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Suquamish Washington museum highlights art and function of cedar

Just across the Puget Sound from Seattle you’ll find a land of deep green ferns, abundant sea life and… cedar trees. The cedar tree has been important to the Suquamish people for generations. The beautiful, new Suquamish Museum highlights the work of local cedar weavers, cedar artisans and displays traditional uses of cedar. The attractive building itself is constructed of the beautiful red wood.

The Suquamish Museum in Washington State highlights cedar, art and weaving using local materials.
Elizabeth R. Rose
Carving at Suquamish Museum depicts shape of cedar woven hat
Elizabeth R. Rose

The Suquamish People live on the land of their ancestors and so the cedar work you will see is authentic. Whether it is a cedar canoe, carved house poles or a fish basket, the use of cedar is unique to the coastal people of the vast northwest and represents them in museums and galleries world-wide. While enjoying the Santa Fe Indian Market I was pleased to encounter cedar weavers from the Pacific Northwest in their distinctive cedar hats selling small finely woven cedar baskets. They were sitting amidst the hundreds of Southwestern pottery and silver artists.

When you visit the museum, the beauty of this reddish wood will surround you. The art of the practical baskets on display will impress you. The baskets are functional, of course, and there are open weave fish and clam baskets and closely woven berry picking baskets. Some are intricate and some are beautiful in their simplicity. Well-known local artists such as Suquamish elder Ed Carriere have work on display there. Ed weaves clothing as well as baskets. He uses the bark, limbs, and roots of the western red cedar as well as beargrass, sweetgrass, wild cherry bark, cattail and horse tail root. He learned weaving from his Grandmother who urged him to take over the craft when she was unable to weave.

Look for cedar work in all parts of the museum. A special juried art exhibit set up for the recent Chief Seattle Days, was arranged on the walls of the education and meeting room. Another piece by Ed Carriere drew my eye immediately. This was a garment, a cedar vest trimmed with leather and beads. It was termed a Canoe Journey Honoring Cedar Vest.

At the museum, you’ll even find a beautiful cedar timeline spanning the length of the exhibit hall. Beginning at the end of the last Ice Age and progressing through to current time, visitors can follow historic events as they impacted the people of the area, all printed on cedar.

The huge carving of a cedar canoe being carried to the shore shows men in traditional brimmed hats, traditionally made of cedar, and common in historic photos of the people of the Salish Sea as well as at gatherings where people, today, wear their traditional clothing.

In the gift shop you will find some small cedar baskets woven by local artisans. And, you may just encounter a weaving class. The month I was there a cedar salt and pepper shaker weaving class was being offered by a local weaver.

No matter what your interest, the Suquamish Museum is worth a stop. Allow at least an hour to peruse the exhibits and get a sense of the history and art of the local people.

Hours: May 1 to Sep 30 open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct 1 to Apr 30, open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m

Location: 6861 NE South Street, Suquamish, WA 98392 (not far from Poulsbo or Bainbridge Island)

Entry: Adults $5, Seniors 55 and over $3, Children 5 to 17 $3, Families $15

More Information
Suquamish Museum Facebook Page
Suquamish Museum Website
Visit Kitsap Peninsula

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