SOMETIMES HISTORY ISN’T where you think you’ll find it. Case in point: the Jan. 22, 1855, accord known as the Point Elliott Treaty, signed with an “X” by Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe and 81 other Puget Sound tribal leaders, which ceded countless acres of land to European newcomers. While it conferred tribal sovereignty and later was judicially interpreted to protect tribal fishing rights, it also ceded countless acres of land to European newcomers and has long been considered a lordly license for settler supremacy. 

Nearly 90 years ago, a ceremony commemorated the treaty with a granite monument. The marker was installed at Third and Lincoln in downtown Mukilteo, a site thought to be near the place the treaty was signed. A Daughters of the American Revolution event on May 2, 1931, drew more than 3,000 people, including 300 Native Americans, some who were descendants of the treaty signers. 

To absorb the dedication’s hillside milieu, I recently drove north to see the marker at its Mukilteo city block. Imagine my surprise when I reached the stone and found its plaque missing. All that remained in its rectangular frame were three screw holes and a washered pin. 

The plaque has been gone since October, when the city discovered its absence, along with graffiti that covered the monument. The scrawls included an anarchist symbol, an expletive and the phrase “BROKEN TREATIES.” Staff scrubbed off the defacement but have puzzled over the plaque’s whereabouts.

Jennifer Gregerson, two-term mayor of Mukilteo, issued a statement hinting that the plaque would not be replaced: “The signing location itself has an important significance in our shared history with the Northwest tribes. I believe this act of vandalism can provide an opportunity to spur our community forward into a new conversation. I hope that we can find a different way to explain and acknowledge that history at this site in Mukilteo.” 

The Mukilteo Historical Society doesn’t plan to weigh in on the monument’s future, but Joanne Mulloy, president, is curious about what, if anything, the city will do.

Leaving the marker plaqueless appeals to Ken Workman, fourth-generation great-grandson of Chief Seattle, whose Duwamish Tribe still lacks federal recognition. Lyrically, Workman notes that granite and computer memory chips both contain silicon. “Granite holds the memories of people,” he says. “It’s a symbolic link to the genetic pain of 170 years.”