Mary Lou Slaughter, Sla’ Da, studied under master weaver Eddie Carriere for about three years. She has been recognized as a Native Master Weaver. All of her work is handmade – “as the spirit moves me” -a spirit that is a blend of nobility, whimsy and native instinct, and runs a wide gamut from skirts, hats, blankets, vests, baskets, lamp shades, to jewelry. She works mainly with cedar, separating it from the inner bark with a sharp knife then pounding it with a mallet to soften the bark.
For the past decade Mary Lou Slaughter has rapidly gained great prominence and exposure not only in the fields of functional and decorative basket weaving, but also in her personal struggles: she is the sole caregiver for her husband Chuck, a wheelchair-bound victim of multiple sclerosis. She has spent years devoting her time to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Bremerton. She has also lobbied for the ongoing cause of her people in their efforts to gain Federal recognition for the Duwamish as a legitimate Indian tribe and to restore the Duwamish River to its pristine health.
May Lou maintains a highly personal involvement in the bureaucracy surrounding the broken treaties and promises of the past century and a half. She is a direct descendant of Chief Sealth, the Indian Chief for whom the city of Seattle is named. “I am fourth generation great granddaughter of Chief Sealth,” Mary Lou proclaims with justifiable pride, secure in the knowledge that, like the Duwamish River and the Duwamish tribe,”We are still here.”
My name is Mary Lou Slaughter, or Shla’dai’ (“Lady”). I am a 4th generation Great Granddaughter of the Native American Chief Sealth, or Seattle, as everyone knows the name today.
I have been weaving since 1998, starting with an apprenticeship with a Master Weaver Eddie Carriere under whom I studied for nearly 3 years. I have brought the weaving back to the Duwamish Tribe of Seattle, WA. My son’s carvings are in The Duwamish Longhouse and some of my weaving is also. I also designed the floor in the Longhouse and helped install it. In the past years I have been on TV, movies, manuscripts,art work, paintings and interviews with people across America and Canada and France. I have been in 20 photo shoots. It has been an amazing ride in the past 17 years!
This all started because of my son, Michael Halady Sr., who started carving in Puget Salish style under the tutelage of renowned carver David Boxley. I realized that I needed to validate his heritage by taking my great grandmother’s Native Name at a Potlatch in Ballard, WA, that was put on by David Boxley. A day I will never forget.
I wasn’t always proud of my heritage; I went through a lot of being made fun of when I was in school with the kids spitting at me. Chasing me home and calling me a dirty Indian, etc. It was hard to handle, but I survived, and I am now proud of who I am.
Our Duwamish Tribe is one of the few Native tribes that has been fighting the government for our rightful recognition. Why are All Native Tribes not recognized? We were here when the outsiders came and took our land away. Pushed us off our property, the sad part of all this is “The Duwamish Natives” helped the starving whites stay alive! We fed them and housed them and they burned our 97 Longhouses down and we lost everything and wound up on “Ballast Island” and by the Duwamish River which has been so polluted by all the businesses that was built there that the fish were not good to eat. A terrible time for the Native Duwamish Tribe.
Today the Duwamish River is being cleaned up. The Duwamish Coalition has made great progress. Thank you, James Rasmussen, B.J. Bullert, and the rest of the crew who have taken on this large task and continue today. The Salmon are back in the river and we are so proud of what these people are doing!
We also have a great walkway along the trail beside the Duwamish River and it has beautiful benches for people to rest on and to enjoy sitting by the trail and river. The benches are decorated in the Native Language and artwork that depicts part of the story. One of my cattail baskets is depicted on one of the benches with the story about “The North Wind”. I highly recommend that you take a walk and enjoy all the beautiful art work there and enjoy the Duwamish River…