Coast Salish Villages of Puget Sound


On this page is a map of the known permanent village sites (c.1800) of the Coast Salish people who lived--and still live--in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.  If you are interested in a particular group or area of the Sound click on the appropriate section of the small black and white map to the left.  Then, a color map of the area you choose will download. It is only from these larger scale (smaller area) maps that you are able to access information about each of the villages.

(The maps are not at all designed to pinpoint locations, which might result in unlawful vandalism or destruction of the sites, but rather to provide a context for imagining both where and how the Coast Salish people lived on this land.)

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These people inhabited an incredibly bountiful and mostly heavily-forested area, interspersed with myriad waterways.  They shared a similar life-style oriented towards fishing, hunting and gathering, as well as creating the implements necessary to engage in these activities.  Salmon was the most important food.  The dugout canoe was the primary means of transport.  A typical village was located adjacent to navigable water and composed of a small number of large cedar-planked longhouses--each giving shelter to thirty, forty, or more, usually related individuals.  In some cases, all of the longhouses of a village were located right next to each other.  In other cases, houses considered part of the same village might be strung out for miles along a river.

Picture courtesy of BC Archives, call number D00692 "Quamichan village".  The shed-style longhouses of this Central Coast Salish village (c.1865) are similar, though smaller, than those usually built further south, around Puget Sound. [This image slightly cropped from original]

Inside the longhouse, along the walls, sleeping platforms were constructed.  Woven reed mats were piled for mattresses and cushions, animal skins for covers.  These would be removed during the day so the platform could be used for seating.  Above the platforms were storage shelves holding baskets, tools, clothing, etc.; firewood was often stored below.  Dried food hung from the ceiling above the earthen floor, which could be used as a work area or cleared for gatherings.  In the larger houses each family would have a fire and partitions made of mats would separate the family compartments.  Roof slats could be adjusted to let smoke out and light in.


Picture courtesy of Museum of History and Industry [Seattle, WA], negative no. MOHAI 1955.970.470.10, "Interior of a longhouse, Neah Bay, c.1900".  This post-contact Makah longhouse, though similarly constructed, contains such items as a sail, sealskins, iron pots, etc. that would not be found in a pre-contact Coast Salish house.  [This image slightly cropped from the original]

The people took their principal identity from these permanent villages where they lived during the rainy winter months.  (During the rest of the year variously composed bands would migrate among traditional camps at resource-rich areas, usually mingling with people from other, sometimes faraway, villages.)  Strength of "tribal" affiliation varied among groups and probably throughout time, depending on whether there was a need requiring organized action.  Although I have used currently accepted tribal designations in the village descriptions, some would consider them to be vast oversimplifications, or even largely artificial constructs, made for the sake of convenience by the early white settlers and perpetuated ever since.

The period around 1800 was one of flux.  Settlers had not yet arrived in this area but their diseases had.  Vulnerable coastal villages were already being decimated.  Some coastal groups were re-consolidating in more favorable locations.  Some riverine people were moving to occupy depopulated villages along the coast. So, although most all of the village sites described herein were of long-standing, their composition may have been of more recent origin. And memories of other settlements have not only long been lost, but doubtless were never recorded.  This assumption led me to be generous the handful of times I had to decide whether or not a questionable site should be included on the map.

New!  Click here to go to a map of the Duwamish/Snoqualmie section where you will see locations of about 50 sites mentioned in old stories and myths.  Click on the storytelling icon on the map to read a synopsis of the relevant story. 


Base map used with written permission, based on landform map "Puget Sound Region, Washington", copyright D Molenaar, 1987

The base map on which both the village and storytelling sites are plotted represents the way this area appeared before the arrival of settlers in the early 1800s.  This was achieved by removing from a beautifully rendered shaded-relief map (provided by Molenaar Pictorial Maps), all--that could be identified--of the contemporary roads, cities, dams, fills and clearings, and then restoring a number of rivers to their original beds and Lake Washington to its pre-1916 level.  It was a process akin to acting like a virtual Corps of Engineers in reverse.

I would like to acknowledge my debt to David M. Buerge for his inspiring description of Seattle-area Duwamish villages, particularly those on Lake Washington.  And I am very grateful for the continuing guidance and assistance of Dr. Jay Miller, anthropologist, linguist and author, who has generously reviewed and edited the village descriptions.

--Tom Dailey 


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