The Duwamish

duwamish tribeThe first people of the Duwamish Peninsula were the Duwamish. For almost two thousand years, they hunted, gathered, and fished along Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River. There were several winter villages and seasonal camps. Two of these villages were Tu?elal?tx, “where herrings live,” and Ha-AH-poos, about a mile apart on the lowest stretch of the river. The Duwamish built longhouses for the winter and wove mats attached to a pole frame for seasonal camps. They constructed sweat lodges, fish weirs and aerial duck nets and gathered a bounty of seafood from the river, bay, and tideflats. In the early 1850’s, when Euro-American settlers arrived, some 300 Duwamish were camped at the mouth of the river. Their numbers had already been reduced by diseases that had arrived even before the settlers. In 1853 and 1854, the territorial governor, Isaac Stevens, signed treaties with the native people, which consigned them to reservations. After signing the Treaty of Point Elliott, many of the Duwamish moved across the Sound to the Suquamish Reservation, and some went to the Tulalip or Yakima reservations. The Duwamish never received a reservation of their own. The newcomers signed a petition to their territorial delegate stating that a reservation along the Duwamish River would be “unnecessary” for the natives and “injurious” to the settlers. (1) Despite this hostility, some stayed near the waterfronts. Some married into the Euro-American population and moved inland and upland. During a land development boom in 1893, several Duwamish were burned out of their homes near the ancient villages. From then on, there were no permanent Duwamish sites. Some still made an annual trip to Alki Point, building small shelters and harvesting clams, mussels, geoduck, octopus, and salmon. (2) By the 1910 and 1920 censuses, Native Americans formed only 1% of the population of the northeastern Duwamish peninsula. “They were poor, they had nothing,” remembers Thelma Thornquist, an early Youngstown student. “My mother gathered clothes from the neighborhood that were cast off. My brother took a shopping bag and maybe once every two, three weeks, he would go down to the Indian village [on an island] and give them the clothes. They would give him baskets that they had knitted.”