The Duwamish are thought to be the first people of the land that is today known as the City of Seattle and much of the surrounding King County area. Oral history told of events that were witnessed in the Puget Sound area dating back approximately 10,000 years ago. Scientific discoveries have supported the events described in the oral history, including the discovery of artifacts that were dated to the Sixth Century, AD.
The Pacific Northwest’s rich environment was a vital natural resource that the Duwamish people relied upon for survival. The surrounding waters provided a variety of seafood including salmon, oysters, and clams. The land was home to many deer, elk, bear, ducks and geese that were hunted for food. Berries, camas and many herbs were gathered for food as well as healing purposes. The Duwamish believed that what they put into their bodies affected thoughts, feeling and actions and as such they needed to have a diet that resulted in physical, mental and spiritual well-being and enhanced life.
Homes were carved out of cedar planks, traditionally near the water shore, and were made large enough to house an extended family unit. The home was viewed as a sacred place of security and protection. Some homes were built for specific purposes such as hosting potlatches and ceremonial gatherings. Potlatches were common events that brought the communities together to strengthen bonds, practice spiritual beliefs, and share ancestral stories, songs and dance. As most homes were located along the shores of the water, the Duwamish had to also carve canoes to travel and hunt. Various types of cedar canoes were made depending on the purpose that they served. Some different types of canoes that were made were river canoes, hunting canoes, and saltwater canoes which were all shaped differently to best suit their intended purpose. Weaving of natural materials was an admired skill that was used to make things such as clothes, blankets and baskets.
The Duwamish believed in a strong hard working community, bonding together as a family, supporting the entire community through generosity and kindness. Stories, beliefs and feelings were expressed in the native Lushootseed language among the Duwamish people. When Europeans arrived at Alki Point in 1851, it was recorded that there were over 90 longhouses belonging to the Duwamish people, built throughout 17 villages surrounding the many bodies of water in this area.