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Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula: Who We Are, Second Edition

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The nine Native tribes of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula—the Hoh, Skokomish, Squaxin Island, Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Quinault, Quileute, and Makah—share complex histories of trade, religion, warfare, and kinship, as well as reverence for the teaching of elders. However, each indigenous nation’s relationship to the Olympic Peninsula is unique. Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula: Who We Are traces the nine tribes’ common history and each tribe’s individual story. This second edition is updated to include new developments since the volume’s initial publication—especially the removal of the Elwha River dams—thus reflecting the ever-changing environment for the Native peoples of the Olympic Peninsula.

Nine essays, researched and written by members of the subject tribes, cover cultural history, contemporary affairs, heritage programs, and tourism information. Edited by anthropologist Jacilee Wray, who also provides the book’s introduction, this collection relates the Native peoples’ history in their own words and addresses each tribe’s current cultural and political issues, from the establishment of community centers to mass canoe journeys. The volume’s updated content expands its findings to new audiences. More than 70 photographs and other illustrations, many of which are new to this edition, give further insight into the unique legacy of these groups, moving beyond popular romanticized views of American Indians to portray their lived experiences.

Providing a foundation for outsiders to learn about the Olympic Peninsula tribes’ unique history with one another and their land, this volume demonstrates a cross-tribal commitment to education, adaptation, and cultural preservation. Furthering these goals, this updated edition offers fresh understanding of Native peoples often seen from an outside perspective only.

ISBN-13: 9780806146706

Media Type: Paperback(Second Edition)

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press

Publication Date: 08-24-2015

Pages: 224

Product Dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Jacilee Wray, a former anthropologist with the National Park Service at Olympic Peninsula, Washington, is editor of Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula: Who We Are and co-editor of Postmistress, Mora, Wash. 1914–1915: Journal Entries and Photographs of Fannie Taylor. Patty Murray serves as a U.S. Senator for Washington State.

Read an Excerpt

Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula

Who We Are

By Jacilee Wray


Copyright © 2015 University of Oklahoma Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8061-5366-7


The S'Klallam

Lower Elwha, Jamestown, and Port Gamble

Historically, the S'Klallam lived throughout the northern Olympic Peninsula and were united by language and kinship. Today they are divided politically into three reservations: the Lower Elwha Klallam, the Jamestown S'Klallam, and the Port Gamble S'Klallam. There are various spellings of the word S'Klallam. Jamestown and Port Gamble use the spelling "S'Klallam" as it appears in the 1855 treaty. The Lower Elwha Klallam omit the S'. In this volume the word is spelled "S'Klallam" unless referring to the Lower Elwha Klallam specifically or the Klallam language.

S'Klallam is an anglicized version of n[??]xws[??]áy'[??]m', which according to tradition means "strong or mighty people." The Klallam language is of the Central Salish branch of the Salishan linguistic family. The S'Klallam are most closely related linguistically to the Sooke, Songish, and Saanich Canadian First Nations on southeastern Vancouver Island and to the Lummi Tribe near Bellingham, Washington.

In the 1790s maritime exploration of the Olympic Peninsula brought Spanish sailors to S'Klallam country. Manuel Quimper anchored his sloop, the Princesa Real, on July 21, 1790, in Freshwater Bay near the Elwha River. Quimper wrote that Indians met him in two canoes, offered the crew salmonberries, and directed them to fresh water. He traded small iron pieces for the berries and noted that the "delicious water [was] taken from a beautiful stream" (Wagner 1933: 119). A description of one of the two Dungeness villages that Quimper mapped and claimed for Spain on July 4, 1790, was described in the log of Don Juan Pantoja, Juan Francisco de Eliza's pilot on the packetboat San Carlos. Pantoja saw the village in June 1791 and described the location as having "streams of good water, a great abundance of salmon and a large settlement of natives" (Wagner 1933: 189; Whitebrook 1959: 107). On August 2, 1791, Eliza named the bay behind Ediz Hook Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles and mapped the harbor. The S'Klallam called the harbor c'ixwíc[??]n. At least two large villages were located here, c'ixwíc[??]n (lit., inside and behind; the spit) and ?i?ín[??]s (lit., good beach).

