Spirit of the Duwamish
King County International Airport
A carver uses ancient traditions to welcome people to his ancestral homelands.
For many, many years, the land where King County International Airport (KCIA) now stands was the site of a prosperous dxʷdəwʔabš (Duwamish) winter village with two significant longhouses. Known as tu`kweł’tid, meaning “a large open space,” the land was seized by the United States in open violation of the 1855 Point Elliott Treaty, signed by Chief Seattle and other leaders of the region’s First Nations. Over time, the area’s early European immigrants developed relationships with the Duwamish First Nation, naming their initial settlement after them.
KCIA wanted to recognize this problematic history—as well as the legacy of the Duwamish people and their ongoing care and stewardship of their ancestral homelands. They partnered with 4Culture to commission and install a permanent sculpture by a Duwamish artist, which would welcome people into the airport’s main terminal. Duwamish Nation Master Sculptor Michael Halady Sr., a direct descendant of Chief Seattle’s eldest daughter, Princess Angeline, was selected for the opportunity and he chose to create a story pole, a form based on the house posts that supported the massive roof beams in Duwamish longhouses.Carved from a 600-year-old cedar tree, Spirit of the Duwamish presents a visual record of Duwamish spiritual and cultural knowledge. Coast Salish peoples traditionally use story poles and welcome figures to educate and welcome people to their lands, and Halady’s artwork features two potent symbols: The top symbol represents an ancient supernatural being, “Changer,” a major figure in the cosmology of Puget Sound First Nations who is known for transforming our world before changing himself into the Moon. The second symbol on Halady’s story pole represents the collective spirit of the Duwamish in human form with arms raised in the traditional sign of welcoming and lips pursed to indicate a greeting song.
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About the Location
King County International Airport The site of the King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field, has been a hotbed of aviation activity since the early 20th century when the flat land along the Duwamish River hosted early air shows. The location was home to the young Boeing Airplane Company before the citizens of King County voted in…
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