The Duwamish River is an Anglicization through at least a couple derivations from the Native name for the People of the Inside. The name "Seattle" is an Anglicization of the most famous Duwamish leader, Chief Seattle, from si'áb Si'ahl, "high status man Si'ahl". Who he was, what he did, and what he said are complex and enigmatic. Even his name has multiple interpretations. Further, Coast Salish did not have permanent political offices or formal political institutions that were understood by Whites.
Some members of the tribe joined and moved onto other reservations after the signing of the Treaty of Point Jordan (1855). A Duwamish reservation was blocked in 1866. The commitments made by the United States government in the Point Elliott Treaty have not yet been met. Unlike many other Northwest Coast indigenous groups, many Duwamish did not move to reservation lands, yet still retain much of their cultural heritage. In recent decades notable elders are recovering and younger members are further developing that heritage.
Wives of si'áb Si'ahl
Si'ahl had two wives and seven children. Some of the family tree of Chief Seattle is known today.
He is found in archives as Cheshiahud or Cheslahud, Lake John Cheshiahud, or Chudups John. He is Chudups John, also called Lake Union John, who was one of the few Duwamish people who didn't move from Seattle to the Port Madison Reservation [or other reservations], in University of Washington (UW) image archives. He and his family lived on Portage Bay, part of Lake Union, when a lyrical phote was taken c. 1885. According to the Duwamish Tribe, Lake John had a cabin and potato patch at the foot of Shelby Street (either West Montlake Park or Roanoake neighborhood, Portage Bay), as late as 1900 on land given him by pioneer David Denny (or property purchased—see Cheshiahud). Photographer Orion O. Denny recorded Old Tom and Madeline, c. 1904, further noted in the archives of the UW as Madeline and Old John, also known as Indian John or Cheshishon, who had a house on Portage Bay in the 1900s, south of what is now the UW campus. This was although Native people had been prohibited from residence in Seattle since the mid-1860s.
Old Tom and Madeline at their house on Portage Bay across from where the University of Washington campus is today. Old Tom was also known as Indian John or Cheshishon, so they are likely also Lake John Cheshiahud and Tleboletsa.
Salmon Bay Charlie
Hwehlchtid (Salmon Bay Charlie) of the shill-shohl-AHBSH lived in the village of shill-SHOHL on the southern shore of what is now Salmon Bay, and was very loath to leave. Charlie and his wife Chilohleet'sa (Madelline) remained in their traditional homeland long after others of their tribe had moved away. In about 1905, long-time Seattle Times photographers Ira Webster and Nelson Stevens captured an evocative image of Salmon Bay Charlie's house at Shilshole with a canoe anchored offshore. (See Seattle before the city.) Coastal Salish were passionately unwilling to leave their "usual and accustomed places" (a common 19th century phrase that became treaty terms), to degrees that are nearly inconceivable to Whites today. The People of the Inside and the People of the Large Lake (the Duwamish) in what is now Seattle were (and are) no exception. Residency has been for some 10,000 years, and definitively at least 4,000 years.
Each village had one or more cedar plank longhouse (khwaac'ál'al or syúdəbàl?txw) containing extended families in a social structure that foreshadowed cohousing of today. Tens of people lived in each one. The entry and beam architecture of the Salmon House Restaurant (1969, restaurateur Ivar Haglund) beside Lake Union in Northlake is as authentically accurate as building codes allowed. Another example is actual, on the north face of the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.
Villages were usually located facing a beach and body of water or river navigable by canoe, near a creek and drinking water source. Beyond the diffuse villages and anthropogenic grasslands, most land was heavily forested, understory tended to be dense along the edges; travel by canoe was generally far more practical. The nearby creek (dzəlíxw or stútələkw) would often be called Little Water (stútələkw), an endearing familiar.
The People of the Inside and the People of the Large Lake (Dkhw'Duw'Absh and Xacuabsh, today Duwamish), like other Salish, were more a collection of villages linked by language and family ties than like a European model. Relationships and stature among family and community were important measures or goals in life. Traditionally there was no recognized permanent political leadership. Native Americans in general, and Coast Salish in particular, just didn't do things in ways that White people expected or would readily understand. Native social structures (and economics) drove Whites to distraction.
The People of the Inside, the People of Lake Washington (the Large Lake), the People of Lake Sammamish (the Sammamish tribe) and to a little lesser exent, the People of the Snoqualmie (the Snoqualmie tribe) were all closely interrelated in something like a daisy chain—plus the Suquamish. The Inside People and the Lake Washington People were a relatively dense population on prime real estate and were the most immediately dispossessed. They have become the Duwamish tribe.
