Chief Seattle Days pulls people together

SUQUAMISH — People of all types flowed together at this year’s 97th annual Chief Seattle Days, as different tribes and communities from all over pulled into downtown Suquamish to share in the celebration.

The festival started nearly 100 years ago to honor three chiefs from the Suquamish Tribe who influenced much of the Pacific Northwest — Chief Chico, Chief Kitsap and Chief Seattle. This year’s Chief Seattle Days began with a memorial service at Chief Seattle’s grave site attended by tribal members, residents and local and state dignitaries. The weekend-long event delved into fun from there with a community parade, welcoming ceremonies and entertainment throughout the festival.

“The graveside ceremony really helps in keeping everyone connected,” said Suquamish Olalla Neighbors treasurer Glynis Burns. “Being there is wonderful. The tribe always invites people from other tribes, and everyone honors Chief Seattle together.”

The SON formed in 2002 in an effort to help bridge the gaps between the Suquamish Tribe and the neighboring communities after vandals desecrated Chief Seattle’s grave. That work continued this weekend as different people of varying backgrounds were welcomed to the event.

Father Tim Iistowanohpataakiiwaa was doing his best to make everyone feel at home with his booth in the vendors’ area of Chief Seattle Days. He was “gifting” water to passersby, giving the bottles away for free as per Native American lore. Water was the first medicine the higher power bestowed to the tribes, a gift to help with life.

“We’re gifting, not selling, water,” he said. “We’re keeping children and the elders hydrated, as a way to follow our heritage.”

Iistowanohpataakiiwaa purchased 80 cases of bottled water for the event, and called to anyone who walked by to take a gift of the liquid. He said his favorite part of the whole weekend was talking with the people stopping by his booth, getting to know other tribal members and catching up with old friends.

Marilyn Jones was tending to her own tent in the same area for the Suquamish Museum, talking with visitors about various topics and answering questions about the new museum, which is in the works.

“It’s going slow, but it’s good because we’re meeting lots of people,” Jones said. “We do a booth every year just to let people know more about the gift shop and the museum.”

The tribe is planning to construct a new Community House and a museum with an arts and crafts center in it. Designs were on display at the Suquamish Foundation booth, which was sharing a space in the museum’s tent.

“I think my favorite part is the people over here are really welcoming,” said Mexico City, Mexico resident Joanna Salinas. She travels with the Aztec Dancers all over the country to perform, and has been dancing at Chief Seattle Days for years. “I always feel right at home here.”

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