Tulalips rebuild memories

TULALIP — Men and women holding candles were the first to enter the church.

With a crowd of several hundred people urging them on with clanging bells, voices raised in a traditional Indian song, and feet stamping, the men and women inside danced through the room.

Hands fluttering, they shooed away any bad spirits that may have been loitering in the building, and claimed each space for good. By the time the crowd eased through the narrow doors, the church was ready: consecrated.

People traveled from all over the Northwest on Friday to attend the grand opening of the Tulalip Shaker Church. A church has been on the property since 1923, but in recent years became so dilapidated that the local Shaker congregation couldn’t meet there. The Tulalip tribal government agreed in 2007 to give $200,000 to the church. With donations of time, equipment and money from the Shaker faithful from throughout the Pacific Northwest, the congregation rebuilt the church.

“This represents part of our culture,” tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon said. “A lot of our elders have memories of this church.”

Shakers from across the Northwest congregated at the church Friday, and Tulalips who don’t practice the religion stopped by, too.

“Not every Tulalip person is a Shaker, but this church is part of our culture,” said Stan Jones, a Tulalip board member.

Jones and other tribal elders say they could always find a hot meal at the church when they were growing up, during years when poverty was rampant on the reservation. The sick were carried to the church and laid out on the sanctuary floor. Church members would then shake over the sick person, singing and ringing bells.

“When they started shaking over you, you’d get a feeling come over you that you were being healed,” Jones said. “You could feel it.”

Indian Shakers aren’t connected to the Protestant group of the same name. The Indian Shaker story began in 1881, when a Squaxin Island woman shook over her husband after he’d died. According to church lore, the husband was raised to life, and a religion was born. They called themselves Shakers because that’s what they do in their services: shake, dance and sing, until the sick stand up and walk out, healed.

The Shaker faith is heavily influenced by Catholicism, but services don’t include formal liturgy or preaching. Church members make the sign of the cross and light candles when they pray, but the services are free-form, led by traveling missionaries, and last long enough to shake over every sick person that comes for healing.

“The healings are the main thing,” said Leon Strom, a Quinault Indian who travels through the region as a Shaker missionary.

When a person feels whole emotionally, their physical bodies often follow, and illness fades away, he said.

The years after that first miracle at Squaxin Island were hard on the Shakers. The federal government was suspicious that the church was a cover for the traditional longhouse religion, which had been outlawed.

“The story goes that the government put some people in ball and chains to keep them from going to church,” said Larry Wesley, a Yakama Nation member and Washington’s Shaker bishop.

Shaker congregations traveled throughout the region and met in homes to avoid being caught by government agents. That tradition continues today. Shakers travel hundreds of miles, often across state lines, to attend services.

Lloyd Bob, Sr., a Cowichan tribal member from Vancouver Island, said about 20 Indians crossed the U.S.-Canada border to attend Tulalip’s grand opening on Friday.

The Shaker church would lose strength if the congregations didn’t meet together, Jones said. The sense of community, forged in an era when food was scarce and outside forces threatened to break them apart, thrives today in their simple clapboard churches.

“We have what we need here,” he said.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
1 dead, 1 in hospital after 3-vehicle crash on Highway 9

A concrete pumping truck and two sedans crashed Monday afternoon, closing the highway near Bickford Avenue.

Moses Malachi Brewer appears in court for sentencing Friday, March 24, 2023, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Man sentenced to 18 years for 2019 shooting in Everett

Moses Brewer, 23, shot four people in an Everett apartment, which left one victim paralyzed on his right side.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Health care spending continues to outpace inflation, driven by prices

Can state efforts curb 6.7% growth per year in overall health care spending?

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
A buffet of budgets, a bunch of whales and a request for your miles

It’s Day 78. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
A mostly united Senate sends $71B spending plan to the House

The proposed budget passed on a 40-9 vote. It hikes spending for schools, child care and human services.

Officers were dispatched to a report of shots fired Thursday morning, March 2, 2023, at the Erwin Estates Apartment Complex in the 8200 block of 11th Dr W in Everett. (Everett Police Department)
‘Did I shoot anyone?’ Everett man charged with killing sleeping neighbor

Jeremy Jones called police to report apparent delusions about his neighbor. A day later, he fired through a wall.

Max Larson, 14, poses for a photo at Terrace Park in Arlington, Washington, on Monday, March 27, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Wrap-around service gives at-risk kids ‘a shoulder that you can lean on’

Compass Health’s WISe program saw 750 referrals last year in northwest Washington — a “significant” increase.

Jeanette Westover poses for a photo at her home in Snohomish, Washington on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Tenant: Housing Hope ignored meth contamination at Snohomish apartment

Jeanette Westover says meth contamination far exceeding state limits gave her seizures and kidney infections.

A Sounder gray whale. (Cascadia Research)
Don’t be flummoxed: Help is needed to name 5 Puget Sound gray whales

The voting poll on the Sounders, as these whales are called, is until Sunday for the grays dining in our waters.

Most Read