Trading relationships and privileges were extensive between peoples of the entire Cascadia region, including over the passes to what is now Eastern Washington. Relationships and trade were often cemented with the world-wide practice of intermarriage. Villages were linked to others through intermarriage, which also carried status and trading privileges; the wife usually went to live at the husband's village. While each extended family village might have their own customs, there are enough commonalities, particularly in language but also including philosophical beliefs, economic conditions, and ceremonial practices to link them together. The central and southern part of Puget Sound was the primary waterway connecting the greater Whulshootseed (Skagit-Nisqually) Coast Salish Nations. environment was so abundant that the Skagit-Nisqually Salish had one of the only sedentary hunter-gatherer societies in the world. Life before the arrival of Europeans revolved around a social organization based on house groupings within a village, and reciprocal hospitality within and between villages so maddening to Whites that the potlatch was widely banned, the khwaac'ál'al (longhouse) suppressed.
Society was divided into upper class, lower class, and slaves, all largely hereditary. Nobility was based on impeccable genealogy, inter-tribal kinship, wise use of resources, and possession of esoteric knowledge about the workings of spirits and the spirit world, making an effective marriage of class, secular, religious, and economic power. Like some other Native American Nations, the People of the Inside and the People of the Large Lake (Dkhw'Duw'Absh and Xacuabsh, today Duwamish) Coast Salish made their free-born look different by mothers carefully shaping the heads of their young babies, binding them with cradle boards just long enough to produce a steep sloping forehead. There was little political organization that was understood by Europeans. The highest-ranking appropriate male would assume the role of ceremonial leader for some timely purpose, but rank could be variable and was determined by different standards.
In spring, salmonberry shoots and bracken fern fiddleheads were foraged, while men hunted deer or elk grazing on the skunk cabbage or the anthropogenic grasslands. Camas from nearby prairies would be gathered or traded. The grasslands helped encourage various berries, fern roots, bulbs and other useful plants. Garry Oaks, whose thick bark helps them survive fires, are typically associated with prairies, and their presence at Seward Park and Martha Washington Parks suggests that anthropogenic grasslands extended between them. The oaks may have been planted for their edible acorns. In summer and fall, thimbleberries, salal, raspberries, salmonberries, trailing blackberries, serviceberries, strawberries, huckleberries, and others were foraged. The berries were eaten fresh, or dried and formed into cakes to preserve them for winter. Mixed with dried fish and oil in recipes, pemmican made hearty late winter fare or compact, hardy provision for travel. Women and children would gather important wetland plants such as cattails for mats and wapato ("Indian potatoes") for food. Crayfish and freshwater mussels were available in the lake.
Shellfish and tidal resources were available year round, but for red tide or similar infrequent closures. And of course, from midsummer through November life revolved around the iconic salmon s√ʔuládxw and realization of its inspiring power and wealth, both corporeal and spiritual. Salmon returned to virtually every stream with enough flow; among them was sqa’ts1d (“blocked mouth”), now called Genesee Creek, which formerly drained Rainier Valley. The name of the creek suggests that a fishing weir in place blocked the mouth of the stream during part of the spawning season. Such weirs were made from the willows that occur abundantly along the lake shore. Fish were dried on racks to preserve them for the winter months.
During the long wet winter and early spring, the diet of dried fish and berries was supplemented by hunting ducks, beaver, muskrat, racoon, otter, and bear. Winters were for construction and repair, for the arts, socializing and ceremonies, and for stories in a rich oral tradition.
Life was, however, not quite idyllic. Northern Coast Salish and Wakashan forays from harder climates north were wont to the not-rare raid; food resources varied and sufficient to last all the way through to fresh food in spring were critically variable. The returns of the iconic salmon have always been tremendously variable over years. Nutritional diseases were not very distant; the extensive trade and potlatch network evolved to help distribute resources to area needs that varied year to year. Evidence is that the system was potent and effective. Then the "Spirit of Pestilence" swept in the wake of the first tall sails from 1774 through a century.
