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*
- Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Nation
- Hoh Indian Tribe
- Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
- Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe
- Lummi Nation
- Makah Nation
- Muckleshoot Tribe
- Nisqually Indian Tribe
- Nooksack Indian Tribe
- Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe
- Puyallup Tribe of Indians
- Quileute Nation
- Quinault Indian Nation
- Samish Indian Nation
- Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe
- Skokomish Tribe
Non-Federally recognized Native American tribes of the Puget Sound watershed*
- Duwamish Tribe
- Kikiallus Indian Nation
- Marietta Band of Nooksack Tribe
- Snohomish Tribe
- Snoqualmoo Tribe
- Steilacoom Tribe
First Nations of the Salish Sea watershed in Canada**
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.
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.
The following list includes Native American tribes and First Nations of the Salish Sea region.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Social scientists around the Salish Sea are predicting the effects of environmental change through the lens of culturally important foods.
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.
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.
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 is the second largest estuary in the United States. Today, we understand that estuaries—where freshwater and saltwater merge—are among the most productive places for life to exist.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Browse a collection of shellfish photos provided by the Swinomish Tribe.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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:
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.