Vi Hilbert

Vi Hilbert (née Anderson, Lushootseed name: taqʷšəblu, July 24, 1918 – December 19, 2008) was a Native American tribal elder of the Upper Skagit, a tribe of the greater Puget Salish in Washington State, whose ancestors occupied the banks along the Skagit River, and was a conservationist of the Lushootseed culture and its language, of which she was the last fully fluent heritage speaker. She was named a Washington State Living Treasure in 1989, and received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts,[1] presented by President Bill Clinton, in 1994. She co-wrote Lushootseed grammars and dictionaries, partially with linguist Thom Hess, and published books of stories, teachings, and place names related to her native region, the Puget Sound (also known as Whulge[dubious ], anglicized from Lushootseed x̌ʷə́lč /χʷəlcç/).


Hilbert was born to Charlie and Louise Anderson on July 24, 1918 near Lyman, Washington, on the Upper Skagit River. Her father was a fisherman, a logger, and a canoe maker, whose canoe the Question Mark is housed in the Smithsonian Museum Archive.

Experience in WWIIEdit

In an interview, Hilbert stated that she was nearly a victim of the US policy of internment of Japanese Americans, however, she was ultimately able to prove her Native American heritage.[2]

Personal lifeEdit

Hilbert was married three times. Her first marriage was to Percy Woodcock in 1936 and they lived together in Tahola. They had two children. Her first child, Denny, was born in 1937, and her daughter, Lois, in 1938. After Denny died of meningitis in 1940, Vi and Percy Woodcock separated and she moved to Nooksack (near Bellingham, Washington) to live with her parents.

Hilbert's second marriage was to Bob Coy in 1942 at Tulalip (near Marysville, Washington). She gave birth to her son Ron in 1943.

Her third and final marriage was in 1945 to Henry Donald "Donny" Hilbert, who honorably served in World War II, surviving the attack at Pearl Harbor while aboard the USS West Virginia. Donny subsequently adopted Hilbert's children from her previous marriages. They lived in a house they built in south Seattle until 2003, when they moved to Bow, Washington, in Skagit County.

Donny preceded Hilbert in death.


Hilbert died at her home in La Conner on the morning of December 19, 2008. She was surrounded by her family at the time of her death.[3]

The taqʷšəblu Vi Hilbert Ethnobotanical Garden, and Vi Hilbert Hall at Seattle University are named in her honor.[4]


  1. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 1994". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved November 23, 2017.
  2. ^ Miller, Julie. Personal interview with Henry Donald Hilbert and Vi Hilbert 2000. Interviewed taped via telephonic interview.
  3. ^ "Upper Skagit Tribe elder dies". Skagit County's News and Information Source, Dec. 19, 2008. Archived from the original on June 15, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2013.CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ "Taqwsheblu Vi Hilbert Ethnobotanical Garden - Grounds and Landscaping - Seattle University". Seattle University. Retrieved March 9, 2017.