Squaxin Island Tribe
David E. Lopeman, longtime Chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe passed away peacefully on January 9, 2019 at his residence in Kamilche. He was 75.
Lopeman served on the Squaxin Island Tribal Council for 30 years, 24 of those years as the Tribal Chairman.
Squaxin Island Tribal Chairman: 1987 - 1995 | 1999 - 2004 | 2008 - 2016
He fought for tribal fishing rights as far back as the late 1960s and was first elected to Tribal Council in 1981.
He led Squaxin Island Tribe through turbulent times working with federal, state, and local governments to uphold federal treaty rights and responsibilities.
During his tenure on the Tribal Council, the Tribe saw an enormous amount of growth in enterprises and services to the people. This success spilled over onto the local communities of Mason and Thurston Counties as well. Squaxin Island Tribe became the largest employer in Mason County, Fire Station #4 was constructed, all Mason County police cars were fitted with defibrillators, Arcadia boat launch was reconstructed with additional parking open to the public.
Lopeman was at the helm during planning and construction of the Squaxin Island Tribal Center and elders building, Little Creek Casino Resort, the Sally Selvidge Health Center, the Squaxin Island Museum Library and Research Center, the Squaxin Island Child Development Center and Veterans Memorial, and Skookum Creek Tobacco Factory.
He was also Chairman during the implementation of the shellfish ruling, and repatriation laws, the transition into tribal self-governance, tribal/state tax agreements, resurgence of Canoe Journeys, development of Northwest Indian Treatment Center, and expansion of Island Enterprises and its many branches of business.
One of Lopeman’s main priorities was increasing the tribal land base. Hundreds of acres have been added since 1981, including Church Point, where the Indian Shaker Church originated.
As Lopeman went about his council work he would often mention that he hoped future generations would look back and say, “I’m sure glad they did that.”
His door was always open - not just his office door, but his home as well - to hear concerns of the people. Lopeman was not pretentious - whether you were a tribal member, the governor or other federal/state government official, another tribal leader, or a person down on his/her luck, or in prison - he was there for everyone; he listened and treated everyone the same. He didn’t dress up for anyone.
Lopeman was instrumental in forging the only agreement in the country between a Native American Tribe and a state govern- ment that allows Native American inmates to pay last visits to family members who are passing away and attend their funerals under tribal jurisdiction.
Lopeman was born in Shelton on September 27, 1943 to Ernest (Osage)and Mary Whitener Lopeman (Squaxin Island). He was raised and lived most of his life in Kamilche.
He married the love of his life, Shirley Ann Rogers, in 1967.
Lopeman was a commercial treaty fisherman. He and longtime friend Mike Brownfield also had a business making fire trails for the federal forest service and an automobile repair business. After becoming Chairman, he gave all that up to devote his time and attention to the Tribe.
Lopeman loved old cars and had many trophies from car shows in recent years.
He also loved watching sports, especially the Seahawks and Mariners. He had many adventures out hunting, providing for his family. One of his most memorable times was hunting buffalo with his grandson, David (they each got one!). He showed great pride in both of his grandsons, and was very happy when Steven was elected to the Tribal Council.
Lopeman was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Shirley; and granddaughter, Cynthia.
He is survived by daughter, Donna Baker; grandsons, Steven Dorland and David (and Melanie) Dorland; brother, Billy Lope- man; and five grandchildren, Owen, Zane, Finn, Lilly, and Totten, all of Kamilche.
Services were held at 10:00 a.m. on January 13th, 2019 at Little Creek Casino Resort Event Center. Graveside burial followed at the Squaxin Island Tribe Sacred Grounds.
We was laid to rest next to his wife, Shirley, and granddaughter, Cynthia.
Arrangements were made by McComb & Wagner Family Funeral Home and Crematory.