Suquamish Tribe holds scaled-down Covid-conscious Chief Seattle Days

The Suquamish Tribe recently held a scaled-down version of its Chief Seattle Days celebration due to increasing cases of COVID-19 in Kitsap County.

The celebration, which in past years has been open to the public, was open to tribal households only, with many of its events limited in numbers to accommodate for social distancing.

“We missed hosting the larger community, as we normally do,” Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman said. “Hospitality is an important part of our culture, and Chief Seattle Days has grown into playing a big role in that joy of connecting with our community. But we had to put the safety of our tribal citizens first.”

The Kitsap County Public Health District released coronavirus data with 243 cases per 100,000 population. Over 70% of the Suquamish tribe is vaccinated, but with school about to begin and children under age 12 ineligible for the shots concerns about their protection have increased.

Last year Chief Seattle Days, a celebration that began in 1911, was all but canceled due to COVID. This year the Suquamish Tribe was able to put on a few of its traditional events, such as the ceremony at Chief Seattle’s gravesite in Suquamish, canoe races, a salmon bake, golf tournament and royalty pageant.

Suquamish tribal elder Marilyn Wandrey led the ceremony at the gravesite, which was recorded and shared with the greater tribal community.

The Suquamish Tribe hopes to welcome the public back next year.

“We are grateful and appreciative of the relationships people have created within Suquamish and the surrounding communities,” said Lisa Jackson, an organizer for this year’s events. “We had to keep this gathering small for safety. But we are looking forward to hopefully welcoming many more people in 2022.”

Suquamish competitors participate in “war canoe” races just off the shore from the Suquamish Tribe’s House of Awakened Culture in downtown Suquamish on Saturday. (Photo by Jon Anderson/Courtesy of Suquamish Tribe)