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Currently on display at the Museum of History and Industry is one of the treasures
of the Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle: the rosary of Princess Angeline,
which was preserved by Father F. X. Prefontaine after her death.
Courtesy of the Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle.
On the right: a photo of Angeline, reprinted in Annals of Old Angeline (http://www.sos.wa.gov/legacy/publications_detail.aspx?p=48).

On display at the Museum of History and Industry in South Lake Union is one of the treasures of the Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle: a rosary belonging to Princess Angeline, and given to Seattle’s pioneer priest, Father F. X. Prefontaine, after her death.

Princess Angeline, the oldest daughter of Si’ahl (Seattle), chief of the Duwamish people, was born in about 1820 and given the name Kikisoblu.  Like her father, Kikisoblu became a Christian and remained in the Catholic Church until her death.

The coming of white settlers to Puget Sound brought rapid changes to the Duwamish people. Less than four years after the Denny party landed at Alki Point, the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed, establishing reservations and, in essence, making it illegal for Kikisoblu to live in the city named for her father.

But Kikisoblu did not leave Seattle. She stayed, and formed close friendships with some of Seattle’s founders, especially Henry Yesler and “Doc” Maynard. In fact, it was Catherine Maynard, the second wife of Doc Maynard, who—finding her Lushootseed name too difficult to pronounce—gave her the name Angeline. She lived in a tumbledown little building on Front Street between Pike and Pine, roughly where the Pike Place Market is now, and took in laundry and made baskets for a living.  With her tiny form wrapped in a worn shawl, a red bandana on her head, a cigarette in her mouth, and a rosary in her hand, she was an unmistakable figure on the streets of Seattle. Her language was often a lively mix of English and Lushootseed.  She called Seattle “Hyas Tyee Papa Town” – great big Seattle town! A number of photographers paid her a dollar or two to take her picture, including Edward S. Curtis, who was inspired by the haunting beauty of the portrait to document native peoples all over the West. 

When asked about her faith, Angeline would say, “I am a Catholic and I have a crucifix and a rosary.” She would proudly show her crucifix to visitors, saying, “this is my friend.”  She became a fixture at Father Prefontaine’s Church of Our Lady of Good Help, but she prayed everywhere.  As the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary recorded in their house chronicles, “it was no infrequent sight to see this poor old Indian woman seated on the sidewalk devoutly reciting her beads.”

Angeline’s death on May 31, 1896, marked the end of an era, and all of Seattle came together to give her a funeral like no other. She was buried from Our Lady of Good Help, her parish, and, faithful to her request, her coffin was shaped like a canoe. In a contemporary poem called Annals of Old Angeline, Bertha Piper Venen wrote:

All honors of the church did she receive,
And in its peace and pardon did believe;
And humbled, low, her spirit bent
In grace receiving solemn sacrament!...
Festooned in dark funeral pall,
Her church became reception hall;
Her friends were packed from wall to wall
And stillness reigned, while tapers tall
And many, burned their waxness through,
And shed soft glow on black canoe.

After the funeral, Angeline’s coffin was taken to Lakeview Cemetery, where she lies amid Seattle’s pioneers, a few paces from the imposing monument of her friend Henry Yesler.  Her grave is one of the most visited in the cemetery, and the coins and shells left by her monument testify to the fact that Seattle has not forgotten Princess Angeline. 

Corinna Laughlin, Director of Liturgy


 

 

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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303