Catherine Herrold Troeh spent her life supporting the culture of American Indians in the Northwest. She collected Indian artifacts. She wrote a newsletter...

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Catherine Herrold Troeh spent her life supporting the culture of American Indians in the Northwest.

She collected Indian artifacts. She wrote a newsletter. She served as a historian. She helped found community organizations.

Mrs. Troeh died Thursday at the age of 96 in her Burien home.

As a member of the Chinook tribe, she worked alongside other activists: Pearl Warren; Erna Gunther, an anthropology professor at University of Washington; and her older sister Betsy Trick.

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Together, they founded the American Indian Women’s Service League, which helped spawn the Seattle Indian Center, the Seattle Indian Health Board and the United Indians of all Tribes.

“Her contribution is immeasurable,” said Camille Monzon, executive director of Seattle Indian Center. “If it wasn’t for Catherine Troeh and the other group of women who formed a nucleus, we wouldn’t be where we are today. They were not deterred by the naysayers. You can see the fruits of their labor everywhere.”

The American Indian Women’s Service League was formed in the 1950s, when Indians started moving in larger numbers from reservations to the cities. The organization was able to help with the transition, counseling Indians on cultural differences they faced, Monzon said.

Mrs. Troeh was born Jan. 5, 1911, in Ilwaco, Pacific County, 24 minutes after her identical twin, Charlotte. Both women attended nursing school at St. Vincent Hospital in Portland around the year 1933. Mrs. Troeh later attended University of Washington, where she was awarded a public health degree.

During her professional career, Mrs. Troeh worked as a nurse in hospitals and at the Seattle Health Department, and she also owned an antique store in Burien.

As an activist, she played many roles.

In 1952, she was the only woman to join the newly established Chinook Tribal Council, said her daughter, Charlotte Killien. She also wrote and distributed a newsletter, sent to about 100 people once or twice a month.

Mrs. Troeh served on the board for the Seattle Indian Center until her death.

“We were so proud to have this remarkable woman here with us. We were really blessed. There’s no creating another Catherine. She had a very strong voice, and when she would go up against the president or senators, she was a really fiery lady,” Monzon said.

Mrs. Troeh was particularly involved in trying to get the Chinook tribe recognized by the federal government. She also worked closely with the Duwamish tribe, and recently helped celebrate the ground-breaking for its longhouse and tribal center.

Reflecting the pride she had as an Indian, she signed her letters to people around the world “member of the Chinook Tribe Allottee 1865 Quinault reservation,” referring to the 80 acres she was granted by the federal government, Killien said.

“That was her style. She was so outgoing and spoke her mind,” Killien said. “She would do anything to promote the Indian culture.”

Mrs. Troeh is survived by her twin sister, Charlotte, her son, Arnold, and her daughter, Charlotte Killian.

There will be a memorial service for Mrs. Troeh at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bonney-Watson Parker Chapel, 900 S.W. 146th St., Burien.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283

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