Published on June 7, 2013 by Amy
Born July 15, 1941, Fostine Butler Talltree is a true survivor. The youngest of nine children, her parents William Butler and Elsie Young were reluctant to teach their children about the Indian ways. Although her father would often say, “We are a dying race,” Fostine’s curiosity often got the best of her. “I did learn a little by observing my mother and how she did things,” Fostine said. “But Dad, we’ve made a resurgence. There are young people learning the language in school, drumming, singing and dancing. I’m so proud of the young people who can speak our language.”
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She graduated from Port Townsend High School in 1959, and attended beauty school. Although she passed the state board exam with flying colors, she had a difficult time finding work due to widespread prejudice against American Indians. She landed a job at a beauty salon and worked there for several years before pursuing employment with the United States Post Office. “I really, really enjoyed working there,” she said.
Fostine married William E. Earley in Las Vegas in 1971, and they had their son, Michael S. Earley, in 1973. Although she and her husband divorced in 1981, Fostine discovered personal strength she never knew existed while learning to support herself while raising a child.
She worked odd jobs for several years before pursuing higher education and discovering a love of prose, poetry and Shakespeare. She attended Peninsula College in Port Townsend and eventually landed a part time position with the WSU Jefferson County Cooperative Extension. “That was really my new beginning,” she said. She worked there until she accepted an early retirement in 2003. “In all, this was the best job I ever had,” she said. “I’m sure I learned new things every day.”