May 31, 2022 - News

Fight over Duwamish ancestry rages as tribes mark princess' death

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Library of Congress via Getty Images

Tuesday marks the 126th anniversary of the death of Kikisoblu, oldest daughter of Seattle's namesake, Chief Si'ahl, leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.

Why it matters: The battle over Duwamish ancestry is still raging.

  • The Duwamish Tribe, a nonprofit group of descendants based in West Seattle, filed a lawsuit this month challenging the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs' denial of its formal 45-year quest for federal acknowledgment.
  • Several local federally recognized tribes oppose the group's federal recognition bid, including the Muckleshoot and Suquamish, which claim they're the rightful tribes of Duwamish ancestry.

Between the lines: The federal acknowledgment process, which can be politically charged and pit tribe against tribe, is widely considered a broken system.

Details: Kikisoblu, known as Princess Angeline and described by Seattle author Timothy Egan as "the last Indian of Seattle," remains an icon in city history.

  • After the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott relegated the area's tribes to reservations, Kikisoblu refused to move out of her home near where the Pike Place Market stands today.
  • She defied a city law banning Indians from living in Seattle and earned money washing clothes and weaving baskets.
  • Kikisoblu is buried at the Lake View Cemetery near one of Seattle's founders: two-time mayor Henry Yesler.

The intrigue: Tourists flock to the Capitol Hill cemetery, but not for Kikisoblu. Most come to visit the graves of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, and his son, Brandon, who are buried side-by-side there.

The gravesite of Kikisoblu, also known as Princess Angeline.
Gravesite of Kikisoblu, also known as Princess Angeline. Photo: Lewis Kamb/Axios

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