Seattle – Native American Artists 1

At The Burke Museum, University of Washington Seattle, you can see the Native American “Indigenous People Reply” Exhibition until November 29, 2009. There, 16 Native American artists respond to the discrimination the Coastal Salish People suffered 100 years ago, at Seattle’s famed 1909 World’s Fair.

Let’s delve into the History a little more and then learn how it affects the life of Seattle’s original tribe, today.

At that time of the Fair in 1909, the native people’s were exploited and had not received any tribal lands to call their own, as they had been promised, even though 45 years had passed since the Duwamish tribe signed a Treaty with the United States and Congress ratified it in 1855.

In that Treaty, the Congress of the United States guaranteed the Duwamish Tribal Rights: their access to lands of their own, health care, education and peaceful co-existence with the Europeans who now had use of their 54,000 acre ancestral tribal lands (equal to the area of the whole Seattle metro area!).

Instead, the tribe whose leader Si’ahl (Chief “Seattle”) had welcomed the Europeans when they landed during a fierce November storm, and who had then built them homes (which saved many lives during the winter) as well as immediately saving a dying infant by supplying clam broth to feed it, were left to “somehow” stay together as a People for the next 155 years.

The Americans never honored the Treaty – neither the Government on any level OR the immigrants. Those Europeans who came later systematically burned ALL the longhouses of the Duwamish and left them with NO homes, and it was also a priceless cultural legacy lost forever!

When President Clinton honored the Tribe’s claims to continue to exist as a tribe, there was jubilation among the Duwamish, as they had managed to stay together for 155 years without ever having been able to retain ANY of their tribal lands to provide a community base!

But, unfortunately, to our everlasting national shame, George W. Bush overturned that tribal designation, took away their tribal status, doomed the Duwamish to “extinction” and gave them NO access to anything which was due them by right of Treaty. It’s still a dark day in America.

In 2006, the one glimmer of recognition for Seattle’s original People, has come from the small local government in West Seattle which asked Duwamish artist, Michael Halady, a fifth generation relative of Chief Si’ahl, to carve a new Duwamish totem pole for the Admiralty Point – Bellevue Park overlook near Alki Beach, where Chief Si’ahl and his people had saved the first Europeans.

The previous totem pole there had been a replica carved by 2 Boeing aircraft engineers sixty years ago, based on a 150 foot pole placed there by an American store owner. That original pole had been stolen from Bella Coola tribal families in Alaska. As the totem poles are a families genealogy “document”, this was a heinous act of cultural genocide.

Meanwhile, Michael Halady’s research brought up only one extant piece of Duwamish large-scale carving left, after all their homes had been burned! What a terrible legacy was exposed.

So, Halady took from what his People remembered in their stories and even though the Duwamish always made shorter “house poles” to support their longhouses, he took on the job to carve the huge exterior totem pole in order to reconstruct his People’s pride, to give them their first modern “presence” in the lands they’ve owned since time immemorial.

In the video Michael Halady Duwamish Tribe – Story Totem Pole, Admiralty Point, Seattle, you can see Michael crafting the 65 foot tall old-growth forest pole and the ceremony to erect it.

With this new found awareness, hopefully, Seattle and the State of Washington will start being advocates on the sides of the Duwamish people.

As of today, the tribe needs to raise $100,000 for its legal defense and their 6 month deadline is nearly up. If they fail to raise the money for their case to be heard, they have no further recourse. Please help.

Learn more at the tribal website Immediate Fundraising for Justice for the Duwamish Tribe Please contact Cecile Hansen, Chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribal Council, phone 206-431-1582 to make a donation or send it to her at the Cultural Center below. Donate to the Duwamish Legal Fund online.

It’s taken them 155 years, but due to their own efforts, the Duwamish finally have one tiny piece of their own land back — enough to build a long-house on and to act as a cultural center. You can visit the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center, 4705 W Marginal Way SW, Seattle, WA 98106.

Now, lets learn more about Michael Halady, currently the only Duwamish Tribe carver left. When the tribe has been able to build its first modern longhouse, Halady hopes to teach more tribal members how to carve traditional stories and symbols.

Michael is a fifth-generation descendant of Chief “Seattle” through his daughter Angeline. Halady is a widely-recognized carver whose work has taken many forms, including sculptures and poles. He was an apprentice of a master Tl’ingit carver with a Washington State Art Grant.

Before meeting Boxley, Michael used books for instruction as he practiced his carving in his garage. At the completion of the apprenticeship Michael had began work on a totem pole. His 2006 pole tells the story of the Duwamish tribe, Seattle’s indigenous people, and the first pioneers who landed at Alki Point in 1855.

Halady hopes this first Duwamish-made pole keeps alive the continuity of West Seattle and the Duwamish as well as celebrates the history of Seattle’s “first community”.

While totem poles were part of the culture of Coastal Salish tribes to the north, story poles were associated with Puget Sound-area tribes, said Tom Speer, a member of the Duwamish Tribal Council. Some story poles were free-standing, but most were used as support posts in tribal longhouses.

The 65 foot totem is the first story pole in memory carved by a member of the Duwamish tribe, and the tribe is ecstatic that it then was put up to remind people that this was the tribe’s former land, which encompasses all of the city of Seattle.

Though the city bears the name of the Duwamish chief, tribal Chairwoman Cecile Hansen said that little in Seattle tells the story of their tribe. For a people who have felt forgotten and ignored on their own land, she said that the $72,000 the city spent for the pole is not an insignificant gesture.

Long since, the Asian Americans of Seattle have had the Wing Luke Museum in the International District, Hansen said, and the African Americans built a museum of their own in the Central Area. At least now, she said, the Duwamish have a pole to mark their legacy.

The pole, which was raised at the viewpoint in July 2006, was fashioned from a tree made available to Michael Halady, by the state Department of Natural Resources after someone cut it down illegally. Because the tree had been killed by a lightning strike losing tens of feet from its crown, Halady worried about the wood cracking as he carved into it. Lightning changes the molecular structure of the wood, especially the lignin, and the pole was extremely difficult to carve because of that.

“We’re not using clams’ shells and beaver teeth anymore,” Michael said. Even today, he did not use a chain saw, but used a traditional Native American crook knife.

Halady said he used the few symbols of Puget Sound-area indigenous art he found on the posts of longhouses and on spindle wheels, which were used by the Duwamish to spin wool.

He’s on a mission — “I’m trying to restore Duwamish art,” Michael said.

At the bottom of the story pole is the image of a spirit guardian with hands raised (which symbolizes the welcoming of the white settlers). The design was taken from a photo of a post in one of the hundreds of longhouses where the Duwamish once lived.

Above that is a depiction of the stern of the schooner “Exact” which carried Arthur Denny and his party to Alki Beach in 1851. Above that are carved the faces of a child, a woman and a man, which are meant to represent the whole Duwamish people. Above that is the face of Chief Si’ahl with his sign of Welcome, Halady said.

The topmost design on the pole, is the carved face and outstretched wings of the Thunderbird. Halady said he was inspired by a description of Chief Si’ahl who had Thunderbird Power: to harness Thunder and to protect his People.

The Duwamish need everyone’s help now to right the grievous wrongs done to them by our government.

Please donate. Make Chief Si’ahl proud and show that his wisdom about Harmony with all the Earth and its Peoples is a lesson we have finally learned and live by.

This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know: all things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected”

–Chief Si’ahl, Namesake of the City of Seattle

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