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Old Puyallup Indian Cemetery
Also known as: Cushman Cemetery, Indian Mission Cemetery, Puyallup Indian Cemetery, Puyallup Tribal Cemetery
2002 East 28th Street
Tacoma
Pierce County
Washington  USA
Postal Code: 98404

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Cemetery notes and/or description:
"Linger awhile and walk with me into the shadowy mist that was yesterday. Stroll across the faded pages of history and from our hardships learn the ways of a better life. Pass me not for I am the spirit of your ancestors. In your veins flow my blood and the blood of my fathers. Linger awhile, if only for a moment and through your thoughts I will know I am remembered."

Unknown Author


On my visit home July 2007 to Tacoma I walked and transcribed the cemetery along with my FAG friend "Searching". As a young girl; probably 5 or 6 years old, I can still remember going to Cushman Hospital with my mother to visit one of her friends who was a patient there. I can recall in the entry way on the floor there was a beautiful large mosaic art of a buffalo, wonderful paintings of Native Americans on the walls and murals. When leaving the hospital I noticed a cemetery close by but I didn't know the name of the cemetery until later in life.

There is a large stone by the road leading up to the cemetery reads: "By the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854 Governor Isaac Stevens established the Puyallup Indian Reservation 2900 acres. The agency buildings occupied ground in this vicinity.

This marker presented by the News Tribune of Tacoma and Frank R. Spinning of Sumner erected by the Woman's Club of Tacoma 1928."

History: The Puyallup Indian Cemetery was adjacent to the Cushman Indian Hospital , a federal Native American Indian Hospital that was a few hundred yards away from the cemetery and overlooking the Puyallup River. The Cushman Indian Hospital was demolished years ago and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians Bingo Hall and Emerald Queen Casino were built on that land.

Old Puyallup Indian Cemetery, also known as: Cushman Indian Cemetery, Puyallup Indian Cemetery and the Puyallup Tribal Cemetery. The cemetery is the spiritual nucleus of the tribe and one of its few remaining links to the past.

The cemetery is surrounded by high stone wall and located on the grounds of the cemetery is a small church called The Church of The Indian Fellowship. The reservation was formed in 1854 with the signing of the Medicine Creek Treaty and the cemetery was formed soon after. The cemetery is still being used to bury Puyallup tribal members.

Among the notable people at rest in the cemetery are: Chief Leschi, of the [Nisqually]; Charlie Satiacum, of the Duwamish; Chief Squatahan, of the Puyallup; Richard Sinnaywah (Tyee Dick), chief of three tribes - the Cowlitz, the Squally, and the Puyallup; and John Hoate, a wealthy Native American noted for his potlatching, who died penniless.

There are over two hundred graves with small cement markers with no names or dates but simply reading "At Rest" or "Head." These graves are mostly Native Alaskans buried there who died of tuberculosis in the Cushman Hospital. Many Alaskans died on Puyallup land. Most of the other tribal members were sent back to their families when they died, but Alaska Natives were usually buried near the Cushman hospital, unattended by friends or relatives, without a headstone to name them. Those burials began in the 1920s and lasted into the 1940s. The tribe was able to recover from federal archives some of the death certificates but not all of them. The death certificates are very incomplete. Sometimes they give an area of the burial and sometimes just say, "buried at the Puyallup Cemetery."

The cemetery parcel was not officially set aside until 1894, but according to some historical evidence and tribal lore, the hillside overlooking the river might have been a place for Puyallup dead for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. After the tribe was confined to the reservation, it moved bodies to Tacoma from other burial grounds around the South Sound. In 1900, the Tacoma Ledger reported that the tribe planned to barbecue 13 head of cattle for a six day feast for all Western Washington tribes to initiate the task of moving bodies from other cemetery sites. The bodies in the Clark's Creek cemetery, one of the tribe's largest, were exhumed and reburied at the cemetery.

For many years the Puyallup Indian Cemetery did not have a caretaker. As a result, many of the tombstones were ruined, lost or destroyed. Hundreds of other graves are unmarked, names without dates or have markers too weathered to read. In spite of this, there is a lot of history of the past, a memorial to those who have gone before us, to those who shaped towns, cities, and states and made them into the places which we now live. It's the final resting place of a lot of tribal ancestors.

The Tacoma Genealogical Society complied names and dates from the headstones and markers in 1932 and 1933, but the map and records they made were lost. In 1962 the society made another survey in which it noted the hopelessness of accounting for everyone buried there.

Update: The tribe started improvement to the cemetery with a $1.2 million wall around the cemetery. The tribe also has plans for another $1.8 million in improvements to the cemetery. The next phase will be a new maintenance facility, a funeral chapel, a mausoleum and depository for ashes.

You can contact the cemetery at:
Tribal Administration
3009 E. Portland Ave
Tacoma, Washington 98404
(245) 573-7800
Cemetery Telephone Number:
(253) 272-5239

~ by Jackie Updated: 2009
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