Steilacoom Red

Example of a spring with iron oxide clay bed
(Steilacoom spring is now obscured)

The Steilacoom are one of a number of related Tribes living between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean that are collectively referred to as the Coast Salish. The Interior Salish reside east of the Cascades. In precontact times, Coast Salish groups used a variety of dyes, stains, and paints for decorating objects and for personal adornment. The color most closely linked to ceremonies was red. Bed paint ws formed from red clay. One belief holds that the first Salish Indians were molded from red clay:

"Now, man by man and woman by woman, Dukweibahl taught each Tribe to wash. He told the people, "Dive under the water and come ashore and rub yourselves good. You have to be clean before you come out of the water. It was from that time the people learned about combs. As each Tribe got through, he gave them a comb and told them to comb their hair. And he gave them paint to paint their faces."

Indians in the Steilacoom Band (along Chambers Creek and on Puget Sound north and south of the creek) obtained mud rich in iron-oxide from a spring located two blocks east of the Steilacoom Tribal Cultural Center & Museum. The spring (now called Iron Springs) and its rust colored mud were called liq'tɘd in lushootseed (pronounced 'liq'tud) which translates as "red paint". Licton Springs in Seattle is also named for this red clay.

The clay was burnt over a fire to darken it to a redder shade. It was then ground into a find poweder and mixed with deer tallow in a bowl or mortar. The tallow allowed the paint to adhere to a surface.

Some of the uses of red paint were blush, ceremonial face paint, rouge, sunscreen, family canoe interiors, paddles, and other ceremonial paraphernalia.