Friday, July 29, 2016

Amy Johnson, Descendant's Committee Honors the Duwamish

This is both largely an interview with Amy Johnson, Pioneer Descendant, during a four-person conversation with her father, Andrew J. Harris and her son, Josh Johnson all contributing

Amy Johnson. Photo: Madeline Crowley


You mentioned earlier that your family had also been involved in the Descendants Committee. When did you become involved with the fact that the Duwamish people had been kind of forgotten?

Andrew: Well, Amy and I were sitting around the kitchen table and she said, "I want to do something to help the Duwamish tribe." So, we talked about it. I said, "Well, you've got to form a committee. Why not a committee of the descendants of the pioneers?” Not only the Denny family, but the rest of those we can find. Surely there are some around, let's see what we can do.” The first thing you have to do is get the first member. That happened to be our cousin, Brewster Denny. I said, "If we can't get Brewster Denny, we're not going to get anybody.

Amy said, "I don't know Brewster Denny. So I told her to call him and tell him who you are. She called him, told him what she wanted to do and he said, "Sure!" So now, we're rolling. Amy did the whole thing (to call together a committee). I just sat in the background as she lined up as many descendants as she could. Amazing. She got about 11 to start with? Then the committee decided to go full circle where we were going to honor the Duwamish tribe. At that was unheard of in Seattle.

Amy pulled together a committee. We even got people from different tribes around. We got some from Vancouver Island, even. They heard that white folks, I don't know why they call us that (laughs) were putting on something to honor the Native Americans, the Duwamish tribe, in particular. So they came and they filled the pavilion of the Museum of History and Industry

Andrew J. Harris. Photo: Madeline Crowley


Amy: Yes, I think so.

Andrew:  Then we were rolling. It was Amy's committee. That first one went so well; we did it again! That went even better as I remember. We had a lot of fun. That time some folks came from even further away, from the Midwest. But the best event was. What did we call the one up at the point?


Andrew: And that point, she had the interest of just a few other tribes. Which tribe was the one that put up the money?

Amy: The Snoqualmie Tribe. Most of it and then a few other tribes gave some and the Suquamish gave some.

Andrew: Anyway, this was intended to apologize for the Treaty that took their land and gave them not such good land in return. As it turned out, there was a lot of little problems between tribes. 

Anyway, then we had national publicity and it went world wide. That just doesn't happen. (The press was interested) that we were apologizing, essentially, to the tribes for not giving them a good deal. It even took away the fishing rights they'd had for 5,000 years. Still, we're proud of what we did.

Yes. It's an enormous and, sadly, fairly unique gesture. What did that mean to you personally?

Andrew: I’m proud of Amy. It looked right up to the week before her reconciliation event  (happened that it) was going to fail! It didn't! One tribe after it was over, came up to her and gave her a tribal ceremonial drum was a tremendous, tremendous tribute. We had tears in our eyes with that.

It's a very beautiful and meaningful thing that you did together.


Amy: That's true. It's very true.



Duwamish Longhouse. Exterior. Photo: Madeline Crowley


Yes. When you grew up, was that something that you were aware of in your family, that there was this sense of fairness and justice?

Andrew: Oh, sure. Sure.

That makes your family unusual in another way.

Andrew: Yes. Well, my dad was just always truth and fairness. Even my older brothers taught me that if you say something you're going to do, you do it! No matter what it costs or takes in time, you do it. Those values were pretty much throughout our little community there.

Amy: Another thing that is important to our family because going back to David Denny in particular, he was actually known to be a friend of the Indians, to the Chinese, to the Blacks, to the people in Seattle who were, at that time, were considered, minorities.

People at that time looked down on them and other people didn't want them around.
That sense of fairness, justice and acceptance of people, David Denny had in particular.

We learned this week and I think it's very unusual, that David Denny spoke Chinook fluently. I don’t think at that time many other people did. But he did it because he was friends with the Indians and he wanted to be able to communicate.

I think that (quality) had passed has passed down to generations, too. I think that communal sense comes from that because of what had come before. Because of who the Dennys were as people. I think, sadly, it's more common for people to want to feel superior to people rather than being curious and wanting to learn about people. So I would imagine, particularly for his time our relative who first settled here was open to learning their language might have made him an outlier, even among the original people because some people learned Chinook because they wanted to make money. An awful lot of people weren't interested in true friendships.

David Denny spoke Chinook fluently. Which is probably not that easy to learn. We believe one of the big reasons that David Denny actually lost everything and ended up having to leave Seattle was because of how he did stand up for the minorities.

During the Chinese Exclusion Riots, he stood up for the Chinese during the time when they wanted to expel all the Chinese from Seattle. David Denny and the other Denny's were outspoken supporters of the Chinese and a big mob was coming to burn out David Denny because he was a friend of the Chinese.

 
Duwamish Longhouse. Interior. Photo: Madeline Crowley

David Denny was known as a crack shot. And so, here comes the mob. They're ready to burn down his barn get rid of the Chinese that he had working with them. He just went and sat on his porch with his Winchester (rifle). (Laughs) When they saw that, they thought again because he was a crack shot. He didn't have to use that Winchester but if they were going to hurt his Chinese workers you know...

