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10/10/2012 2:09:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Photo by Kacie Thrift
Joan Tucker, historical storyteller, presented her story of Ieetum at the Apple Days Festival in Cashmere on Oct. 7. When Tucker moved to Cashmere in 1990, she found letters from Ieetum addressed to a reporter.
Tucker enjoys storyteller role
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

Joan Tucker, historical storyteller, was a hit at Apple Days last weekend as she performed "Ieetum Remembers the Story of a Young Girl" in Ieetum's old dress.

Tucker, 84, has been telling historical stories since 1987. Where she gets her information depends on what she is working on. It all started when she decided to write a book about Mother Joseph.

In the archives at the Providence Center in Seattle, Tucker found information on the woman who first brought health care to the Northwest in 1886. After writing the first seven chapters of a book on Mother Joseph, Tucker lost her husband and decided to stop.

Years later, the story of Mother Joseph popped into Tucker's head again, but this time, she decided she wanted to tell the story instead of write it.

When Tucker moved to Cashmere with her second husband, Norm, in 1990, she was fortunate enough to find letters from a woman named Celia Ann "Ieetum" Dick, the granddaughter of the last Wenatchee Chief, John Harmelt, addressed to a reporter for the Wenatchee newspaper.

"Ieetum had been in the hospital with a horrible back problem, and bored out of her mind, she started writing letters of her childhood," Tucker said.

After Tucker found the letters, she took a visit to Nespelem to speak with Ieetum about her past. Tucker spoke with Ieetum and got permission to tell her stories to others. Ieetum gave Tucker one of her dresses called a wing dress. Tucker now uses the dress for her story.

Over the years, Tucker has performed the story on Mother Joseph 365 times. On April 16, 2011 (same day as Mother Joseph's birthday), the sister of Providence and sponsors of Providence Ministries presented Tucker with a Mother Joseph statue for all the hard work and stories she had told in the past.

Before the 2012 Apple Days, it had been a few years since Tucker performed her Ieetum story so she had to do a little bit of work to freshen up her act.

Ieetum lost her mother when she was only two years old and her grandparents John and Helen Harmelt raised her up Nahahum Canyon. In the program Tucker speaks of how interesting Ieetum was.

"I was smart in school, so smart the mayor of Wenatchee wanted to send me to a boarding school in California," Tucker said as she told the story of Ieetum. "Grandfather wouldn't hear of it. He said his granddaughter wasn't going to become educated in order to be a white man's secretary."

Tucker explained the reason Ieetum's grandfather had so much anger toward the white man. The Yakima Treaty in 1855 brought 14 tribes into the Yakima Nation including the Wenatchee tribe. Yakima people use to come up to fish in the Wenatchee Fishery Reservation, said Tucker. Article 10 of the treaty guaranteed the Wenatchee Fishery Reservation would always belong to the tribe.

Thirty years later, the tribe sent a surveyor to the reservation. At this time, homes were built in the area. The reservation had to be moved all the way up near Fish Lake but the tribes would not accept it. The Chief of the tribe, John Harmelt, went to Washington D.C. two different times to plead the tribes cause.

"After years of wrangling and misrepresentation, grandfather became disillusioned and bitter. He gave into the seduction of the white man's whiskey," Tucker said in her act.

The story of Ieetum primarily talks about picking huckleberries when she was just a little girl. Tucker tells her story in the same dress Ieetum gave her back in 1990.

Tucker has many other historical stories she tells all over the Northwest, Canada, Alaska, and California. A week before Apple Days she was at the new museum in Moses Lake, where she told the story of a Japanese woman named Lillian.

Some stories fall into Tucker's lap and other stories she becomes interested in and researches until she has the information to tell the story.

"Basically I am a journalist," Tucker said. "I obviously like to get the facts and tell other people's stories."

The Tucker's used to own a Radio Shack in Cashmere when they first moved to town in 1990. The couple moved to Moses Lake in 2006.

"We miss Cashmere, we really loved it there," Tucker said.

If you missed out on Tucker's story at Apple Days you will be able to hear her in the Cashmere Museum's new audio tour. Tucker will be recording some of the stories for the audio tour coming in March.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or

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