There’s a hill above Tulalip Bay where the cedar and fir trees no longer stand, where on a clear day, there is nothing above but the distance to heaven. On that quiet hill is a young man’s grave; a place of lost promise.
More than 600 people walked Mylo Harvey to this spot. That is how the end of a life is marked on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. When one goes, everybody comes.
The mourners gathered about a half mile from the grave, at the big, brown wooden building that is the Tulalip Tribes’ headquarters. Their procession was led by 18 men, all relatives and friends, hauling along a cart that carried Mylo’s casket. The wind that day carried the sound of rawhide drums. The songs were in Lushootseed, the language of Mylo’s ancestors, as he took his place among them on the hillside.
Nearly six years have passed. The young man’s family visits his grave often. They pull weeds and bring fresh flowers. They send up prayers and sometimes sprinkle fragrant cedar leaves and tobacco as a blessing. Mylo’s smooth, round face is etched into the black marble tombstone. He’s smiling. In the distance the twin spits of land that enclose Tulalip Bay arc toward each other, like the arms of a loved one reaching in an embrace that must last for eternity.
Mylo died Nov. 15, 2002 after struggling with Everett police. He was not in his right mind. He’d made a bad choice by eating hallucinogenic mushrooms. The drug took away the charm that made him a leader among young people on the reservation. It robbed him of the good manners and the respect for others his family had cultivated within him. He turned away from the promises he’d made ever since the time he was small. Mylo was going to stay away from drugs. He was going to make something of his life.
Instead, he wandered naked into the night along Everett’s Casino Road and into a confrontation that would end his life at 19.
If that were the whole story, the grave on the hill would be little more than a marker of tragedy. Instead, I see it as a way point on a journey of courage.
Three women from Mylo’s family — his mother, an aunt and his grandmother — stood at his grave and asked questions. Why was Mylo dead? Could anyone have saved him? Was there anything that could be learned that may spare another family the terrible pain of their loss?
The women asked questions when it seemed nobody else would. They kept asking, despite indifference and resistance. In time, their resolve convinced others to join them. Their inquiry became a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. In October 2006, the city of Everett paid a $500,000 settlement to make the case, and the questions, go away.
The cash payout led some in the community to wonder about the family’s motives. They speculated about spite and greed.
I know otherwise.
For years, Mylo’s family brought me to his grave. They allowed a stranger to walk with them, to do what a journalist does — to listen, to watch, to ask questions and, now, to tell a story.
The journey placed me at odds with another group of people, Everett police officers, whom I respect and who also have extended me great trust. It made me think hard about the role of a newspaper reporter, and the things that bind and divide each of us who now lives in Snohomish County.
Along the way, I met Mylo.
I felt the love that endures among his Tulalip family. I came to realize that his death was an injury to us all and that love, for those we know and those we never will, sometimes demands that we ask questions.
This lesson came from a wise woman, an elder of this place I call my home.