Josh: As the legend has it the Chinese cooks, they put knives up his sleeves.
(Laughter)

Amy: In a way it's really difficult to fully understand now, how very dangerous it was to be an outlier. He was writing assuming he might have to kill people to protect his barn (and his workers). He was fortunate in that he didn't.

Right, it's true.

Amy: And he was lucky in that the first people spearheading that mob weren't really, really drunk. It could have gone very differently. But that's why Seattle was successful as a city because of how the first pioneers treated the native people. If they'd come with a different attitude or spirit, the native people, you know, could have wiped them out and maybe would have, but there was a spirit of, kind of, cooperation and unity and friendship.

David Buerge has said that what they had at the time was unusual and had never, never happened anyplace else. That they worked together so their children played together. They worshiped together in those early, early days. So, I think the Denny's had to be very special people for that time.

David spoke to me about how the Duwamish used the land in the Central Area specifically so I didn't know the Denny and early settlers part of the story. When they worshipped, were the natives converts? How did that work?

Amy: It's interesting, Chief Seattle himself actually had been a convert about seven years before the pioneers came.

Because of the Hudson Bay Company?

Amy: Down in Olympia. He had converted, as had Chief Leschi, too. Actually, before that, Chief Seattle was actually known to be fairly war-like. He was kind of a war chief. He had a lot of victories. But when he had this conversion and he got a new name. His baptism name was Noah Seattle and he became a peace chief. So when the pioneers came, he wanted peace. If they'd come earlier, who knows? So I think that is a pretty important factor. The Denny Party, they were Christian so it was interesting, so you have these people who had different worlds but maybe some similar beliefs that kept them in unity.

Seattle (v. 1786-1866), chef de six tribus indiennes établies dans l'actuel État de Washington, dont les Dumawish et Suquamish. Auteur de la photographie : L.B. Franklin « Sammis 


I read online that Chief Seattle led his people in morning and evening prayers until he died and then his people continued that for the next 50 years. I'm sure that had an influence on the founding of Seattle.

Josh: Tell her about baby Roland.

Amy: The Duwamish could have said, "No, we don't want these people here and..."  (laughs)

Just let them starve?

Amy: Let them starve.

Josh: Tell her about Roland.

Amy: Well, I can't tell her every story.

Josh: Well, that's part of it. (laughs) They didn't let them starve.

Amy: Baby Roland was the first baby here in what would become Seattle, he was Arthur Denny's son. During the journey to get to Seattle the women had become undernourished and so his mom didn't have much milk for the baby. The native women saw that baby Roland was going to die. They, of course, had pity on him and they brought clam nectar. They showed the women how to prepare clam nectar to feed the baby. The baby grew up to be the longest living (laughs) pioneer descendant of Seattle. Seattle has a unique start to it.

Hopefully, as Seattle grows, that kindness will continue.

Amy: Well, the nice thing about tech people is that tech people tend to be problem solvers. So that if you present something as a way to solve problems. They're, by nature, inclined to.

That's an interesting way to think of it.

Andrew: Well, Seattle had one of its biggest changes in the 1980's. That's when we had a real influx of the folks. What I’d say, 1980's? Imean the 1880's. (laughter)

1880's, okay.

Josh Johnson. Photo: Madeline Crowley

Andrew: That was the time that David Denny said, I really think that Seattle will become one of the world's great cities. And I think we are. Absolutely.

The nice thing is that, unlike many of the world's great cities, we're still small and the air is still clean.

Amy: For now, right? (laughter)

Andrew: So far we've had two Denny lectures at MOHAI (Museum of History & Industry). Now these don't have anything to do with the Denny, but it has to do with Seattle. They call them the DennyLectures (now History Café) and the last one was on how do cities prosper? Why do some fail and others prosper? You can certainly see why Seattle prospered and others have failed.

The Association of King County Historians said Washington State has around 93 different historical organizations. Apparently, usually you have two or three in a state. But for some reason, Washington has this deep interest in history and that's not true in other places.

Amy: That's interesting. A lot of small Washington town have history museums. I was just visiting my mom up in the San Juans; they have their own historical society museum.

I just sort of assumed that that was true everywhere but it's not.

Amy: We have more interest in history here. (laughs)

So tell me about how you became aware of the Duwamish situation and what created this deep determination. Because you had to have, from what your father said, it sounds like it was definitely a long and fraught path. What do you think ignited that determination.

Amy: It's interesting. When I was younger, I wasn't really that interested in Seattle history. My dad would always say, "You know, the Denny's did this and that, blah, blah, blah." All I would think is, "Why didn't they go to California or someplace where it doesn't rain so much?" (Laughter) "Why did they come to Seattle?" (Laughter)  He didn't really appreciate that (attitude) at the time. Still, I've always been interested in Native Americans.

There's this… I don't know. Well, actually, I do know now. When my dad had his DNA tested, we do have Native American blood. So, it's funny because there are two groups that I've always felt a real affinity for. And one was Native Americans, and we have Native American blood, and the other is the Jewish people. And on my mom's side, supposedly, there is that Jewish blood, too. But it's kind of interesting, this affinity, and you might not know why.

