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ON SUQUAMISH LAND: Passport to Seattle

Frequently, guests on our tours ask why our city is named Seattle. The First People to inhabit this area were the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes. Chief Seattle or (Si’ahl) was the chief of both tribes. His reputation as a leader and his relationship with the white settlers resulted in the naming of the city.

Our Passport To Seattle Travel series continues this month with a visit to the Suquamish Museum and Chief Seattle’s grave on the Kitsap Peninsula.


The trip to Kitsap Peninsula is a 30-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island and a 15-minute drive along highway 305 to the Port Madison Indian Reservation. You’ll want to have a camera because the drive is beautiful. Crossing Agate Pass, through the lush forests and along the coast, it’s not hard to imagine how it must have looked like long ago when the land was wild and untouched by western settlers.

Chief Seattle’s burial site is located on the Suquamish Tribal cemetery just behind a Catholic Church. Two 12-foot-tall carved and painted cedar poles stand aside the tombstone telling the chief’s story. From the Old Man House his father built in the 1770’s and his sighting of Captain George Vancouver’s ships in 1792, to his days as a warrior and as an older man giving his famous speech in 1855, all this is depicted in the beautiful artwork of the story poles.

A short walk down to the beach takes you to the Old Man House Park which was the site of the largest Suquamish winter village and Big House. There you’ll also see the House of Awakened Culture where community programs such as Lushootseed language classes, traditional weaving, and carving take place, teaching and celebrating living Suquamish culture!

The museum was built to recapture the spirit of the longhouse. From the outside, the roof slopes downward in one direction — highest point facing the water and lowest point towards the forest. The interior side of the lowest wall is green, the side that faces the forest. The side of the high wall is blue, which faces the sea. The museum is interactive and the space, free-flowing. The artifacts were carefully chosen to display both the beauty and the stories of the Suquamish people.

                                  Photos courtesy of the Suquamish Tribe Communications Office

Since our tours focus on sustainable, local, and seasonal foods, we wanted to ask questions about traditional foods from the people who knew it best. Little did we know we were to visit Suquamish Seafoods!

Established in 1996, Suquamish Seafood Enterprises (SSE) provides seafood markets for tribal fisherman and a market for the geoduck clams abundant here in the waters of Puget Sound. More importantly, this is a way to keep seafood sustainable, support tribal economy, and honor the ancestral way of life.

We met up with Suquamish councilmember Jay Mills, who immediately gifted us the most delicious smoked salmon we’ve ever had! He gave us a tour of the traditional salmon smokehouse and the Suquamish Seafoods facility.

We learned about the negative impact farmed fish has on prices of wild stock and how everything about food including the act of gathering, preparing, and sharing was and still is a vital and sacred part of Suquamish tribal culture. Even today, the children learn to fish, fillet, and smoke salmon the traditional way!

Suquamish Seafood Enterprises is just one example of how the tribe is thriving. As the 3rd largest employer in Kitsap County, they own Clearwater Casino and Resort, a Tribal Court, a police department serving over 7,100 Native and non-native residents, a Wellness Program and they are even the first tribal nation to own a school district.

The conversation was long, the time was short — there’s no doubt that the First Peoples to inhabit these lands have a rich and vibrant history and we’re so lucky to have them here to educate us!

We’re deeply honored to have Tribal Elders, Barbara Lawrence-Piecuch and Jay Mills spend time with us. There’s lots to see and learn, so that means another trip for us and we recommend you come out and visit too!


  • SUQUAMISH MUSEUM ( Open Daily 10:00am – 5:00pm) Admission: Adults $5, Seniors 55 and over $3, Children 5 to 17 $3, Families $15
  •  OLD MAN HOUSE PARK – site of the major Suquamish winter village on the shoreline of Agate Passage, home of Chief Seattle.
  • HOUSE OF AWAKENED CULTUREThe longhouse and cultural center of the Suquamish people.
  •  CLEARWATER CASINO AND RESORT Gaming, restaurants, luxury hotel, and day spa!


As a visitor, don’t walk in expecting teepees. The Coast Salish peoples lived in longhouses.

Powwows are not customary, these are Potlach tribes.

The CORE of Suquamish values is hospitality — giving is the gift.

Ask questions, but be prepared to hear the answer in the form of a story.

Extra trivia for your trip: Did you know baseball has always been important to the tribe? That’s correct, in the 1940’s Spaulding sent a Suquamish team to Japan!

Walk softly. Learn from others.

~ Nick and Justin

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