Our hats are off to Chief Seattle. Without his welcome and protection, the first American settlers who arrived in the 1850s might not have survived to found the city. In gratitude for his good will, the newcomers named their settlement after him.
The best-known photo of Seattle (Si'ahl, in the tongue of his mother's people, the Duwamish) shows him as a seated elder with his hands quietly folded in his lap, hat upon his knee. But he was not always so still. Impressively tall and with a resonant voice, Seattle became a respected leader early in life, admired for both his bravery in battle and the wisdom of his eloquent speeches. He was a small boy when the explorer George Vancouver anchored off Bainbridge Island in 1792. Memories of that visit fueled Seattle's interest in fostering relationships – both diplomatic and trade – with the newcomers who began to pour into the area. He organized joint business ventures with settlers, served as spokesman for this people during treaty councils, and resolved tribal disputes.
But the settlers didn't remain grateful for long. In a few short years, they enacted a law that prohibited Native Americans from owning permanent housing within city limits – thereby evicting Chief Seattle from his home. He died a year after he left the shore where he had first greeted the Americans and invited them to live in his homeland.
Peg Boettcher has been wrangling curios and working for Ye Olde Curiosity Shop since 2004.
• Read about the Duwamish people of the past, present and future.
• Watch the changing face of the Seattle waterfront area, from time immemorial to the present day.
• Look at art and crafts made by the Duwamish people in the online catalog of the Burke Museum.
• The Log House Museum at the “birthplace of Seattle,” Alki Beach, where the first white settlers landed in 1851. Find the museum at 3003 61st Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116-2810 and phone 206-938-5293 for hours.
• The Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus, with an excellent collection of daily objects and art made by the Duwamish people. At the corner of 17th Avenue NE and NE 45th Street. Phone 206-543-5590 for hours.
• Visit the Duwamish Longhouse of the Duwamish people along the river that bears their name. Find a gallery, museum and thriving cultural center at 4705 W Marginal Way SW, Seattle, WA 98106. Phone 206-431-1582 for hours.
The Duwamish Longhouse today
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