David T. Denny. 1880. Photo: Emily Inez Denny


It was not uncommon for people to hide ancestors that were, in the general mores of society at the time, were considered ‘less than’.

Amy: Right.

If you had an ancestor that was Black, Native American, or Jewish, they would be entered into the family lore and/or Bible as Spanish or Portuguese… They would be disguised.

Amy: It's true.

So that the family wouldn't be embarrassed by a change in social position and your children's marriage prospects wouldn't be affected. So there is a lot of secret ancestry.

Andrew:  [Laughing] I think that's what people are finding out and... I know with the Native American blood on our side, it actually, turns out our ancestor was half Black and half Native American.

Amy: I think you have a little bit more than Sub-Saharan.

Andrew: Eight percent Black and four percent Native American.

Amy: We think, first of all—

Andrew: We're not staying on the story, but—

Amy: David Denny's wife…

Andrew: But we have to start with the Latimers. He was a hero in the American Revolution, a colonel in the Army and his daughter, Sarah Latimer, married William Boren in Kentucky, a minister and a carpenter. I suspect, going back in the records that we can, he was probably half Black and some Indian. And, so, Sarah Latimer Boren, when her husband died at the age of about 35, didn't know what to do so she grabbed her kids, and Carson Boren was one of them and they traveled up to Cherry Grove, Illinois to her parents.

Anyway, they were neighbors, to the Denny's. And John Denny's wife, Sarah Denny, had died,. So anyway he married Sarah Latimer Boren and she became Sarah Denny the second, I guess. I think Eliza Boren, my great-grandmother, had Indian blood. And, you're right; nobody talked about it in the old days.

Josh: Tell her how your mom didn't want your brother to marry that one girl.

History Museum at the Duwamish Longhouse. 


Andrew: That was strange. He was going with a gal from Garfield (High School) who had Indian blood. They were a thing. I heard my mother say, "Well, you can't marry her because you're kids will be Indians."

Amy: Making it sound like she knew their heritage and—

Josh: Their genes will pop up and express themselves a little bit, you'll be able to tell who they are.

Andrew: And I thought, "Well, what difference does that make?" Well, anyway, that was the end of it. I never heard anything more about it and nothing was ever… If he had wanted to marry her, he would have, but as young as people just out of high school, they went other ways. But I think my mom knew there was Indian blood. I think it's great, personally.

Well, I don't know anything about your family, but certainly Henry Yesler had a native wife.

Amy: Yes, he did.

And a first wife who was back east. I imagine that wasn't uncommon.

Andrew: No!

You know, the Duwamish had an out-marriage tradition.

Amy: Right.

I imagine that there are people, even in this area, who don't realize they have Native relatives.

Amy: It's true. So, even out-marriage traditions like with the Duwamish (where the Duwamish tradition was to marry out to other tribes) the young men would put poles against the cabins (of a young woman to indicate their interest in marriage). If she touched one of the poles, it meant that she would want to marry that Duwamish man. (With Louisa and David Denny) every morning, before they were married, he would see (these poles) outside of her cabin. He'd have to take the (poles) away to show that she was not available. The Duwamish men definitely would have married her.

Josh: Louisa Boren Denny.

Amy: It was Louisa, before she and David were married. They weren't married when they came to Seattle; they were the first (settler’s) marriage in Seattle. When they first got here and built their cabin because Louisa was supposedly very beautiful, the native young men came and they put their poles against her cabin. So for her, it would have been the protocol to come out and touch the pole of the Duwamish man she wanted to marry.

 
Louisa Boren Denny

The successful suitor.

Amy: So apparently the Duwamish weren't prejudiced. They thought was a white woman would marry them, which is interesting. I think the idea that they weren't regarded as on the same level took them a while to figure out.

Andrew: Have we got time to talk about the mystery of William Latimer?

Amy: No. Not right now-- right now. (Laughter) Maybe after. Let her ask her questions.

Andrew: It’s interesting story. You wanna hear it? Well, I just-- it is, essentially that he might have been the first one to come in and scout out the land before the Denny's came.

Oh, interesting.

Amy: The year before.

Andrew: He was Sarah Latimer Boren, Denny's brother. He spent the summer of 1850, after he'd hiked out and was probably the first white man to come across the mountain. Nowhere is he ever mentioned as being the first white man to spend the summer on Puget Sound in Elliot Bay. It’s never mentioned in any dang book. He apparently, at some point, went to San Francisco, became rich, and about 1880, lived the rest of his life here. He's buried in Lakeview Cemetery but not in the big Denny plot. He's about 100 yards away.

There was another white man, name of Holgate. There's a Holgate Street named for him. He verified that, "Yes, sure. We live 50 yards away. We have each built a hut." Why isn't his name ever mentioned? Why did, then, the Denny's supposedly not know anything about (it). Well, they must have known something.  But nobody's ever heard of William Latimer. I think it's 'cause he was the uncle to everybody! By marriage.

Interesting, maybe he was a secretive retiring sort.

Andrew: Well, he's certainly not given any credit.


So, jumping back to the Duwamish, can you tell me about how your interest in the Duwamish developed?

Amy: Right.


