Works by artists from many Indigenous nations are part of the Seattle landscape.
Here are some places to see Coast Salish and Northwest Coast Indigenous art (as well as Coast Salish figures presented in art), with distance from Alaskan Way and King Street on the waterfront:
- Stonington Gallery, 125 S. Jackson St. (.2 mile). On exhibit are works by numerous prominent Native artists, among them David Boxley, Tsimshian; Greg Colfax, Makah; Lillian Pitt, Warm Springs / Wasco / Yakama; Susan Point, Musqueam; Preston Singletary, Tlingit; Lisa Telford, Haida; and members of the Henderson and Hunt families.
- Pioneer Square, First Avenue and Yesler Way (.3 mile). Two Duwamish villages were once located here; the Lushootseed name for the place translates as “a little place where one crosses over.” The totem pole in the center of the park here was carved in 1938 by Tlingit carver Charles Brown and replaced a pole that was stolen from a Tlingit village at Fort Tongass, Alaska by a group of Seattle businessmen in 1899. The bust of Chief Seattle was created by sculptor James Wehn in 1909. A 1991 artwork called “Day/Night” by Hachivi Edgar Heap of Birds, Cheyenne/Arapaho, flanks the bust and comments on the experiences of Native people in Seattle.
- Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave. (.7 mile). The museum, known as SAM, exhibits Coast Salish and Northwest Coast artworks, including ceremonial masks, textiles and sculptures in traditional and contemporary forms. A variety of native plants having cultural uses are displayed at SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront.
- Eighth Generation, 93 Pike St., Suite 103 (.9 mile). This gallery, founded by Louie Gong, Nooksack, and now owned by the Snoqualmie Tribe, is located at Pike Place Market. Gong is an activist promoter of art that is by “Inspired Natives, not Native Inspired.” The store features works by well-known and emerging Indigenous artists. Eighth Generation also produces wool blankets with designs by Native artists.
- Steinbrueck Native Gallery, 2030 Western Ave. (1.1 miles). On exhibit are jewelry, masks, paddles, panels, prints and sculptures by well-known Coast Salish and Northwest Coast artists.
- Chief Seattle Statue, intersection of Fifth Avenue, Denny Way and Cedar Street (1.8 miles). Noted sculptor James Wehn (1882-1973) created this life-size cast bronze statue of Si’ahl in 1907. Si’ahl was the 19th century Duwamish/Suquamish leader and treaty signer for whom the City of Seattle is named. The statue is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- John T. Williams Memorial Pole, Seattle Center (1.9 miles). This pole honors John T. Williams (1960-2010), a Ditidaht First Nation carver who was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer while he walked down a street carrying a carving knife and a piece of wood. The pole was carved by Williams’ brother, Rick.
- “Snoqual The Moon Transformer,” on the Pedestrian Overpass at West Thomas Street and Third Avenue W (2.3 miles). Roger Fernandes, Lower Elwha Klallam, created this series of four story boards – one featuring Moon the Transformer; the second, a basket pattern representing the baskets made from the fiber of plants created by the Transformer; the third, the Transformer putting salmon into the mountain rivers; and the fourth, a representation that puts the Native and White cultures and histories in contrast.
Also within the city limits:
- Seattle University Vi Hilbert Ethnobotanical Garden, on James Street between Broadway and 12th Avenue (1.3 miles). The native plant garden is named in honor of Upper Skagit elder Vi Hilbert, who dedicated her life to preserving and teaching Lushootseed, the language of the Puget Sound Coast Salish people. The garden features plants that are used as art materials and as foods and medicines. Interpretive information is provided in English and Lushootseed.
- The Center for Wooden Boats, Lake Union Park, 1010 Valley St. (2.7 miles). Carver in Residence Saaduuts, Haida, teaches Northwest Coast-style canoe carving to Native and non-Native students and visitors.
- Museum of History & Industry, Lake Union Park, 860 Terry Ave. North (2.7 miles). The museum’s permanent exhibit, “True Northwest: The Seattle Journey,” tells the story of the city from Indigenous and European first contact to present day.
- weAeb?altx (pronounced “wah-sheb-altuh”), University of Washington campus (4.4 miles). This cedar longhouse-style community center – its name means “Intellectual House” – is a gathering place for study and for cultural events. The longhouse was the fulfillment of a long-held goal of establishing a visible Indigenous presence at the state’s flagship public university.
- Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, 17th Avenue NE and Northeast 45th Street (5.3 miles). The Burke Museum is the state’s official history museum and is located on the northwest corner of the University of Washington campus. In addition to rotating exhibits, the gallery is anchored by permanent displays of monumental Coast Salish and Northwest Coast Indigenous objects, both ancestral and contemporary. The first floor hosts exhibits related to Contemporary Culture; second floor, Biology; third floor, Archeology and Paleontology.
- “A Salish Welcome,” on 34th Avenue west of the Ballard Locks (6.1 miles). This welcome figure by Marvin Oliver, Quinault/Isleta Pueblo, celebrates the transformative powers of the salmon’s life cycle and its important role in the Indigenous cultures of the Northwest.
- Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, Discovery Park, 5011 Bernie Whitebear Way (7.2 miles). The center was established by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation in 1970 after a long occupation of the land, part of a former military base, by Native American activists. The cultural center has a Native art gallery and hosts cultural and social programs for the area’s Native community.
- Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, 4705 West Marginal Way SW (8.2 miles). This cedar post and beam structure opened in 2009, the first Native longhouse constructed in Seattle in more than 150 years. The longhouse and cultural center is the headquarters of the Duwamish Tribe and offers gallery exhibits, films, presentations and community events.
- Duwamish Story Pole, Belvedere Viewpoint Park, 3600 Admiral Way SW (9.1 miles). This 25-foot story pole was carved by Michael Halady, a descendant of Chief Si’ahl, to honor the Duwamish people. The story pole depicts a spirit guardian with hands raised in welcome; faces that represent a Duwamish child, woman and man; and Si’ahl. At the top of the pole is a thunderbird.
Online: yəhaw̓, (pronounced (yaHAW), was the inaugural exhibit at the 2019 opening of ARTS at King Street Station. The exhibit, featuring the works of 192 Indigenous artists, has moved online to www.yehawshow.com. It is co-curated by Tracy Rector, Choctaw/Seminole; Asia Tail, Cherokee; and Satpreet Kahlon, Punjabi.
For more information: The Burke Museum produced a comprehensive online guide to Native public art in Seattle. Click here for details.
Richard Arlin Walker, Mexican/Yaqui, is a journalist and mariner living in Anacortes, Washington, north of Seattle.
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