"It's working," she said, "We have turned the corner, where the language is going on into the next generation. Now we just have to keep it going."
At Dry Creek Elementary School, a Port Angeles School District public school, kindergartners work in classrooms with the Klallam and English words for the numbers one through 10 on the walls.
Little kids were gleefully calling them out in a recent session with Klallam language teacher Wendy Sampson. "You'll be counting to 100 by the end of the year," she predicted as the kids shouted "thank you" in Klallam.
Providing Klallam language, history and culture in the public schools not only helps the tribe's children learn their heritage, but kids from the surrounding community know their neighbors. "They are just surrounded by it as part of everyday life," Sampson said. "It breaks down barriers, their eyes are opened before they learn to shut them."
For younger tribal members, the language is the touchstone that tells them who they are.
"I knew I was native, but I didn't know what kind," said Harmony Arakawa, 24, one of the tribe's three language teachers today. She first learned Klallam in Valadez's class in high school, and then stuck with it, until becoming a language teacher herself -- and passing it on to her children.
"I would not understand fully who I am without my culture and language," she said.
Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, said the tribal council pre-purchased 1,000 copies of the dictionary, to distribute one for free to every tribal household, and offer for sale (for $85) at the tribe's Heritage Center in downtown Port Angeles.
"It holds so much, every word in there brings back stories, relationships," Charles said. "It's a whole different world."