In 1896 a frail elderly woman posed for a portrait in a photographic studio in the city of Seattle, Washington. The last direct descendant of one of the most significant Native American chiefs in the history of the continent, she was a “princess” who had witnessed – and survived – unprecedented social transformations. She died not long after the photo was taken, but her story is still remembered today.
The Lushootseed-speaking Duwamish tribe – from which the woman was descended – had inhabited the bays and lakeshores of what is today western Washington since the end of the last ice age, approximately 10,000 years ago. Before European contact, they consisted of at least two groups known as the “People of the Large Lake” (i.e. Lake Washington) and the “People of the Inside” (Elliott Bay and around).
The woman’s name was Kikisoblu, although most know her today as “Princess Angeline.” And her father was the most famous Duwamish leader of all time – Chief Si’ahl, otherwise known as Chief Seattle, after whom the west coast metropolis was named. Like many indigenous people of the era, Chief Seattle and his tribe lived through staggering historic changes due to the arrival of large groups of European-descendant settlers.