First home on Alki Point built in 1851. A.A. Denny, Pioneer Days on Puget Sound

It was just a period of time when I started learning more about the history of Seattle and about the Denny's. We would sit here (at her father’s kitchen table). I'd come to my dad every Sunday afternoon. We'd sit and talk about world politics and about Seattle history. Those were kind of our two things that we would talk about. Obviously the native people always came up, just because they were so much a part of Seattle.

My son, Josh, then was in third grade they were learning Pacific Northwest History. When Josh was younger, I kind of had my own Chief Seattle conversion. I came to faith and my perspective on things changed. I became interested in where I came from and who came before me, what motivated them, why they did what they did. Finding out that the Denny's were strong Christians and (the reasons) why they were the way they were. I felt a connection with them and the values that they had. It was kind of this spiritual connection. I could kind of understand a little bit more about what made them tick.

Then learning at the same time about what had happened to the native people here and how they had had a very strong friendship - a friendship that they wanted to last. I saw how somewhere along the line it kind of got broken when all the native people were, basically, pushed out of Seattle. Those friendships were separated. I think there was still that underlying feeling of friendship. It just needed to be brought back together.

Then Josh was learning this local history, Seattle history. We went to a field trip out to Alki and the teacher was saying, "Oh, here we have the great-great-great grandson of the founders of Seattle. Isn't it wonderful what the Denny's did?" I remember thinking there wasn’t even a mention of the native people. No mention of that at all! It just really (pauses) this thought came to me very strongly, "But what about the Duwamish? What about Chief Seattle's people? What about what they did?

We had always known that if Chief Seattle and his people hadn't welcomed the pioneers, they wouldn't have survived here. There would be no Seattle.

Doc Maynard’s Alki home. SWSHS #1992.2.45


It just really just kind of started to hit home to me. That it wasn't just about the Denny's or the first pioneers, it was this whole complex of people that made Seattle happen.

Then I started doing a little research on the Duwamish and asking where are the Duwamish today?" "Are there any Duwamish left?" I mean, at that point, we really didn't know. We knew there were Suquamish and Chief Seattle was part Suquamish and part Duwamish, but we didn't know what happened to the Duwamish the people who were actually here (before the settlers for 10,000 years).

Then things started to happen. I saw this listing for the Experimental College on "The Duwamish: Seattle's Forgotten people." I was invited to something at the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) House for some reason. I think my grandmother had been a member, so they invited me to something. And actually, Cecile Hanson was one of the speakers there.

I'd been thinking, "Okay, if I could figure out if the Duwamish are still around, if I could figure out how to contact them, then I think, something could start."

(Handed a picture of Amy from that time) Oh, is this from way back when? That's a great picture of you, Amy.

Amy: Yes, it's from way back when. (laughs) I remember just saying to my dad one day in the kitchen (pauses) it was just strange, I just had this, I don't know if you'd call it a vision, but this ‘knowing’ that something was going to happen between us and the Duwamish. I just felt like there was going to be a reconnection. I said, "Dad, we have do something to help the Duwamish. I don't know what it is, but we need to do this." I just feel there is something about our heritage, our ancestry. I mean, I don't think we can ever truly get away from all of that.

Seattle Times. Aug 9th 2004


It is who we are.

Amy: It is who we are.

Even if we don't know.

Amy: Even if we don't know. I felt, something had to be fulfilled and completed. It was just a really strong feeling. I mean, it wasn't just this little thing, like, "Oh, let's just help the Duwamish!" It was, "No. We must do something. Something has to be reconciled here. That's why we ended up calling it Coming Full Circle when we finally started, you know, doing some reconciliation. It was this strong feeling that something had to happen.

In my mind, I kind of saw what I thought would happen. That, maybe just our family would meet with some of Chief Seattle's descendants on the beach at Alki and just have this little kind of family event! But then I met Cecile Hanson. I remember when she gave this talk, at the end of it, she said, "...and the Duwamish, we need help. If anybody wants to help us, please!" I remember thinking, Okay, I need to figure out how we can come back together and what can be done that wasn't just for the Duwamish, but with the Duwamish.

So my dad said, contact Brewster Denny. I did and just outlined this vague idea of what I thought should happen, of reconciliation with the Duwamish. (I wanted) a way to honor them and thank them for what they had done. So, Brewster told me to call Leonard Garfield from the museum and said, "If Leonard is on board, then I'll be on board." I had to go out and have a meeting with Leonard Garfield. I'd never met him before and had not been involved with the museum. But he pretty much came on board right away.

At the time, we really didn't know what it was going to be. All we knew is we needed to get the descendants of the first pioneers and the descendants of Chief Seattle and the Duwamish to come together and see what would come of it. So it kind of started a series of meetings at MoHAI. It kind of grew into the Descendants Committee of Seattle.

We just wanted to have reconciliation. It was just bringing these families who had had a relationship, bringing them back together, kind of reconnecting those relationships. That what it was about. It was really heart-felt.

Josh: Did it take you a while to get Cecile's response or reception?

Amy: I had to call her a few times just because so many people have approached Cecile offering help and nothing comes of it so she's just a little skeptical. I totally understand that. So we started having these wonderful meetings and Cecile and other Duwamish members were coming and we decided to have an event called Coming Full Circle, and that's where we honor the Duwamish.

