This week we’re publishing the winning entries in the Southwest Seattle Historical Society‘s youth-writing contest, for essays on “Women History Makers of the Duwamish Peninsula.” Tonight, the middle-school winner:
“We’re Still Here”
By Elliott Neves
Cecile Hansen, chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribal Council and descendant of Chief Si’ahl (also known as Chief Seattle), has made a significant impact on women and the Duwamish Tribe. Over the years she has accomplished many of her goals through hard work and determination, and the positive outcomes have pushed the Duwamish closer to recognition. As a woman in a leadership position who isn’t afraid to fight for what she wants, she is an inspiration to many.
When Cecile was a young woman, she started attending the Duwamish council meetings after hearing about them from her brother. During those meetings Cecile learned about the Treaty of Point Elliott, which was an agreement saying the tribe would get fishing rights on the Duwamish River. Unfortunately, those rights were not being recognized and Cecile had to witness the outcome as her brother got citation after citation for fishing.
One thing that Cecile fought very hard for was getting the Duwamish to be federally recognized. That means they could get benefits like health care, grants, social services, and the rights to their fishing and hunting grounds. If tribes are not recognized it is very hard (if not impossible) to get these rights and was the reason why Cecile’s brother kept getting those fishing citations. On top of the physical benefits, there is also a mental benefit that comes along with being recognized. Everyone wants to feel like they are valued and a part of things. When a whole community is denied that inclusivity it is very disheartening.
In 1975 Cecile Hansen was elected chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribal Council. She led the charge to establish the Duwamish’s first tribal headquarters. This was a big step because it is important in every community to have a place where you know you can get help, and where everyone is working towards the goal of making the group better. A few years later, Cecile took on the role of Protocol officer at the Seattle Burke Museum. This position enabled her to become a liaison to other Northwest tribes. In working towards her goal of gaining recognition, she joined a group of other unrecognized tribes and testified before the U.S Senate Committee on Indian Affairs about the Federal acknowledgment process.
Through thick and thin, Cecile Hansen has been there for the Duwamish Tribe. She has been a role model to women of all ages with her perseverance, and everyone should strive to have her dedication. In addition to all her other accomplishments, she also helped secure enough land to build the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural center. This center can help members of the tribe feel more connected to their heritage and ancestors. With a memorable motto of “We’re still here,” Cecile works very hard to make those words true for the Duwamish Tribe.
Tomorrow night, we’ll publish the high-school winner’s essay; if you missed it last night, here’s the elementary winner.