— Field Notes

Alki New York By and By

My city Seattle began in 1851 with the landing of the Denny Party at what is now called Alki  Point, at the time (1851)dennycabin it was named Prairie Point  (by the Indians in their language sbaqWabaqs).  There was a large population of indigenous people living around Puget Sound,  the Indians of the Seattle area were made up generally of three groups, the Duwamish, the Shilshole  and the Lakes people. The land and water was bountiful and the people here prosperous by their standards till Europeans and Americans from the East arrived and the quick decline started. The worst influence of course was disease. During the 1770s, smallpox (variola major) eradicates at least 30 percent of the native population on the Northwest coast of North America, including numerous members of Puget Sound tribes.

In 1851 the first settlement was begun here in Seattle, by the Denny Party. Arthur  Denny describes the  arrival of the Denny Parties thus in his journal:

Soon after we landed and begun to clearing the ground for our buildings they commenced to congregate, and continued coming until we had  over a thousand in our midst, and most of them remained all winter. Some of them built their houses very near to ours, even on ground we had cleared, and although they seemed very friendly toward us we did not feel safe in objecting to their building near to us for fear of offending them.

– from Arthur Denny Pioneer Days on Puget Sound

The mythic image of the birth of Seattle is a small group of white settlers in a cold foreboding land with a sprinkling of native people here and there. This seems to be wrong, there was a large community of indigenous people in the Puget Sound surrounds.  That would quickly change as more and more settlers arrived. Two worlds were in collision and the indigenous was being replaced by the settlers.

It seems like an important part of our local history is lost and obscured by myths that support the new regime, to understand our community now we need to know what was here before and what we replaced.

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