Browse a collection of shellfish photos provided by the Swinomish Tribe.
Find articles and background information related to Native American tribes and First Nations of the Salish Sea region.
Native American tribes of the Puget Sound watershed
- Hoh Indian Tribe
- Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
- Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe
- Lummi Indian Tribe
- Makah Nation
- Muckleshoot Tribe
- Nisqually Tribe
- Nooksack Tribe
- Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe
- Puyallup Tribe
- Quileute Tribe
- Quinault Indian Nation
- Sauk-Suiattle Tribe
- Skokomish Tribe
First Nations of the Salish Sea watershed in Canada
This is an extended abstract of Poisoning the body to nourish the soul: Prioritising health risks and impacts in a Native American community by Jamie L. Donatuto, Terre A. Satterfield and Robin Gregory. The full article was published in Health, Risk & Society, Vol. 13, No. 2, April 2011, 103–127. The extended abstract was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound by Jamie L. Donatuto.
The Salish Sea is also known as the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound watershed. It extends across the U.S.-Canada border, and includes the Strait of Georgia, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Puget Sound Basin, as well as the San Juan Islands (see map).
The name Salish Sea was proposed in 1989 to reflect the entire cross-border ecosystem. Both Washington State and British Columbia voted to officially recognize the name in late 2009. The name honors the importance of the ecosystem to the Coast Salish people, who were the first to live along its shores.
This page includes links to information for Native American tribes with tribal lands found within the boundaries of the Puget Sound watershed.
The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe conducts annual surveys of amphibian egg masses in the Reservation Slough wetland near the Sauk River.
There are at least 28 species of rockfish in the Salish Sea, but their populations have declined in the past several decades. The proceedings from a 2011 rockfish recovery workshop in Seattle are now available.
This page includes links to information for First Nations living along the Salish Sea in Canada. First Nations peoples occupied what is now Canada prior to the arrival of Europeans and Americans, and over 50 cultural groups and unique languages are represented across the country.
The State of Our Watersheds Report is produced by the treaty tribes of western Washington, and seeks to present a comprehensive view of 20 watersheds in the Puget Sound region and the major issues that are impacting habitat.
The Upper Skagit tribe includes descendants from 11 villages in the Upper Skagit and Samish watersheds. Although the tribe signed the treaty of Point Elliott, no reservation was established, and members refused to leave the region. Today, the tribe's population is scattered among different towns, including Sedro-Woolley, Mount Vernon, and Newhalem.
Upper Skagit Area of Concern:
The Tulalip reservation is located near Marysville, Washington. It was created after the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855, and currently has a population of 2,500 members. The entire tribal population is approximately 4,000 and growing.
Tulalip Tribes Area of Concern:
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is descended from Coast Salish people that lived in and around the Skagit and Samish Rivers. Their reservation, about 15 square miles, is located on Fidalgo Island, between Skagit Bay, Padilla Bay, and the Swinomish channel.
Swinomish Area of Concern:
The Suquamish Tribe, whose ancestors have lived in the region for approximately 10,000 years, has 950 enrolled members. About half of them live on the Port Madison reservation, established in 1855 by the treaty of Point Elliott.
Suquamish Tribe Area of Concern:
The Stillaguamish Tribe is descended from the Stoluck-wa-mish River Tribe, who signed the treaty of Point Elliott in January 1855. Some tribal members moved to the Tulalip reservation, while others remained along the Stillaguamish River. The headquarters for the tribe are in Arlington, Washington.
Stillaguamish Area of Concern:
The Squaxin Island tribe is made up of several tribes from Squaxin Island and the surrounding inlets. Although no members of the tribe currently live on Squaxin Island year-round, it unites past and future generations and is still an important destination. The tribal headquarters are located in Kamilche.
Squaxin Island Area of Concern:
The Skokomish Tribe began as the Twana Indians, made up of nine communities living in and around the Hood Canal drainage basin.
Skokomish Area of Concern:
The tribe focuses restoration efforts in the Skokomish-Dosewallips basin (WRIA 16). Land use in this basin is concentrated along Hood Canal, since much of the remaining land falls under federal jurisdiction. Expanding development is a concern, especially as water demand increases. Aggressive timber harvesting in the last 15 years has left the watershed in need of serious restoration work. Both the Skokomish River and Hood Canal have elevated fecal coliform levels, which are partly attributable to agricultural practices in the surrounding watershed.
Natural Resource Management:
The original homeland of the Sauk-Suiattle tribe covered the entire drainage area of the Sauk, Suiattle, and Cascade rivers. A village of eight traditional cedar longhouses at Sauk Prairie was destroyed by settlers in 1884. From a tribe of 4,000 in 1855, numbers dropped until 1924, when only 18 members remained. Currently, the tribe has around 200 members.
Sauk-Suiattle Area of Concern:
The Quinault Indian Nation includes the Quinault and Queets tribes, as well as descendants of five other coastal tribes. The tribe's headquartes are located in Taholah, Washington.
