Linda Dee Dee Gillette Linda Doloras Gillette

First post: Apr 2, 2022

Born May 23, 1951 in Palm Springs, CA 
Contracted Polio at age 2
Wore leg braces from age 4-7 and started multiple corrective surgeries from age 7-13. “My parents raised me to never give up or feel sorry for myself. When I was just starting to learn to walk I would fall a lot and my Dad would just pick me up, dust me off and tickle me. After that it was automatic that I would fall, laugh it off and continue on my way. I became fearless! I am grateful for that lesson because it made me realized early in life that my only limitations are those I put on myself. They continue to inspire me with their strength and tenacity and love of Mexican food and margaritas!”
I come from a long line of strong women and have seen the power of women who take the lead when it comes to protecting and providing for their families.  When I was growing up my Mother, Gloria Gillette was a member of the All Women Tribal Council and traveled to Washington to fight for some of the rights and benefits that we, as a tribe now enjoy. I will always be grateful for her dedication and perseverance to break through the stereo types and barriers she encountered along the way. 
I was very close to my Grandmother, Lorene Martinez who took on the responsibility of representing the tribe and establishing the basis for our tribal government in an era where women were seen and not heard. She was my hero because of her ability to bridge the gap from the old ways of the tribal chiefs with the modern world our people needed to become a part of to be in charge of our destiny. I loved to hear her speak our language and I wish I had paid more attention to the stories she use to tell me about the history of our tribe. She told my mom before I was born that she would call me DeeDee no matter what my mom named me. She was a force to be reckoned with.
I attended St Theresa Catholic School in Palm Springs from Kindergarten to 8th grade and attended Palm Springs High School from 9th grade. Graduated in 1969 and attended United States International University in Poway, Ca. just outside of San Diego. 

I spent my freshman year majoring in English Literature with the intent of becoming a teacher. I moved up to Northern California and took classes at Humboldt State for a semester because I love living in the Redwoods, but finally decided to transfer to The University of Hawaii at Manoa.. 

While going to school in Hawaii I was introduced to, and eventually became a part of the family of renown Hawaiian surfer Eddie Aikau, who was lost at sea in 1978, while trying to get help for his crew-mates of the Polynesian Voyaging Canoe, Hokulea. They had swamped in rough seas while retracing the path the Hawaiians had taken from Tahiti to Hawaii.  His loss was devastating to his family and the Hawaiian community and his courage and sacrifice are legendary. There is a rock dedicated to him at Waimea Bay where, as a lifeguard Eddie saved hundreds of lives. The plaque on the rock is inscribed with the words, “No greater love has man than this, that he give up his life for his friends.” He continues to inspire people around the world 40 years after his disappearance and his legacy is kept alive through The Eddie Aikau Foundation, started by his family to honor him and his accomplishments. I serve as a board member and participate in various annual fundraising events related to education and the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture. 

My Hawaiian family comes from a long line of spiritual advisors and healers who served Hawaiian royalty. Many of our children not only speak Hawaiian fluently but also teach the language and culture to the younger generation. It’s encouraging to see The Cahuilla language also making a comeback and I think Immersing children in any language as early a possible is the most successful way to learn. 
Prior to moving to Hawaii I had been involved in efforts to support the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island and later supported the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee. 

I traveled to Minneapolis to the headquarters of The American Indian Movement and met with leaders Russell Means and Dennis Banks and helped raise money for their legal defenses. They had heard about the Hawaiian struggle for sovereignty and supported their fight for recognition. I had been involved in the protests that were happening in Hawaii and I thought that getting the leaders of both movements together might be beneficial for the Hawaiian cause. They agreed to come to Hawaii and “talk story”, a local phrase referring to a serious dialogue, with Hawaiian leaders. 

I have always connected the two cultures and as I became more immersed in the Hawaiian culture and traditions my Hawaiian Ohana and my native family felt like one and the same. I see in both cultures the value of a strong and loving family and that is where we find our strength. The Hawaiian belief that Mother Nature will provide for and sustain us and needs to be respected and protected, mirrors the beliefs of all native people. 
I fell in love with the beauty and diversity of the Big Island, with a snow covered mountain on one side and an active volcano on the other. I settled down in the ranching community of Waimea, along with my lifetime partner, Eddie’s brother, Solomon Aikau. We raised horses and our 5 children and 13 grandchildren and helped raise his 7 older children and and their children. We are a Hawaiian/Cahuilla tribe with everyone doing their part to make it work and supporting each other in good and bad times. Our children are the best of both cultures; proud, compassionate, respectful, close knit, and in sync with the world around them. 

As much as I love Hawaii, I also love the beauty of the desert and my roots will always be there. I feel the most connected to my tribe when I’m in the Canyons.  I love to go to Andreas, find a big rock to sit on and listen to the sounds of the desert. It always refreshes my soul.

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