders, such as the Prime Minister of Malaysia, on policy and economic issues. Locally, he became the first president of the Olympia World Affairs Council and served on the board of Olympia Federal Savings Bank.
Due to Dr. Ishii’s work at Saint Martin’s to open the college beyond its Benedictine origins, SMU has continued Dr. Ishii's legacy and now offers scholarships to people of color, initiating the Diversity and Equity Center in 2017. Having been a graduate of SMU himself, he was viewed as a leader who could make a great impact on the school. Dr. Ishii would speak before various organizations, including the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), as he worked toward a more unified and equitable future for all. JACL is the oldest Asian American civil and human rights organization in the United States.
Toy Kay moved to Olympia when she was sixteen for an arranged marriage to Bill Kay. There were very few Chinese women in the area, and Toy Kay played a large role in the community from the beginning. She worked for 33 years at Kay’s Cafe while raising two children.
Once her children grew up, Kay decided to pursue higher education for herself. During her time at the Evergreen State College, she discovered the importance of history, culture, and the arts and how different cultures can affect various backgrounds. Kay used this awareness in her community outreach, creating the Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship (later renamed the Olympia Area Chinese Association) in 1980. The OACA works to celebrate and preserve diverse cultures and promote traditional Chinese arts, dance, storytelling, and more in the community.
The OACA was not the only community service organization Toy Kay was involved in. Her story is one of personal strength, determination, and overwhelming acceptance. Kay received the Living Legend Award of Thurston County in 2003 for her inspiring efforts.
Locke Sam Fun was a merchant and Chinese leader in Olympia. Born on November 11, 1856, he came to America in 1874, working as a railroad builder. He settled in the Olympia area, where he was a well-respected merchant and member of the Olympia community for many years. He worked his way up to become a partner in the Hong Yek Kee company, a mercantile and provided labor contracts to many industries. The building where the company was located is where Hannah’s is now in downtown Olympia. The company also financed Chinese companies as far away as Hoquiam! He helped finance and invested in many Chinese-owned businesses in the region. His influence and reputation made him a wealthy and respected member of the community. He and his wife Lay Shee had nine children and lived in Olympia until he died in 1934. His life was celebrated with a large, well-attended funeral procession. Locke Sam Fun, locally known as “The Mayor of Chinatown,” paved the way for Chinese culture to thrive in Olympia.
From his humble beginnings in the Yesler Terrace public housing, Gary Locke grew up valuing hard work, honesty, integrity, and empathy. Those values showed through his work as the 21st governor of Washington from 1997 to 2005. Gary Locke is also the first Chinese American Governor in not only Washington State but the U.S. From 2009 to 2011, Locke also worked for President Obama as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Locke also became the first Chinese American to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China, where he increased bilateral cooperation and understanding between the two countries. As Ambassador, Locke brought pollution and human rights issues to the spotlight in China, promoting American values. Locke was also considered a potential candidate for the Vice President of the United States of America and was chosen to respond to former President Bush’s state of the union address.
His contributions to America have made him well respected and a point of pride for all of Washington State. His accomplishments make him the most prominent Asian American politician in Washington State history and American history. In the early 2000s, Locke brokered a deal to keep Boeing in Washington, which provided Washington State citizens with thousands of jobs and overwhelming economic growth. Locke also valued great education with the statement that “Education is the great equalizer.” Through his educational career as a graduate of Yale University and his law degree from Boston University, Locke used his own experiences to help thousands of students. Locke proposed and passed the Promise Scholarship, a fund that helps kids go to public and private colleges. Locke also started and raised private money for scholarships for foster children.
After his resignation as the U.S ambassador to China, Locke continued his work and service to America. Locke joined the boards of both the AMC theaters in 2016 and the Seattle-based global non-profit PATH. In May 2020, Locke was named the Interim President of Bellevue College. By representing Asian Americans in his continuous service to the U.S, Locke is a man for all seasons - good times and bad times. Locke’s high ethical standards, humble personality, passion, and commitment to the community make him a role model for generations to come.
