Once teeming with bountiful salmon and fertile plains, Seattle’s Duwamish River drew both Native peoples and settlers to its shores over centuries for trading, transport, and sustenance. Unfortunately, the very utility of the river was its undoing, as decades of dumping led to the river being declared a Superfund cleanup site.
Much of Washington’s history has been told through the perspective of its colonizers, obscuring and mythologizing the changes to these lands that have long been occupied by Native peoples. Through the story of the river, author BJ Cummings explores previously unrecorded Native and immigrant histories, and exposes settler falsehoods about the founding of the state. The river’s story is a call to action to align future decisions with values of collaboration, respect, and justice.
BJ Cummings (she/her) founded the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and manages community engagement for the University of Washington’s Superfund Research Program. She is the author of The River That Made Seattle: A Natural and Human History of the Duwamish, and she was awarded the River Network’s national River Hero award for her work leading community-based clean up and restoration of the Duwamish River.
Cummings lives in Seattle.
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