Category Archives: Pacific Northwest Environment

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