Early explorers and those who followed brought with them epidemics against which the indigenous people had no immunity. Theanthropologist Herbert Taylor (1963) estimates that the S'Klallam numbered approximately 2,400 around 1780. In 1845 the Hudson Bay Company recorded 1,760 S'Klallam, and by 1855 there were only 926. This drastic decline was the result of smallpox, whooping cough, and measles (Eells [1887] 1971: 272).

Each S'Klallam village functioned as a semiautonomous group, although intervillage relationships and kinship ties were strong. With the advent of immigrant homesteading in the area, S'Klallam lands were taken, and the S'Kallam occupied fewer, more central villages (BIA 1980: 2).

The S'Klallam, along with the Chemakum and Skokomish, were signatories to the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point. In signing the treaty to cede 438,430 acres of S'Klallam territory to the federal government, the S'Klallam understood that a reservation was to be established for them between Sequim and Dungeness Bay. Treaty journal notes show that a reservation was considered "on the straits" (BIA 1980: 5). Indian agent Michael Simmons recommended in 1859 that the "Clallams, living on the Straits of Fuca, be allowed a reserve at Clallam Bay" (ARCIA 1860: 398). Yet no reservation was established, and the S'Kallam were informed they had to move onto the Skokomish Reservation. Most of them refused to move from their usual and accustomed fishing areas and traditional homeland (BIA 1980: 6).

There was a concerted effort by the BIA to organize the S'Klallam under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (48 U.S. Stat. 984) and provide them with reservation land. A first proposal was to combine the three S'Klallam bands, and a second was to organize the Jamestown and Elwha separately from the Port Gamble. All efforts to consolidate the tribes were abandoned in the late 1930s (BIA 1980: 13), and today the three S'Klallam tribes are distinct federally recognized tribes with separate reservations.

Lower Elwha Klallam

Jamie Valadez and Harmony Arakawa

The Lower Elwha Klallam people were created at a place on the Elwha River where the Creator bathed and blessed them. There are holes in the rocks here that are called spcú?, which means "coiled baskets." An early account by the ethnologist T. T. Waterman (1920: 58) describes this spot: "The pits or hollows are the place from which dirt was scooped, out of which the human race was formed. Sometimes people go to these pits to get information about their future life. If a man thrusts his hand into this water, and brings out deer-hair for example, he knows he will be a good hunter."

Cultural History

The Klallam people are traditionally known as "The Strong People." In the 1930s tribal elder Sam Ulmer related the story that explains how this name came to be used. It is retold by Beatrice Charles:

One day there was a big gathering at Elwha. The people ate salmon, clams, wild berries, and lots of good things from nature. At the time a longhouse was being built and they decided to see who could get the big log to the roof. "Who can lift this big log?" the speaker asked. All of the other tribes tried to lift it, with no success. Then it was time for the mighty Klallams. Knowing that logs float, they rolled the log into the water. Then their strongest men walked out into the water and they let the log float onto their shoulders. When they walked out of the water they were carrying the log on their shoulders. Upon reaching the longhouse, everyone shouted at the same time, "Shashume, shashume, shashume!" [an expression similar to "Ready, set, go"], and on the third shashume they all lifted the log to the top. The other tribes thought that the mighty Klallams must be very strong to put the log up so high and also so smart to use the water to first get the log onto their shoulders. They all shouted, "Klallam, Klallam!" which means "Strong People!" That was how our tribe received its name so long ago.

It has been a common misperception that, historically, the Klallam people did not travel into the mountains. In fact, Klallam families not only traveled up and over the Olympic Mountains to gather medicinal plants, berries, beargrass, and cattails and to hunt for bear, deer, and elk, they also lived in upriver villages on a seasonal basis and in some places year-round. The Elwha River valley was a natural byway for subsistence activities but also for social gatherings. One Klallam mother hiked up the Elwha River valley and over to Taholah at the mouth of the Quinault River every summer with her five children to visit relatives there. The Klallam consider the Olympic Mountains sacred and revere the mountains' glory.