Quinault Area of Concern:
The Quinault Nation focuses their restoration efforts in the Chehalis River basin, one of the largest in Washington State. Over 81% of the land is forested, and most is privately owned. Population growth, timber harvest, and agriculture are a challenge to habitat restoration. A majority of watersheds in the region have greater than three miles of road per square mile of land, which impedes normal function of nearby streams.
Natural Resource Management:
The Quileute live along the Pacific Coast, in La Push, Washington. The tribe's historical territory stretched up and down the coast.
Quileute Area of Concern:
The Quileute are focused in WRIA 20, where the largest watershed is the Quillayute River. Since 1999, the tribe has been a part of Lead Entities, a state program working to restore salmon habitat. Regulatory changes have been delayed, however, limiting progress. Restoration goals include protecting habitat from negative impacts due to commercial forestry, eliminating invasive knotweed (Polygonum spp.), and increased monitoring.
Natural Resource Management:
The Puyallup Tribe lives in one of the first areas in Puget Sound that was settled by Euro-Americans. For years, they were unable to exercise their fishing rights, until the U.S. vs. Washington court decision, which allowed them access to the usual and accustomed areas.
Puyallup Tribe Area of Concern:
The Port Gamble S’Klallam reservation covers 1,340 acres. Over half of the nearly 2,000 enrolled tribal members live on the reservation. Port Gamble Bay, the tribe’s ancestral home, has proven to be more resilient than other nearby water bodies, but it still carries a load of toxins from the Pope & Talbot sawmill, which operated on the bank for over 150 years.
Port Gamble S'Klallam Area of Concern:
The Nooksack are a tribe of about 2,000 members. After signing the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855, they lost ownership of much of their land in exchange for fishing and hunting rights. They were expected to move to the Lummi Reservation, but most refused, and they were eventually granted some homestead claims. Currently, around 2,400 acres remain in trust, administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After the 1855 treaty, the tribe remained unrecognized until 1973. The tribe's name translates to "always bracken fern roots".
Nooksack Tribe Area of Concern:
The Nisqually tribe has over 650 enrolled members. Most live on or near the reservation, which was established by the Medicine Creek Treaty in 1854. According to legend, the Nisqually people migrated from the Great Basin thousands of years ago, crossing the Cascades and settling in what is now Skate Creek. The tribe is one of the largest employers in Thurston County.
Nisqually Tribe Area of Concern:
The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is named after the prairie where the Muckleshoot reservation was established in 1857. The tribe’s members are descended from the Duwamish and Upper Puyallup people.
Muckleshoot Tribe Area of Concern:
Makah tribal headquarters are located in Neah Bay, Washington. In the 1800s, the tribe numbered between 2,000 and 4,000, spread between five permanent villages on the Washington Coast. The Makah have a strong whaling tradition and close ties to the ocean.
Makah Area of Concern:
The Lummi tribe is one of the largest in Washington State, with over 5,000 members.
Lummi Tribe Area of Concern:
The Lummi Tribe focuses their restoration efforts in the Nooksack Watershed (WRIA 1). Funding shortages have slowed progress, but major components of the restoration plan include construction of logjams in the Nooksack river, which historically had high instream wood abundance, and closure or repair of 458 miles of road within the watershed. Although the Nooksack estuary is healthy, the lower mainstem area of the river has lost over 90% of its historical wetland area.
Natural Resources Management:
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe lives on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula, west of Port Angeles, in the lower Elwha River valley. The land was proclaimed the Lower Elwha Reservation in 1968, and the current tribal lands include approximately a thousand acres. Currently, the tribe has 985 enrolled members, with 395 living on the reservation.
Lower Elwha Klallam Area of Concern:
The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe is one of several communities originating from the S’Klallam tribe (“strong people”), a cultural and linguistic group in the Salish Sea. The S’Klallam signed the treaty of Point No Point in 1855, which entitled them to a payment of $60,000 over 20 years and fishing rights at the “usual and accustomed places.” In 1874, a band of S’Klallams paid $500 for a 210-acre piece of land near Dungeness, which became the Jamestown community.
The Jamestown S’Klallams resisted moving to another reservation, at a price – the federal government ceased to recognize the tribe in 1953. After a long struggle, the tribe succeeded in gaining recognition again in 1981. Since 1988, the tribe has been part of a national Self-Governance Demonstration Project.
The Hoh River (chalak'At'sit, or "the southern river") is central to the history, economy and culture of the tribe. Established in September of 1893, the Hoh Indian Reservation covers 443 acres of land on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. The tribe shares a language with the Quileute. In 2010, additional land was transferred to the tribe under the Hoh Indian Tribe Safe Homelands Act, in order to allow the tribe to move to land outside the tsunami zone if necessary.
Hoh Tribe Area of Concern:
Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), sometimes called Indigenous Knowledge, refers to the deep well of experience that indigenous cultures have of their environment. In the last thirty years, there has been growing interest in TEK as a resource for restoration and conservation projects.
A botanist believes Coast Salish tribes once favored small islands in the San Juan archipelago for growing camas, an important food staple. Her studies may also show the vulnerability of these relic gardens to climate change as sea levels rise.