Category Archives: Arts & Culture

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