Day Trip Discoveries: Coast Salish cultural centers preserve local heritage

Hibulb Cultural Center.

The Puget Sound region now has several cultural centers that celebrate and preserve the heritage of the original Coast Salish inhabitants. These Native Americans shared the Lushootseed language, which has been recollected and given written form in recent years.

Lushootseed – with its strange accent marks – is amazing. For example, dxʷsəqʷəb means “place of clear salt water” – the home of the Suquamish people on the Kitsap Peninsula. Dkhʷduʷəbsh means “the people of the inside” – the Duwamish natives who helped Seattle’s first white settlers. A combination of Coast Salish groups became the Tulalip Tribes – tul̕ʔal čəd dxʷlilap.

You can discover many more Coast Salish Lushootseed words at the Tulalip Tribes’ Hibulb Cultural Center, just north of Everett. One exhibit features audio phones that translate Lushootseed words into English – so you can hear what that language sounds like as well as understand the meanings of specific words and phrases. I came away with a real appreciation of this complex Coast Salish language.

The Hibulb Cultural Center is named for the principal winter village of the Snohomish Tribe. The word “Hibulb” is thought by some to mean “the place where the white doves live” – by others “the place of one thousand fires” because it was one of the largest Snohomish villages.

Located just north of Everett on the Tulalip Reservation, Hibulb (pronounced “hee-bolb”) showcases the heritage and traditional lifestyle of the Tulalip Tribes –Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other Coast Salish tribes signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot. The tribes’ totem, an Orca whale, forms the sculpted bronze handles of the entry doors. The long entry hall showcases several historical canoes against photographic backdrops of the local waters they once plied.

Larger-than-life cedar carvings of two Coast Salish figures welcome you to enter the main exhibit area. Inside, the permanent exhibit showcases the traditional hunting, fishing and gathering lifestyles of the Tulalip Tribes with interactive displays, murals, artifacts, story poles and videos. There is an extensive collection of historical and archeological artifacts including baskets, stone work and tools, totems and other carvings. Included in this permanent exhibit is a fascinating display of cedar and its many uses – from clothing to baskets and tools – by the Coast Salish.

Carvings in the Hibulb Cultural Center longhouse.

Hibulb also features a traditional cedar long house interior where you can watch a video on Coast Salish heritage narrated by tribal elders telling their stories. Another exhibit celebrates Tulalip military veterans with their portraits and descriptions of battle experiences – sometimes fighting for a country that did not grant them citizenship until 1924. Special visiting exhibits rotate though the Hibulb Cultural Center about every six months.

The Hibulb Cultural Center is open Tuesday-Sunday. Check the website for hours and admission fees.

The Suquamish Museum is located on the Kitsap Peninsula’s Port Madison Indian Reservation, named after Suquamish Chief Kitsap. It is the former site of Old-Man-House village, winter home of Chief Seattle. The museum displays both objects it owns – many never before exhibited – and those on loan from Suquamish families and other museums.

Its permanent exhibition is “Ancient Shores – Changing Tides,” which presents the cultural story of the Suquamish People over time. Spanning the length of the exhibit hall is a remarkable cedar timeline, from the end of the last Ice Age to the present.

The Suquamish Museum also integrates the Lushootseed language into its exhibits so you can better understand the Coast Salish culture. It features the award-winning video of “Come Forth Laughing,” re-mastered and updated for the exhibit.

In the rotating gallery, the current exhibit is “Elwah: A River Reborn,” which concludes Sept. 4. The next exhibit is “People of the Clear Salt Water,” from Sept. 16 to Feb. 11, 2018.

The Suquamish Museum’s gift store features Suquamish and Coast Salish Tribal member artists’ work, including cedar weavings, wood and bone carvings, beadwork. The museum is open daily 10 am to 5 pm. Check the website for admission fees.

Visitors examine a canoe at the Duwamish longhouse.

The Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center is a much smaller tribal facility located along the Duwamish River in south Seattle. While the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott promised the Duwamish fishing rights and land in exchange for relinquishing their land, that promise was never kept – although it was for other co-signer tribes of the treaty. So the Duwamish tribe – whose ancestor Chief Seattle helped the early settlers survive – are still fighting for official government recognition.

The Duwamish Longhouse is near the ancient Duwamish village hah-AH-poos, on the National Register of Historic Places. The longhouse is a traditional cedar post and beam structure designed in the Puget Salish style. As in ancient times, tribal business, gatherings and cultural events are held here. The bonus: it is open to the public free as a way to share Duwamish cultural and social traditions with visitors.

In the entry exhibit area, you can view items including a feast bowl, clam basket, wooden paddle, woven corn-husk bag, mountain goat horn spoon and coiled/imbricated burden basket. Backdrop displays include a map of Coast Salish village sites 200 years ago and historic photographs.


Tulalip Tribes’ Hibulb Cultural Center
6410 – 23rd Avenue NE
Tulalip, WA 98271

Phone: 360-716-2600
(English to Lushootseed translation of 900+ words/phrases)

Suquamish Museum
6861 NE South Street
Suquamish, WA 98392
Phone: (360) 394-8499

Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center

4705 W. Marginal Way SW
Seattle, WA 98106
Phone: (206) 431-1582

— By Julie Gangler

Julie - headshot 2013Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazin

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