Legacy of ‘Matriarch’ Hazel Pete Celebrated by Tribes


Honoring the legacy of Hazel Pete, a Chehalis Tribal “matriarch” as many knew her, people from tribes across Washington and beyond gathered on Saturday for a full day of crafts, food and celebration.

Pete, a master weaver who died in 2003 at 89, gained international recognition for her skills in the traditional Chehalis art of basket weaving, according to previous reporting by The Chronicle. In 2001, she was honored with the Washington State Governor's Heritage Award.

As Saturday showed, her death did not represent the death of her art, nor her legacy. Well over one hundred people, many of them members of the Chehalis, Nisqually, Cowlitz and Puyallup tribes, plus other tribal members, attended the full day event. Prints were made of Pete weaving, headbands and baskets were created, songs were sung and food was shared.

Ceremonies were capped off by an initiation of two new master basket weavers, Coby Higheagle and Peggy McCloud, gatherers — who are trained in the art of collecting bark for weaving, especially cedar bark — "Junior" or Aholagana and "William" or Agugaluk Komakhuk, Jack and Clara Kesler, and one individual, South Puget Sound Community College art graduate Jeycee Zepeda, who was officially welcomed into the Hazel Pete family.

After elders sang and drummed around the Chehalis Tribal Community Center, blessing the creations of these artists, each initiate chose loved ones from the crowd to bestow their gifts upon. 

“This is a holy day,” said Delbert Miller, master of ceremonies.

Miller presented on  a Salishan word meaning “to protect, care for, adopt,” and described that the ceremony symbolized these people being adopted into the Hazel Pete and broader Chehalis family. 

Zepeda thanked the Hazel Pete family for welcoming her and giving her “a foundation” and a “family that shows me love every single day.” 

McCloud, a Nisqually and Puyallup native, spoke about her Chehalis mother, Berniece Secena, from the Tribal Community Center on Secena Street. Her great-grandparents were Cowlitz Tribal Members whose last name was pronounced the same but spelled “McCleod.” Through her 15 grandchildren and 14 great grand-children, McCloud passes down her knowledge of basket weaving.