Find articles and background information related to Native American tribes and First Nations of the Salish Sea region.

Federally recognized Native American tribes of the Puget Sound watershed*

    Non-Federally recognized Native American tribes of the Puget Sound watershed*

    • Snoqualmoo Tribe
    • Steilacoom Tribe

    First Nations of the Salish Sea watershed in Canada**

    Additional Information:


    Three people wearing chest waders walking on a mudflat with blue sky above.

    Rare tidal marshes set the table for salmon recovery

    Tidal wetlands are crucial to Chinook salmon recovery but are among the most threatened habitats in Puget Sound. In 2012, The Nature Conservancy began restoring a 150-acre section of tidal marsh on Port Susan Bay at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River. That project is entering a new phase and may soon connect with other adjacent restoration efforts put forth by the Stillaguamish Tribe. 

    Two people operating a bulldozer at the intersection of two flooded streets in Sumas, Washington. In the background, partially submerged cars are parked in front of the library.

    Rethinking flood control for the Nooksack River

    Can restoring the natural balance of the Nooksack River also reduce flood risks? Officials on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border are taking note as climate change raises the stakes. 

    Brightly painted canoes on river shore with construction cranes in background.

    Diverse populations benefit from targeted efforts to improve environmental justice

    Years of struggle have led to reduced pollution and a stronger sense of community in the Duwamish Valley. As cleanup efforts there continue, environmental justice has come front and center for the area's diverse populations.


    Tribes of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea regions

    The following list includes Native American tribes and First Nations of the Salish Sea region.

    Coast Salish Canoe Journey 2009 landing in Pillar Point; photo by Carol Reiss, USGS

    Traditional Ecological Knowledge

    Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), sometimes called Indigenous Knowledge, refers to cumulative knowledge and 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.

    Underwater view of a single salmon swimming above gravelly river bed.

    The words ‘in common with’ were pivotal to Judge Boldt’s ruling on Native American fishing rights

    Three common words and their legal interpretation a half-century ago helped set the stage for a cultural revival among Native Americans while propelling an environmental movement that still resonates today. Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan revisits the legal reasoning behind the famous Boldt decision that upheld tribal fishing rights in the state of Washington. 

    A 1924 photo titled "Treaty trees" shows the site of the 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty. The photo is used by permission of the Washington State Historical Society (photo catalog no. 1943.42.30562) and was retrieved from

    Legal milestones for Indigenous sovereignty and salmon co-management in the Puget Sound region

    Treaty rights are critical to the sovereignity of Puget Sound area Tribes and are deeply connected to natural resource management. Five landmark treaties in our region were signed during a three-year period from 1854 to 1856 and continue to drive policy to this day.  

    Shoreline composed of a human-made rock wall next to water with a small boat tied to the shore.

    First modern clam garden takes shape in Puget Sound

    The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community has begun constructing the first known clam garden to be built in modern times. They hope that what was once an ancient way of cultivating shellfish can now be a hedge against climate change.

    Winter scene of marsh at high tide two conifer trees reflected on water in the foreground; snow covered mountain in the background.

    Making room for salmon

    How can Puget Sound generate more salmon? That question has been at the center of ecosystem recovery efforts for decades. But even as scientists and conservationists make progress on many fronts — from breaching dams to cleaning up the water — they have faced one especially complicated and frustrating limitation: Salmon need more estuaries. We look at how local tribes are working to restore this critical habitat.

    Salish Sea with Mt Baker in the background

    Social Science for the Salish Sea

    Social Science for the Salish Sea (S4) provides a foundation for future research projects, accessible information for planning or management decisions, and synthesized content to inform ecosystem recovery.

    Field of camas lilies

    Indigenous Plants Forum raises awareness of native botanical treasures

    A Lopez Island-based nonprofit says the protection of critical habitat for native plants can also preserve a wealth of traditional knowledge. The group is working with private landowners to raise awareness of culturally important plants hidden in the bogs and underbrush of Puget Sound's natural areas.

