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Call For Art: Seeking Salish Artist to Create Artwork to Honor Gig Harbor's Original Inhabitants

A group of Gig Harbor residents, in partnership with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Gig Harbor Arts Commission and Gig Harbor Kiwanis Foundation, encourages Coast Salish artists to submit proposals for an artwork that will honor the town’s first residents, the sxwəbabš band (pronounced sk-WHUH-babsh) of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The artwork will be placed in Austin Estuary Park on the shore of Gig Harbor Bay near the original sxwəbabš’ village.

The Honoring Project has been more than three years in the planning, and, according to Gary Williamson, a retired elementary school principal who spearheaded the effort, is “a way to fill in a missing chapter in Gig Harbor’s history book—to tell the story of the vital role the sxwəbabš played in in Coast Salish history.

“Several years ago, I noticed that there are no street names, nor public art nor any formal acknowledgement of Gig Harbor’s indigenous people,” Williamson said. “It’s time that story was told. It’s long overdue.”

Dr. Linda Pitcher, an anthropologist and a member of the citizens group organizing the Honoring Project, added that the Gig Harbor band holds a unique place among indigenous peoples of the region. “Their name comes from the root-word sxwəb, meaning ‘swift water’,” Pitcher said. “They were guardians of the turbulent Narrows Passage that stretched from Point Defiance to Wollochet Bay. It was their responsibility to protect those who resided along the adjacent shores.” As such, the sxwəbabš were master canoe-builders and experienced navigators who defended the southern entrance of the southern Salish Sea.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) with complete details about the application process can be downloaded here: https://www.cityofgigharbor.net/175/Austin-Estuary-Park. Deadline to submit proposals is March 15, 2019.

For information, contact Gary Williamson at williamsongary51@gmail.com.