More than a century after its longhouses were razed by settlers, the Duwamish Tribe celebrated the opening of its new one Saturday on West Marginal Way in West Seattle.

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More than a century after its longhouses were razed by settlers, the Duwamish Tribe celebrated the opening of its new one Saturday on West Marginal Way in West Seattle.

The Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center will serve as a base for the tribe’s business office, community events and exhibits to preserve its history and identity. The tribe also will rent out the 6,000-square-foot facility for events and sell crafts in a gift shop.

“It means to me, we have completed one phase of getting our own home,” said Cecile Hansen, the great-great-grandniece of Chief Seattle and chairwoman of the tribe.

The next step is getting the federal government to recognize the tribe’s rights — a goal the tribe has struggled to achieve for generations.

Chief Seattle witnessed the arrival of Capt. George Vancouver’s ship in Puget Sound in 1792, helped the early settlers survive, and signed over his people’s lands in the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855.

While the treaty promised the Duwamish fishing rights and land in exchange for relinquishing their land — much of which makes up today’s King County — the promise was never kept. Other tribes that were co-signers to the treaty were granted fishing rights and sovereignty.

“I feel it’s an obvious injustice,” said Jonathan Houston, 25, a University of Washington senior who hopes to organize fellow students to call for federal recognition of the tribe.

The tribe continues to pursue its claim in court and by lobbying Congress. For generations, its numbers have declined as members joined recognized tribes in order to receive health care and other subsidized services.

At Saturday’s grand opening ceremony, the Friends of the Duwamish, led by Arlene and George Wade, cut the ribbon on the longhouse. The group raised $1.4 million for the longhouse before Chad Lewis took over responsibility for the capital campaign.

Lewis, the great-great-grandson of Charles Terry, a member of one of the pioneer families that arrived at Alki Landing in 1851, said in an interview that his ancestor led the campaign to drive out Duwamish tribal members from Seattle. Helping the Duwamish re-establish a home in Seattle was “the right thing to do,” Lewis said.

Many volunteered their time and support, and over nearly three hours Saturday, tribal elders took pains to acknowledge them all.

Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), was thanked for backing the tribe’s business plan for the longhouse and providing the tribe space at the museum.

More than two dozen foundations, businesses and individuals donated construction funds, including the Administration for Native Americans, Boeing, the Annenberg Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. The city, county and state also supported the project.

Mike Evans, chair of the Snohomish Tribe of Indians and a board member of the nonprofit Duwamish Tribal Services, felt a bit giddy as he waited in line Saturday for smoked salmon, cream-cheese bagels and cake. Tribal members in the longhouse sang and beat drums.

Evans said the spirit of Duwamish ancestors was alive in this longhouse.

“Your wealth is indicated by the strength of your family,” he said. Today, “you saw a variety of families coming together as one.”

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or