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State ferry will be named for Klallam historical figure

OLYMPIA – A new state ferry will be named for Chetzemoka, the leader of the Klallam people from the mid-1850s until his death in 1888.

The Washington State Transportation Commission voted Oct. 20 to name a new state ferry the M/V Chetzemoka. The ferry will serve the Port Townsend-Keystone route and is expected to be in service next summer.

The naming was proposed by the Jefferson County Historical Society and supported by Les Prince, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Elders Committee and great-great-grandson of Chetzemoka. Assistant Transportation Secretary David Moseley and JoAnn Bussa, trustee of the Jefferson County Historical Society, spoke in favor of the naming at the transportation commission meeting.

The resolution adopted by the commission states that the naming in honor of Chetzemoka “honors the Natives of the region and their seafaring skills and traditions and also continues the proud name of the historic ferry that served Port Townsend.”

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In a letter to the Port Townsend Leader newspaper, Robere Le Huquet of the Jefferson County Historical Society wrote, “The name ‘Chetzemoka’ was used on a ferry that served the Port Townsend-Edmonds route from 1938 until 1947 and elsewhere in Puget Sound until 1973. ... The Jefferson County Historical Society is in support of naming the ferry for Chief Chetzemoka of the S’Klallam tribe. He was an important personage in the early history of this area.”

Other ferries bear names of historic indigenous figures and place names. One of the more prominent is the M/V Sealth, named for the leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish people during the time of the settlement era of the mid-1800s.