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.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

18 thoughts on “R.I.P. OUR FRIEND, EMMETT OLIVER”

  1. I’ve felt like I’ve come to know Emmett and Georgia through your blog, Kayti, and I’m so sorry to hear this. On the other hand, he had a full, satisfying and meaningful life that touched many around him. That’s quite a legacy. Increasingly, I’ve come to believe that programs don’t change people: people change people. The program is only a structure. It’s the people like Emmett who bring programs to life that count.

    We desperately need more people like him in our public life: people whose commitments aren’t simply the “cause du jour,” but who act out of their own life experiences and values. I know we’ll hear more about him, and Georgia, as you tell your own tales. I’m glad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your statement about people creating change is so true as evidenced by the great number of native people who were saved from drugs and alcohol and who gained educations, due to Emmett’s efforts and inspiration. When he worked at the University of Washington he was often called by the police to pick up one of the boys he was trying to get into the University, and who were overcome by a night of partying. He triumphed over many of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not too many people leave a legacy as profound as Emmett’s. His vessel is gone, and while I am not an expert in the Native American’s liturgy and love for Mother Earth, I see Emmett soaring above still near, just one step behind the tip of the arrow point. And those at the tip will take a step back when they pass and so on…all our forbearers all always there just behind us as we carry on.
    Thanks for your service, Emmett, to your family, your community, your people and to the country. May you forevermore be nestled in the bosom of Mother Earth along with the greatest warriors of our past.


    1. A beautiful comment Steve. Emmett was proud of his service to his country, his people and his community. When he got his first vanity license plate it said “Cmdr. O”
      I know his “Paddle To Seattle” will continue to give pride to so many as they relearn their culture. He will be missed by untold numbers who benefit from his legacy.


    1. Yes Gerard it is my painting. he is wrapped in a blanket depicting the salmon and its journey from birth to the sea and which was designed by his son Marvin and made by Pendleton blankets. It was the first of a series of several designs. Marvin is a Professor of Indian studies at the University of Washington and world famous for his large public sculptures.


  3. Lovely tribute Mama! We are waiting to board our plane on Miami to santo Domingo The resort looks great and weather should be good I will send you pictures 😘

    Sent from my iPhone



  4. What an incredible man, you are very lucky to have had him in your life and I am slightly envious that I didn’t meet him. Certainly Emmett should be celebrated, it sounds to me that you should write a book about him, with illustrations. Sorry for your loss and thanks for sharing x


    1. Thanks Gill. In hindsight it was interesting to see how he grew into such an amazing person through the years. Maybe we all become what we should be with a little experience! In his early years as a high school counselor he was very concerned with his student’s problems and how to solve them. So it was a natural progression to his native connection later.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This world is desperate for more Emmett Olivers…more Winston Churchills…more leaders and self-sacrificing people who see past their noses and into eternity. Lovely tribute to Emmett in your words and definitely in your painting…


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