All posts by caitlinmagee

How You Can Help …

The Duwamish Tribe is still fighting today to regain Federal recognition, something that never should have been taken from them. Evidence has shown that the Duwamish people have inhabited their ancestral Puget Sound lands long before any others, they truly are the first people of Seattle. After 159 years of unfulfilled treaty promises, it is time for the Duwamish people to finally receive the recognition they so rightfully deserve.


If you would like to help the Duwamish Tribe in their fight for Federal recognition you can do so in the following ways.

Write letters of support to:

Washington State Federal Representatives at the following links

(Congressmen/Congresswoman may only be contacted by those who live within their districts. If you are unsure which district you live in, each of their websites will be able to assist you with that information)

Senator Maria Cantwell

Senator Patty Murray

Congresswoman Suzan Delbene – District 1

Congressman Rick Larsen – District 2

Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler – District 3

Congressman Doc Hastings – District 4

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers – District 5

Congressman Derek Kilmer -District 6

Congressman Jim McDermott – District 7

Congressman Dave Reichert – District 8

Congressman Adam Smith – District 9

Congressman Denny Heck – District 10

The President of the United States

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

or by email

The Bureau of Indian Affairs by sending mail to

Northwest Regional Office
Bureau of Indian Affairs
911 Northeast 11th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97232-4169

Financial Donations to aid in the Tribe’s effort can be made through their website at

Chief Si’ahl: The Thunder Within

Chief Si’ahl, or more commonly Chief Seattle, was the most famous Duwamish/Suquamish leader of all time. His skills as a strong and diplomatic leader were clear from a very young age. He would later go on in life to be the Chief of two major Salish tribes, and leave a legacy greater than any other.

