Oliver Mason, Hereditary Chief Of The Quinault Indian Nation
Seattle Times Staff Reporter
He had names in two languages: Oliver Grover Mason and Tax-o-la Wi-e-le.
Despite the dual identity, this hunter and fisherman with a heart for people found a way to live well in today's society and the Native-American world.
Because he sat and listened to his grandparents, aunts and uncles, say loved ones, he was knowledgeable not only in his heritage as hereditary chief of the Quinault Indian Nation, but in modern ways such as protecting fisheries and using computers.
"Oliver was a very committed Indian man, dedicated to helping the people retain their culture," said Pearl Kapoeman-Baller, president of the Quinault Indian Nation. "He believed in holding on to the old traditions, but adapting to the new technology."
She said one usually doesn't see elders with computers and software in their home, but she saw it at Mr. Mason's. He had computer programs to help him keep records and do research.
Mr. Mason died of cardio-pulmonary problems Saturday, April 27. He was 68.
Born in Taholah, Grays Harbor County - named for his great-grandfather - Mr. Mason grew up in a family that took in kids off the street. When Mr. Mason was an adult, he took in nearly two dozen foster children himself.
He gathered food for his family, and helped lead around his blind grandfather, who taught him legends and customs, such as having respect for others.
As an elder, Mr. Mason taught children singing and drumming, and led ceremonies such as name-giving. As a chief, he had to learn all aspects of life, including cooking, sewing and basketry.
He graduated from Moclips High School in 1946 and served in the Army. After his discharge, he worked as a logger, fisherman and longshoreman in the Puget Sound area, but returned home in 1974.
Mr. Mason worked on the tribal council, and acted as chief prosecutor and judge. He chaired the tribal planning commission and housing board, and chaired the Northwest Indian Housing Authority, covering four states.
Mr. Mason's survivors include his wife, Mary Jeanette Lewis Mason of Taholah; his children, Louie Boyd Mason, Lawanna Sanchez, Bobbi Lewis, Sable Lucille Mason, and Adele Bighead, all of Tahola, and Janelle Mason of Seattle; his brothers Frenchy Mason Chow Chow of Taholah, and Harry Mason Jr. of Los Angeles; his sisters Loretta Nichols of Seattle, Anita Erickson of Taholah, Marjorie Montoya of Los Angeles, and Lucille Olsen of Tacoma; 25 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.
Services for Mr. Mason were this morning at the Shaker Church in Taholah.
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