 
Duwamish Longhouse. Photo: Madeline Crowley


(Looking for something) Where'd the little plaque go? This was an award we got from King County, the Single Impact Award Event. Coming Full Circle. What was the most fun, I think, was just getting ready for this event. It was just like a pioneer reunion. Every time we had a meeting, it was really wonderful. When we decided to have this event we didn't know what kind of response it would get. We just knew it was a kind of family-to-family thing.

Actually, it got a huge response. They packed out the auditorium. There were probably over 300 people there. The news people came, it got a lot of exposure because I think nothing like that had ever happened. It really was to honor the Duwamish, to honor the part they had in helping our families and in helping Seattle become the city.

That's what I found really inspiring about this story was that the Duwamish gave a great deal that allowed Seattle and your family to survive and the city to, eventually, thrive. Those gifts were probably acknowledged by your relatives at the time. Still, in the larger picture they were kind of forgotten. I think you may be are of very few white settlers who said we have an obligation to honor the people that made it possible for us to be here.

Amy: Right. I wish there was more on that because there was such a deep friendship. You know, David Denny’s cabin and Thomas Mercer’s were the only ones that weren't burnt during the Battle for Seattle. Even the hostile tribes from the east side (of Washington State) who were part of this, they knew who were friends to the Native Americans. So, it's a pretty good legacy, right there.

Yes, and you can see where it would create (resentment) on the part of people whose homes were burned (Laughter) there's always that factor of being an outlier.

Amy: Right, right, right.

He who does not stand with his community creates ill will, even if what he's doing is in the interest of true Christian justice.

Amy: It's true; it's true. Also, Denny gave land back to (pause) was it Lake John?

Andrew: Yes.

Amy: On the water in Montlake.

Andrew: I don't know why I can't pronounce his last name. (Cheshiahud)

http://www.lakeunionhistory.org/Cheshiahud,_Duwamish_Tribe_on_Lake_Union.html

Andrew: He gave him property to build his house on Portage Bay.

I think there's a little tiny city plaque, if you go down to the water's edge and look.
For Lake John and his wife Madeline. That’s probably where it was where the land was given.

Andrew: We weren't invited to the opening ceremony. Nor were the Native Americans, why weren't they? Well, nobody thought of it. Anyway, I mean, things like that (gift of land at a time when it was illegal for natives to own land in Seattle), would have been so unusual (at that time).

There were deep friendships between Chief Seattle and not just the Denny's, with Doc Maynard, too. Bringing together the descendants of these people
and connecting them with todays Duwamish. It was really powerful.

Did any real friendships reignite from that?

Amy: Yes, yes, they did.

Josh: They invited me to go on their canoe journey. I got to go on the Duwamish canoe. The Duwamish and Snoqualmish canoe went together.

That's cool! That's a great honor.

Josh: Actually, I went twice.

Amy: I got to go, too. I went that first year. We both went. That was quite an experience because I'd never been in a situation where I was the minority.

Photo from Collection Duwamish Longhouse


It is a profoundly important experience for people to experience that more than once.

Amy: I felt radically white. It was so interesting because Josh re-immersed in this world that most people don't know about.

Josh: It was awesome.

Amy: In Seattle, it’s a sub-culture, another world that exists and we got to be part of it.

Andrew: Will you tell about your little misspoken words that cost you?

Josh: (laughs)

Amy: Oh no. My dad likes this story.

Andrew: I love this story because when you're pulling your oar and you’re paddling in the canoe, you called it a ‘boat.’

Amy: Well, everybody makes that mistake.

Andrew: Well…

Amy: I'm not the only one…

Andrew: You, you—

Amy: A lot of (trails off)

Andrew: A lot of native people get thrown in the water, too. (Laughs) You got away with it the first time, but the second time, no way. So-

Amy: It was the very last day and we were coming to Neah Bay. We were exhausted.

Andrew: The offenders were taken by the oar and thrown in the ocean. They were kicking and screaming, "Don't throw us in!"

Amy: I didn't get thrown in that day but other people did.

Duwamish Longhouse. Architectural detail. Photo: Madeline Crowley


Andrew: Anyway, you had to get thrown in—

Amy: I did get thrown in.

Andrew: Yes, but you weren't kicking and screaming. Before that happened, before they were gonna lug you down the beach, some Native American women came up and one of 'em put a little white flower in her hair—

Amy: No, not a flower, dad. I'll tell the story. (laughter)

Andrew: Actually a feather. And they tossed her in.

Amy: They didn't toss me in. Actually—

Andrew: Alright, you went in, but—

Amy: I walked in—

Andrew: but, anyway—

Amy: I made them because they could have thrown me in that day when we came in to Neah Bay when other people were getting thrown in. On the last day other people were kicking and screaming and trying to get away. I said, "Okay, don't throw me in. I'm an old lady! Wait 'til tomorrow. I'll go in on my own." And so, they did, they let me (do it) the next day. But they didn't forget. I had to get up that morning and put my swimsuit on and go down to the beach and, of course it's freezing cold, it's the Straitof Juan de Fuca. (Laughs)

But then everyone came down to watch! They all came down with their cameras and filmed it. To them it was like this big event! (laughs) And so, I was like, oh gosh. I'll be brave. I'm just gonna go in by myself. Before I did, they found a feather and put it on my head and they said, "You're Little Wet Feather. That's you."

