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A fishing camp in front of a shelter made of mats formed from cattails

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Suquamish Tribe
A Local Legacy

Can you guess how a boarding school nearly wiped out the traditions of the Suquamish Indians of Washington state?

From the 1880s until the 1920s, children from the Suquamish Tribe were sent to boarding school in order to make them "good citizens." The idea was to take them away from tribal life and include them in the modern world.

Suquamish children from the ages of 4 to 18 were sent to a boarding school, where they were forbidden to speak their native language, Lushootseed. Because they were missing from the tribe during the winter months, when storytelling, basket making, and songs were taught, these children lost an important link to tribal life. In addition to not being allowed to speak their native language, they could not practice any of their traditions and they were punished if they did.

By the 1920s the practice of sending the children to boarding school had ended. And, by the 1980s, the Suquamish were entering a period of new hope for the future. Tribal businesses were created in order to gain financial independence. Cultural centers were established where tribal elders could pass on their knowledge of language, traditional skills, and religious customs. And the Suquamish Museum opened with exhibits on Suquamish culture and way of life, making sure that the tribal life of the Suquamish Indians would be preserved.

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