SEATTLE IS INDIAN COUNTRY. The city is named for a hereditary chief of the Suquamish and Duwamish people, and many of our communities and landscape features have Indian names from the Lushootseed, or Puget Sound Salish, language. A cultural revival is taking place in Native communities, based on renewing such traditions as canoe carving, preparation of traditional foods, and the revitalization of Lushootseed as a spoken language.
The totem pole, the most visible example of Native artwork in Seattle, actually comes from Southeast Alaska and British Columbia. Ever since the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897, Seattle has had close ties to the Northwest Coast, and monumental works from that region can be seen in Pioneer Square, at Victor Steinbrueck Park, and other locations around the city.
Coast Salish artwork, the traditional style of the Puget Sound region, features subtle and personal designs. Local traditions include carved objects such as house posts, twined baskets made from pounded cedar bark, woven blankets, and other items both functional and decorative.
Contemporary native artists are drawing on traditional styles and incorporating new materials such as glass and metal to create work that is increasingly visible. You can see traditional and contemporary artwork at the Burke Museum and Seattle Art Museum, as well as at Stonington Gallery and Steinbrueck Native Gallery, and in public art installations around the region.
The Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, a cedar post and beam structure opened in 2009, was the first new tribal longhouse constructed in Seattle in more than 150 years. Regional tribal cultural facilities include the Suquamish Museum and the Tulalip Tribes’ Hibulb Cultural Center. Annual special events including the Seafair Indian Days Pow Wow (July), Canoe Journey (July and August) and Chief Seattle Days (August) celebrate the resilience of Native cultures.
We invite you to download the entire Native American Heritage Guide to Seattle for more information about history, special events, heritage sites, museums and arts.