It is not clear where exactly Si’ahl was born, but it was sometime during the 1780’s. Some say Si’ahl was born on near Suquamish lands on what is present day Port Madison Reservation. Others say Si’ahl was born in his mother’s village on the Black River, located in the present day City of Kent. What is known, is that he was of noble descent from both Duwamish and Suquamish ancestry. His father, Shweabe, was the Chief of the Suquamish. His mother, Sho’lee`tsah, was the daughter of a Duwamish Chief, and was the family from which Si’ahl was named. He had strong ties to both native groups. During his younger years, Si’ahl went on a spirit quest where he obtained his supernatural connection to Thunder. His guiding spirit was said to be Skhwúqwub, a large and powerful supernatural bird of prey. His demeanor and personality certainly would support the Skhwúqwub being his personal spirit guide. Si’ahl’s childhood was spent mostly on Duwamish lands with his mother’s family, while much of his adult life was spent traveling and on Suquamish lands. The famous “Old Man house” which Si’ahl’s father built, was his home and served as a spiritual and communal gathering place for many potlatches. One childhood memory that Si’ahl carried with him throughout life was when in 1792, the H.M.S. Discovery, commanded by George Vancouver, arrived on the Puget Sound shores near Duwamish territory. Si’ahl recalled his father Schweabe greeting the white explorers and later establishing peaceful trade with them. Si’ahl is greatly known for his peaceful interaction with and protection of the British explorers. By his early twenties, Si’ahl demonstrated his ability as a warrior and leader. Upon gaining knowledge of pending attacks on his tribe, Si’ahl led other Duwamish warriors in a defense mission to sabotage the attacking parties, and he was successful. His goal was to work together with other families and bring them together to gain strength in numbers and form an alliance. He successfully brought at least six families together to live in “Old Man house” where he served as leader. Although the timing is unknown, Si’ahl first married a high powered Duwamish woman whom he was very much in love with, her traditional name is unknown but she is called Ladaila. She died very young after giving birth to their daughter Kikisoblu, who was later given the now commonly known name, “Princess Angeline.” It is said that his second marriage was to a high status woman named Owiyahl. Owiyahl gave Si’ahl five more children, two boys and three girls. While there is no record of the daughter’s names, the boys were known as Jim and George Seattle. Chief Si’ahl was well known amongst the white men. Near and after 1833, Si’ahl and his son would frequent the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Nisqually and many stories were told of their altercations with other men. He was described as an intelligent leader with a large stature and large personality. It is said that Si’ahl and his son at times had confrontations with White settlers at the Fort, as well as other tribes that rivaled the Duwamish. However, more is spoken of his stoic and composed nature than that of his aggressive altercations. At this time more and more white settlers were moving into the Puget Sound region and nearer to the lands inhabited by indigenous people. In 1851, settlers arrived and Alki Point, and were greeted openly by Si’ahl and his people. Si’ahl was cordial to the newcomers and helped them and compelled his people to do the same. Labor and transportation were provided to the white’s as well as education and introduction to the resources provided by the land and sea. The Duwamish traded their valuable resources to the white settlers in their times of need, as they knew not how to rely on the lands themselves. However, when the time of the treaties came in 1855, the white people did not return the kindness that was shown to them. Territorial Governor, Isaac Stevens, presented to a number of tribes in the area the Treaty of Point Elliott. Unlike most leaders, Si’ahl would not negotiate the treaty in Chinook Jargon as he never spoke it and had Walak of the Suquamish translate for him. The treaty promised fishing and hunting rights as well as reservations to all tribes represented by a signature in exchange for over 54,000 acres of traditional native homelands. Si’ahl’s importance and was further demonstrated by his name being placed at the top of the list of treaty signers and representing the Duwamish tribe. Shortly after the 1855 treaties, the settlers began violating them, which threw into motion the well-known “Indian War.” It was also around this time that Si’ahl officially became leader of the Suquamish people. Even after being betrayed by the white men, Si’ahl and his people protected the settlers in their area from attacks by other native groups. It was during this time that Si’ahl saved a white man known as Doc Maynard from death by the hands of a native man, and he and Doc became good friends. Doc Maynard is the man responsible for convincing the settlers to name the City Seattle, in honor of Chief Si’ahl (Seattle is the anglicized form of Si’ahl). Even with the City being named after him, in 1856 the City of Seattle officials passed a law which banned the Duwamish and all other native people from living within City of Seattle limits. The reservation that was promised by the Point Elliott treaty was still not in place, so US Indiand Agent, Thomas Paige made a recommendation to the Government to establish a reservation new the City of Seattle, their traditional homeland. White settlers protested the recommendation and quickly gathered signatures on a petition which prevented a reservation from being established for the Duwamish. With no place to go home to for the Duwamish people, Chief Si’ahl moved to the reservation that was established for the Suquamish people, near present day Bainbridge Island. Chief Seattle could not even live in the City that bore his name. Three years after the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty, Si’ahl met with Government representative, Michael Simmons, to address the lack of follow through on the promises made in the Treaty. As Si’ahl did not speak English, the translations of his speech are debated. It is said that he addressed the fact that “his people were good people and have befriended the white’s since their arrival. The Duwamish were promised a reservation and monies for their land as well as rights, but the papers were not coming back to them.” Si’ahl expressed his “fear that they had been forgotten and were being cheated”. At this point he was growing older and weaker. Chief Si’ahl spent his later years living out his life on the Port Madison Reservation and visiting and caring for his friends and family. Si’ahl did not like his name being used by the City and did not accept it as being an intention of honor until his last days. By 1866 Chief Si’ahl had grown sick and weary, he contracted a fever and soon after passed away. His funeral was attended by many people both of native and white descent. He had made many friends and was a well-known and well-liked leader. Chief Si’ahl’s grave is marked by a stone monument on the Suquamish Reservation. Statutes depicting the great Chief stand tall in present day downtown Seattle. For the first time in well over a century, Puget Sound Salish Natives sang the powerful Thunder Song, the song of Si’ahl. Chief Si’ahl is a man that will forever be remembered and honored.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” – Chief Si’ahl


The Life of Si’ahl, ‘Chief Seattle’ (Thomas R. Speer), Treasurer, Duwamish Tribal Services Board of Directors, for the Duwamish Tribe, July 22, 2004

Finder’s Keepers

The Duwamish people have long tried to regain claim to their recognition and land. The lands that the ancestral Duwamish people have inhabited since time immemorial were taken at the time of white settlement in the 1850’s. Even though the Federal Government has failed as of yet to give recognition to the Duwamish as a tribe, they remain active in the pursuit of reclaiming the very artifacts that belong to their ancestral people.

In the 1960’s the Port of Seattle enforced eminent domain and purchased areas of land that were historically Duwamish villages. This particular area was also the last remaining portion of original and unchanged Duwamish River shoreline. As the clearing of the land began in 1975, in preparation to build Terminal 107, a startling discovery was unearthed. Ancient tribal artifacts were found embedded within the shoreline, thus the Duwamish #1 Archeological Site was established. This site was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Excavations occurred in 1978 and again in 1986, which revealed items such as stone projectile points and adze blades, as well as duck, deer, and elk remains/tools, stone bowls, jewelry, and baskets. Approximately 12,000 artifacts were regained from this site. It was noted by archeologists that this area had clearly been a village that was occupied over at least four different eras. Again only further providing evidence of Duwamish establishment in the area.

