BJ Cummings. COURTESY PHOTO, University of Washington

BJ Cummings. COURTESY PHOTO, University of Washington

BJ Cummings to talk about the Duwamish River's human and natural history

Greater Kent Historical Society one of sponsors of April 6 event at Kent Commons

BJ Cummings, who founded the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and manages community engagement for the University of Washington’s Superfund Research Program, will be featured at an in-person conversation at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 6 in the Olympic Room at Kent Commons, 525 Fourth Ave. N.

Cummings will speak about The River That Made Seattle, entitled after her book, “The River That Made Seattle: A Human and Natural History of the Duwamish,” published in May 2022.

The free event is presented by the Greater Kent Historical Society, the Kent Museum and Humanities Washington. Face masks are strongly encouraged and will be available.

Once teeming with bountiful salmon and fertile plains, Seattle’s Duwamish River drew both Native peoples and settlers to its shores over centuries for trading, transport and sustenance. Unfortunately, the very utility of the river was its undoing, as decades of dumping led to the river being declared a Superfund cleanup site, according to a media release from Humanities Washington.

Much of Washington’s history has been told through the perspective of its colonizers, obscuring and mythologizing the changes to these lands that have long been occupied by Native peoples. Through the story of the river, author Cummings explores previously unrecorded Native and immigrant histories, and exposes settler falsehoods about the founding of the state. The river’s story is a call to action to align future decisions with values of collaboration, respect and justice.

Cummings, of Seattle, was awarded the River Network’s national River Hero award for her work leading community-based clean up and restoration of the Duwamish River. She is part of the 2021-2023 Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau program.

Humanities Washington is a nonprofit organization dedicated to opening minds and bridging divides by creating spaces to explore different perspectives. For more about Humanities Washington, visit humanities.org.

In communities throughout Washington state, Speakers Bureau presenters give free public presentations on history, politics, music, philosophy, spiritual traditions and everything in between.


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