DECEMBER 19, 2008


Born July 24, 1918, near Lyman, Skagit County, Washington (WA), Vi grew up along the Upper Skagit River, moving frequently with her parents to places where they could find work in the cedar mills.  She attended a boarding school in Oregon that prohibited her from speaking her native language.  Hilbert spent years transcribing and translating recordings made in the 1950s of Lushootseed—a native language of Puget Sound–compiling a trove of tapes and papers that comprise the 2nd largest donation of audio tapes at the University of Washington (UW) Libraries.  Vi started as a teacher’s aide, but soon became the instructor of Lushootseed for 15 years at the UW before retiring in 1988.  She was named a “Washington State Living Treasure” in 1989 and presented by the governor, and received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, presented by President Clinton, in 1994.  She co-wrote grammars and dictionaries, as well as stories and teachings.  Vi died in La Conner, WA.

Source:  Christine Willmsen & Lynda V. Mapes, "Vi Hilbert, revered Upper Skagit elder who preserved her native language, dies at age 90," The Seattle Times. December 21, 2008.  Retrieved 9/15/2020,
Photo:  “Sacred Friendship,” courtesy of Paul David Guy Eubanks, descendant of a founding family of Bremerton, Washington in 1855.

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