Quinault Language: Death of Oliver Mason; end of a resource.

T.Matthew Ciolek tmciolek at coombs.anu.edu.au
Wed May 8 05:59:54 UTC 1996

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Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 20:36:14 -0700
From: Dave Wells <bootbnd at olywa.net>
Organization: Wells & Co
To: endangered-languages-l at coombs.anu.edu.au
Subject: Quinault Language:  Death of Oliver Mason; end of a resource.

7 May 1996
Olympia, Washington, USA

Esteemed Colleagues:

Often the discussion on this list has been over the necessity of preserving and encouraging 
endangered languages and, hence, the cultures that are so dependent on them.  The loss of 
intellectual and collected wisdom often hangs on a fragile bodies of the few.  These losses say 
much about the intrusion of dominant cultures and outside influences.  

On Saturday, 27 April 1996, Oliver Mason, A'aliis (king/hereditary leader) of the Quinault died. 
His death occurred in the morning shortly after rising and greeting his wife.  Oliver Mason was 
the grandson of Taholah who signed the treaty preserving much of the Quinault lands.  As a 
leader, he was charged with understanding the duties and work of everyone, the lineages, 
traditional fishing sites, stories and songs; and ultimately both the Quinault language and 

As the last speaker with an extensive knowledge of the language and culture, Oliver Mason's 
death is much greater than just a personal loss, loss to family and friends, but also the loss 
forever of much knowledge.  While there are several elders who know pieces of the language and 
culture, Oliver Mason's death greatly eroded the possibility of moving the language forward, and 
of encouraging some parts of culture, but fortunately the remaining elders have even greater 
responsibility and need to record what parts they hold.  It is important not to lose everything; 
something is much better than nothing.

While many of the names of people who are reading here (and their work in similar recording, and 
cultural preservation/encouragement projects), may not end up on rosters of heroes, you are 
nonetheless heroic in your vision and determination.  Do not let an opportunity become a lost 

Dave Wells
Cultural Envoy to the A'aliis of the Quinault

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