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Tulalip Tribes’ Bernie Gobin passes away at 78

Bernard William “Kia-Kia” Gobin - Courtesy photo
Bernard William “Kia-Kia” Gobin
— image credit: Courtesy photo

TULALIP — Longtime Tulalip Tribal leader Bernard William “Kia-Kia” Gobin passed away at home May 4, at the age of 78.

Gobin was born Dec. 8, 1930 in Darrington, where he learned to hunt and fish at an early age. He was raised in Tulalip and attended Marysville schools until the age of 15, when he forged his birth certificate to enlist in the Army. By 1946, he was serving guard duty in Korea with the 63rd Infantry Division, and when he returned, he worked as a commercial fisherman and in the forests cutting cedar shake boards.

At the age of 20, Gobin married Dolores Young, with whom he started a family of six children, and at 22, he contracted tuberculosis, spending the next two years in the hospital and eventually losing a lung. He told his children and grandchildren that his surgical scar came from a samurai swordsman in Korea. After his recovery, he resumed fishing and began a long career as a Tulalip Tribal Council member. He also took up hobbies such as carving and painting in the Coast Salish style, and playing the guitar. A lifelong member of the Church of God, he was a founding member of its band, which performed throughout the Puget Sound region and even as far away as Indiana.

In spite of only completing the seventh grade, Gobin served as his own legal counsel in a fishing dispute and was asked, by his defeated opponent, where he got his law degree. He met with governors, presidents and federal judges, and was consulted by anthropologists, museum directors and curators, and commercial artists. His political career extended to the state and national levels, and in 1974, he was an active participant in the Boldt Decision ruling, which upheld the provisions in the Point Elliot Treaty of 1855, guaranteeing the right of Puget Sound tribes to fish in their usual and accustomed areas.

Gobin served as a member of the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors for 22 years, at various times as chairman or vice chairman. He also served as Tulalip Fisheries Director, chairman of the Tulalip Gaming and Utilities commissions, and was the unofficial self-appointed “mayor” of “Boom City.” In recognition of his lifetime of advocacy for tribal fishing rights and fishery resource management, the Tulalip fish hatchery was renamed the Bernie “Kia-Kia” Gobin Hatchery in 2000.

Gobin actively supported the Tulalip Tribal elders who revived the First Salon Ceremony in the 1970s, and he remained a lifetime member and leader in the Tulalip Salmon Ceremony. He outfitted his sons and daughter, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces, nephews and friends with drums, rattles and other regalia to use in the First Salmon Ceremony and other cultural gatherings.

Gobin owned and operated a series of fishing boats over the years, his favorite being the “Cherie Ann,” a 36-foot round haul seiner often seen at the mouth of Tulalip Bay. Not even his dependence on a wheelchair in his last 10 years was enough to deter him from preparing for the fishing seasons. Even in his last days, he continued to make preparations to take the Cherie Ann out for one last set.

The Gobin family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Hibulb Cultural Center, care of the Tulalip Foundation, at 8825 34th Ave. NE, L-242, Tulalip, WA 98271.

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