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Mayor Harrell, Council President Juarez propose honorary name “Dzidzilalich” for Alaskan Way and Elliott Way, elevating Coast Salish tribal history and culture

SEATTLE – Mayor Bruce Harrell, City Council President Debora Juarez, and key waterfront leaders are proposing to establish an honorary name for Alaskan Way and Elliott Way, between S Dearborn St and Bell St. “Dzidzalalich” (pronounced: dzee-dzuh-lah-leech) means “Little Crossing Over Place” in the Coast Salish language Lushootseed. This honorary name would recognize the deep tribal history and culture on Seattle’s waterfront. The Dzidzilalich street name designation would be honorary; the legal name of “Alaskan Way” would not change nor would the official addresses on the street.

The City has been working for more than a decade with tribal partners to elevate Coast Salish history and culture as part of the City’s Waterfront Seattle program. These efforts have resulted in a series of public art, programming and interpretive elements that will be part of the new waterfront. Through those discussions the concept emerged of giving the newly-rebuilt Alaskan Way a tribal place-name, and using the original language of the tribes, Lushootseed, as a way to honor the lands and shared waters of the Puget Sound Coast Salish People. For thousands of years, a village on Seattle’s waterfront was a center for tribal fishing and trade, and was known as “Dzidzilalich.” 

“The Suquamish Tribe appreciates the return of one of our traditional place names to the Seattle waterfront through the honorary naming of Alaskan Way,” said Leonard Forsman, Chair of the Suquamish Tribe and President of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. “This thoroughfare crosses over the shorelines and tideflats where our ancestors lived and gathered with other peoples for thousands of years. Elliott Bay has provided our harvesters with salmon, shellfish and other marine resources, sustaining us for many generations. We acknowledge and honor this positive action by the City of Seattle, named for our ancestral Chief, and look forward to continued actions to further recognition of the region’s first peoples.”

“This acknowledgement will help inform and educate residents and visitors of the history of the lands of the Puget Sound Coast Salish Peoples and Seattle’s waterfront,” said Jaison Elkins, Chair of the Muckleshoot Tribe. “Like our ancestors, we’ll continue caring for and protecting these sacred lands and waters for our future generations.”

“Seattle is indelibly connected to the Coast Salish peoples, and we are committed to uplifting the rich history and ongoing contributions of tribal partners and Indigenous communities,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Restoring and elevating the waterfront’s Lushootseed name means more than reflecting on the past – it represents our efforts to move forward together and embrace our shared One Seattle mission to create an inclusive city where all feel welcome.” 

“It is an amazing and wonderful idea to give our waterfront its Lushootseed name again”, said Seattle City Council President Debora Juarez. “This has been a long time coming and will be healing for the tribes. I am honored we could do the work with the governments of our surrounding Salish nations to be able to do this.” 

“Dzidzilalich is the original name of our waterfront,” said Marshall Foster, Director of the City’s Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects. “My hope is that this name is an opportunity for all of us to better understand this place and gain a deeper appreciation for the indigenous peoples whose lands we live on today.”

“We are happy to name a street that recognizes the tribes as a central part of our new waterfront,” said Bob Donegan, President and CEO of Ivar’s Restaurants, which Ivar founded on Pier 54 and remains its flagship restaurant. “Our new waterfront will be something for the whole community to enjoy – restoring the original Lushootseed place name will make it even more meaningful by recognizing our history for locals and visitors.”

The City Council will vote on establishing the honorary name in early 2023. If the street name is approved, honorary street signs would be posted as part of the opening of Elliott Way, the elevated roadway. To learn more about the significance of the name Dzidzilalich, please visit the Waterfront Seattle program website.