Our dear friend, educator and mentor, Emmett Oliver has completed his long journey at the age of 102. He was the oldest member of the Quinault Nation, and a true hero. The following is a reprint from KING NEWS.
“Oliver was born in South Bend, Washington, and served in World War 11 and the Korean War, before going on to make his mark as a teacher and coach.
“Emmett will be dearly missed. He achieved so much in his life and leaves a legacy that will truly last forever.” Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp said in a release. He was a United States Coast Guard Commander, an educator in and out of the classroom, an equal rights activist and a cultural icon. He was known and loved by thousands of people near and far, and will be remembered as a man who gave of himself throughout his life, always with the objective of helping others foremost in his mind.” she said.
After serving as an educator in the classroom, Oliver continued working to improve tribal education by serving as director of Indian student programs at UCLA and the University of Washington before becoming the supervisor of Indian education for the State of Washington.
In 1989 he established the Paddle to Seattle, an event that taught physical and spiritual discipline, and shared his culture with countless people.
“The fact is that Emmett saved hundreds if not thousands of lives. It is hard to underestimate the great positive impact that the resurgence of the canoe culture has had on American Indians in this country. It has helped somany of our children and adults turn away from drugs and alcohol, and displaced depression and despair with hope and culture-based principles. People are learning their culture again. So many more know their language, their songs, their history. They have pride again, and they are staying in school. Emmett Oliver was a true hero among our people, said Sharp.
Born December 2, 1913, Oliver was a stand-out scholar and athlete at Sherman Institute in California, before studying at Baconne Cllege ( a two-year Indian college) and the University of Redlands.
He and his wife, Georgia, have three children, nine grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.”
Our family was blessed to have Emmett as our good friend and mentor for the past fifty-six years, even being responsible for our move to the Northwest. They unstintingly shared their home on the Hood Canal with our family and friends.
I am reflecting today on the many lessons that Emmett, and his wife Georgia, taught me. To have the opportunity to learn their separate cultures, and to love them and their extended family, has been a true blessing.
Beginning with our first meeting when Emmett was a high school counselor and coach, and continuing through the next years, my horizons widened as I became aware that under the fun that Emmett brought to every gathering, a very serious educator always resided.
His efforts to understand and help his people have been legion. Some years ago the book “Two Paths” was written about Emmett’s life and was self-published by him. It was distributed free to schools on the Washington State reservations as an inspiration to young students as to what can be achieved with education.
Goodbye Emmett, our memories of you will leave a happy glow within our hearts. You and Georgia introduced me to Indian America for which I am forever grateful.