Andrew: That's your name. Little, little Wet Feather.

That's great! So, you didn’t want to be hurled into the cold water?

Amy: No, but I did go in. Everyone was happy and that was all a big, fun event. I mean, that's part of the fun of the canoe journey, is that everybody gets thrown in once, they say. Pretty much, because everybody, at one time, will say the boat. (laughs)

Josh: And it's pole-in, not paddling.

How far did your journey go? Out to Mukilteo?

Josh: No, in 2010, we joined up at Port Townsend and we went for a hundred miles to Neah Bay.


Duwamish Longhouse. Architectural detail. Photo: Madeline Crowley

Wow.

Amy: Journey to Makah (Tribe: about).

Josh: I think the rest of the young people did 16 days, maybe. I can't remember exactly, but they did a long time. I only joined for, like, the last 5 days or so.

That’s impressive. How were your hands and shoulders?

Josh (laughs) Yeah. You switch off every 15 minutes, switching sides, so that helped a lot.

Did you have gloves?

Josh: Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, that would help, too. It must have given you a real appreciation for travel and trade back then. That was how marriages (between different tribes) happened. And if the wind was going the opposite way, you still had to row, you still had to pull!

Amy: Right, right. It's true.

Josh: It's like a rite of passage, but it's also a good outlet for the native students. They (the tribe) wants them to find the expression of life in the traditional culture rather than in some harmful thing, like drinking or something like that. So they encourage it and it's kind of, in a way, how people go to either alter their life to get back on track, or to stay on track.

Maybe it could also be when a culture has been so fundamentally undercut a way to show youth, if our people used to go from here to Neah Bay to Victoria Island - then you try paddling it once, you realize, "Wow. My people were really strong!"

Amy: Right, right.

So it has everything you said, and it also has it being experienced in your body – an understanding what it meant to be part of that culture.

Josh: Yeah.

Amy: Yeah. Yeah, it's wonderful--

Duwamish Longhouse. Lodgepole architectural detail. Photo: Madeline Crowley


So, you went into the water on your own terms?

Amy: So they were nice to me. They liked me, but they just-- it was one guy in particular, one native guy, he just was not gonna let it go.

Well, I mean maybe in different time in his life, he would have been putting a pole against your cabin!

(laughter) Amy: Well, you never know! You never know! (laughs) But, yes, he particularly did like to hang out with me. I'm trying to remember who he's a descendant of. He was a descendent of someone who the Denny's had some relationship with. Actually, I think he was a descendant of (Chief) Leschi. It was interesting that there was kind of little genetic historical connection!

It sounds like you were very aware of this drive (to reconnect the pioneers and the Duwamish). It kind of crystalized something in you. When you met these people, did you feel a connection?

Amy: Mm-hm. Because it's really like (pause) I don't think history is dead. History is about people. There is still that connection between people. And Seattle history is not that old.

In the scheme of things, you come from the east coast, so you're talking about a little longer (history). Seattle history, I mean, for him (her father, Andrew) to be the great-grandson of the founders of Seattle, it's not that long ago.

Amy: I mean his (Andrew’s) dad would go and visit Louisa (Denny), little Louisa. They’d say, "We're gonna go see the old lady today. So, they'd hear stories and it's not that far removed. There's still is that connection. I think I told you, too. It's always strange for me because I just being in Seattle, I always feel like I can kind of see how it used to be. Even though you see Seattle (today) with all the (new) buildings, I just have this feeling of what it was like. It's just this other layer that maybe we don't see but I think that it's still there.

I think that's why this kind of story is important because as Americans we tend to be very caught up in the now. Yet, we do embody history and those things do live in us but it's very easy for us to be completely disconnected and unaware of that. And life is richer when you recognize who you came from - good and bad, what they did.

Amy: Right. Well, Native Americans have such a strong connection with their ancestors.
What did Chief Seattle say in his speech? "When you are walking the streets of your city and you think you're alone..." (laughs)

Chief Seattle. Painting: Andrew Morrison


Josh: "You're surrounded by the throng…"


Josh: (laughs) It's more a threat rather than a (pause, laughs)

Amy: Well…

Josh: Not a threat, it's like a warning. It’s a reminder.

Amy: "We're not gone."

Josh: Yes.

Amy: "We were here.” They were here for at least 10,000 years. So... he's right that that they populate that those spirits populate this place, too.

Andrew: Well, you know, there's a city ordinance that no Duwamish Indians can be allowed in the city of Seattle. And I think it's down in the (law) books, and they won't do anything about it. One of my Duwamish friends told me he's still upset about it. I said, "Well, I'll see what I can do." So I wrote a letter to the Mayor and here's what I got. Now this was something that never happened before. (shows letter)

Madeline: Oh, that's good! But he didn't take the law off the books.

Andrew: No. He did the best he could.





Josh: Is this the official (letter)? Is that day an official holiday?

