“For at least 12,000 years, the Duwamish people have been living here. They are buried under the streets and the sidewalks and houses of Seattle. Their DNA rises from the roots of the trees, and when the wind blows through the leaves, those are the sounds of our ancestors.”
— Ken Workman, descendant of Chief Seattle
FOR OUR RECENTLY published book, “Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred,” we chose 100 subjects from more than 1,800 columns that Paul Dorpat contributed since he began in 1982. This week’s subject is one of our favorites. Originally appearing in March 2005, it is now presented afresh, and updated with an amended cast of characters.
It features Kikisoblu (c. 1820-96), eldest daughter of Chief Seattle, leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. Catherine Maynard, the second wife of Doc Maynard, renamed her Angeline, and in time she became known as Princess Angeline because of her father’s status and her inherent dignity.
Refusing to be transported across Puget Sound to the Suquamish reservation, she lived for many years in a shack on Seattle’s waterfront. To survive, she worked hard, taking in laundry and selling her handmade baskets to settlers who displaced her people.
She lived in destitution but had her protectors. Late in her life, the Board of King County Commissioners instructed a grocer to give her whatever she needed and to send bills to the county.
For our “Now” photo, we enlisted the aid of two direct descendants of Chief Seattle. Mary Lou Slaughter, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Kikisoblu, is a master cedar weaver whose baskets and traditional clothing are prized for their artistry. Ken Workman, whose great-great-great-great-grandmother was Chief Seattle’s second wife, is a Duwamish tribal council member and eloquent spokesman for his people — in both English and Coast Salish Lushootseed.
Mary Lou brought along several of her creations, including a cape for herself and a vest for Ken. During the 10 minutes we spent shooting the photo, both Clay Eals (column partner and our book’s editor) and I noted that Ken seemed uncomfortable, glancing over his shoulder several times.
Ken recalls: “I felt a couple little pushes on my elbow, as if someone was urging me to get out of the way — I said to myself, ‘Jean, take the picture’ — but when I looked around, there was no one there.”
Skeptics might be wary, but Ken regards this insistent prod on his arm as yet another reminder of ancestors present, even in the oxygen we breathe. The nudge of history, I would accede (after pursuing many hundreds of photo repetitions), is strong in these parts and now and then gently urges that we step aside and pause to remember what came before.