A new $6 million tribal museum on the Kitsap Peninsula tells the story of the people and culture that produced a man named Seattle.
By Brian J. Cantwell
Seattle is named for a peace-loving Indian chief—a little classier than Chicago, derived from a native word for wild garlic.
When you’ve been here long enough to be settled in and have a favorite coffee order, it’s time to learn more about your hometown’s heritage. Make a ferry-ride pilgrimage to the Kitsap Peninsula, to the winter home and final resting place of the city’s namesake, Chief Seattle.
And now’s a good time to go, because the chief’s tribe, the Suquamish, has opened a handsome new museum where you can learn all about Chief Seattle’s people and their culture.
One surprise: The chief himself gets a conspicuously modest mention.
The 9,000-square-foot, $6 million tribal museum, which opened in September a few hundred feet from the chief’s grave in the village of Suquamish, replaces a well-respected museum dating to the 1980s.
In part with newfound wealth from its Clearwater Casino, the tribe hired Storyline Studio of Seattle to design new exhibits, and Mithun Architects created a stained-wood building surrounded by native plantings of sword fern, wild currant and cedar.
Inside, it’s a gleaming example of modern museum concepts with a topical “less is more” orientation that doesn’t overwhelm. A single, compact hall showcases artifacts from tribal archives, or even from contemporary tribal members’ attics or family rooms (giving the sense that this is truly “living history”).
For more on Pacific Northwest museums, see Salish Traveling Food Exhibit and Truth vs. Twilight.
Below: "A Red Hat Society group from Poulsbo learns about a 300-year-old canoe hoisted by sculpted figures of tribal people at the new Suquamish Museum." (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times)