Followup: Port still plans to give Duwamish artifacts to another tribe

The Duwamish Tribe has just heard back from the Port of Seattle, one week after telling the port it “would like its artifacts back,” the latest in a long-running dispute over items found on historic Duwamish land across the street from its West Seattle longhouse. Last summer, personnel from the Burke Museum removed the artifacts from their display cases at the Duwamish Cultural Center in the longhouse. Last week, after getting word that the Port would give the artifacts to the South King County-based Muckleshoot Tribe, Duwamish chair Cecile Hansen sent the Port a letter offering to buy them back; we published that letter last week. Today, the tribe has just sent the reply it received from Port CEO Tay Yoshitani:

(If you can’t see the letter in the Scribd window above, here it is as a PDF.) The tribe says chair Hansen is “not commenting on (the Port’s letter) at this time” but adds that the port signed an agreement with the Muckleshoot two weeks ago.

16 Replies to "Followup: Port still plans to give Duwamish artifacts to another tribe"

  • coffee March 7, 2014 (6:56 pm)

    Wow, Seattle Port basically slapped the tribe in their face. Sounds like there is more to this than the letter says.

  • Paul March 7, 2014 (7:47 pm)

    I don’t see an issue here, other than another example of how the Duwamish suffer for not having federal recognition as a tribe.

  • Bob March 7, 2014 (9:47 pm)

    And why aren’t the Muckleshoots planning on just handing over the artifacts to the Duwamish once they take possession? There’s definitely more to this story than “the mean old port people”.

  • sad neighbors March 7, 2014 (9:52 pm)

    Duwamish Tribe needs $$.

    If they had $$ for legal costs to sue other tribes AND get Federal recognition AND/OR to create revenue projects as well as social programs, they’d be set.

    The issue is lack of financial assistance to battle the other issues – recognition, revenue, respect.

    And not in that order.

  • Jeannie March 7, 2014 (9:58 pm)

    What a ridiculous letter – a lot of PR spin, and little substance/justification. Nice going, POS (that stands for Port of Seattle, folks, not the nasty term!).

  • dsa March 7, 2014 (10:25 pm)

    I think part of the problem is that the other tribe already claims the nearby water as usual and accustomed fishing ground.

  • Paul March 8, 2014 (5:35 am)

    The Muckleshoot are a federally recognized tribe with treaty rights. The Duwamish aren’t. In fact, as far as the feds are concerned, the Muckleshoot ARE the Duwamish.

    If a federally recognized tribe has the appropriate storage facility to hold artifacts and wants the artifacts (and any competing claims among the federally recognized tribes are sorted out), then the Port basically has to send them there. (See the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act)

    In the meantime, they store artifacts at neutral places like the Burke.

    In this case, the Port and the Burke worked out a loan agreement to the Duwamish for displaying some of the artifacts while things were being worked out for permanent storage. That loan is coming to an end, the artifacts are going back to the Port and the Port is giving them to the Muckleshoot and Suquamish.

  • Steve Russell March 8, 2014 (10:15 am)

    The Port’s letter claims in the last sentence that “the tribes, not the port, should make the ultimate decisions about the long-term stewardship of these historical materials.”

    Yet, by directing the Burke to turn the materials over to the Muckleshoot, the Port is effectively short-circuiting any such negotiated decision-making process among the tribes.

    And, if the actual issue is the capability of the tribes to safely store, curate, and care for the materials, then the Port should have afforded the Duwamish the time to bring their facilities and personnel up to standard.

    Again, I have viewed the artifacts in question at the Duwamish Cultural Center: the display cases, temperature controls, and so on gave every appearance of meeting local museum standards. The Duwamish were not requesting ALL of the material that the Burke had in storage (some of which might arguably be too fragile or temperamental for display at the Longhouse), but the small amount of material that the Port and the Burke had ALREADY allowed the Duwamish to display.

    It’s clear, therefore, that as to the specific material in question, the whole “federal storage standards” argument is a distraction and red herring.

    The Port’s stance on this issue is simply disgraceful from any sensible ethical/moral perspective, and nothing in the above letter changes that rather obvious conclusion.

  • Patriot March 8, 2014 (12:11 pm)

    Lest we forget, the Duwamish Tribe had a huge part in our city being established here. Way to go Port.
    Seattle is really messed up. Wake up people!

  • miws March 8, 2014 (12:14 pm)

    Well put, Steve.


    I’ve been wanting to comment on this since this update was posted last evening, but other than offering sympathetic words to the Duwamish, my comments would be unprintable. :-(



  • Paul March 8, 2014 (1:53 pm)

    As far as the federal government is concerned, the Duwamish people are part of the Muckleshoot Tribe. The standing of the Duwamish Tribe in this issue basically starts and ends there. Not saying it’s right, but that’s the way it is.

  • miws March 8, 2014 (3:50 pm)

    Since posting my previous comment on this article, I finally received a response from Mike Merritt, Manager, Local Government Relations, Port of Seattle.


    Probably not much need to post it here, as it contains much of the same content as the Port’s letter to Chairperson Hansen.

    Patriot, good point. My thoughts throughout all of this is how the Duwamish have been very Gracious Hosts to us for over 160 years.



  • AG March 9, 2014 (11:07 am)

    Absolute bs. This makes me nauseated. Part of the issue is that the Muckleshoot don’t want the Duwamish to be federally recognized. Have NO illusion that they’ll “do the right thing” on the back end. The port just plain sucks in this. Had Bush not quashed it, the Duwamish would be federally recognized now.

  • Joe Szilagyi March 10, 2014 (7:00 am)

    Why don’t the Muckleshoot want the Duwamish to get recognition?

  • AG March 10, 2014 (9:12 am)

    Money. Pure and simple. It’s really sad.

  • Kara March 10, 2014 (1:30 pm)

    Money and competition:

Sorry, comment time is over.