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Quinault Nation Mourns Passing of Elder Marjorie Valdillez

Quinault Indian Nation is mourning the passing of tribal elder Marjorie Doreen (Basa) Valdillez.

It is with great sadness that the Quinault Indian Nation announces the passing of tribal elder Marjorie Doreen (Basa) Valdillez, said QIN President Fawn Sharp.

Ms. Valdillez, 72, passed away January 28 at St. Peters Hospital in Olympia, Washington. She is survived by her husband of 55 years, Salvador Valdillez, two daughters, and three grandchildren, four sisters and three brothers. She was the daughter of Mauro Basa and Violet Hudson.

“Marjorie was loved by everyone who knew her here at Quinault Nation,” said President Sharp. “She served the tribes from the time she attended school at Grays Harbor College in 1973, first working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Taholah School and Indian Health Service. In 1978 she came to work for Quinault Nation and she has been with us ever since, serving the nation as enrollment officer, office manager, operations manager and tribal secretary. She also served on the Quinault Tribal Council for many years.”

Quinault Council Treasurer Larry Ralston said, “Marjorie had such a kindred spirit about her, everybody appreciated her kindness.”

Ms. Valdillez once said she found all of her jobs interesting because every job was a learning experience and that she learned “to value differences because there are always two sides or more to an issue; to have a vision not only for today but for the future; to always be flexible because there should be room for improvement and change; and to support the community and have respect.” She stressed the importance of being positive, dependable, and responsible.

“The Nation has grown fast,” she once recalled. “We had fewer than 100 people working and now we have over 300, not counting the QIN Resort/Casino and the enterprises.” That was in 1995. The Quinault Nation, counting fishermen and the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, now employs about 1,500 people. “This growth in our employment may have explained her belief in the importance of planning,” said President Sharp. She once said that it’s important to have a plan for growth, that we need to know where we want to be in the next year to 20 years from now and we need to prepare now. She always said that a major concern is securing the wealth and prosperity for future generations and that we must educate our future generation on values and respect. Marjorie was a very wise woman.”

Ms. Valdillez also once said, “In the last few years, the (Quinault) Nation and several local tribes began to seek an identity with the culture, the canoe journeys, the potlatch, the basket weaving and the language. These things were taken away from us during the colonization era; I call it de-Indianizing. We need to have a vision and expertise to strike a perfect balance between our traditional cultural practices and the need to grow our independent economies. We need to achieve this harmony to maintain the pride and prosperity for our people. Self-governance has made a big difference in our funding.”

“Marjorie always believed strongly in education. She earned a BA degree from The Evergreen State College Reservation-based Program when she was 61 and she always supported education programs for others in the Tribe,” said President Sharp. “We will all miss her very much, but her legacy will live on.”

While working toward her degree at Evergreen, Ms Valdillez wrote the following poem about one of the legendary leaders she served, long time Quinault Nation President Joe DeLaCruz, who passed away in 2000.

Best Minds

I see the best minds of my generation,

One of the best minds was a man with a vision,

Who dared to stand up and move forth,

Getting others to follow,

Defying government and political pressure,

He had a vision of tribalism not governments,

A vision to lead his people not to be led,

To break the colonialism that was forced on his people,

The “how to,” how to dress, how to act, how to talk, how to look,

This was called civilization, in other words, a form of control,

Manipulation and assimilation,

This great mind and visionary initiated other great minds

To have a voice, a voice to be heard,

To remind the government we are still here,

We did not disappear; we want to be heard,

Our treaties have been broken over and over,

Our sovereignty is being challenged,

We need to manage our own land,

We want to form our own government,

We know what is best for our own people.

Give us Self-governance.