The River That Made Seattle
A Human and Natural History of the Duwamish
- PUBLISHED: July 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Pacific Northwest / History, Environmental Studies, Pacific Northwest / Natural History, Native American and Indigenous Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 240 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 20 b&w illus.
- ISBN: 9780295747439
With bountiful salmon and fertile plains, the Duwamish River has drawn people to its shores over the centuries for trading, transport, and sustenance. Chief Se’alth and his allies fished and lived in villages here and white settlers established their first settlements nearby. Industrialists later straightened the river’s natural turns and built factories on its banks, floating in raw materials and shipping out airplane parts, cement, and steel. Unfortunately, the very utility of the river has been its undoing, as decades of dumping led to the river being declared a Superfund cleanup site.
Using previously unpublished accounts by Indigenous people and settlers, BJ Cummings’s compelling narrative restores the Duwamish River to its central place in Seattle and Pacific Northwest history. Writing from the perspective of environmental justice—and herself a key figure in river restoration efforts—Cummings vividly portrays the people and conflicts that shaped the region’s culture and natural environment. She conducted research with members of the Duwamish Tribe, with whom she has long worked as an advocate. Cummings shares the river’s story as a call for action in aligning decisions about the river and its future with values of collaboration, respect, and justice.
Authors & Contributors
BJ Cummings is founder of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and previously served as executive director of Sustainable Seattle. Cummings is currently manager of community engagement for the Superfund Research Program at the University of Washington.
Deeply researched and eloquent. Cummings skillfully unfolds the interrelated stories of a much abused river, an ambitious city, and the people whose lives shaped both the river and the city. At times tragic but ultimately hopeful, it offers a powerful cautionary tale for anyone who cares about the future of our urban waterways.- Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
An amazing historical reflection on the Duwamish River and surrounding lands, which also addresses the pollution that affected both Natives and settlers.- Cecile A. Hansen, chairperson of the Duwamish Tribe
Cummings brings the river and its history to life in a chronicle of colonization, neglect, and rebirth. A must-read for anyone who wants to know the story flowing through Seattle.- David R. Montgomery, author of King of Fish and The Rocks Don’t Lie
Cummings—scholar, activist, and gifted writer—movingly describes the vital importance of the Duwamish to indigenous peoples; its despoiling by local industries into a toxic Superfund site; and its prospects for becoming a model of restoration. This wonderful book offers both an indictment and a ray of hope.- Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation
Tells a fine-grained story of the Duwamish River and the people who have lived alongside it. Accessible and straightforward, it offers a clear-eyed assessment of an exceedingly complicated place.- Coll Thrush, author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place