Tyee High School History in SeaTac, WA

This article concentrates on the History of Tyee High School. It is part of an ongoing project I have undertaken to assist with the mascot change from Totems to Titans. Here is my general introduction to this process.

Our High School will be changing it’s mascot from Totems to Titans in an effort to be more respectful of our indigenous people of the area. The class of 2022 will be the last class under the old Totem mascot.

This article is an inventory of the totems that were donated and used by students over the approximately 60 years of life at Tyee High School.

May this be helpful in finding an appropriate home for these relics such as a museum or with one of the local tribes.

Lastly, if you find I have misstated something or have additional information please use the comments section at the bottom. Then I can work with you to update the inventory and article.

Batgurrl – Robin Adams (Foster) Class of 1971 Tyee Senior High School

Updated May 31, 2022

The three articles on Tyee Mascots and the links are:

  • Tyee High School Totem Mascot History – this is the original blog post that includes info on the totem mascots.
  • Tyee History – a consolidation of all the info collected on how the school was built and other important dates and facts. (this article)
  • Tyee Mascot non-totem pole items – this is more details on items that carry the Totem theme but were not actual poles. Some still exist and some are missing at this time.

Now down to the nitty gritty of Tyee’s Past.

History Overview

Tyee High School opened in the Highline School District in the fall of 1963. The student body was created from sophomores and juniors from Mt. Rainier High School, and freshmen from Chinook Junior High School. The first class to graduate from Tyee was the class of 1965.

In 2005 Tyee was facing serious academic and behavior challenges, and the small schools movement had become popular in the U.S. In the fall of 2005, the Tyee campus was divided into 3 small schools: Global Connections, Academic of Citizenship and Empowerment (ACE,) and Odyssey. In 2011, Odyssey was eliminated, leaving he other 2 schools on the campus.

By 2016 the academic and behavior challenges were significantly reduced, and the grants supporting small schools had ended. The school district then decided to return the campus to a single school.

Stephanie Knox Nichols Class of ’67

Chronological early History of Tyee High School

Deana Osborn Anderson sent me a good outline by date of Tyee’s early days. She gleaned quite a bit of this from the school newspaper called the Smoke Signal.

  • September 4, 1963 Tyee Opens. The District transferred students from Mount Rainier to form the student body, the Class of 1965 was the first class to graduate. Tyee would shift back and forth over the years from a 3 year to a 4 year school. (see details below)
  • Since the school construction was not complete, some classes were held at Chinook Jr High and the church up the street.
  • December 11, 1963 Tyee’s formal dedication was held in the cafeteria. (see Smoke Signal article below)
  • December 1963: The first assembly was held in Chinook’s gym. Students walked from Chinook to Tyee through the mud and dirt.
  • 1964/65 – Volume 11 number 1: Totem was chosen as the school symbol, students were voting on the design. Band uniforms were also designed. Red jackets with gold buttons and long red slacks. The jackets will be shared with the choir.
  • January 1964: The Alma Mater was written and composed by band teacher, Mr. Wally Rants.
  • June 3, 1964: The football field was planted along with the first tree on campus, a small pine tree on the west side of the cafeteria. (see photos below)
  • June 1965: First graduating Class graduated from Tyee Senior High School.
  • October 14, 1965: First Homecoming
  • December 3, 1965: The Seniors introduced the flag-raising ceremony, hoping to make it a weekly tradition each Wednesday.
  • The Sheets family acquired a Muckleshoot carved totem pole. Floyd Sheets painted the pole and displayed in the family’s front yard on Military South.
  • December 17, 1965: 1965 class voted on the color of the graduation robes. Options were dark blue/light blue, dark blue/gold or red/gold. Red/gold won.
  • October 7, 1965: Picture of school custodian, Bud Orchard, holding the small totem pole he carved for the school. Students had a contest to name the totem.
  • October 20, 1965: The carved totem contest resulted in the name Tommy Totem by Class of ’67 student, Wanda Foster.
  • February 17, 1967: Tyee crest was created

3 classes or 4 classes explanation

Lot of discussion around when the school had 3 or 4 classes on campus. Here is a good explanation I received:

  • Tyee was 3yr the first year it opened (no seniors).
  • Was 4 year until the 67-68 year when it went back to a 3yr. Class of 70 was bottom of totem pole 2 years (their frosh and sophomore years)
  • Reverted back to 4yr school 80-81 year and Junior High went to a Middle School 2yr format (grades 7-8).
  • So the 80-81 year saw about 1/2 of Tyee as new faces! Frosh/sophomore plus transfers from Glacier High School. Which closed in 80. It was rebuilt and opened in 2019 as a Middle School
  • The 2019-2020 year 6th graders moved to Middle School.
  • Currently in Highline Public Schools: Elementary School is K-5 ( some have preschool programs) Middle School is 6-8. High School is 9-12.

From One School to Three and back

Deana sent me a history of Tyee written by Stephanie. This included some important information about the current Tyee that we need to understand and help with. Kudos to both of these ladies on all they have done for the current student body.

During the 2016-17 school year the staff faced new challenges. First, the returning students had developed identity as ACE or Global students and were completely unfamiliar with the old traditions of Tyee. In previous years, ACE and Global students had competed against each other and so the elimination of those schools left a void. Incoming students were too young to remember Tyee as it once had been.

A second challenge involved the changing demographics of the area. In the 2017-18 school year Tyee had close to 1,000 students. Of those, 85% qualified for free and reduced lunches, and 106 were homeless.

Tyee now has several school year under it’s belt since being returned to a single school. The staff and the alumni group, “Friends of Tyee,” have helped create a new school spirit, but it will take more time and effort for this to reach the level it once was. The school has received financial support from the Mariners and the Seahawks, but the high level of poverty at the school continues to be a challenge

Stephanie Knox Nichols Class of ’67.

Smoke Signal – Tyee Opens & Lone Pine Tree

Next is a Smoke Signal article reminiscing about the very first day at Tyee in 1963.

Opening Day for First Tyee Students

As mentioned above a small pine tree was planted in June 1964. Here is the information around that Lonely Pine.

We have this lovely pine tree that was planted in the early years of the school. From reading this article I would say this baby pine was planted in the 1963-64 time period. The article mentions the muddiness around campus so hence my guess on the age.

Here is the article that Deana found for us with a photo of the Lonely Pine.

Lonely Pine and the hope for a lush campus one day
Just a baby tee in a sea dirt around the unfinished school
See our Lonely Pine on the right of this 2011 photo?

I received this 2011 photo of the 1974 totem from Karen Smith and Deana. There is our little Pine Tree thriving and not small anymore. Just like all of us alumni!! He grew up with Spirit.

Construction – First Round

I found some information in the 1987 yearbook on the first major changes made to the Tyee Campus Buildings.

Here are the articles and photos I found:

1987 Yearbook explanation of construction of Developmentally Disabled Facility
Construction mess at Tyee in 1986-87 school year.

Construction – Second Round

This round of construction was much more disruptive and changed the building layout. These changes included converting the original gym into the 700 building, removing 400 building to create more parking and bus unloading and a new gym area. I am sure it did more but this is the best I can tell from what it says in the 1990 Yearbook. Here is the write up I found.

1990 Yearbook explanation of 2nd Construction project

I also found a few photos of the construction.


That is what we have gathered on our Tyee High School History. Thank you to all who have helped with photos and information.

Are we missing other items? Please send me anything else you have, additional information on the above or corrections to what I have included.

Be sure to visit the the two other articles – History and Miscellaneous Mascot Items. (see links above)

This info could help make a meaningful exhibit that explains how times have changed and honors our past mascots as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.