Kurt Grinnell, ” A tower of strength for the Jamestown S’klallam tribe” dies in car crash

In perhaps the most shocking death in a year of death and illness, Jamestown S’Klallam tribal council member Kurt Grinnell, died in a single car crash on Mount Pleasant road outside of Port Angeles. He was heading home at the time.

Kurt was the CEO of Jamestown Seafoods, and chaired the tribe’s natural resources committee, as well as represented the Jamestown S’Klallam on the Point No Point Treaty Council and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

I worked with Kurt on a number of tribal video projects in the last decade. I also talked to him during the battle to shut down Atlantic net pen salmon operations in the state after the disaster of a net pen failure. While he and the Tribe supported the end of Atlantic Salmon net pens, they had their own plans to run native fish in net pens. It raised the hackles of some in the environmental movement that wanted an end to all net pens. But Kurt’s perspective helped end the practice of using Atlantic salmon in pens here. I supported his position. It was a workable compromise to achieve a needed goal. And I knew that if he and the Tribe backed that position, it would prevail in Olympia.

Kurt Grinnell – Photo by Al Bergstein – © 2010 & 2021 by Al Bergstein and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. All Rights Reserved.

Kurt was a man who would always say hello when we we ran into each other in some event. I was clearly aware of how he was a mentor to many and a gentle and thoughtful voice on the tribal council and in the meetings where I presented projects and asked for feedback. He was at the center of many of the Tribes work in aquaculture, and fishing issues. He and other members of the council, Rochelle Blankenship, his daughter Loni Greninger, and Theresa Lehman seemed to be a great next generation of leadership for the tribe, in addition to the long standing leadership of Ron Allen, the elected Tribal Council Chairman.

As stated on the Tribal Council web site: Kurt was elected to the Tribal Council in October, 2004. He served on the Hunting and Fishing Committee for 33 years. He was the Tribe’s Aquaculture Manager. He served as Tribal Policy Liaison for the Tribe’s Natural Resource Department and Chair of the Natural Resource Committee. In 1981 he became a gill-net fisher, and then began attending fin-fish negotiation meetings with the Makah and Point Elliot Treaty Tribes. In the early 90’s he served as the Indian Child Welfare Case Worker, Chemical Dependency Counselor and Social Worker, and since that time he has also served the Tribe in the areas of education, housing and culture. In 1995, he became a commercial geoduck diver.

I cannot begin to understand the depth of sorrow that the tribe must feel over this loss. I felt a hole in my heart hearing this news because people like Kurt are few and far between. I can honestly say he was one of the finest men I have ever met and I do not say that lightly. He was a leader that led by example. He had the skill, too rare in this time, of actually making you feel that he was listening to you. He looked you in the eye as he talked and listened. The words, trustworthy, soft spoken, dedicated and integrity, are words I would use to describe him. During one of our video sessions, he related to me how he would lay in bed late into the night with a laptop in front of him, negotiating with China over the price of geoduck. He was incredibly devoted to his family, his people and their needs. I send my heartfelt sympathy to his wife Terri, his children Loni Greninger and Jaiden Bosick, his mother, the legendary storyteller, Elaine Grinnell, his father Fred, along with his entire tribe in this time of their grief.

Comments and ratings have been disabled for this post in honor of Kurt’s family.

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