The Burke Museum at the University of Washington served as safe keeping for the items recovered from the Duwamish #1 Site. In late 2008, the Burke Museum loaned a number of the ancient excavated items to the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center to be put on display. The Duwamish Longhouse, which is located across the way from the Duwamish #1 Site, proudly displayed the artifacts that belonged to their ancestors. That was until July 2013, when the Port of Seattle had the Burke Museum seize the artifacts from the Duwamish Longhouse. The reason given was that the Port wished to have a complete catalog completed of the artifacts it owned. Although ownership is a strong position for the Port to assert, just because they took over the ancient lands of the Duwamish people does that mean they too own the artifacts created by the Duwamish people centuries ago?

Nevertheless, the artifacts were gathered by the Burke Museum and removed from their true home in the Duwamish Longhouse. Now, an empty case remains in the Longhouse where the artifacts of the Duwamish ancestors were once displayed. On February 27, 2014 it was released that the Port of Seattle considered the Duwamish artifacts as surplus and would be selling them. In a desperate plea, Duwamish Chairperson, Cecile Hansen, contacted the Port of Seattle yet again, asking for the items to be returned to the Duwamish people. Although it was previously understood by the tribe that the artifacts would be given to them, they would be willing to pay to re-claim ownership of their ancestor’s priceless belongings.  The Port, however, did not give consideration to the Duwamish people and proceeded with a decision to give the artifacts to the federally recognized Suquamish and Muckleshoot tribes, a decision that is viewed as reprehensible by most.  It is unknown when the Duwamish artifacts will be removed from the Burke Museum and transferred to the Suquamish and Muckleshoot tribes.

The Government removed recognition of the Duwamish tribe and now that very decision by the Government is being used as a deplorable reason to keep ancestral artifacts from the Duwamish people, where they truly belong.

“It would seem that best public good & cultural value would be to continue to display the artifacts from this site at the Seattle location where they were found” – Cecile Hansen, Duwamish Tribal Chairperson


Weaving the promise of tomorrow

As the Duwamish Tribe is not recognized, they formed the non-profit organization, Duwamish Tribal Services, to provide cultural services to the Duwamish Tribal community. They work to create educational programs to engage the youth and keep their culture alive. In January 2009 the Duwamish Tribal Longhouse was completed and opened. The longhouse serves as the center for cultural education and events. Duwamish artifacts and art are on display in the longhouse museum. There is also language materials available to teach the Lushootseed language. Educational events are held regularly at the longhouse to teach not only the youth but all people about Duwamish culture. Some of the regular events include the Duwamish Brunch & Art Auction and the Duwamish Princess Angeline Native Tea Party. Classes are provided by Duwamish master basket weaver, Mary Lou Slaughter, on how to gather and prepare the traditional cedar material and weave it. Duwamish storytellers speak about the earth and the Duwamish relationship to it.

Most important for the Duwamish youth is the Duwamish heritage cultural group, T’ilibshudub meaning “Singing Feet”. This group was created to teach the Duwamish youth about their history and cultural traditions and values. Members of the group learn from the elders and artists and are taught the Lushootseed language, dances, songs, and ceremonial practices. In turn, the group performs and teaches other youth and the community the Duwamish culture and traditions. This program expands cultural beliefs and knowledge and encourages the youth to be active participants in their cultural community. Groups like the “Singing Feet” bring youth together and provides cultural identity and a sense of pride which in turn helps keep youth educated and discourages drug and alcohol use.



