Today’s Chemakum Portrayed in Exhibit

Rosalee Walz, Chemakum Tribal Chair

A photography collection called “Still Here: Portraits of the Chemakum” was recently exhibited at Chimacum Junior/Senior High School. The pictures, taken by Brian Goodman, were each printed more than five feet tall and hung from the rafters of the school commons.

The collection shows today’s vibrant descen- dants of the earlier Chemakum who, with the Quileute, once occupied the whole north end of the Olympic Peninsula. The Chemakum who gravitated to the Chimacum-Port Townsend area were eventually massacred by the Suquamish, Klallam, Makah, and Snohomish.

Surviving Chemakum leaders signed the Treaty of Point No Point in 1855. In the early 1870s Chemakum longhouses were still standing, but all longhouses in Port Townsend were burned to the ground in 1871. In subsequent years, the Chemakum were left out of the history books and even described as “extinct.” But they were not, in fact, extinct. Despite immense adversity the people persevere, and the photo exhibit was a testament to their resilience. More than 250 community members attended the “Still Here” opening ceremony, which featured traditional stories and prayers. Toward the end of the event, two Quileute tribal members welcomed the Chemakum people home with an honor song, a wolf song, and a canoe song.

Chemakum representatives called the Chimacum School District the “heart center of the community,” with staff and students enthusiastically responding to the exhibit. School librarian Michele Moriarty said, “What an incredible event to be connected with. Thank you for connecting our school community to this important work of healing on so many levels.” Another staff member, music teacher Garth Gourley, added, “This is by far the neatest community event I’ve seen our school be an integral part of during my time here.”

The project grew out of the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Native Connections Action Group, which organized the Chemakum History Group and invited the descendants and others to participate. The group exists to educate about Chemakum history, find the truth, and seek social justice. Among those participating in the history project was photographer Kerry Tremain of the League of Extraordinary Observers, who suggested taking the photo- graphs of today’s Chemakum people. To view a sampling of the portraits, see leophoto.org/chemakum.

[Contributors to this article included Rosalee Walz – Chemakum tribal chair; James Harvey – historian for the Chemakum story; Maria Mendes – facilitator, Quimper Unitarian Universalist Chemakum History Group; and Scott Mauk – superintendent, Chimacum School District.]