The award-winning author of “Peace Weavers” is the subject of the next History Matinee on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 3 p.m. at the Eastsound Fire Hall.
Two of the four women featured in Catherine Wellman’s book “Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast through Cross-Cultural Marriages” spent many years on Orcas Island and helped shape its early history.
Much has been written of long-suffering Oregon Trail pioneer mothers and mail order brides, but Native American women who crossed the West’s cultural frontier in the mid-1800s to marry settlers and military officers have been systematically marginalized and ignored. Yet such alliances played a crucial role, aiding settlement and reducing regional conflict between native peoples and newcomers. Wellman’s “Peace Weavers” narrates the lives of four indigenous women, their husbands, and the legacies they left behind in the far northwest corner of Puget Sound.
An expert researcher, Wellman combined disparate primary and secondary sources in academic and local history as well as genealogy and family memory—and her discoveries destroy common stereotypes about cross-cultural marriages to reveal remarkable, accomplished women.
While helping researchers at the Washington State Archives, Candace Wellman discovered that about 90 percent of all marriages in Whatcom County’s early decades were cross-cultural. The husbands included nearly every community founder and official. Yet when she studied the written chronicles, only white women were mentioned as founding mothers. Producing her manuscript required 18 years and close to 200 collaborators.