Merritt Long is an Olympian author, community leader, and former state agency head who advocates for racial justice. His memoir My View From the Back of the Bus covers his experiences living in the South during the Jim Crow era and his time serving in Washington, and the issues in the Black community here and across the country. He grew up in segregated Alabama. While fighting for his rights, he met and was inspired by Muhammed Ali, Rosa Parks, and Julian Bond, some of the most well-known advocates for civil rights.
Marsha Tadano Long, a longtime activist and Olympian community leader and Merritt's wife, was the first person of color to hold many government positions. Two of these positions were the Vocational Education Program Specialist and the Director of the Department of General Administration. She also volunteers around Olympia with the Japanese American Citizens League, the Thurston County Food Bank, the Community Foundation of Puget Sound, YWCA of Olympia, and the Hands On Children’s Museum.
Marsha Tadano Long and Merritt Long founded the Learning Seed Foundation that funds college scholarships for students of color in Thurston and Pierce counties who show promise and a desire to serve their community. This organization has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to graduating high school seniors who are people of color. Many of the recipients are the first in their families to go to college.
Doug Mah is the former Mayor of Olympia and worked in state government in research, policy, and budget. He was the second person of color elected to the Olympia City Council and the first Chinese American elected mayor of the Capitol city.
Doug utilizes his twenty-five years of board, organizational, and community experience to help those in his city, specifically through his company. He draws his inspiration from former Governor Gary Locke. As the Mayor of Olympia, Doug helped support the 2012 Squaxin Canoe landing/paddle to Squaxin and build a better government-to-government relationship between Olympia and the Squaxin tribe. As Councilmember, Mayor, and LOTT Board member, Doug helped establish LOTT as a standalone utility. As a leader in our community, Doug oversaw the construction and completion of the LOTT Wet Center, the new Olympia City Hall, Percival Landing, Hands on Children’s Museum, the regional fire training facility, and the 4th fire station.
Doug Mah earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminal Justice and later his Master of Arts in Sociology and Demography from Western Washington University. He is a native Washingtonian from Spokane and Bellevue who moved to Olympia in 1989 for his career. He has worked with the State Office of Financial Management after earning his degree. He has held government positions in the state government as a research, policy, and budget analyst. He is currently the head of Doug Mah & Associates, where he provides analytical, political, communication, and leadership acumen to help individuals and organizations achieve success.
Thomas Les Purce is a pillar of human rights activism and has been involved in university administration in Idaho and Washington for the majority of his life. He was born in 1946 and is the grandson of twentieth-century pioneers. The background that Purce has accumulated throughout his years in public service, administration, and higher education has provided him with an understanding of public policy and has motivated his pursuit of environmental and human rights activism.
Before his extensive administrative efforts, Purce was involved in politics at an early age in Idaho. As a third-generation Idahoan, he also attended Idaho State University to continue his athletic career playing football. Early in his career, he began to serve others as a member of the ACUPCC Academic Subcommittee.
Purce traveled to Olympia, where he was appointed the interim president of Evergreen State College from 1990 to 1992. He then became the Executive Vice President of Evergreen until 1995. Following his introduction to public administration, Purce became the Vice President and Dean of Washington State University from 1995 to 2000. His most memorable position has been as the first Black president of The Evergreen State College, where he served from 2000 to 2015. He has been recognized for his role in environmental conservation in Puget Sound through the Southern Resident Orca Task Force; this organization supports a collaboration of individuals working to cultivate strategies to reverse the effects of pollution in our local waters. (TESC: Council of Presidents for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, Renewable Energy Subcommittee of the Presidents Climate Commitment)
The Governor has reappointed him for a second term as a Commissioner of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). WICHE works with a coalition of individuals to achieve reciprocity agreements among sixteen states for higher education to increase opportunities for specialty study and accessible higher education.
