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Culture and History





Chief Seattle’s niece at her Shilshole home, 1901

The Dkhw’Duw’Absh

The people known today as the Duwamish Tribe are the Dkhw’Duw’Absh, "The People of the Inside".  We are the people of Chief Seattle. We are the First People of the City of Seattle, Mercer Island, Renton, Bellevue, Tukwila and much of King County, Washington.  We have never left our ancestral homeland.  We are bringing the strengths of our Native Nation, our culture, our teachings, and our Native values with us into the 21st Century.

The name "Duwamish" is an Anglicization of Dkhw’Duw’Absh.  In the Puget Sound Salish language Lushootseed, Dkhw’Duw’Absh means "The People of the Inside". This name refers to Elliott Bay, the Duwamish River, and the other rivers, lakes, and waterways that connect our Dkhw’Duw’Absh ancestral homeland.

As the First People of this area, the Dkhw’Duw’Absh witnessed geologic events that occurred in Puget Sound during the last Ice Age.  Events recounted in the extensive oral history of the Dkhw’Duw’Absh have been confirmed by scientific discoveries. In 1979, an archeological excavation in the Dkhw’Duw’Absh ancestral homeland unearthed artifact fragments that were radiocarbon-dated to the Sixth Century AD, attesting to the antiquity of their tenure in this area.

Traditionally, the Dkhw’Duw’Absh hunted deer, elk, bear, and other game animals, ducks, geese, and other waterfowl, fished for salmon, cod, halibut, and other fish, harvested clams and other seafood's, and gathered berries, camas, and other plants for food and medicinal purposes. Bays, rivers, lakes, and well-established trails were the pathways to these vital resources as each came into its season for harvesting.

In 1851, when the first European-Americans arrived at Alki Point, the Dkhw’Duw’Absh occupied at least 17 villages, living in over 90 longhouses, along Elliott Bay, the Duwamish River, the Cedar River, the Black River (which no longer exists), Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Lake Sammamish.

From article entitled “Dkhw’Duw’Absh, "People of the Inside"”