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. And they've had it since. I had this play out at Coming Full Circle
and the Native Americans were pretty proud of it.

Amy: [Inaudible] Mayor Nickles is from West Seattle so he's actually quite interested in history. I think it made a difference because he is a Seattle native. He does have a different love and care about this place than somebody who comes from someplace else. It's just how it is.

Anyway, I probably should tell you, too, that the first Coming Full Circle was very successful. Then after that, people’s friendships had kind of redeveloped. People didn't want to let that go, so we actually kept meeting. And that's when we realized, Okay, we’ve started something here. Now, how can the Duwamish be honored and what can we do for them? Because (back then) they did what they could for us and for the city. So, now how do we, all those years later return that favor? As they say, how do we come into their canoe? How do we become a part of what they want to see happen? They helped Seattle become the city that it is, so how do we help them achieve what they want to achieve?

We kept meeting. We decided to have another Coming Full Circle. We call it Coming Full Circle 2 because the first one was so successful and we wanted to expand it to other pioneer descendants who weren't part of the first one. The first one was really just the Denny party, and then we wanted to expand it to the Duwamish Valley 'cause some of the pioneers descendants came to the first one, they're asked, "Why weren't we included? Our families had such a strong relationship and ties with the Duwamish. We want to be part of this as well." So we expanded that circle and had Coming Full Circle 2. It could have gone on to Coming Full Circle 3 and 4.

Then, we had lots of different events. Oh my goodness. So, then the other events became fundraisers or, what we called, Awareness Raisers. Raising awareness about the Duwamish: what happened to them, where they are now, and what they want for their people. Because they're making a big push again to regain Federal recognition. We had all sorts of different events, we had—


King County's Award for Andrew Harris and the Descendant's Committee's Work


Josh: City Play.

Amy: Greg Palmer, he was a well-known TV news personality, back in the '70's and '80's. He wrote a play called "City Play." It was a Reader's Theater where people would read the parts and we had that at Salties? Then, the public schools found out about it and they took it on. We had an event out at the Log Cabin museum where we all dressed up in our period costumes—

Josh: (laughs)

Amy: It was for Founder's Day. The Duwamish were –

Josh: Fried bread!

Amy:  - there making fry bread. I had my beautiful period costume from the Goodwill that they had lent and people enjoyed that. There were just different things that we did to raise awareness and to start raising funds. Eventually, one of our members, Chad Lewis, who is a business professor up in Everett, wrote up lots of grants that got a bulk of the Longhouse funds. Chad Lewis did a big part of that, the grant writing and the money raising. He is a descendent of the Terrys I give Chad Lewis credit where credit is due. He wrote grants. He raised money. 


Duwamish Longhouse. Interior. Photo: Madeline Crowley


Andrew: Certainly.


Duwamish Longhouse. Interior. Photo: Madeline Crowley



Andrew: He received a ceremonial blanket, as did Amy and I.

Madeline:  Good.

Amy: It's just interesting that that's (pauses) those (historical conflicts) still (persist in the present moment) They are passed down. 

Josh: Ancient prejudice.

This is sort of related, I was reading something in the British press about DNA, who are Brits really descended from. When they'd ask people, they wanted to be descended from the Vikings.


So, largely nobody's saying, "I want to be one of the peace loving people." No, people wanted to be connected to the marauders and destroyers and rapists. (laughs)

Andrew: (laughs)

Amy: Right.

Josh: I actually do have Viking blood through both my mom and my dad.

Amy: (laughs)

Yes, lots of us do but the point remains we’re more compelled by the violence. There's something about us as a species that we are drawn to in our entertainment and our identity - to people who do the most damage, actually.

Amy: Right.

I'm as guilty of this as any other human being. We're attracted to the idea of ancestors who were war-like. When we pay for movies, we're usually not paying to watch movies where people live in peace.

Amy: It's true! (laughs)


Duwamish Longhouse. Exterior. Photo: Madeline Crowley


How did that feel when the Longhouse was actually built through the Duwamish's long efforts and support by their own fundraisers ?

Amy: To me, it was one of the most amazing days in Seattle. Just think, in the 1880's, the last Duwamish longhouse was burned down by arsonists (settlers). For them to finally have a presence again in Seattle, it actually was a really surreal feeling. It was incredible. It was so happy not just for the Duwamish, but happy for Seattle. Because it felt like Seattle is coming back to some of its roots.

It is similar to (pauses) what does the Bible say? "We're surrounded by a great host of witnesses!" It felt like it that day, I just felt that everybody: David Denny, Louisa, Chief Seattle, all of the Duwamish were (there) and going, "Yes!" (laughs) This is what needed to happen after so long.

For our small contribution, we got a special recognition. We got incredible button blankets. Handmade. They're collector’s pieces. A lot of time and labor must have gone into making them.

I'd guess they were made with the intention that they would be given to you. It wasn't like they just found one lying around.

Amy: They were given in the spirit of these friendships that have been reconnected. This friendship I think that has been very meaningful to both sides.


Amy: Oh, yes.

Good. I really like her.

