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Native Seattle

Histories from the Crossing-Over Place

by Coll Thrush

Publication Year: 2009

In traditional scholarship, Native Americans have been conspicuously absent from urban history. Indians appear at the time of contact, are involved in fighting or treaties, and then seem to vanish, usually onto reservations. In Native Seattle, Coll Thrush explodes the commonly accepted notion that Indians and cities-and thus Indian and urban histories-are mutually exclusive, that Indians and cities cannot coexist, and that one must necessarily be eclipsed by the other. Native people and places played a vital part in the founding of Seattle and in what the city is today, just as urban changes transformed what it meant to be Native.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-xi

Among the oldest, most powerful, and most pernicious of all ideas associated with the American frontier is the Myth of the Vanishing Race. The story it tells is of settlers from across the ocean or from far corners of the continent coming to a new land and finding there an abundant Eden, rich in resources and inhabited by native peoples enjoying nature’s bounty in harvests that...

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pp. xiii-xxi

Once upon a time—meaning in the early phases of graduate school—I had the idea that I was going to have to write about everything that ever happened to every Indian person in Seattle, but I soon realized that this was neither possible nor would it make a book anyone wanted to read. The stories included in this book, then, are intended simply as examples of the kinds...

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1: The Haunted City

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pp. 3-16

Every American city is built on Indian land, but few advertise it like Seattle. Go walking in the city, and you will see Native American images everywhere in the urban landscape. Wolf and Wild Man stalk the public spaces of downtown in the form of totem poles. Tlingit Orca totems adorn manhole covers, and a bronze Indian chieftain raises a welcoming hand as the monorail hums past...

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2: Terra Miscognita

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pp. 17-39

In the words of one descendant of the Denny Party, as Seattle’s founders are typically called, the story of the city’s origin “is an oft-told tale yet is ever new.” Indeed. In the century and a half since the landing of Arthur Denny and his compatriots on the beach at Alki Point on 13 November 1851, Seattle’s creation story has been reduced, reused, recycled, and reenacted in books, plays, speeches, and...

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3: Seattle Illahee

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pp. 40-65

In 1858, hearing that indigenous people had been trading gold at forts on the Fraser River north of Puget Sound, hopeful hundreds ventured into the Fraser’s deep canyons, home to the Stó:lō and Nlaka’pamux peoples, in search of the yellow metal. Within a year, more than twenty thousand prospectors, many of them American, had overrun the Fraser. Unattached women were few and far between in the diggings...

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4: Mr. Glover’s Imbricated City

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pp. 66-78

In the spring of 1878, the Seattle Daily Intelligencer announced that a certain Mr. Glover, after making sketches the previous winter, had completed a drawing of Seattle “supposed to be taken from a considerable elevation.” According to the newspaper, the resulting bird’s-eye view of the town was “at once a map and a picture,” portraying “every street, public building and private residence . . . with extraordinary...

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5: City of the Changers

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pp. 79-104

When Ollie Wilbur was a little girl living on the cusp of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the horse and buggy ride from the Muckleshoot Reservation to Seattle was a long one and, in her words, “awful, you know—have to go uphill, downhill, we’d all get off and walk.” Even so, her family went every year to visit her grandmother’s brother, who...

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6: The Woven Coast

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pp. 105-125

A visitor to Seattle in the summer of 1900 would have been impressed. Where a town of fewer than four thousand people had existed only twenty years earlier, a city of eighty thousand now crowded the shores of Elliott Bay. A newly commissioned army fort guarded the bluffs above West Point, a massive railroad and shipping terminal was under construction at Smith’s...

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7: The Changers, Changed

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pp. 126-150

In 1866, Seeathl, Seattle’s namesake, died at Place of Clear Water, the community from which Jacob Wahalchoo had once gone out in search of power below the waters of Puget Sound. He was buried on the Port Madison Reservation across Puget Sound from Seattle, not far from the enormous main longhouse at Place of Clear Water that settlers called Oleman House or Old Man House, meaning...

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8: On the Cusp of Past and Future

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pp. 151-161

Marian Wesley Smith, an anthropologist at Columbia University, spent much of the 1930s conducting research among the Native peoples of Puget Sound. Her travels brought her into contact with the descendants of the indigenous people of Seattle, and the urbanized landscape of the pre–Second World War maritime Northwest shaped much of what she had to say...

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9: Urban Renewal in Indian Territory

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pp. 162-183

In the city of totem poles and Native ghosts, real live Indians seemed to reappear suddenly in 1970. On the morning of 8 March, more than a hundred Native men, women, and children gathered at Fort Lawton, a decommissioned army base on high bluffs in northwest Seattle. Spreading out, they quickly entered the fort from all sides, scaling the fences while a diversionary force raised a ruckus at...

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10: The Returning Hosts

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pp. 184-207

The Seattle spirit, the story of a city’s birth in pioneer stalwartness, could take its adherents in strange new directions. On the centennial of the landing at Alki, it could lead them into the Cold War. The Founders Day celebrations of 1951 were like those in the past, full of pomp and pageantry. Some celebrants attended performances of “The Landing of the Calico Pioneers” followed...

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An Atlas of Indigenous Seattle

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pp. 209-255

Answering the question What happened here? requires asking another: What was here before? In Seattle, as in most cities, the pre-urban landscape has been transformed almost beyond recognition. Tracing the course of the Duwamish River as it was in 1851, for example, can be a daunting task. Understanding the ways in which indigenous people inhabited that landscape, meanwhile, can be even more difficult. In...


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pp. 257-291


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pp. 293-313

Index [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 315-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780295989921
E-ISBN-10: 0295989920
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295988122
Print-ISBN-10: 0295988126

Publication Year: 2009