Updated October 11, 2021
For decades, Washington state communities, including Burien, led by mostly non-Native American leaders, have ignored the historical and current presence of Indigenous people in their communities. To help heal this past trauma, many local governments, businesses, and educational institutions are making intentional efforts to acknowledge Native American presence and rights to the land on which they reside by developing Native land acknowledgments.
The Burien City Council is developing a Native land acknowledgment for Burien that will be read aloud before all public meetings, as well as be placed in prominent locations on City of Burien buildings and other public spaces.
A land acknowledgment is an opportunity for Burien to recognize the unique relationship of the Coast Salish peoples to the place we all now live, in a way that empowers and commits us to future collaboration and action.
Recognizing the “unique and enduring” relationship between Indigenous peoples and their traditional territories
A land acknowledgment is a “formal statement that recognizes the unique and enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.” (Source). Land acknowledgments are not a new practice but are a traditional custom that dates back centuries for many Native communities and nations. “For non-Indigenous communities, land acknowledgment is a powerful way of showing respect and honoring the Indigenous Peoples of the land on which we work and live. Acknowledgement is a simple way of resisting the erasure of Indigenous histories and working towards honoring and inviting the truth.” (Source)
Indigenous peoples in Burien: past and present
The incorporated city of Burien encompasses the ancestral lands and waters of Coast Salish peoples. Burien is a significant historical area. Three Tree Point is where Coast Salish peoples had seasonal villages and people from around the Salish Sea would come to trade and harvest. What is now called the “Indian Trail” (also known as the “Moonlight Trail”) was once an important route connecting Three Tree Point to other villages and camps. The Treaty of Point Elliott guaranteed hunting and fishing rights and reservations to tribes represented by the Native signers.
Today, Burien and the Highline area is a gathering place for Indigenous peoples from across the globe. People representing more than 100 different Native tribes, corporations, villages, and other Indigenous communities live, work, and go to school in the Highline area. Many people are members of multiple tribes or claim multi-ethnic ancestry. Burien’s Indigenous communities are complex and diverse.
Where can I learn more?
The Highline Heritage Museum has information about local Indigenous history and has plans to expand that area of their collection. You can also learn more directly from the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, who are the best narrators of their own history.