Chetzemoka trail to be unveiled

Laurel Grove cemetery chock-full of history

Posted 5/29/19

On June 29, the new Chetzemoka Trail will be unveiled in a ceremony at Memorial Athletic Field in Port Townsend to begin the area’s journey to understanding the difficulties of coexistence between …

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Chetzemoka trail to be unveiled

Laurel Grove cemetery chock-full of history

Posted

On June 29, the new Chetzemoka Trail will be unveiled in a ceremony at Memorial Athletic Field in Port Townsend to begin the area’s journey to understanding the difficulties of coexistence between American Indians and non-Native people.

The trail, a project of the Native Connections Action Group of the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in partnership with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, will feature 18 sites throughout Port Townsend.

At each site, signs will offer historic information about Chief Chetzemoka (pronounced Cheech-ma-han; later changed by settlers to Chetzemoka) and the S’Klallam people of the 19th century, as well as the impact of the arrival of European settlers and connections to present-day S’Klallam people.

The trail follows the life of Chief Chetzemoka, and the stories of his life represent the difficulties, not just in Port Townsend, but across the country, of living side-by-side.

Leading up to the opening of the trail, The Leader will present historical tidbits with the help of research done by the Native Connections Action Group and Jamestown S’Klallam tribal elder Celeste Dybeck.

LAUREL GROVE CEMETERY

A key spot on the Chetzemoka trail is the grave of Chief Chetzemoka, located at Laurel Grove Cemetery on Discovery Road in Port Townsend.

On June 21, 1888, Chetzemoka’s two sons, the Prince of Wales and Charlie Swan York crossed the bay from Indian Island to announce their father’s death, writes Jerry Gorsline in the book, “Shadows of Our Ancestors.”

The white settlers in Port Townsend began a fund drive, buying a suit of clothes, a plot at the cemetery and a coffin, as well as getting the use of a hearse and a team of horses to pull it.

Chetzemoka’s body was laid out for viewing at the county courthouse, which at the time was the Fowler building where The Leader is now located. He was then buried at Laurel Grove cemetery.

The Seattle Weekly Intelligencer reported that, “no Indian in Washington Territory, and very likely none in the United States, ever received so flattering a funeral as did the Duke of York.”

The Puget Sound Argus reported that 15 carriages escorted Chetzemoka’s body to the cemetery and that a service was read by the vicar of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

The Puget Sound Argus wrote:

“Old Duke of York’s funeral to-day was largely attended - Bartlett & Co. donating the use of a hearse, Mr. Rouse furnishing a team free and fifteen carriages following filled with citizens. Rev. J.B. Alexander officiated. The cortege moved slowly out from the county court-house, where the body had been laid out and viewed by many people. At the grave there were impressive ceremonies, including a military salute by the Port of Entry Guards who had gone in uniform in the procession. Altogether it was an event in the history of Port Townsend and was a fitting sequel to the lifelong friendship of deceased for the paleface.”

“To the men and women of Port Townsend the experience with Chet-ze-moka and the Klallams offered something of a heightened conscience. Though not fully appreciating and certainly not acknowledging what they had done to the Indians, they understood the gratitude they owed Chet-ze-moka.”,” wrote Gorsline in “Shadows of Our Ancestors.”

Chetzmoka’s first wife, See-hem’itza, was also buried at Laurel Grove Cemetery, along with one of his grandsons and many other S’Klallam ancestors.

For descendants of Chetzemoka, the fact that the Chief was buried in Laurel Grove cemetery, with a funeral ceremony organized by the white settlers, might cause some mixed feelings.

“It’s interesting,” said Marlin Holden, who is the great, great grandson of Chetzemoka. “If you asked other descendants of Chetzemoka, I suspect they might have a different idea of it than I do. What I have learned about him over the years has helped me to understand him more.”

Chetzemoka wasn’t a war chief, he was a problem solver, Holden said. When he visited San Francisco and saw the boats in the harbor there, he knew they were coming north.

“He taught me two things: One was that we had to assimilate to survive,” Holden said. “The second was that we should never forget our culture and where we came from. Jamestown has done exactly that. We have assimilated into the population, but we have held onto our culture.”

The fact that Chetzemoka helped the white settlers and was described as “the white man’s friend,” did not make him a turncoat like some might think, Holden said.

“He was a wise man,” Holden said. “Out of honor they buried him that way. He saved a lot of lives.”

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