In 1904, civic leaders honored Chetzemoka

Posted 6/19/19

Though visiting tourists might not make it past Water Street, locals of Port Townsend know Chetzemoka Park as one of the city’s many hidden gems.

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In 1904, civic leaders honored Chetzemoka

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Though visiting tourists might not make it past Water Street, locals of Port Townsend know Chetzemoka Park as one of the city’s many hidden gems.

The rhododendrons in Chetzemoka Park are on their way out, but the rest of the park is in full bloom. A climbing rose on the archway is laden with white blossoms, bright red snapdragon plants poke out of the flower beds, and the grass in the park is perfect for laying on for the duration of a summer afternoon.

It’s a summer gathering place: to watch Shakespeare in the Park, to gather for afternoon picnics, or to walk down on the beach for shell-hunting and a stunning view of Mount Baker.

Built in 1904, the park was a community project, led by the Civic Improvement Club, working with the Native Daughters of Washington club. Eight acres on the bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet were donated by the city council at the time. According to the Port Townsend Leader from 1904, a Park Day was planned where over 200 people gathered to help clean brush and area for the new park.

Historian Peter Simpson, author of “City of Dreams,” wrote that a number of names were considered for the new park, including Kulshan, the Indian word for Mount Baker.

“Ultimately it was decided that Chet-ze-moka, the name of the well-known Klallam chief, had more local significance,” Simposn writes. “Some people had difficulty pronouncing the name, which means ‘fine young man.’”

The fact that the lush park was named after Chief Chetzemoka signifies the respect white settlers had for the chief, who had welcomed them when they first arrived in Port Townsend in the mid-1800s.

“Even though the S’Klallam people were strong and defended their territory from other indigenous people, he realized that inclusiveness and respectful hospitality was the right course for future generations,” said Ron Allen, Chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “That is why as the Chief of the S’Klallams, he signed the Point-No-Point Treaty of 1855 and welcomed the white settlers into S’Klallam territory.”

Chetzemoka’s intervention between the white settlers and his fellow S’Klallam tribesmen is credited with single-handedly protecting Port Townsend settlers from massacre during the Indian Wars of the 1850s, writes Simpson.

Perhaps this is the reason that Port Townsend’s most loved park is named after the S’Klallam chief.

Or perhaps it was, as written in the Leader in 1904: “After the word has fallen from your lips the music of its syllables will appeal to you to such an extent that, like the time honored Castoria, ‘You will sigh for it, and cry for it, and would not be without it in the home,’”

There are several bits of irony to the name of the park that Simpson notes in “City of Dreams.” The first is that white settlers did not pronounce the name correctly. Though the park was named “Chet-ze-moka,” the chief’s name is pronounced like “cheech-ma-han.”

The other irony, Simpson notes, is that the Native Daughters of Washington, the club which headed the park project, did not allow nonwhite members until the late 1960s.

Today, the park will be a stop on the Chetzemoka Trail, which highlights the life of Chetzemoka and details the difficulties of coexistence between American Indians and non-Native people.

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

This partnership between Port Townsend residents, the city and county government and the tribes harkens back to Chetzemoka’s own ideals of inclusiveness and respectful hospitality.

“It is deeply rooted in Jamestown’s long-standing leadership,” said Loni Grinnell-Greninger, a descendant of Chetzemoka. “Today, this manifests in the many partnerships that we have with non-native entities and governments, from the local, state, national, and even international levels.”

Comments

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Tom Camfield

I love this sort of resurgent recognition of the indigenous owners of this land whose descendants continue to fight against its continued despoliation by us others and our kind who have continued to invade the scene over the past couple of centuries.

Wednesday, June 19
Ruby

Is it ironic that the "Native Daughters of Washington" did not allow non-white members or is it racist and colonizing?

Kulshan is not THE Indian word Mt. Baker. That framing presents Native peoples as homogenous. There are close to 600 Native Nations in the U.S. today, each with unique languages and distinct cultures. Let's be clear.

Thursday, June 20
Marge Samuelson

Judge J.A. Kuhn organized the Native Sons of and Native Daughters lodges. On March 2, 1893 he instituted in Port Townsend, Jefferson Camp No. 1 Native Sons of Washington, with 12 members. On July 3, 1895, he instituted in Port Townsend, Lucinda Hastings Parlor No. 1, Native Daughters of Washington. The organization was open only to residents of Washington State that had an ancestor that was an early settler of Washington State. The Civic Improvement Club was formed to add beauty to Port Townsend. They were a short lived organization, represented by women with social standing. For whatever reason they named it Chetzemoka it is still a jewel in the JC Parks system.

Monday, June 24