Obituary: Eunice Xash-wee-tes-na Henry Bommelyn (Feb. 6, 1927– April 2, 2012)

By Submitted April 28, 2012 12:00 am

Eunice, a respected elder of the Tolowa Dee-ni  was born on February 6, 1927, at the village of Nii~-lii~-chvn-dvn on the Smith River and passed away with her loving family at her side in Crescent City, on April 23, 2012. She was preceded in death by the love of her life, James, of 56 years; mother Alice Charley Henry and her Pop Billie Henry. Brothers: Chester Scott, Ernest Scott, Fred Scott, Edward Henry and sisters: Etta Richards, Mattie Richards and Evelyn Green. Her grandparents: Westbrook and Delilah Charley, and, Jane and Ik-fu-yu-wan Henry.

She is survived by her children: Vicki Luu-k`vm-naa-ghe` Rodriquez-Bommelyn, Sheryl Suu-daa-chu Steinruck and husband Don, Loren Me`-lash-ne Bommelyn and wife Lena, and William Xwe’-nin`-dvn Bommelyn and wife Vina, and former daughter-in-law Diana Bommelyn. Her grandchildren: Natalie Newton, Marva Sii~-xuu-tes-na Scott and Wallace, Marvin “Jake” Jones and April, Suntayea Steinruck, Jaytuk Steinruck and Cynthia, Tayshu Bommelyn, Pyuwa Bommelyn and Ruby, Guylish Bommelyn and Kim, William Bommelyn Jr. and Macy, Amanda Donahue and Brian, Mattie Castellaw and Stephen, Allen Bommelyn and Shelly, and James Eagles and Tory. Great-grandchildren: Ashley, Jerod, Aaron, Chuski, Nants`vn, Teexeeshe, Chanda, Edward, Kai, Ts`in-t`e, Hune`, San-t`as, Jadence, Ratausha, Robert, Autinayea, William III, Jordan, Micah, Dene`, Deegan, Trevan, Jadelin, Allie, Baylie, Madison, Delaina, Taylor, Jayden, Matthew, and great-great-grandchildren: Daychines, Welantuk, Ka-mi-kwe`, and many nieces, nephews, and friends.

Eunice was reared in the traditions of her people. She spent her young life at smelt camp, deer hunting camp and salmon fishing. As the years passed she ensured that the annual practice of camping at the beach and drying smelt was never broken, from time immemorial to now. Her summers included large gardens and plenty of canning for the winter stores. She is the youngest of nine siblings and the only one to graduate in 1947 from Del Norte High School, where she loved to play sports.

Eunice spent her lifetime in service and protection of tribal rights in many institutions.  Eunice played a fundamental role in the Del Norte County Indian Welfare Association, the Smith River Indian Shaker Church, and in organizing and advocating for the Indian Teacher and Educational Personnel Program at Humboldt State University, Title VII, United Indian Health Services, the California Rural Indian Health Board, the Northern California Indian Development Council, the Inter-Tribal Council of California, the Redwood League, the Live Your Language Alliance, Master Apprentice Program through Advocates of Indigenous California Language Survival, Northwest Indian Institute, among others. She was active with many tribal and committee appointments on such issues as Culture, Language, Enrollment, Constitution, Indian Child Welfare, and Housing and served as a UIHS Board Member and served on the Traditional Health, Community Health and Wellness, Conservation Easement Management Advisory, Self Determination and Patient Registration for over 40 years.

Eunice wasn’t one to sit idle. Her philosophy on work was,  “Get up with the sun, because  people die in bed.” Not surprisingly, she didn’t retire from the last of her paying jobs, driving van for the hospitality house at the prison, until the age of 80. What Eunice loved most about her job was the opportunity it afforded her to visit with all the many people she encountered from around the world.

Those who knew Eunice knew she played bingo on a regular basis, from the early days in Reno to our tribal casinos. She loved playing the slots and was always willing to tell you how to have luck on the machines. She and Jim were avid bowlers. Using an 18-pound ball, she traveled to many places with her teams and brought home many trophies and patches she was very proud of.

In her early years she loved going to sporting events to watch her children participate. It did not really matter which team her children were playing for, she would always root for the under-dog. Throughout her life she continued rooting for the one who needed it most.

One of her favorite pastimes was to travel all over to Indian Shaker Church from California to Canada. We would ask Jim when she would be home and he would answer, “She said Tuesday, but she didn’t say which Tuesday.”

Many people have had the joy of meeting this great lady in one way or another, as recently mentioned, she was a spitfire to put it mildly, never hesitating to put you in your place or joke with you. Eunice was friendly and spoke with all people as if she had known them for years.

One of her greatest contributions was to initiate the revitalization and restoration of Taa-laa-wa Dee-ni  Wee-ya`, as that was her first language. She spent many years working with her family and teaching those who were interested. She has been an invaluable resource and language teacher for the documentation of the language for future generations.

Her greatest love of all was to spend time with her grandchildren and dogs. She could often be found surrounded with loud laughter and boisterous children. When she complained about the noise, we would kindly remind her that she started the whole mess.

Visitation took place on Wednesday, at Wier’s Mortuary Chapel in Crescent City.

A wake at the Indian Shaker church began at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night in Smith River.

Services for Eunice was scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 26, 2012, at 1 o’clock in the afternoon at the Indian Shaker Church in Smith River, with Interment to follow at the Howonquet Indian Cemetery and fellowship to follow at the Howonquet Community Center in Smith River.

Arrangements are under the direction of Wier’s Mortuary Chapel of Crescent City.

— Submitted by Wier’s Mortuary Chapel