Pacific Northwest Environment

The Pacific Northwest is rich with a variety of plants, animals, and sea-life that the native people, including the Duwamish relied upon for survival. The Southern Coast Salish region is comprised of numerous bays, inlets, and channels of saltwater along with vast woodland forests and some prairies. With so many water sources there was no shortage of fish and shellfish. Cockle, bay mussel, and oyster were easily gathered as they reside on the surface. Littleneck claim, butter clam, horse clam, and geoduck had to be dug for, so a digging stick tool was used to acquire these species. A variety of salmon and steelhead were the main staple food for Southern Coast Salish people. The salmon and steelhead ran through most all of the water systems throughout the region. The Duwamish River held sockeye and Lake Washington held kokanee which were not found in other areas. Tools such as weirs, traps, gaff hooks, harpoons, and a variety of nets were used to catch the fish. With the changing seasons came changes in the availability of certain plants and animals and the Duwamish often moved around the land during these times to find the resources available to them.  One of the most important plants in the Duwamish area was wapato. The Duwamish utilized the vast array of herbs and plants available in the Pacific Northwest to meet medicinal needs for treatment. As there was such an abundance of plants that were utilized for medicinal purposes there is not much information about specific plants used for specific treatments. The forests produced many trees such as red cedar, spruce, hemlock, vine maple, and alder with the Douglas fir being dominant.  Native burning practices were used to maintain the forests and prairies and to expand hunting grounds and promote growth for plants and crops.

Below are some examples of plants and animals that were available in this region throughout the various seasons.


  • Dried Fish & Berries
  • Duck
  • Geese
  • Beaver
  • Muskrat
  • Raccoon
  • Otter
  • Black Bear



  • Salmonberry Shoots
  • Bracken Fern Fiddleheads
  • Blacktail Deer
  • Elk
  • Camas
  • Acorns


Summer & Fall

  • Salal
  • Raspberries
  • Salmonberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Huckleberries
  • Salmon
  • Wapato
  • Crayfish
  • Mussels

duwamish river salmon

The Donation Land Act of 1850 allowed settlers to take the land that was inhabited by the native people. For the next two years, settlements were established on the land belonging to the Duwamish. This settlement forced the Duwamish off of their lands and separated them from their crops and hunting grounds.


Suttles, W. P., & Sturtevant, W. C. (1990). Southern Coast Salish. In Handbook of North American Indians: 7 (pp. 485-502). Washington: Smithsonian Institution

Everlasting Perseverance

The Duwamish people have never stopped fighting the battle for their rights, keeping their culture alive, and their recognition. The people who have been evidenced as having inhabited the greater King County lands since the last ice age had their land taken from them and never returned. Since the arrival of European-Americans to the shore of Alki in 1851, the Duwamish people were kind and accommodating and provided protection and resources to the newcomers. This generosity was responded to with persecution.
On January 22, 1855, Washington Territorial Governor, Isaac Stevens, had chiefs and headsmen of local tribe’s sign the Treaty of Point Elliott. Demonstrating his importance, Chief Si’ahl, leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes, was the first name on the treaty for signature. This treaty created a government to government relationship between the United States and the tribes and promised rights to lands, fishing and hunting. These promises, however, have yet to have been kept for the Duwamish. In the City that was named after Chief Si’ahl, the newly elected City fathers passed 12 new laws, one of which banished the Duwamish and native people from living within the City limits. The same City limits that consists of the majority of the ancestral lands of the Duwamish people. United States Indian Agent, Thomas Paige recommended in 1866 that the Duwamish be given a reservation land of their own. However, the European-American residents of the area quickly protested and signed a petition asserting that an area of land would be of little or no value to the Duwamish.

In 1925 the Duwamish Tribal Organization (DTO) was formed, and since has been working to obtain recognition as a tribe by the Federal government. A lawsuit was filed by the DTO for the value of the approximate 54,000 acres of land taken without compensation and a judgment of $62,000 or $64 per person was awarded to the Duwamish tribe. In 1976 a petition was submitted for Federal recognition as an Indian tribe to the Secretary of the Interior. After a preliminary denial, a revised petition for Federal recognition as an Indian tribe was submitted again by the Duwamish tribe in 1988. In the meantime, as there was no means of providing cultural or social services through government funding, a non-profit 501[C] 3 organization named Duwamish Tribal Services was formed. Without Federal recognition, Duwamish Tribal Services works hard but also struggles to provide cultural education and services to its’ community members. A decision was provided in 1996 by the Secretary of the Interior’s Office that the DTO did not meet three of the seven criteria in place at the time for being considered a federally recognized tribe under title 25 part 83 of the Code of Federal Regulation. Again, the Duwamish Tribal Services revised the petition and re-submitted the document in October of 1998.
Finally, after over a century of endeavoring, on January 19, 2001 the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs awarded Federal recognition to the Duwamish tribe. The long-fought battle was finally won and some of the wrong done to the tribe would finally begin to be righted…. or so it seemed.
The happiness and celebration associated with being recognized was short lived. The idea of finally receiving the recognition and rights that were so long overdue and deserved were once again stripped away. The original decision for approval came in at the end of the Clinton administration and the incoming Bush administration had different thoughts on recognition for the Duwamish tribe. By September 2001 the decision had been reversed and by May 2002 the Secretary of the Interior refused to refer the Duwamish petition for any further consideration.
Even with this heart-wrenching and devastating decision, the Duwamish people did not give up. With no other source of funding for support of cultural and educational activities, Duwamish Management Corporation, a for-profit organization, was formed to create businesses that would generate revenue to fund programs and the survival of the culture. A huge triumph was reached in February 2004 when the tribe finally had the funding and opportunity to purchase land near an ancestral village land by the Duwamish River. Saturday January 3, 2009 marked another significant progression for rebuilding a Duwamish home, the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center was opened. A traditional cedar longhouse was built on the land that was purchased and now serves as a place for cultural education, ceremonies and activities. While many of their traditional artifacts have been taken and given away due to lack of recognition the community continues to gather and rebuild and recreate.