A Klallam man named w[??]qín[??]x[??]n, or Boston Charlie (1828–1927, according to his grave stone), used to hunt elk in the Olympic Mountains. He spent his summers in the mountains and had favorite camping spots that he frequented until he was quite old. One of his campsites is a contemporary hiking destination near Mount Carrie called Boston Charlie's Camp. Local people relate accounts of Boston's mountain expeditions.

Boston Charlie was the last medicine man of the Klallam people and would go up to the Olympic Hot Springs for spiritual cleansing, long before the springs were known to early settlers. The last time he traveled up into the mountains, he had a close call. He must have fallen and hurt himself, for he was immobile. He was weak and didn't have anything to eat for several days. He told how the sun was going down and a huge being came up from a cliff. He thought to himself, now this is the day I am going to die. This being, called by the Klallam cicay'íqwt[??]n (Bigfoot), had great big leaves with berries, wet with dew. He put them in Boston Charlie's mouth and then disappeared down the cliff. Boston Charlie survived that ordeal; he was rescued by his nephews. Nowadays, tribal members hike up to Boston Charlie's camp, reviving the traditions of traveling through the mountains.

Historically, ancestors of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe lived in villages on both sides of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On the north side of the strait near Victoria was the Klallam village of Beecher Bay. On the Olympic Peninsula there were Klallam villages at Hoko, Clallam Bay, Pysht, Deep Creek, Freshwater Bay, the Elwha valley and river mouth, the shores of Port Angeles (False Dungeness), and creeks farther east.

Relocation and the Reservation Community

When the Treaty of Point No Point was signed in 1855, the Klallam refused to move onto the Skokomish Reservation on Hood Canal. They preferred to remain in their own villages near their fishing, hunting, and gathering territory, where their ancestors were laid to rest.

Early settlers began arriving in the lower Elwha valley in the 1860s. Port Angeles and other towns were established at about the same time. The homesteaders pushed many Klallam people from their traditional homesites. Some Klallam purchased land at Clallam Bay and Port Angeles but found that because they were not considered U.S. citizens they were unable to obtain title to their ancestral holdings. With the passage of the 1884 Indian Homestead Act, several Klallam families eventually became landowners. By 1894 there were ten Klallam families who held trust patents to their land, amounting to about thirteen hundred acres in the Elwha valley and at Freshwater Bay. Six of these homesteads were located along the Elwha River and are now part of the Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation. Three homesteads are still held by the original families; the others were out of Indian ownership by 1953.

In taking up homesteads, the Klallam (and other tribes) were required to sever tribal relations. Many did not want to do this and therefore had to leave their homesites. Landless Klallam families moved to the rocky shores west of the Elwha River or to Ediz Hook (Morrison 1939: 17).

Indian homesteaders adapted to their altered circumstances, taking up new occupations, clearing and fencing farms, planting orchards, and selling work oxen, pigs, potatoes, oats, fuel, and other products, as well as continuing to supply fish and game to markets and individuals in the region. The Elwha River fishery remained the mainstay of the economy, both for the Klallam people who continued to fish for a living and for those who worked in the woods and mills. Not all Klallam changed the way they made a living, however. As one elder explained, "You can't make farmers out of fishermen."

The main source of food for the Klallam people has always been fish. All five species of salmon were harvested in the Elwha River. In 1910 construction of the Elwha dam began. It was completed in 1914, which prevented the salmon from returning to their spawning grounds, leaving thousands of fish to die below the dams. In 1910 state law required a license to fish, but tribal members could not obtain a license because they were not considered U.S. citizens. The Elwha Klallam would gather the dead fish below the dams, but even possession of dead fish resulted in jail sentences (Morrison 1939: 18). Elders today recall their childhood years when they would sneak down to the river to fish because their families had no food. They tied the fish with twine and dragged them through fields of tall grass to avoid the game wardens. In 1924, American Indians became U.S. citizens, but their fishing rights on the Olympic Peninsula continued to be restricted by the state.

On June 18, 1934, the Wheeler-Howard Act, or Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), was passed. According to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the bill was intended to provide the "opportunity for self-determination for the Indians in handling their property by providing modern corporate management, participation in local government, a more liberal education system through day schools and advanced health measures" (Morrison 1939: 10).

