by Jack Russillo
After more than six months of community outreach and coordination, six parks along the Duwamish River have new names. The new identities of the parks were announced at a virtual Port of Seattle meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
The public spaces on the industrialized Duwamish River previously all had names with numerical subjects, but now all six of them have names that correspond more with the ecological significance and cultural history of their individual locations. Four of the properties have new names in Lushootseed, the Indigenous language of people who lived near the Salish Sea, and two of the new names are in English.
“Activating these place names will create a new era of understanding the Indigenous communities, our history, and our connection to the land,” wrote Cecile Hansen, the Duwamish Tribal Council Chairwoman, in a statement that was read at the announcement meeting. “We pray that it will breed an opportunity to heal the relationships with one another as Indian people and to the citizens of the City of Seattle.”
Just south of Harbor Island, Terminal 105 Park was renamed t̓uʔəlaltxʷ Village Park & Shoreline Habitat (alternate spelling: Toolalt, pronounced something close to “t-oo-ah-lal-too-wx,” which literally means Herring’s House and represents a place where herring live and spawn — it’s also the the name of an old village site on the west bank of the Duwamish River). Terminal 107 Park’s new name is həʔapus Village Park & Shoreline Habitat (Westernized spelling: haapoos; it’s pronounced “ha-ah-poos,” and is the name of a small stream draining across a flat on the west side of Duwamish River). Terminal 108 Park, or Park/Diagonal Public Access Site, is now called sbəq̓waʔ Park & Shoreline Habitat (sbaqwah, pronounced“s-bah-qwah,” is the Lushootseed word for the great blue heron, which is frequently found here). Terminal 117 Public Access and Shoreline Habitat is now named Duwamish River People’s Park & Shoreline Habitat. The park formerly known as Turning Basin #3 will now be named Salmon Cove Park & Shoreline Habitat. Finally, the 8th Avenue South Street End is now called the t̓ałt̓ałucid Park and Shoreline Habitat (alternate spelling: tathtathootseed, pronounced “t-ahth-t-ahth-oots-eed,” which means “where there is something overhead, across the path,” and refers to logs or branches located above a path or trail).
“As Seattle, the city, is the only city in the United States that is named after a Native American chief, we don’t recognize nearly enough those who came before, who stewarded these amazing lands,” said Peter Steinbrueck, President of the Port of Seattle Commission, at the announcement meeting. “So this is a very good start at restoring our cultural connections to the past and, as others have said eloquently, to share with future generations the deeper meaning and significance of Seattle’s only river. … These six parks are treasures, each and every one of them embedded in the communities of today and the future.”
The new names are the result of a multimonth-long process that utilized community outreach and name ideas combined with oversight from the Port of Seattle, which owns all of the park properties that were rebranded.
After name nomination and public voting periods ended, a stakeholder review committee composed of community members with deep and unique relationships to the Duwamish voted on their choices. After that, the five Port Commissioners cast their votes, which ultimately decided the parks’ new identities.
“This was a unique collaboration of diverse cultural backgrounds and perspectives,” said Warren King George — an enrolled member of the Muckleshoot Tribe who has ties to the Upper Skagit Tribe and who is a member of the Stakeholder Review Committee — during the virtual announcement event. “I consider it a great honor to be a part of this new system that we now have created to work with one another during these really trying times.”
During the process, the Port received more than 4,000 public comments that recommended that the new names include Indigenous place names and Lushootseed words for local wildlife and natural features. Over 12,000 individuals engaged with the campaign’s website that provided videos and information about each park’s history, archival photos of the old river shoreline, environmental conservation uses, and stories from nearby community members and park visitors. In the two-week voting period at the end of September, the campaign received more than 1,600 submissions from the public for the names of the parks.
“Because [the Port of Seattle owns] these parks, they could name them whatever they want, but the fact that they are discussing this and wanting the community’s input and wanting to honor the Indigneous people and the people who live along the river was really nice,” said Rosario-Maria Medina, a founding member for the Duwamish Valley Affordable Housing Coalition and a member of the Stakeholder Review Committee. “Because, as someone who lives in an environmental justice community of Georgetown, a lot of times we feel like we don’t matter and that a lot of these big businesses just want us out of here so they can do whatever they want. And the fact that they’re making an effort and they’re investing in the community is amazing.”
To help commemorate the parks’ rebranding, the Port also funded and released a video art piece, The Power of Our Stories, which features storytellers from the Suquamish, Duwamish, and Muckleshoot tribal communities telling Coast Salish stories that demonstrate the importance of community culture, environmental health, and the Duwamish River.
Along with continued ecological restoration efforts by community groups, like the Duwamish Alive Coalition and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, and a proposed increase to the Port of Seattle art budget, new wayfinding signs with the parks’ updated names will be installed by the end of the year to properly usher in the rebranded parks.
“This has a lot of meaning beyond just the renaming,” said Steinbrueck. “I think the renaming really symbolizes a renewed commitment to community, to restorative work in terms of environmental justice, and also toward reconciliation with the Native communities that are there now and have been for millennia and our relationship to them.”
Jack Russillo has been reporting in Western Washington since 2013. He covers the environment, social justice, and other topics that affect a sustainable and equitable future. He currently lives in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Featured Photo: The newly-named t̓ałt̓ałucid Park and Shoreline Habitat features a shoreline trail, a hand-carry boat launch area, and a seating area — all on the shores of the Duwamish River. (Photo: Jack Russillo)