But the legal battle continues. On March 22, 2013 in the Western District United States District Court, Judge John Coughenour awarded Summary Judgment on the Duwamish Tribes Motion for reconsideration of the 2001 denial of Federal recognition. Judge Coughenour made the decision to instruct the Secretary of the Interior to revisit and review their position on recognition for the Duwamish under the 1994 regulations rather than the 1978 regulations, which was originally used as the basis of denial. Following, on June 19, 2013, Washington State House of Representative, Jim McDermott introduced bill H.R. 2442 the Duwamish Tribal Recognition Act, asking the Committee on Natural Resources to pass the bill to the House and the Senate. To date, no further action has been taken on the proposed bill H.R. 2442.

After 159 years of struggling but persevering the Duwamish are facing what is likely their last chance at an argument for Federal recognition, a recognition that never should have been removed in the first place.

The Duwamish tribe has recently been granted a six month extension to raise $100,000 needed to hire an expert witness to review 31,000 pages sent by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Donations to the tribe can be made through their website at


Click to access idc-001381.pdf

Arts & Culture


Art is not simply art, it is culture and knowledge and useful. Weaving was probably the most useful art for the Duwamish people. Cedar and other natural sources were woven into mats, baskets, hats and clothing. The tightly woven baskets were used for cooking, storage and holding water. Loosely woven baskets were used for holding food that was gathered such as clams.

Mary Lou Slaughter is a Native Master Weaver of the Duwamish people, she is also the great granddaughter of Chief Sealth. She weaves and creates traditional baskets, hats, blankets, vests, etc. out of traditional materials of cedar, hemlock and fir trees, “as the spirit moves me” she asserts. Mary Lou teaches the traditional weaving to others and her work is featured in the Burke Museum as well as the Duwamish longhouse in West Seattle. By teaching this skillful art to others, the traditional weaving that created beautiful and useful pieces is being handed to future generations to continue on.

Duwamish Carver, Michael Haladay (son of Mary Lou Slaughter), carved the cedar story pole that stands today in Belvedere Park in West Seattle and tells the story of the Duwamish people’s first interaction with the first settlers. The first panel depicts the “welcoming spirit” which represents the hospitality that was shown to the settlers by the Duwamish people. The second panel is a carving of the schooner that brought the settlers to Alki beach. The three faces represent the Duwamish men, women, and children of the area. At the top of the story pole is a carving that represents Chief Sealth and the thunderbird showing the great power of the Chief. Among many other items, Michael has also carved the welcome figure for the entrance of the newly rebuilt Duwamish longhouse, which is a very important longhouse. The welcome figure is called the “Keeper of the Song”.

Beginning in 1989, Northwest tribes held the first of what would become an annual event, the Canoe Journey. The first canoe journey of the Northwest tribes, from Canada and Washington, consisted of 18 cedar trees being carved into canoes for each of the tribes. Each tribe began the journey from their homeland, traveling the “Paddle to Seattle”, arriving at the Suquamish lands before making the final trek to the landing on the shores of Shilshole Bay where they were welcomed by the Duwamish people. This event provided a revival and acknowledgment of important native traditions and ways of life. After long journeys to host tribal lands, multiple days are spent celebrating and coming together. Tribes each have protocol where they present their songs and drumming and dances to one another. Songs are heard and stories are told. Handcrafted regalia with symbols representing each individuals’ identity is worn and displayed. These powerful art-forms of native song and dance and dress represent the identities of the tribes and the people.

Sources: Lou&ln=Slaughter&artist=51&artType=0&topic=bio