Quinault Elder Justine James Sr. found dead Sunday morning

Body found outside home, local police describe circumstances as ‘suspicious’

Justine “Butch” James Sr., a Quinault Indian Nation elder with decades of service to the tribe and an outspoken advocate for the preservation of treaty rights, was found dead outside his Taholah home early Sunday morning; officials are calling the death “suspicious.”

“Where he was found and the condition of his body lent us to be suspicious of how he passed away,” said Mark James, Quinault Tribal Police Chief. “The FBI was called in and is handling the investigation at this point.”

James said the body was taken to the Grays Harbor County Coroner’s Office where an autopsy was scheduled for Monday morning. “Until we get the results of the autopsy and further evidence” officials can only describe the death as suspicious, he said, adding it was another local resident who reported finding the body.

A statement from coroner Lane Youmans was released early Monday afternoon, stating only “An autopsy was conducted on the body of Justine James Sr. this morning. The cause and manner of death are pending further analysis and toxicology.”

FBI agents from the Olympia satellite office are in charge of the investigation; calls to that office and the Seattle regional office Monday morning have so far revealed no additional information.

James Sr. was well versed in the history of the Quinault Tribe. He co-authored a section about the nation in the 2002 book “Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula; Who We Are.” He also wrote letters to the editor of The Daily World, several in protest of Wild Olympics legislation, which he claimed would violate the Olympic Treaty of 1852.

“The Taholah Police Department reminds all residents of Quinault and Queets to be vigilant and report any information they may have regarding the incident to the Taholah Police Department,” said Quinault Indian Nation Vice President Tyson E. Johnston in a message to tribal members. “Taholah Police will be concentrating patrols in the Taholah and Queets communities and will be conducting more foot patrols for the safety of our Quinault members.”