Photo essay: An apology to the Duwamish

A ceremonial drum and song is shared amongst community members. (Photo by Jacquie Bird Day)

A small ceremony earlier this month organized by several nontribal groups offered a formal apology to the Duwamish people for the ongoing colonization and occupation of their lands.

Organizer Norma Jean Young gathered people at the Duwamish Longhouse to offer a formal apology to the Duwamish Tribe.

The apology ceremony, which involved several nontribal groups in the Seattle area, acknowledged the damage of colonialism by the West and the United States, including the introduction of diseases, the forced separation of children from families into boarding schools, and pledged partnership and engagement with the Duwamish people.

Several tribal leaders attended the event and accepted Young’s apology.

The Duwamish people have lived in Seattle/Greater King Country area for thousands of years, but has been fighting for acknowledgement as its own nation by the United States for 160 years. This recognition would allow the tribe rights to land and give access to benefits and other services for its members.

As of today, the case for recognition for Duwamish tribe case is still under review by the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.

Though the U.S. government fails to recognize and acknowledge the Duwamish people and their territorial rights, the Duwamish continue to stand up for themselves and reclaim their own status.

Norma Jean Young gathers community members together in prayer. (Photo by Jacquie Bird Day)
Duwamish Tribal Members stand as the Apology is delivered. (Photo by Jacquie Bird Day)
Cecile Hansen, Duwamish Council Leader and descendent of Chief Si’ahl (Chief Seattle), addresses the crowd. (Photo by Jacquie Bird Day)
The Duwamish Tribal Long House and Cultural Center sits in West Seattle overlooking the Duwamish River Valley, near an ancient Duwamish Village. (Photo by Jacquie Bird Day)

1 Comment

  1. Okay, I’m going to weigh in as an ancient DuwamishMy great great grandfather Cheshiahud was chief of the Lake band of Duwamish from Lake Union and Lake Washington. As Seattle got more people, the Duwamish scattered to other traditional areas. Cheshiahud eventually followed one daughter to Suquamish. His other daughter, my great gramma moved to Muckleshoot. My gramma told me our people stretched from Skokomish all the way to Lummi. It seems as though many descendants who joined the Duwamish Tribal Organization are from an area west of the Salish Sea. The most recent ruling said those ancestors moved to small towns and not to the reservations established and very many I intermarried with non-Indians. Our family used to go to the Duwamish Tribal meetings up through the mid 1970s. I remember other Duwamish attending those meetings and came from such places as Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Nisqually, Tulalip, Swinomish and Lummi. Cecile is enrolled Suquamish as are her children. Suquamish is a federally recognized tribe. My point is to share that there are many Duwamish people alive today and enrolled in local federally recognized tribes up and down the Salish Sea.

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