Purce is a man that builds community and inspires growth in those around him. Although he is a widely accomplished man, he is a man of love and light who strives to connect with others through his meaningful contributions to our community.
James Rideout, also known as Jim, is a descendent of tribal fishermen and works in the Puyallup Tribe to build the Tribe’s fishing industry. Jim is a Stage 4 cancer survivor, which really helped him see he had a purpose he still needed to fulfill. He is a tribal council chairman, and after the death of his niece, Jim began to work on working on a policy, now known as I-940, to reduce police-involved shootings, especially those in minorities.
Justice for Jackie was the group he put together that helped carry I-940 to the courts, and it eventually became state law. I-940 is now known as Violence De-Escalation and Mental Health Training for all Washington State Law Enforcement personnel. Jim is a very committed man and holds the 212th Degree theory close. This theory states that you have to put 212 degrees of heat (a.k.a. effort) into a project for it to be at its best because water at 211 degrees is just warm water, having not reached its potential to be boiling. This is a huge part of his inspiration to achieve his goals.
In 1881 John Slocum, a Mason County logger, Member of the Squaxin Island Tribe, and baptized Roman Catholic, experienced a miraculous case of death and resurrection that would forever influence the religious practices of the Squaxin Island Tribe and indigenous communities in areas surrounding the Pacific Northwest. After passing away due to a logging accident, John was being taken to Olympia for a casket and suddenly awoke. He spoke of being sent back into life in order to spread Christianity and the teachings of Jesus to native peoples. After this revelation, John Slocum became a reputed holy man and prophet who founded the Indian Shaker Church.
Although John Slocum held a central role in the creation of the Indian Shaker Church, it was Mary Slocum, his wife, who introduced the religion’s most important practice, the shake. In the year following John’s revelation, Mary experienced an uncontrollable bodily tremor, prompted by the Holy Spirit, during a period when John fell ill. She shook over John's head and he began to stir. This was the first introduction of the religion’s shaking practices which can bring healing to those who are physically or spiritually ill. This new Indian Shaker Church was not only influential in linking indigenous tradition and Christian practices, but also in reuniting the Squaxin people through community gatherings of holy healing. After facing the impacts of harmful government policies aimed at removing traditional indigenous community structures and identity, people of the Squaxin Island Tribe were finally able to reunite under the Indian Shaker Church. The Indian Shaker religion was able to spread through traditional trade routes even while the United States Federal Government outlawed indigenous religious practices. With the passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, people of the Squaxin Island Tribe were finally able to openly express aspects of the Indian Shaker religion, including the Salmon Ceremony, a common practice throughout many Native American cultures. Their prominence in maintaining community through the Indian Shaker Church makes both John and Mary Slocum two of the most influential figures in Squaxin Island Tribal history.
Gene Tagaban, “One Crazy Raven” empowers Native-American individuals and inspires youth through storytelling, music, and traditional dancing. He is Cherokee, Filipino and Tlingit, part of the Takeintaan clan, the Raven, and the Freshwater Sockeye clan from Hoonah, Alaska. He teaches about the god, Creator, at events, sings, and plays the flute to entertain his audience. Tagaban is a board member of the Native Wellness Institute, an organization based out of Gresham, Oregon, whose mission is to promote the Native-American culture through various trainings and programs.
For over thirty years, Tagaban has been a part of countless organizations and events. He is a facilitator for COMPASS: Choose Respect, a male mentorship program working to end domestic violence, hurt and harm, and sexual assault. Gene has been featured in the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, the Bay Area Storytelling festival in Berkeley, the Kansas City Storytelling Festival, the St. Louis Storytelling Festival and the Singapore International Storytelling Festival. In 2008, Tagaban was honored to perform with the Dalai Lama in front of 16000 children at the “Seeds of Compassion” convention in Seattle, WA. Embracing his native name, “One Crazy Raven,” Gene Tagaban is a heartening role model and an inspiration to all ages by empowering the Native-American community.