Amy: I consider Cecile and Cindy and the rest of the Duwamish dear friends. I still, every Christmas, even though I've been gone for the last two Christmases, every year I've tried to organize a gift drive for the Duwamish. I'm still doing it. Now it's easier to call people in Seattle because people want to be on board because they know about the Duwamish. And people want to do what they can to help. They want the Duwamish to get recognized and they want the Duwamish to be here.


Duwamish Longhouse. Interior, detail. Photo: Madeline Crowley


Yes. Their fight to be recognized is ongoing.

Josh: Tell her about that documentary.

Amy: There are some people who graduated from U.W. (University of Washington) making a documentary (about the fight for recognition). I think because of what we all did, it did raise awareness. So, now there are other people kind of wanting to do their part. This young couple they're doing this feature documentary on the Duwamish. Also, they're including the Chinook and one other unrecognized tribe pointing to the promised land (land promised by treaty and never given) and how it could be possible that a tribe like the Duwamish, Chief Seattle's people, are not yet recognized. That's in the final stages.

Josh: Yeah. They have a Facebook page

Amy: So that'll interesting. It might be coming out soon.


Amy: Actually, it should be coming out fairly soon. It's just another level of awareness and that should help make a push for federal recognition for the Duwamish.

Yes, that should. I wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to support recognition.

Josh: They received federal recognition in the 11th hour of the Clinton administration.

Amy: She heard that from Cecile.

I did. I'm still hoping they get recognition.

Amy: Right. After our reconciliation events, kind of felt like we'd had done what we wanted to do. I still kept going and then took it to the next level. With The return of Mukilteo I realized it wasn't just the Duwamish that were affected when the settlers came. It was all the tribes. It just seemed like it needed to be this larger circle.

What I quickly realized, every time you make this circle larger in Indian Country, you run into a lot more problems. Like, the Tulalip (tribes), it was basically that Mukilteo would be on their homeland. They were supposed to be part of it, but then they decided, I don't know why, they decided that the reason that this was all being done, was to get federal recognition for the Duwamish. So then they didn't want to be part of it.

It was unfortunate because they were supposed to be a big sponsor of it. So instead of something that was supposed to honor the native people and give them a chance to tell their side of the story, it became political. Even though it wasn't meant to be and every time you add another tribe into the picture, then you add all these political elements. So that's why he said it almost didn't happen.

(laughs) Oh my goodness, at the last minute, some from some other tribes were wondering, "What are you trying to do?" They knew we were friends with the Duwamish so they somehow felt like it had to revolve around them, which it didn’t. It was supposed to be for all the tribes. So we had good representation but mostly from the descendants, not from tribal governments from grass roots people to people.

I don't care where you are in the world, as soon as you get to the government level, there's a whole host of other motivations.


Duwamish Longhouse. Interior, detail. Photo: Madeline Crowley


Amy: It's true. They tell me that they did send some people; they sent Senator John McCoy. He actually came and spoke. Right before he met with me (laughs) because he wanted to make sure of the reasons why we were doing this. It was an interesting meeting. So, it served the purpose to bring awareness to what had happened when the treaty was signed and to give the native people a chance to tell their side of the story, to be heard by a wider audience. And it was a news story went all around the world.

(laughs) Once somebody was just reading aloud (the news story), I was just there, they were commenting on it (the news story). They said, It's about time that those Americans did something to apologize to the Native Americans. We were really shocked this thing went all around the world. We got newspapers all around the world and people from other countries really were more supportive than even here.

There are a lot of Europeans who are really obsessed with Native Americans. Yet they don't really acknowledge their own histories. And I think it's partly because Americans make movies about things we're ashamed of. There were movies about the Native Americans so to a degree we consider our fraught history on the public level worthy of discussion. And that isn't always true in Europe.

Amy: It's true.

Amy: The Seattle Times had an article, as did lots of other papers around here, and when you’d read the comments. It was pretty disheartening seeing what non-native people had to say.

Comments are always disheartening. (laughs)

Josh: Comments are just bad.

Amy: Things like, "Why can't they just get over it?"

Yeah. Life is short. You should never read the comments on anything that's important to you because that's where all the darkness goes.

Amy: I realized that. (laughs)

Josh: They ruin everything.

Amy: Right, right.

It's where people feel comfortable being (horrible) people would be perfectly fine face to face, but a lot of dark energy comes out.

Amy: Right.

Josh: (laughs)

Well, I think we've covered it and then some.

Amy: Yeah, I think we have.

Madeline:  Thank you all so much, such a pleasure to meet you!

©  Madeline Crowley People of the Central Area 2016   All material is covered by copyright. Express written permission must be given for any copyrighted material on this page. Email to request permission to copy or paste materials


This project was supported in part by 
4Culture's Heritage Projects program

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About Me

Seattle, WA, United States
I am not a professional photographer nor a trained journalist. At community meetings, it became clear that many of us don’t know each other. We haven’t heard each other’s stories and don't know each other’s circumstances. This is my attempt to give a few people the chance to tell their story, to talk about our community, to say their piece in peace. As such, comments have been disabled. The views and opinions expressed here are those of each narrator and do not necessarily reflect the position of views of the CentralAreaComm.blogspot blog site itself. The CentralAreaComm.blogspot.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied by narrators of this project. All interviews have been edited and in places condensed.

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