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Keystone-Port Townsend's newest ferry: The 'Squi Qui'?

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard talks with Swinomish Tribal Community vice chair Barbara James during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting. The Swinomish community is working with several Coupeville-based groups to name a ferry slated to serve the Port Townsend to Keystone route the Squi Qui. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard talks with Swinomish Tribal Community vice chair Barbara James during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting. The Swinomish community is working with several Coupeville-based groups to name a ferry slated to serve the Port Townsend to Keystone route the Squi Qui.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

How would you like to hop aboard the Squi Qui?

A partnership between several Coupeville organizations and the Swinomish Tribal Community has come up with a possible name for the future ferry that will serve the Port Townsend-to-Keystone route.

The Swinomish Tribal Community, which represents the Lower Skagit tribe that used to live on Whidbey Island, along with the Island County Historical Society, the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce and the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, want to name the ferry the Squi Qui.

The Washington State Transportation Commission ultimately will decide the name for the new 64-car ferry that is slated to be complete sometime in 2011.

Squi Qui (1816 to about 1874) lived in a village on the north shore of Penn Cove across from present-day Coupeville. He was a tribal leader who was one of the signers of the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855 (his name was recorded as S’kwai-kwi), according to information provided by the Swinomish Tribal Community, which is based near Anacortes. The Lower Skagit tribe lost large amounts of its territory as a result of the treaty and Squi Qui led his people through the difficult years following the signing of the treaty. His descendants still live in the Swinomish Tribal Community.

Barbara James, vice chairperson of the Swinomish Tribal Community, visited the Tuesday evening Coupeville Town Council meeting to advocate for naming the ferry Squi Qui.

She said her grandmother, Laura Squi Qui Edwards (1890 to 1990), lived in the Coupeville area and there are still 200 descendants living in the Swinomish Tribal Community.

“We were very fortunate to have her as long as we had,” James said.

Speaking for the Coupeville Waterfront Association, Mary Alice Sterling said, “We feel that it’s a great sign of respect to them and our history.”

The first 64-car ferry, which is due to start serving the Port Townsend/Keystone route in the summer of 2010, has been named Chetzemoka, another Native American leader. Squi Qui was a contemporary of Chetzamoka.

The naming of the second ferry is sure to take longer and the process will be more in depth. The Transportation Commission is deciding how to proceed with naming future ferries. In addition, it’s scheduled to report to the Legislature in January about the possibility of selling the naming rights to ferries.

Town Councilman Bob Clay suggested that it may be more prudent to wait and see which names come forward before deciding on which one the town should support.

Councilwoman Molly Hughes said that the proposal the Swinomish Tribal Community is submitting has the support of three prominent organizations in town, which should be good enough for the town council to approve a letter of support.

In the end, the council unanimously approved a letter of support for naming the second ferry the Squi Qui.

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