    Homewaters book cover

    'Homewaters' blends natural and cultural history of Puget Sound

    A new book explores our complicated connection to the ecosystem we call home. We interview author David B. Williams about Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound, published this month by the University of Washington Press.

    A rusty radiator and other debris in sediment of the Duwamish River at low tide.

    Revised toxic-cleanup rules will increase focus on environmental justice

    An update to state rules regarding the cleanup of toxic pollution is expected to bring more attention to factors like race, ethnicity and income within populations that live near contaminated sites.

    The Elwha River, Washington. Photo: Tom Collins (CC BY-ND 2.0)

    Puget Sound National Estuary Program: Tribal implementation final report

    This report details the outcomes, successes, and reflections of the final two years (2014-15) of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Estuary Program award dedicated to tribal restoration and protection projects in the Puget Sound watershed.

    A woman standing on a rock in a river holding a long pole with a net on the end. Photo: Rachael Mallon

    Once hearty 'hooligans' declining in the Salish Sea

    A river spawning species of forage fish known as the longfin smelt is rare and getting rarer in the Salish Sea. Biologists are looking into the mysterious decline of the ‘hooligans’ of the Nooksack.

    Human-built clam gardens are found in the lower intertidal zone and characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall. Photo: Amy S. Groesbeck

    How to plan a clam garden

    The revival of an Indigenous aquaculture practice has come to the southern Salish Sea. Clam gardens could help First Nations in British Columbia and Washington state address issues of climate change and food sustainability. 

    A geoduck farm near Totten Inlet between Shelton and Olympia. Photo: KBCS (CC BY 2.0)

    A history of Puget Sound's 'boss clam'

    The geoduck has earned an honored place as Puget Sound's largest and most distinctive native clam, but how much do we really know about it? Often seen as a culinary curiosity, the geoduck has only been commercially harvested on a large scale since the 1970s, and the clam's current popularity is based mostly on demand from Asian markets. Nevertheless, this deep-burrowing mollusk has always been a signature part of the Salish Sea ecosystem. 

    Volunteer Vernon Brisley surveys a bull kelp bed near Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island as part of the Island County MRC regional monitoring project. Photo: Rich Yukubousky

    Kelp crisis? Decline of underwater forests raises alarms

    They rival tropical forests in their richness and diversity, but Puget Sound's kelp beds have declined steeply in recent decades. Scientists are just starting to understand the extent of these losses. What they are finding is bringing kelp to the forefront of Puget Sound's environmental concerns.

    Caption: Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) swimming upstream. Photo: Ingrid Taylar (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    'Early migration gene' tied to unique population of Chinook

    Spring and fall Chinook salmon were thought to be alike until researchers discovered a gene for early migration. Now, federal biologists and legal experts are struggling to decide if spring Chinook should be granted their own legal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

    Herring fishing boats in the Strait of Georgia, BC

    Ancient harvests: A history of Salish Sea herring

    Scientists believe that herring have been a staple of Salish Sea food and culture since humans first arrived here at least 12,500 years ago. That importance has continued into modern times, even as herring numbers have declined in parts of the region. 

    Six-month-old Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) seed. Photo: Benjamin Drummond/

    Return of a native: Olympia oysters are making a comeback

    Puget Sound’s only native oysters were nearly wiped out in the 19th century from overharvesting. Now a network of scientists and advocates is working to restore them to their historical and cultural prominence.

    Tidal forest as viewed from an inner waterway of Otter Island in the Snohomish River estuary. Photo: Jeff Rice/PSI

    Tidal forests offer hope for salmon

    Can scientists bring back the lost tidal forests of Puget Sound? It could take generations, but restoring this rare habitat will pay big dividends for Puget Sound’s salmon.   

    A map of Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound. Image courtesy of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

    Policy pivot in Puget Sound: Lessons learned from marine protected areas and tribally-led estuarine restoration

    A 2018 paper in the journal Ocean and Coastal Management examines and compares planning approaches used to develop marine protected areas and estuary restoration projects in Puget Sound. It finds that management policies can benefit from increasingly collaborative planning with a focus on multiple benefits such as flood control, salmon recovery, recreation and resilience to climate change. 


