Nikkita Oliver and other Seattle leaders offer their lists of things all Seattleites should know

What do you need to know to be civically and culturally literate about Seattle? We asked a few locals to make their top 10 lists, including several people we know whose job it is to have their fingers on the pulse of the city. Some of them just couldn’t resist going past 10 – but at any rate, here’s what they think all Seattleites should know about their city.

Ann Peavey

Puget Sound Express Cruises

  1. Learn the transit system. Know what an ORCA card is and how to use it. Leave your car behind and ride public transit!
  2. Everyone’s right about how irritating it is to hear “Pike’s Place” instead of “Pike Place Market.” (But c’mon guys, we know what people mean, right? I think as a community we should take a chill-pill on this one.)
  3. Wear fleece. Dress in layers. You’ll soon learn why when you see the wild fluctuations in temperatures from morning to evening commutes. Be prepared with layers to pile on when it gets chilly, and pull off when it’s hot.
  4. Be kind. Seattle is a city with a HUGE heart. We’re accepting. We love our neighbors. Treat people with respect and love, and you’ll get it right back in return.
  5. About that “Seattle Freeze” – you reap what you sow. If you’re friendly and outgoing, you’ll make friends. If not? Check out the Seattle Anti-Freeze MeetUp group.
  6. Get out of the city! One of the beauties of Seattle is that we’re in the midst of a state full of adventurous opportunities. Zip line on Camano Island, whitewater raft in Leavenworth, hike the Olympic Mountains.
  7. If you drive: Don’t honk. We’re not horny like that.
  8. Buy local! Seattle and our neighborhoods are troves of the best products on the planet. Spend time in local farmers markets, Seattle-made events and you’re sure to make some outstanding connections.
  9. Subscribe to a sustainable, organic farm co-op because the prices are worth it!
  10. Have an extra pair of sunglasses in every vehicle/purse you own. Trust me on this one.

Knute Berger

Seattle columnist 

  1. The Seattle Freeze: it’s us, not you.
  2. Seattle has “world class dreams” but a provincial heart.
  3. We’re utopians who believe Seattle should be the role model of a better way.
  4. Many move to Seattle to escape urban, suburban and rural norms.
  5. Our history is uglier than our scenery or our aspirations.
  6. There’s a reason we’re mostly white: The Northwest has a long, violent history of racial exclusion.
  7. Learn about the Salish peoples and know that totem poles aren’t from here.
  8. Local politics is not generally a spectator sport.
  9. Our transportation problems are rooted in the glacially carved landscape and will never be “solved.”
  10. The rest of the state loves to hate us…
  11. … But they love to eat and play here.
  12. Someday, Mt. Rainier’s gonna blow or the Big One is going to hit.
  13. Don’t make fun of Sasquatch. 
  14. Buy sensible shoes, don’t use an umbrella, dress in layers​.

Nikkita Oliver

Seattle-based creative, community organizer, abolitionist, educator, and attorney

  1. We are living on stolen indigenous land.
  2. The city is named after Chief Sealth, a chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.
  3. Stories we do not tell: The burning of Duwamish Longhouses and Anti-Native Laws, The Anti-Chinese Laws, Japanese internment, and redlining.
  4. The history of treaty rights and the fight for those rights
  5. The history of spaces like The Coleman School(Colman School?)/The Northwest African American Museum and El Centro de la Raza
  6. Some Seattle creatives I love and respect: Ernestine Anderson, Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Blue Scholars, Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Octavia Butler.
  7. Tyree Scott, a key labor organizer.
  8. The Seattle General Strike of February 1919 was the first city-wide labor action in America to be proclaimed a “general strike.”
  9. The University of Washington is built upon sacred land, some of which is actually a burial ground.
  10. “Whiteness” as a culture and “white privilege” confer unearned advantages and benefits upon white people. Nikkita added this:

This is not something white people choose to join. It does not require their conscious participation, which is part of the problem. Most white people do not think they have a responsibility in dismantling it. How could they if they did not choose to participate? Nonetheless, dismantling does require conscious participation and choice. Allies and accomplices for racial equity make a conscious decision to take action and build communities which purposefully and consciously challenge white supremacy and white privilege. We need white people to do the work of dismantling “whiteness” and “white supremacy.” This includes the well-intentioned progressive white folks of Seattle. In 1964 Malcolm X said, “Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is — and that’s in their home communities; America’s racism is among their own fellow whites. That’s where sincere whites who really mean to accomplish something have got to work.”

Erin Okuno

Executive Director of Southeast Seattle Education Coalition

  1. Equity vs. equality
  2. School board members’ names
  3. Native American history and settler colonialism
  4. Why you should vote
  5. Build a relationship with at least one educator at your neighborhood school
  6. Power and how it shows up
  7. How to use the library and find authors and artists of color material
  8. Where to shop at businesses owned by people of color and the names of three nonprofit organizations (preferably people of color led and embedded) in your community
  9. How to be in community with diversity (e.g. racially, economically, ableness, language, etc.)
  10. Where to find a good sandwich, bun bowl, taco, and vegan ice cream

Diane Douglas

Former Executive Director of Seattle CityClub

  1. The history of civil rights and the powerful grassroots activism that has shaped Seattle
  2. Our history of immigration and internment
  3. Neighborhood blogs
  4. Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest (i.e. how to navigate downtown Seattle’s E/W streets)
  5. Plate of Nations on MLK
  6. The Water Tower in Volunteer Park is 9 feet higher than the Space Needle, and it’s free
  7. Near Mee-Kwa-Mooks Park in West Seattle, at medium tide just offshore, you can see live sand dollars standing on edge underwater in the sand
  8. Rain is no excuse
  9. You can thaw the Seattle Freeze
  10. How to amplify your power to shape the Seattle you want

Marcus Green

Founder and editor in chief of the South Seattle Emerald

  1. South Seattle’s uniqueness
  2. James Baldwin
  3. Radical empathy
  4. David Ryan Harris
  5. Kubota Garden
  6. The taste of Chef Tarik Abdullah’s curry
  7. Leija Farr’s poetry
  8. The value of mentorship
  9. Heartbreak that leaves you more of a person.This is a rif on a line from a Marc Broussard tune called “Gavin’s Song.” He tells his son that he “wishes him heartbreak that leaves him more of a man”. Essentially, he’s saying he hopes he goes through adversity and emerges stronger for having done so.

Sol Villarreal

Publisher of the Sol’s Civic Minute newsletter

  1. Seattleites are represented by 9 city councilmembers — seven who represent specific geographic districts, and 2 who represent the entire city.
  2. Every year we have a primary election the first Tuesday in August and a general election the first Tuesday in November.
  3. The even-numbered years are federal and state elections, and the odd-numbered years are local elections.
  4. You can register to vote and change the address at which you’re registered entirely online.
  5. We vote by mail instead of in person — you’ll receive a ballot in the mail for every election three weeks before Election Day, and you can mail it in or drop it off in a drop box in your neighborhood.
  6. Our elections are non-partisan at the state level, but organized by party at the state level.
  7. We have a top two primary system in Washington State, so the top two candidates advance through the primary regardless of their party affiliation (or lack thereof).
  8. The full City Council meets on Mondays, and the committees meet on the other days of the week; all City Council meetings are open to the public and start with a public comment period.
  9. City Hall (600 4th Ave) is a gorgeous building — plus they’ve got free wifi year-round, nice public bathrooms, and free concerts and a farmer’s market in the summer.

We’ll be publishing a list put together by you, our readers, on Friday. Got ideas for what should be on it? Let us know — send us an email at [email protected].