Native Village Youth and Education News

April 1, 2009 Issue 196 Volume 1

New longhouse opens for Suquamish Tribe
by Derek Sheppard
Condensed by Native Village

Port Madison Indian Reservation, WA:  The Suquamish Tribe has a traditional gathering place for the first time since 1870.

It's only been 139 years coming.

In the late 1800s, government, religious and economic forces pushed Native Americans toward individual homes and assimilation. The last Suquamish longhouse, called Old-Man-House, is where Suquamish Chief Seattle lived and died in 1866.

In 1870 a U.S. Indian agent burned Old-Man-House.

The new longhouse has joined today's Suquamish people with their ancestors. "There's no words to describe how each of us are feeling today about this new home you have given to us," said tribal elder Marilyn Wandrey during a blessing and prayer. "Our spirits are excited and our ancestors are here and celebrating with us. It's been a long, long time since we've had a home to call our own."

For Pacific Northwest tribes, the longhouse was a community gathering place for celebrations and ceremonies. The   Suquamish also gathered there each fall after the salmon harvest.

"So many of these things were not allowed for us to do for a long, long time," Wandrey said. "So it is with excitement that these things are coming back."

The 6,200 square-foot longhouse is named "sgwedzadad qe ?altxw" in Lushootseed, the traditional Suquamish language.  Sgwedzadad qe ?altxw means "House of Awakened Culture."

Bringing back such buildings is possible as tribes become more prosperous. Benefactors and grants from the state also helped in the construction of the new longhouse.

Since 2006, the neighboring Port Gamble S'Klallam tribe has had a longhouse of its own, which resides in a four-building House of Knowledge complex that includes an elders center, library and career center.

Aside from cultural and social gatherings, longhouses serve as a source of pride for local tribes, and a reminder of how far they've come, Port Gamble S'Klallam said in an interview.

"In my lifetime things have changed so dramatically, we wouldn't have ever envisioned having something like that when I was a kid," said Tribe Chairman Ron Charles .

Suquamish Virtual Longhouse:


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