All the people living around Lake Washington were collectively known as hah-choo-AHBSH or hah-chu-AHBSH or Xacuabš, People of HAH-choo or Xachu, "People of a Large Lake" or "Lake People". Note that initially at the time of major European contact, these people considered themselves related but distinct from the People of the Inside (the Dkhw'Duw'Absh). The lake drained out the Black River in what is now Renton. The Black River joined the Cedar and White (now Green) rivers to become the Duwamish River and empty into what is now called southeast Elliott Bay. With the ever-increasing European contact, the People of the Large Lake and the People of the Inside (hah-choo-AHBSH, Xacuabš, and doo-AHBSH, Dkhw'Duw'Absh) became known today as the people represented by the Duwamish Tribe.
By the time Coast Salish began to realize the implications of the changes brought by Europeans at ever-increasing rates, the time was late. After just five years, lands were occupied; the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed, such as that was, in 1855. There is question about legitimacy, from the lack of understanding of the two sides about each other to the motivations of the U.S. government and her agents.
The treaty contains the now-famous provision cited by Judge Boldt 118 years later:
The right of taking fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory,
The treaty contains provisions that would raise concern by an attorney in the employ of the Natives at the treaty negotiations.
Due to a documented mix of motivations, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens appointed chiefs of tribes in order to facilitate goals of his administration. The Point Elliott Treaty is further complicated by the style of governor Stevens, and the gulf of misunderstanding between the parties. The Duwamish signatories to the Point Elliott Treaty of 22 January 1855 were si'áb Si'ahl as Chief Seattle, and Duwamish si'áb Ts'huahntl, si'áb Now-a-chais, and si'áb Ha-seh-doo-an. The treaty guaranteed both fishing rights and reservations.
"The salient features of the policy outlined [by Governor Stevens to the advisers] were as follows:
Note that these goals are significantly different from the verbal assurances provided during negotiations, and that all the Native Nations were oral cultures.
The name "Seattle" for the city (c. 1863) is an Anglicization of si'áb Si'ahl, the Dkhw'Duw'Absh (Duwamish) chief (si'áb, high status man); the naming is attributed to 'Doc' Maynard, a complex figure, with Chief Seattle an enigmatic one.
From 1855, Congress neglected to meet the Point Elliott Treaty commitments to the Duwamish and surrounding tribes. In the mid 1860s the Superintendent of Indian Affairs proposed a Duwamish Indian Reservation along the White and Green River Valleys. In 1866, some 152-170 King County settlers petitioned Arthur Denny, the Territorial Delegate to Congress, against a reservation for the Duwamish tribe on the then-Black River, which was around what is now Renton and Tukwila. The first signature was Chas. C. Terry (Charles Terry), followed by the Dennys, H. L. Yesler, and virtually the Seattle Establishment, including D. S. Maynard ('Doc' Maynard). The petition was forwarded to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA withdrew the proposal.
The Duwamish Tribe adopted a constitution and further structure in 1925 (see Recent history, above). The Duwamish were party to land claims against the federal government in the 1930s, 1950s, following the Boldt Decision (1974, upheld 1979) sought inclusion per the Treaty of Point Elliott, and in 1977 filed petition, together with the Snohomish and Steilacoom (Chillacum) for federal recognition that is still pending (see 2001, below), In the mid 1980s the BIA concluded that since the Duwamish Indians have no land, they cannot be recognized as a "tribe". Individually, the Duwamish people continue to be recognized by the BIA as legal Native Americans, but not corporately as a tribe.
In June 1988, 72 descendants of Washington settlers reversed their ancestors and petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs in support of federal recognition of the Duwamish tribe. The signers were members of the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington, which maintains Pioneer Hall in Madison Park as a meeting hall and archive of pioneer records.
In the mid 1990s proposals were made in Congress to extinguish further efforts by unrecognized tribes. Success or continued failure tends to drift with the national mood and leanings of Congress. Effectively, recognition turns upon whether or not the mood of Congress is philosophically opposed to honoring treaties, at least with Native Americans. Occasionally tribes succeed, in such as with the Boldt Decision in 1974.
Duwamish Tribe federal recognition chances hinge, in large part, on proving they have "continually maintained an organized tribal structure since their ancestors signed treaties with the United States in the 1850s." The Tulalips block efforts by local unrecognized tribes, contending the Tulalips (a post-Treaty construct) are the heirs of an amalgam of unrecognized tribes.
According to Russel Barsh, attorney for the Samish, one of the unrecognized tribes, "the Samish proved in a hearing that Judge Boldt's decision against these tribes was based on incomplete and erroneous evidence." This would argue for allowing an appeal of the decision.
U.S. District Judge George Boldt (1903-1984) found in 1979 that the tribe had not existed continuously as an organized tribe (within the meaning of federal law) from 1855 to the present, and was therefore ineligible for treaty fishing rights. A gap in the record from 1915-1925 prompted Boldt's decision.
