From the time of his birth, my son Kaid'dub Pavel was destined to become a spiritual and cultural leader for the Skokomish Nation of Washington State. In the Twana and Hawaiian languages his full ancestral name—CHiXapkaid'dub Kai—means "the leader from the top of the mountains to the depths of the ocean." Kaid'dub has been guided on this path by his father, CHiXapkaid (D. Michael Pavel), a Skokomish tradition-bearer.
Kaid'dub began living into his namesake when he was diagnosed with Pendred syndrome, a form of progressive hearing loss, around age 2. We suspected something was amiss with Kaid'dub at his 18-month-old check-up.
The pediatrician asked if Kaid'dub had between 20 and 30 words. I was unable to think of even five words that my son was using. The doctor said that Kaid'dub probably had those words and that we just didn't understand him.
Six months later, Kaid'dub saw his regular pediatrician, who asked if his hearing had been tested. At age 2½, Kaid'dub was diagnosed with bilateral severe-to-profound hearing loss. After a blood test we learned it was Pendred syndrome. As a parent, how would I deal with hearing loss and the pain of finding out that my child was somehow "less than"? When he was born, I counted his toes and fingers. At that time there was no newborn hearing screening so his hearing was not checked. Thus, the journey began.
We took Kaid'dub to an urban location where he was fitted with bilateral hearing aids. However, in our rural, remote home we didn't know where to find educational services for help in his journey toward becoming a leader of the Skokomish people. The Internet was of no help; in fact, the variety of communication options made it seem confusing and overwhelming. Local service providers were unprepared to guide us. We knew that we had lost critical language-learning time and were desperate for guidance and information.
At the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, we found Ann Curry, a teacher of the Deaf and program coordinator of Family Conversations. Curry drove almost 200 miles round trip once a week to serve Kaid'dub and my family. She was what I needed—someone to walk us through options, to talk about hearing loss, and to discuss the future in a way that was both empathetic and empowering.
At age 3 Kaid'dub became eligible for Head Start and school district services. His needs brought the local school district and the tribal Head Start together to develop the first Deaf education team in the area. The team included tribal education staff, a sign language interpreter, an educational audiologist, a Deaf educator, and a speech-language pathologist. Some of these professionals continue to serve other children who are Deaf in that community.
After moving to another rural area, we began another search for services. Although Kaid'dub was communicating with both sign language and auditory-oral skills, he showed a preference for auditory-oral channels. We needed provision of a spectrum of communication options so Kaid'dub could reach his full potential.
A Blanket Leads to a Symposium
Meanwhile I was learning the art of Coast Salish weaving from a master weaver, subiyay (Bruce Miller). An art form once on the verge of extinction, Coast Salish weaving is seen as a powerful means to revitalize the history and identity of its people. After subiyay's passing, I was left with the responsibility of resurrecting the art, spirit, and science of traditional Salish weaving.
Over the past 11 years, I have taught more than 500 students, who now are skilled in weaving blankets, shawls, and ceremonial regalia. Coast Salish weavings are finding their way into homes across the Northwest and into personal and museum collections across the United States. Important life events, such as births, naming ceremonies, and weddings, are frequently marked with gifts of traditionally woven items. A Coast Salish weaving renaissance is underway.
For me, perhaps the greatest moment of this renaissance is represented in the blanket I wove titled "du'kWXaXa't3w3l—Sacred Change for Each Other." The blanket is the first of its kind in more than 100 years. It took 12 years for my husband CHiXapkaid and extended family members to gather the tufts of wild goat's wool from the mountainsides to make the yarn. It took six more months for me to weave it together.
The Seattle Art Museum purchased the blanket from our family; we used the sale profits as the primary funding source for a symposium, "Possibilities for Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing," held at Washington State University in Pullman Oct. 4-5, 2007. Thus, the blanket served its purpose of bringing "Sacred Change for Each Other."