The museum's trumping centerpiece is a carved canoe, more than 300 years old, used in the 1989 Paddle to Seattle, the first of a now-annual series of intertribal-canoe journeys around the Salish Sea. Hoisting it are six sculpted figures representing the Suquamish from ancient times to present, including two sea otters "from before the great changer came and made people into people and animals into animals," Smoak explained, citing the kind of beliefs that defined the tribe.
Reflecting varying spellings of both his name and that of his tribe, based on changing interpretations of the native language, a white marble marker is inscribed "Seattle, Chief of the Suguampsh and Allied tribes, died June 7, 1866, The firm friend of the whites, and for him the City of Seattle was named by its founders." Below that, the other name by which he was commonly known: "Sealth."
Here you'll see more plainly how the tribe honors him, in the form of significant improvements made to the gravesite in 2009 with $200,000 plus in grants split between the tribe and the city of Seattle. Flanking the stone are beautifully carved 12-foot cedar "story posts" that highlight moments from the chief's life, such as his childhood sighting of Capt. George Vancouver's exploration ships in1792.
Also added was a retaining wall etched in the native Lushootseed language and in English with messages such as "The soil is rich with the life of our kindred." A wheelchair-friendly path connects to the parking lot, and visitors may rest on benches shaped like Suquamish canoes.
Walk through the village to see more changes new money has brought to Suquamish, such as the charmingly named House of Awakened Culture, a waterfront community center devoted to such activities as classes in language, weaving and carving.
Browse native art at Rain Bear Studio or grab lunch at Bella Luna Pizzeria, a rub-elbows nine-table eatery perched on pilings over the waterfront.
Better yet, on a sunny day, pack a lunch to Old Man House Park, historic site of the chief's longhouse, five minutes away. Sit on a log and take in the view that Chief Seattle's people still love: narrow and scenic Agate Passage on one side, and on the other a panorama of snowy mountains across diamond-glinting waves of the salty sound.
In its day, this beach was where a native leader could take in all of his world, or all of it that mattered.
IF YOU GO:
WHERE: From Seattle, take Washington State Ferries from Pier 52 to Bainbridge Island. Follow Highway 305 north toward Poulsbo. After the Agate Passage bridge, take the first right to Suquamish Way. In 1.2 miles, turn left at Division Avenue and then immediately right on South Street to the Suquamish Museum, 6861 N.E. South St. ($3-$5, http://www.suquamishmuseum.org ).
Go a short distance further east on South Street to Chief Seattle's gravesite. Continue downhill to the village center.
To reach Old Man House Park, from Suquamish Way take Division Avenue south and follow the arterial for .3 mile.
SPECIAL EVENT: At 3 p.m. Feb. 23, the museum dedicates a new 40-foot-long wall-mounted timeline of tribal history with a lecture/presentation by Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman and Tribal Archaeologist Dennis Lewarch.
LODGING: Stay at the tribe's 85-room waterfront hotel, part of Clearwater Casino Resort. Free daily breakfast in lobby with tribal art, fireplace and expansive views. Pool, hot tub, spa. Winter rates: $169 for a view room on a weekend. 15347 Suquamish Way N.E., http://www.clearwatercasino.com/hotel
RESTAURANTS: The casino has a buffet, cafe and a steakhouse. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, 2-for-1 specials for club members can overcrowd the buffet (the Thursday I visited, there was a 90-minute wait for a buffet table at 6 p.m.). That steered me and my wife to an endearingly corny checkered-tablecloth bistro in old-town Poulsbo, That's-a-Some Italian Ristorante, 18881 Front St. N.E.; http://www.thatsasome.com.
For lunch, try the $2.50 slices at Bella Luna Pizzeria, 18408 Angeline Ave. N.E., Suquamish; http://www.bellalunapizza.com.
Suquamish Tribe: http://www.suquamish.nsn.us
Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau, http://www.visitkitsap.com
Brian J. Cantwell: firstname.lastname@example.org