Ten miles south of downtown Seattle, on a forgotten stretch of road, sits a 10-acre Hill, stretching 200 feet into the sky. The Muckleshoot tribe and the Duwamish tribe recognize this Hill as the spot where the world was created.
I live across the river from this Hill. In 1999, I learned about the significance of this Hill from neighbors who, like me, were concerned about the big newly erected sign at the base the Hill. The sign said the 10-acre property was up for sale.
My heart sank when I read those words. My tiny neighborhood, situated on a bend in the river, is paradise. Development would change all that, quickly, forever.
Tukwila is a different kind of place. My neighborhood, in particular, is a tiny oasis built along the shoreline of the Duwamish river. It's a place where many neighbors know each other and where homes rarely go up for sale. Visitors have referred to this neighborhood as Mayberry. Time does seem to slow down here.
I thank my lucky stars, every day, for the Providence that steered me to this Duwamish neighborhood almost twenty years ago. In fact, within a few weeks of me moving in here, I could feel my roots twining down so deep, so fast, that I surprised my neighbors by telling them that I felt like a mother lion guarding her cubs. I had never -- ever -- felt that sensation. Both neighbors nodded their heads, saying that they felt the same. One was a third-generation resident!
It was an unexpected feeling, but most welcome, nonetheless -- as if I had finally arrived at my true home.
At least I felt that way until I read the land developer's sign. Little did I know, then, how one large black-and-white sign could have such far-reaching -- and unanticipated -- effects. Those effects are still reverberating today, in ever-widening circles, just as strong, just as vital as ever.
For the complete story about this amazing journey, you can order my online book _______________________ at amazon.com for only $4.99.
Native American influence
Neighbors -- and brief mentions of the Hill in two books -- started me on a quest.
I soon learned about the direct link between the Hill and Native Americans, who consider the Hill a sacred spot. Native Americans, I learned quickly, can be closed when it comes to the white race. Given their history with the white race, this is understandable.
My neighbors, Sharon Nakata, Vicky Woods, and Rosemary Unterseher, joined me in 1999 and formed our core Friends of the Hill group, thanks to our shared desire to preserve this neighborhod Hill, this sacred spot, and save it from the wrecking ball. We met in Sharon's house in 1999 and laid out our game plan. It wasn't complicated. It had only one goal: save the Hill and preserve it as a public park for everyone to enjoy.
As one of our first steps, we met with Bruce Fletcher, who was then the head of Tukwila parks and recreation, along with two Duwamish tribal officials, Cecile Hansen, longtime chairwoman of the tribe, and James Rasmussen, another tribal official.
All three of these key players supported our effort and encouraged us.
It took five years of monthly meetings at Sharon's house with a much-expanded group that included people from Tukwika, Seattle, Georgetown, and Beacon Hill. I reached out to many people, groups, and organizations. Most importantly, I reached out to the Seattle 4Culture support organization and with a local land conservancy group, ForTerra, who saw what we saw, looked us in the eye, and said "Let's go for it!"
Actually, that's not quite true. It took me three separate tries, and getting turned down flat at least three times by ForTerra (which was then called Cascade Land Conservancy), before they saw what I saw.
What followed was truly inspirational and amazing.
ForTerra paved the way for the acquisition and funding of the Hill. They did everything! They worked diligently, stretching their limits, and ultimately raised more than a million dollars to purchase the Hill, thanks to gifts from ____________________.
Our neighborhood group worked hard to further the cause on a local level. Foster High School drama teacher Cynthia Chesack's efforts resulted in an original play being written about the Hill and performed by students. The play reenacted the Native American legend of the great battle between Chinook Wind and North Wind. It included Muskrat and Beaver, who lived on the Hill and were responsible for the creation of the world. Skagit Valley elder Vi Hilbert, member of the _________ tribe, spoke at the play about the creation legend and the significance of the play she was witnessing that evening.
She spoke in two languages. First, in Lushootseed, the language of her people, and then in English.
Vi, who passed in ________, was a former hairdresser who spent decades championing her heritage and language. She served as a consultant and taught Native American heritage and the Lushootseed language at various schools, including the University of Washington.
At the dedication ceremony for the Hill, Muckleshoot speakers said that our community effort to purchase the Hill was the first time that Native Americans had been consulted from the very beginning of a project. Usually, they said, they were only included at ribbon cuttings.
So, in essence, the Hill marked two firsts: The first time that ForTerra engaged itself in a small-acreage urban land purchase, and for the Duwamish and Muckleshoot tribes, the first time that tribes had been involved in a significant preservation effort from the very beginning.
Up until our Hill group contacted them, ForTerra had limited their efforts to acquiring huge chunks of acreage outside of Seattle. They had never considered anything as small, and urban, as a Native American sacred site -- especially one on the shores of the Duwamish river, a Superfund site with the dubious distinction of being the most polluted Superfund site in the U.S.
Now, ForTerra supports many local efforts touching all aspects of life in Puget Sound. Their work -- so critical to our region -- continues to evolve and continues to underscore the value of this part of the world that we call home, the Puget Sound region.
An unexpected ending
The last thing I'd like to tell you is that some visitors to the Hill have remarked that when they visit the Hill they feel ... something.
The Hill is unique. It's 35 million years old, seven times older than Mt. Rainier to the south, and other nearby mountain ranges. The Hill withstood the onslaught of glaciers, not just once but three times! The Hill contains plant life and fossils that are only found in the Pacific ocean. This means that the Hill marked the shoreline of the Pacific ocean millions of years ago, when this entire area was subtropical.
For more than a hundred years, visitors, neighbors, scholars, as well as history, archaeology and other students from the University of Washington and other schools, have visited the Hill.
Residents know the Hill as Poverty Hill.
Some Hill residents claim to have heard noises and seen Native American ghosts over the years. Helen Dingle, a dimunitive woman who moved to Poverty Hill in the 1940s, talked to me and others about the Native American ghost she would sometimes encounter on the stairway to her basement.
When representatives from the Muckleshoot Tribe's cultural committee visited the Hill, one elder talked about one aspect of the Hill and its relationship with Mt. Rainier to the south and the Olympic mountains to the West. Together, he said, the three form a triangle, a complete connection.
The ___________________________ Hill is operated by the City of Tukwila Recreation Department ____________________. It is located on S. 115th St., just south of E. Marginal Way S. in Tukwila. Open hours are from dawn to dusk.
It's a nice climb to the top of the Hill, where the vista includes downtown Seattle and other landmarks. Visitors can read about the Hill on a large sign near the entrance, or on the Forterra website, _______________.
Forterra continues to guide the development stages of the Hill, along with the City of Tukwila and __________________________ , the Tukwila neighborhood advisory group. Volunteers help restoration and development efforts. Contact the City of Tukwila _______________________ or Forterra ____________________for details.
Enjoy your visit.
__________________________ (book name)
__________________________ (book name)
__________________________ (Sara Jean Green newspaper article)