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Chief Seattle's grave rededicated after repair of vandals' damage

Chief Seattle's grave rededicated after repair of vandals' damage

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SUQUAMISH, Wash. - Chief Seattle's grave has been rededicated, two months after vandals knocked a marble cross off the top of the 90-year-old monument.

More than 100 people gathered Saturday at the burial site here on the Port Madison Indian Reservation northwest of Bainbridge Island.

The ceremony was designed to heal the wounds the May desecration inflicted on the spirits of Chief Seattle and his ancestors in the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes.

"When there's a desecration, there's a disturbance," said Al Scott Johnnie, cultural director for the Lummi Tribe. "This is healing for our people."

Tribal leaders suspect the vandals were making a statement opposing plans for low-income housing on the reservation. Investigators found a newspaper article about the project at the scene, said Scott Crowell, the Suquamish tribe's acting executive director.

The FBI is investigating the case.

Born in the 1780s, Chief Seattle led the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes as whites settled in the area. He and 80 other Indian leaders ceded Puget Sound to the United States in the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott.

Settlers showed their gratitude by naming their frontier town after him. "A friend to the whites" is engraved in his headstone.

The chief, baptized by Catholic missionaries, died at the Port Madison reservation in 1866.

Many Kitsap County residents and businesses pitched in to help restore the monument. Steel rods have been drilled into the white, Italian marble. Broken pieces from the 3-foot-tall cross have been glued together. The stone has been polished and cleaned.

But there are still open wounds.

"The fractures in this cross have been repaired but I don't know what we can do to fix the fractures in this community," Suquamish tribal chairman Bennie Armstrong told Saturday's gathering, which included many elders.

Armstrong noted Chief Seattle's willingness to share the tribe's culture. "It's the practice of tolerance we need between our cultures now."

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