    Puget Sound Tribal Capacity Program grant #PA-00J27701 final report

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a Five-year Puget Sound Tribal Capacity Program grant (Grant #PA-00J27701) to the Skokomish Indian Tribe. The tribe received approximately $1 million over a five-year project period (10/1/2010-9/30/2015). The purpose of the Puget Sound Tribal Capacity Program is to assist Puget Sound tribes in participating in the development and implementation of the Puget Sound Action Agenda.

    Report cover

    Puget Sound National Estuary Program: Tribal Implementation Award PA-00J32201: FY10-13

    A report from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission describes the results of a series of 97 tribal projects related to Puget Sound recovery funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

    Dean Toba, a scientific technician with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, operates the agency’s screw trap on the Skagit River. The trap helps biologists estimate the number of juvenile salmon leaving the river each year. Photo: Christopher Dunagan, PSI

    Are we making progress on salmon recovery?

    In recent decades, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to restore habitat for Puget Sound salmon. In this article, we look at how scientists are gauging their progress. Are environmental conditions improving or getting worse? The answer may depend on where you look and who you ask.

    A screenshot of the online story

    Finding common ground in a world of environmental change

    A 2017 course at the UW Jackson School of International Studies examined how to create alliances between the Tulalip Tribes and non-tribal millennials through improved intercultural communication. The students in the course produced a multi-media story describing their experiences. 

    Image courtesy of Nisqually Indian Tribe

    Final report for Nisqually Indian Tribe EPA capacity project

    This report describes how funding from the Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program provided fiscal support to allow the Nisqually Indian Tribe to participate in all aspects of the Puget Sound Management Conference. Activities included participation on the region's Ecosystem Coordination Board, The Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, a local South Sound LIO (AHSS), Treaty Rights at Risk efforts and various committees and meetings to support the outcomes of the Puget Sound Action Agenda.

    2013 Swinomish Tribe clam bake. Photo: Copyright Northwest Treaty Tribes

    Clam hunger

    Social scientists around the Salish Sea are predicting the effects of environmental change through the lens of culturally important foods.

    Puget Sound Tribal Capacity Grant

    Building Squaxin Island Tribe capacity to implement the 2020 Action Agenda for Puget Sound and the EPA region 10 comprehensive conservation and management plan

    This 2015 report from the Squaxin Island Tribe details the projects it undertook with funds received by the EPA for the implementation of the 2020 Puget Sound Action Agenda. These projects include the restoration of the Shelton Harbor shoreline and a pelagic food web study.

    Fig 1. The six projects assessed are located on both sides of the Canadian / United States border, which bisects the Salish Sea and its watershed.

    Evaluating threats in multinational marine ecosystems: A Coast Salish first nations and tribal perspective

    A 2015 paper in the journal PLoS ONE identifies ongoing and proposed energy-related development projects that will increase marine vessel traffic in the Salish Sea. It evaluates the threats each project poses to natural resources important to Coast Salish first nations and tribes.

    Puget Sound Fact Book report cover

    Puget Sound Fact Book

    The Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Areas of focus include climate change, geography, water quality, habitats, human dimensions and regional species. The fact book was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership.

    Puget Sound portion of a 1798 chart showing "part of the coast of N.W. America : with the tracks of His Majesty's sloop Discovery and armed tender Chatham / commanded by George Vancouver, Esqr. and prepared under his immediate inspection by Lieut. Joseph Baker." Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

    Puget Sound: A uniquely diverse and productive estuary

    Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the contiguous United States. Today, we understand that estuaries — where freshwater and saltwater merge — are among the most productive places for life to exist.

    Hansen Creek Alluvial Fan and Wetland restoration project (Poster #1)

    Hansen Creek alluvial fan and wetland restoration project

    Habitat restoration was undertaken in 2009-2010 on lower Hansen Creek, Washington. The project converted 140 acres of isolated floodplain into 53 acres of alluvial fan and 87 acres of flow-through wetlands.