On March 8, 1934, the Northwest Indian Conference met at Chemawa Indian boarding school to discuss the proposed legislation with high-level BIA officials. Members of tribes from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana participated in the discussions, and Chemawa students took the minutes. One of these students was LaVerne Hepfer, daughter of Sam Ulmer, a Klallam leader of that era. Sam Ulmer attended the conference, which led him to assist the tribe in pursuing the acquisition of a Klallam land base.

The major benefit of the IRA for the Elwha Klallam was federal funding for landless tribal members so that they could regain a self-sustaining community with enough land for farming. Initially there were no federal funds available for the purchase of land. However, by 1937 Indian agency superintendent O. C. Upchurch was able to obtain federal funding for the purchase of private farms in the lower Elwha valley. The Elwha Klallam acquired 372 acres of trust land at the site of their former village, from which they had been driven by settlers years earlier (Morrison 1939: 19).

Fourteen homes were included in the purchase. With the assistance of Upchurch, a committee of Klallam leaders selected the fourteen families who were most in need and awarded them these homes. Many of the people in these families had recently been laid off from their work at the logging camps, and some were living in crowded dwellings on or near Ediz Hook. Through the IRA, the fourteen family heads came together to form the Lower Elwha Valley Association and adopted articles of association and bylaws for an agricultural cooperative. The acquisition of these lands by the Lower Elwha Klallam met with resistance from locals who did not want to live within an "Indian reservation" and from sportsmen who anticipated their sport fishing on the Elwha River might be threatened (Morrison 1939: 19).

Although the purpose of acquiring trust land in 1938 was to establish a reservation, the Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation was not proclaimed until January 19, 1968. After the reservation was established in April 1968, the tribe adopted a tribal constitution and bylaws. Since then, growth of the Elwha community has been slow because the floodplain prevents certain types of development. Today the tribe holds more than a thousand acres, 450 within the Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation and the rest in trust status or fee simple ownership by the tribe. There are approximately 562 occupants living in 260 homes on the reservation. The Army Corps of Engineers built a dike on the east side of the river in 1989, making more land available for housing. Today there are 1,500 enrolled tribal members, so there is a need for additional housing.


In August 2003 a location at the base of Ediz Hook in Port Angeles was selected for the construction of a dry dock to build pontoons for the Hood Canal Bridge. This site was formerly the village of c'ixwíc[??]n which means "inner harbor," one of approximately thirty-three villages located on either side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the Hoko River into Hood Canal. This is the largest pre-European-contact village site excavated in Washington State and has been dated back 2,700 years from a carbon-dated fire pit.

In the beginning stages of work to build a dry dock at the site, artifacts and human remains were found. The Department of Transportation stopped construction to consult with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and a mutual agreement was made. Tribal members worked side by side with archaeologists to remove the artifacts and human remains before construction crews continued work on the dry dock. Artifacts found here include shell middens, fire pits, longhouse structures, etched stones, fishing hooks, fish knives, harpoons, and trade goods. There were a total of 335 human remains and more than 100,000 artifacts recovered.

In December 2004 all construction was stopped when workers encountered a mass grave that contained the bodies of those who had died during a smallpox epidemic. The bodies of people found in previous burials showed that they had been carefully laid to rest, often with grave items, such as etched stones, or covered with mica dust. But there had been no formal burial for the people in the mass grave; it was just a long trench where their bodies were laid one on top of another, body after body. The finding of the grave marked a sad time for the Lower Elwha Klallam. As tribal elder Beatrice Charles said, "Enough is enough."


Excerpted from Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula by Jacilee Wray. Copyright © 2015 University of Oklahoma Press. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations,
Foreword Patty Murray,
Key to Pronunciation,
The S'Klallam: Lower Elwha, Jamestown, and Port Gamble,
Skokomish: Twana Descendants Skokomish Culture and Art Committee,
Squaxin Island Squaxin Island Museum and Tourism Department Staff,
Quinault Justine E. James, Jr., with Leilani A. Chubby,
Hoh Viola Riebe,
Quileute Chris Morganroth III, with contributions by Katie Krueger,
Makah Melissa Peterson and the Makah Cultural and Research Center,
Afterword: Salmonberry Memories,
Suggested Reading,