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Native American Culture and Crafts

Looking at a map of the Seattle area, you're bound to encounter some unusual names. Enumclaw, for instance. Or Mukilteo, Puyallup, Snohomish, and Tukwila. They're legacies of the dozens of Native American tribes and nations that first occupied the region.

Seattle, in fact, is named after Chief Si'ahl, a leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes. For many thousands of years, Native American tribes have called the Pacific Northwest home—from the salmon-packed waters of the Skagit River to the high country of the Cascade Mountains. The majority of these tribes were subgroups of the Coast Salish peoples, who historically inhabited the entire Puget Sound region from Olympia north to British Columbia.

Tribes residing in and around the Seattle area included Duwamish, Suquamish, Tulalip, Muckleshoot, and Snoqualmie. Each tribe developed complex cultural and artistic traditions, and a regional language—Lushootseed—allowed tribes to trade resources. Today, members of many Seattle-area tribes are keeping their traditions alive: basketry, weaving, and sculpture—including totems—are traditional artistic media of the Coast Salish, and all three arts are still vibrant today. Contemporary Salish artists work in several modern media as well, including painting, studio glass, and printmaking.

Two top activities for experiencing Native culture up close and personal are:

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. On the campus of the University of Washington, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture houses thousands of Coast Salish artifacts and artworks. The museum's exhibits also feature artwork from farther-flung native tribes, including the Tlingit and Haida of British Columbia and southeast Alaska. NE 45th St. and 17th Ave. NE, University District, Seattle, WA. 206/543–5590. www.burkemuseum.org.

Tillicum Village. Located on Blake Island, 8 mi west of Seattle in Puget Sound, Tillicum Village offers a combination salmon bake and Native American stage show. Most visitors to the island travel aboard an Argosy Cruise ship; the four-hour tours are offered daily from May through September. Tours depart from Pier 55 on the Seattle waterfront. 206/622–8687. www.tillicumvillage.com. $79.95. Tours weekends Mar.–May and Sept.–Oct.; daily June– early Sept.

Coast Salish arts and crafts can be found in many museums and galleries around Seattle. Some favorite sites for shopping include:

Flury and Company

Seattle Art Museum Store (1300 1st Ave., Downtown 206/654-3100 www.seattleartmuseum.org)

Snow Goose Associates

Steinbrueck Native Gallery (2030 Western Ave., Belltown 206/441-3821 www.steinbruecknativegallery.com)

Stonington Gallery (119 S. Jackson St., Pioneer Square 206/405-4040 www.stoningtongallery.com)

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