Native American Heritage Month

December 1, 2021

Note: this post has been updated to reflect that Neighborhood House decided in 2022 to move away from land acknowledgments. Land Acknowledgements were meant to raise awareness and to invite people in to learn more about the land you live on and the indigenous folks whose land was stolen. Now there are many feelings that these land acknowledgments have become performative. For Neighborhood House, we saw internally that we were not supporting as many local Native American tribe members as we ought to be. So one of our newest partnerships is supporting our Native American Elders with social services in one of Chief Seattle Clubs new housing units here in downtown Seattle. It is a first step for us doing more than being performative.

November was Native American history month and I thought we’d use this space to learn more about the Native people and content and context behind our land acknowledgement. A land acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes the unique and enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories. A land acknowledgement is an important beginning step to understanding the brutal history that we have inherited as residents on Native land, and it is important that we seek to understand our place within that history.

Coast-Salish people are ethnically and linguistically related Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, living in British Columbia, Canada and the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon. They speak one of the Coast Salish languages.

The Duwamish are a Lushootseed-speaking indigenous people of metropolitan Seattle, where they have been living since for the past 10,000 years. The Duwamish are descendants from at least two distinct groups—the People of the Inside (Elliott Bay) and the People of the Large Lake (Lake Washington. Though not a federally recognized tribe, they operate the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center on purchased land near their ancient settlement of Ha-AH-Poos in West Seattle, near the mouth of the Duwamish River.

The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is composed of descendants of the Native people who inhabited the Duwamish and Upper Puyallup watersheds of central Puget Sound for thousands of years before non-Indian settlement. The name Muckleshoot is derived from the Native name for the prairie on which the Tribe’s reservation was established. Following the reservation’s creation in 1857, the Tribe and its members became known as Muckleshoot, rather than the historic tribal names of their Duwamish and Upper Puyallup ancestors. The Muckleshoot peoples whose traditional territory was located along the Green and White rivers, including up to the headwaters in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.  They have an approximate population of more than 3,000, making the Muckleshoot one of the largest Native American tribes in Washington State. Since the mid-19th century, their reservation is located near Auburn, where they operate government, health, education, housing, environmental services and business enterprises including the  Muckleshoot Casino and the White River Ampitheater.

The Snoqualmie tribe lived in 58 longhouses in sixteen villages, with a population of 3,000–4,000. In the mid-19th century, their homelands had four districts near the current cities of Monroe, Tolt, Fall City, and North Bend.  Some Snoqualmies settled onto the Tulalip Reservation after signing the Point Elliott Treaty with the Washington Territory in 1855, but many remained in their ancestral homelands around the Snoqualmie Valley and Lake Sammamish. At that time, they were one of the largest tribes in the Puget Sound region, numbering around 4,000. They have tried and failed on several occasions to secure a reservation on their ancestral lands along the Tolt River (a tributary of the Snoqualmie River). Instead, they purchased land for and were granted a Reservation near Snoqualmie, Washington, on which the tribe opened the Snoqualmie Casino in 2008.

The Suquamish traditionally lived on the western shores of Puget Sound, from Apple Tree Cove in the north to Gig Harbor in the south, including Bainbridge Island and Blake Island. They had villages throughout the region, the largest centered on Old Man House, the largest winter longhouse in the Salish Sea. Taking their name from the traditional Lushootseed phrase for “people of the clear salt water” these expert fisherman, canoe builders and basket weavers have lived in harmony with the lands and waterways along Washington’s Central Puget Sound Region for thousands of years. The Suquamish People continue to live in the place of their ancestors, and practice their traditional life ways on the Port Madison Indian Reservation where they operate government services, the Suquamish Museum, Suquamish Seafoods and Port Madison Enterprises.

The 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott is the lands settlement treaty between the US government and the Native American tribes of the greater Puget Sound region and is one of about thirteen treaties between the U.S. and Native Nations in what is now Washington. The treaty was signed in 1855, at Muckl-te-oh or Point Elliott, now Mukilteo, Washington, and ratified in1859. Between the signing of the treaty and the ratification, fighting continued throughout the region. Lands were being occupied by European-Americans. Signatories to the Treaty of Point Elliott included Chief Seattle (si’áb Si’ahl) and Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens. Representatives from the DuwamishSuquamishSnoqualmieSnohomishLummiSkagitSwinomish, and many other tribes. The treaty guaranteed the signatory tribes reservations and  “the right of taking fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory.”

Take action in addition to reading a land acknowledgement.

  • Find out whose land you’re on and learn more about the tribes’ history and current status.
  • Support tribal enterprises like the ones linked to above as well as Indigenous artists, business owners, journalists, and community organizers
  • More ways to be an ally

Content for this article was taken from Wikipedia and the respective tribes’ web sites. Please click on the links provided in this article to learn more.