The tribe has continued seeking recognition ever since.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) denied recognition in 1996. The tribe assembled additional evidence for its active existence through the decade in question, which prompted the Bureau of Indian Affairs to reverse its 1996 decision. Evidence was assembled from Catholic church records, news reports, oral histories, and further tracing of bloodlines. Ken Tollefsen, a retired Pacific University anthropologist, helped assemble the additional data.
The Duwamish Tribe won federal recognition in January 2001, success in that struggle since the 1970s, and a step toward implementation of treaty rights pending for 150 years. The ruling was voided with the next Administration, citing procedural errors.
A Duwamish tribal constitution and bylaws were established in 1925. Cecile Hansen has been the elected chair of the Duwamish Tribe since 1975, as well as a founder and the current president of Duwamish Tribal Services. Cecile Hansen is the great great grandniece of Chief Seattle, si'áb Si'ahl of the Dkhw'Duw'Absh and Xacuabsh, ancestors of the Duwamish Tribe. The Tribe established Duwamish Tribal Services in 1983 as a non-profit 501[c]3 organization to provide social and cultural services to the Duwamish Tribal community. Hansen has been dedicated to gaining treaty rights for the Duwamish Tribe. (See also Implementation of the treaty, above.)
James Rasmussen of the Duwamish Tribe has been a leader since 1980 in efforts to restore the Duwamish River, together with citizens groups and the Tribe. Accomplishments include gaining federal Superfund Site status for the last five miles (8 km) of the river from Turning Basin and Herring House Park. The lower Duwamish was the former concentration of Dkhw'Duw'Absh (Duwamish) villages before substantial European contact. The most contaminated spots will be dredged and capped, largely c. 2007, overseen by the Port of Seattle and the EPA—and watchdogged. Complications ensue from the difficulties in tracing those responsible. Riparian clean up and habitat restoration continues with citizens groups together with the Port.
These salmon and critters here are my brothers and my cousins. I care about them that much. And our ancestors are still here. They see what's going on, and they hold you responsible.
As part of identity and heritage, fundraising has been ongoing for the Duwamish Tribe longhouse cultural center to be built on purchased land across the way from Terminal 107 Park, site of a venerable former village called yee-LEH-khood, (see Downtown and lower Duwamish River). The new cultural center and grounds will be along what is now Marginal Way SW, east of what is now Puget Park, and west of the north tip of what is now called Kellogg Island (map ).
Tribal membership criteria vary by tribe. For the Duwamish, in accordance with Salish tradition, enrollment is by the applicant providing a documented genealogy. Consequently, not all Duwamish today are members of the Duwamish Tribe. The Duwamish Tribe recorded about 400 enrolled members (1991) and about 500 (2004). The tribe is of moderate size with respect to moderately-sized federally-recognized Washington tribes.
The Duwamish language, Southern Lushootseed, belongs to the Salishan family. The tribe is Lushootseed (Whulshootseed) (Skagit-Nisqually) Coast Salish. The Lushootseed pronunciation of the people of the Duwamish Tribe is [dxʷdɐwʔabʃ] or Dkhw'Duw'Absh, or less accurately, Dkhw'Duw'Absh (see the footnote for a pronunciation brief). English does not have equivalents for half of all the sounds in the language. Dkhw'Duw'Absh and Xacuabsh are the ancestor people of the Duwamish Tribe today, and the names by which they were known by Lushootseed speaker before overwhelming European contact. (See also # Seattle before the city of Seattle, above.
The Duwamish River is an Anglicization through at least a couple derivations from the Native name Dxw'Dəw?Abš, for the People of the Inside, literally the People Inside the Bay. The People of the Inside called the river Dxwdəw, including what is today the Cedar River. They also call themselves members of the Dxwdəw?=absš or Dxwdu?=ábš people. The names all originate with dəkw or dəgw from dəw for inside something relatively small (in this case Ellliott Bay with respect to, say, Puget Sound).
For 500 generations they flourished until newcomers came... much was lost; much was devalued, but much was also hidden away in the hearts of the dispossessed.
Their voices insist upon a hearing and the cumulative wisdom of their long residence in this land offers rich insights to those willing to listen. The challenge now is to find a way to make knowledge of the ancient traditions, the experience of change and the living reality accessible and available.Excerpt from Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest: An Introduction by David M. Buerge, at the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection , University of Washington Libraries: Digital Collections