Lyle Prince, 89, the last full-blooded Jamestown S’Klallam tribal member, a former tribal chairman and council member who helped the tribe gain federal recognition, died Jan. 15.
A memorial service was scheduled for Jan. 28 at Red Cedar Hall on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Campus.
“Jamestown S’Klallam has always taken pride in who they are as strong, and Lyle embodied that spirit,” said Ron Allen, chairman and CEO of the tribe, who had known Prince his entire life.
“Everyone deeply appreciated what he meant to us,” Allen said.
Allen spoke of Prince’s optimism and strength, both as an athlete and in spirit.
Not only was Prince the last full-blooded tribal member, but he also was devoted to family and to the tribe, Allen said.
“There’s nobody more generous and open-hearted, who loved the community and really embodied the Jamestown personality,” Allen said.
“If anybody could capture the Jamestown personality, it was Lyle Prince.”
Growing up, Allen remembers Prince as an athlete who loved to play ball, box and race boats.
“He was a heck of a football player and a heck of a boxer,” Allen said. “When he played, he played to win.”
He carried that attitude, along with his optimism, into tribal politics, Allen said.
“I never ever remember him getting mad,” Allen said. “He was a guy who would get disappointed in certain things, but never discouraged.
“If he fell down, he got up and dusted himself off.”
Prince served as tribal council chair from 1956-66 and as a council member in 1979 and from 1981-90. He helped the tribe win the Indian Land Claims lawsuit, gain federal recognition and served on the Tribal Elders Committee from 1993-2009.
Prince took interest in natural resources, fishing, hunting and protecting the tribe’s treaty rights, Allen said.
It was Prince and other council members who recruited Allen onto the tribal council when he was fresh out of college, Allen said.
“I happened to be the college boy who figured out how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said.
Prince was an advocate for the tribe’s purchase of the Oyster House and served on the board from 1990-2005, when it closed.
“We were making money the old-style,” Allen said. “Salmon, crab, that was a way of life for us.”
Prince knew some of the S’Klallam language but for the most part left the language alone, Allen said.
Prince’s parents both spoke S’Klallam, he said.
“He was more into making a living for his family and providing,” Allen said. “[He] left the culture behind and moved toward being self-sufficient, a reliable worker and providing for the family.”
Prince grew up on the family farm at Jamestown and in his early years became a boxer. He joined the Merchant Marines in 1944, serving in the Pacific.
His father, David Prince, was the last hereditary chief of the S’Klallam Tribe, the son of the Prince of Wales and grandson of the Duke of York, Chief Chetzemoka.
“He was always there and had great pride in his history, his heritage,” Allen said.
When 7 Cedars Casino opened in 1995, Lyle Prince was one of its first greeters and drove a shuttle bus and the limo.
He was a devoted member of the Sequim Valley Lions Club, where he served as president in 1974-75.
He raced in the Lions Demolition Derby to raise funds to build Carrie Blake Park in Sequim and was named Lion of the Year four times.
“Lyle was highly regarded by the community, Indian and non-Indian alike,” Allen said.
Jesse Major is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.