Duwamish Plaque Dedication at Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Church

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The plaque is embedded in the earth on the Shoreline UU Church grounds,
in a place where everyone can see it.

By Susan Storer Clark

The rain let up just long enough on Sunday, October 11, 2021 for about 40 members of Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Church to dedicate a plaque recognizing the fact that the church stands on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish people. About 40 more members of the congregation joined on Zoom.

Reverend Thomas Perchlik led the short dedication service, which included reciting the words on the plaque: “We acknowledge that we are on the unceded ancestral lands of the Duwamish people, who are still here. Let us all honor and bring light to their ongoing and ancestral heritage.”

Part of the inspiration for the plaque came from Edie Loyer Nelson, a longtime member of the congregation who is also an elder in the Duwamish tribe. She says the phrase “we are still here” is important to the descendants of the Duwamish who chose to stay on their ancestral land, rather than go to reservations with members of other tribes if they were eligible to do that. 

While some of the other tribes are now federally recognized, the Duwamish are not.

The plaque is also the result of work centered in the congregation’s Social Action Committee. Jo Moore, who worked on getting the plaque produced and dedicated, says she had been conscious of Nelson’s connection with the tribe, but had always thought that they were centered by the Duwamish River. 

After an exhibit (she thinks it was at the Shoreline Historical Museum) she realized that there had been villages in Lake Forest Park, near where her family lived.

Ken Workman, a fifth-generation descendant of Chief Si’ahl, addresses congregants in Lushootseed and English, thanking them for dedicating the plaque.

Ken Workman, a prominent member of the Duwamish tribe and a 5th great-grandson of Chief Si-ahl, or Seattle, gave a prayer of thanks in Lushootseed. 

Lushootseed is the language used by the Duwamish and other Coast Salish tribes. He thanked the congregation for the plaque, saying the dedication was “important to us, that you, too, recognize that we are all part of nature, a fundamental precept of the Duwamish nation. 

One of the central principles of Unitarian Universalism is “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

In a short interview after the dedication ceremony, Workman emphasized the presence of the Duwamish people in present-day Shoreline, saying they’d pick up their canoes from Lake Washington, and go through Shoreline gathering berries and shellfish, and then go catch salmon in Puget Sound. 

In the Sunday service preceding the dedication, Reverend Perchlik urged the congregation to follow through on the commitment to bring light to the Duwamish heritage, through education, visiting the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, and possibly paying Real Rent to the Duwamish tribe.


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