Suquamish and Squamish

Seattle - Native American - Suquamish Tribe - Hello!

That’s “Hello!” in Suquamish!

When we do research about an area we hope to visit, all at once all kinds of new words come into our vocabulary. Especially when the terms are from other languages, it can get confusing, and so I am heading-off one of these issues by explaining the names and a little about the two Native American tribes in the title of this post.

As part of learning Seattle history, the Suquamish are a Coast Salish Native American tribe who live on the Kitsap Peninsula and nearby islands across Puget Sound from “Seattle”, the city named for their most-famous tribe member, Sealth.

I did not call him “Chief Seattle”, as the European writings did, because “Seattle” is only an approximation of his name, and the Suquamish traditionally did not have “chiefs”. They recognized leaders and let them lead in the particular endeavor. That’s all. And, Sealth was an amazing man, indeed. I’ll write about him and the Suquamish as I introduce “Seattle”, over the coming weeks and months.

On the other hand, as part of Vancouver, BC history, we learn that the Squamish are a Coastal Salish First Nation in British Columbia, whose tribal lands encompass the metro area. They have a council of 16 chiefs. I have already begun to introduce you to this sovereign nation as they are co-hosting Vancouver’s Winter Olympic Games, in February 2010.

Even though the tribes share a common linguistic heritage and have some common cultural aspects, they really are autonomous, sovereign nations and were not associated in a League or the like. In fact, now there is more interest in making mutually-beneficial ties among the various Northwest Coastal peoples of Oregon (somewhat) and Washington and British Columbia than ever before, building on their shared heritage.

This has been a great move forward, as many of the peoples are still embroiled in critical legal campaigns for Justice from the Canadian and American governments for huge, unconscionable, past discrimination and land-grabs by European and Asian “colonists”.

So, in future posts, read the tribal names carefully. This is the closest example I’ve seen which may engender confusion, but as I research, there may be more!

When you visit the respective cities, try to make contact with the tribes. I enjoyed visiting the lands and tribal museum of the Suquamish when I visited them outside Seattle, but I have not yet made contact with the Squamish. It’s on my list!

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