    Clam gardens, while all being characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall in the lower intertidal, are diverse in their shapes and sizes. Photo: Amy S. Groesbeck.Clam gardens, while all being characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall in the lower intertidal, are diverse in their shapes and sizes.

    Ancient clam gardens of the Northwest Coast of North America

    Northwest Coast First Peoples made clam garden terraces to expand ideal clam habitat at tidal heights that provided optimal conditions for clam growth and survival, therefore enhancing food production and increasing food security.

    report cover photo

    Monitoring and adaptive management of the Nisqually Delta after tidal marsh restoration: Restoring ecosystem function for salmon

    This 2009 report by the Nisqually Tribe establishes key measures of restoration development, habitat processes, and Chinook salmon response for the largest delta restoration project in the Pacific Northwest.

    Coastal Management journal cover

    Indigenous Community Health and Climate Change: Integrating Biophysical and Social Science Indicators

    This paper appears in the July 2014 issue of the journal Coastal Management, which focuses on the role of social sciences in Puget Sound ecosystem recovery.

    Sockey salmon. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

    Measuring Socio-Cultural Values Associated with Salmon in the Quinault Indian Nation

    A 2014 report describes a study of socio-cultural values associated with blueback salmon in the Quinault Indian Nation. The blueback salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) is a unique strain of sockeye that returns primarily to the Quinault river system.

    Book cover for "Elwha: A River Reborn" by Lynda Mapes

    Exhibit traces Elwha restoration

    The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound spoke with Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes about the exhibit Elwha: A River Reborn, which opened at the University of Washington Burke Museum on November 23rd. The exhibit is based on the book of the same title by Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman, and tells the story of the largest dam removal in U.S. history.  


    Photos: Swinomish shellfish harvesting and research

    Browse a collection of shellfish photos provided by the Swinomish Tribe.

    Juvenile Manila clams. Photo: Julie Barber

    Extended abstract— Poisoning the body to nourish the soul: Prioritising health risks and impacts in a Native American community

    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. 

    Salish Sea map my Norm Maher. Courtesy of the SeaDoc Society.

    The Salish Sea

    The Salish Sea extends across the U.S.-Canada border, and includes the combined waters of the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound Basin and the San Juan Islands (see map).

    The name Salish Sea was proposed by Bert Webber 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 Coast Salish people, who were the first to live in the region.


    Native American tribes of the Puget Sound watershed

    This page includes links to information for Native American tribes with tribal lands found within the boundaries of the Puget Sound watershed.

    Pacific Treefrog; photo by James Bettaso, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    Reports: Sauk-Suiattle amphibian surveys

    The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe conducts annual surveys of amphibian egg masses in the Reservation Slough wetland near the Sauk River.

    Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinniger). Photo by Tippy Jackson, courtesy of NOAA.

    Report: Rockfish recovery in the Salish Sea

    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.


    Salish Sea tribes in Canada

    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.

    State of Our Watersheds Report

    Report: 2012 State of Our Watersheds

    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.


    Upper Skagit Tribe

    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:


    Tulalip Tribes

    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:


    Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

    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:


    Suquamish Tribe

    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:


    Stillaguamish Tribe

    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:


    Squaxin Island Tribe

    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:


    Skokomish Tribe

    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:


    Sauk-Suiattle Tribe

    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:


    Quinault Indian Nation

    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:


    Quileute Tribe

    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:


    Puyallup Tribe

    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:


    Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe

    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:


    Nooksack Tribe

    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:


    Nisqually Tribe

    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:


    Muckleshoot Tribe

    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 Nation

    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:


    Lummi Indian Tribe

    The Lummi tribe is one of the largest in Washington State, with over 5,000 members.

    Lummi Tribe Area of Concern:


    Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe

    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:


    Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe

    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.


    Hoh Indian Tribe

    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:

    Camas flower in full bloom

    Relic gardens: camas in the San Juan Islands

    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.