From Pier 55 in downtown Seattle, you can travel 8 miles by boat and end up a world away from the clatter and bustle of the big city. Blake Island, a state park in Puget Sound, is not accessible by car or, for that matter,by public ferry. For most visitors, the best way to get there is on a boat tour that includes a visit to Tillicum Village, a replica Native American village built to display the rich culture of Puget Sound indigenous peoples. Guests at Tillicum Village are welcomed to a clearing in the forest and a cedar longhouse for a traditional Northwest Indian salmon bake and a dance performance that incorporates masks, myths, and customs of Northwest coastal tribes. After the meal, there’s time for a short hike on the 475-acre island (there are even a few beaches) before catching the boat back to the Seattle waterfront.
Although today’s Tillicum Village dates only from 1962, when it was built for the Seattle World’s Fair, Blake Island has provided home and shelter to native tribes such as the Suquamish of Puget Sound for thousands of years. Legend has it that Blake Island was the birthplace of Chief Seattle, who led the Suquamish when the first white settlers arrived in the area in the 1850s and who urged peaceful coexistence between the settlers and the natives. That didn’t stop the federal government from relocating the tribe to a reservation an hour outside Seattle. Chief Seattle’s sentiments from an 1854 address to Washington’s territorial governor have become an environmental movement creed: “This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.”