Adapted from Jill La Pointe’s foreword to Haboo: Native American Stories from Puget Sound by Vi Hilbert, Jill La Pointe, Thom Hess
When Haboo was first published 35 years ago, the dramatic art of traditional storytelling in many of our Native American communities was fading as younger generations became more adapted to mainstream culture and values. Recognizing the impact of cultural change taking place in their communities, my grandmother—like so many other elders—sought to gather and preserve as much traditional information and wisdom as possible. Every elder who contributed to this magnificent collection of cultural stories did so in hopes that someday future generations will once again appreciate the ancient art of storytelling.
Although much has changed over the years, there remains one unfortunate constant. Despite all the technological advancements since the first publication of Haboo, our communities continue to lose many of their beloved elders. As each year passes, we are left with fewer and fewer among us who can still recite the ancient stories and even fewer who can retell the stories in our traditional Lushootseed language.
Confronting this reality remains as critical to the survival of Coast Salish culture and language today as it was 35 years ago. The wisdom and teachings found in Haboo continue to offer a pedagogical resource that highlights a way of being in the world that we have strayed from, and they remain as relevant today as they have been for generations.
Growing up, my brother Jay and I heard our grandmother Vi taqʷšəblu Hilbert tell many of the stories included here over and over again. Staying true to who she was, she never explained the meaning or revealed the overall lessons hidden in the stories, but rather she instructed us to think about each story and ask ourselves, “What is the story trying to tell me?”
It wasn’t until years later that I gained a deep appreciation for the traditional art of storytelling, as I heard Grandma repeat to audiences everywhere, young and old, that “Lushootseed never insults the intelligence of a listener by explaining the story,” allowing them the same dignity her elders allowed her, to find their own interpretation and understanding.
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Jill tsisqʷux̌ʷał La Pointe is director of Lushootseed Research and granddaughter of Vi taqʷšəblu Hilbert.