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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Skokomish fishing camp
Fishing Camp-Skokomish, E.S. Curtis Mats made of cattails were used for shelters Photo courtesy The Suquamish Museum

Suquamish Tribe

The Suquamish is a fishing tribe living on the Port Madison Indian Reservation on the Kitsap Peninsula, where their great chief Seattle is buried. The Suquamish and their ancestors have inhabited the Puget area for thousands of years. Before white settlers came in the late 18th century, this region was among the most populated Indian centers north of what is now Mexico City. Unlike the larger tribes of British Columbia, Alaska, the Plains, and the Southwest, the Indians of Puget Sound lived in relatively small, autonomous villages. The treaties of 1855 grouped Indians of Puget Sound onto reservations and many of the communal winter homes were destroyed. In his famous speech to the Treaty Commission, Chief Seattle expressed a commitment to peace, but his final words indicated that he feared the end of his people and their way of life.

From the 1880's to the 1920's the Suquamish endured a costly transition from a tribal way of life to the modern world, when children from age 4 through 18 were sent to boarding school and forbidden to speak their native language. By the 1980s, the Suquamish and other tribes were entering a period of renewed hope for the future. Tribal enterprises were being created in order to gain financial independence. Cultural centers were established where tribal elders can pass on their knowledge of language, traditional skills, and religious customs.

The Suquamish Museum is housed within the Suquamish Tribal Community Center, which opened in 1980. Center activities provide continuity with past traditions, such as the Suquamish skills in building dugout canoes and basket making, using local cedar.

Legacy documentation provided by the Suquamish Museum comprises a museum catalog about the tribe, The Eyes of Seattle; two oral history videos which document Suquamish culture and heritage, and a poster.

Originally submitted by: Jay Inslee, Representative (1st District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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