Whatever Happened to Tillicum Village on Blake Island?

In my 20s, I worked as a radio personality on Seattle’s KUBE 93 and as a boat employee/tour guide at Argosy Tours on the Seattle waterfront.

Of all the great routes, my favorite assignment was the four-hour excursion to Blake Island’s Tillicum Village longhouse. This popular attraction filled the tour boat to capacity. Everyone was excited to see the show put on by the Native American dancers and the storytelling from generations ago.

The spoken word and traditional singing pointed to an earlier era when Chief Seattle, who was supposedly born on Blake Island, was alive and leading his people. For centuries, the area natives prepared salmon, fished from the Salish Sea; cooked on cedar stakes over an alder wood fire. As an employee of Argosy Tours, we got to partake in the Tillicum Village meals during the dancing show. I’ll never forget how good it was. 

CREDIT: Shameran81 via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (No Changes Made)
CREDIT: Shameran81 via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (No Changes Made)

The Seattle Post Intelligencer ran a recent story, reporting that Tillicum Village ran shows on Blake Island for nearly 60 years - from 1962 to 2021. Then the dancing, the spoken word, and the delicious Salmon meals all stopped. 


When Argosy Tours purchased the rights to Tillicum Village in 2009, everything seemed profitable and smooth - until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

The worldwide crisis, diminished parking on the Downtown Seattle Waterfront (READ: Construction), and needed repairs to the facilities all dogpiled themselves upon Argosy.

Argosy briefly brought the tours back to Blake Island, as the rebranded Tillicum Experience. Then the hard decision was made to close it all down in 2021.

Blake Islands future. 

Today, the Tillicum Village buildings and the lovingly carved totems have all returned to the care of the Washington State Parks and Recreation. 

In the coming months, leaders at State Parks are tossing around possible options, including recreational activities, tour operators, and food providers - all meaning the return to the glory days of Tillicum Village is possible, but not likely.

Freedom Boat Club Seattle (via Facebook)
Freedom Boat Club Seattle (via Facebook)

If you have a boat, you can still access the many available moorage docks. You can also reserve a slot from its nearly four dozen BLAKE ISLAND MARINE STATE PARK campsites. Once you’re there you can dig for clams, go scuba diving, or hike the miles of trails and watch the breathtaking sunsets over the Olympic Mountains to the west. Bring your family to play and explore like Chief Seattle did many years ago.

INFO: Seattle Post Intelligencer, Seattle Met

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