The Skokomish Indian Tribe, formerly known as the Skokomish Indian Tribe of the Skokomish Reservation, and in its own official use: the Skokomish Tribal Nation, is a federally recognized tribe of Skokomish, Twana, Klallam, and Chimakum people. They are a tribe of Southern Coast Salish indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest located in Washington. The Skokomish Reservation is located on several square miles of Mason County, just north of Shelton, Washington at 47°20′05″N 123°09′36″W. Some Klallam people were relocated onto the reservation after signing the 1855 Point No Point Treaty. Skokomish refers to not only the largest Twana group at treaty times, but to the Skokomish River, the Reservation and the people who were required to move here after the treaty was signed.
The tribe’s first recorded direct contact with European culture came in 1792 and resulted in a devastating smallpox epidemic that took the lives of many.
The Skokomish were one of nine separate groups brought together by a common territory, similar cultural patterns, and the Twana language. “Skokomish” describes the original Twana inhabitants of the villages along the Skokomish River and its North Fork. The Twana language is considered part of the Salish Language. Twana territory, now known as Hood Canal, encompassed a body of salt water, its shoreline and drainage areas. Today, this would be a large portion of Jefferson, Mason and Kitsap Counties on the eastern side of the Olympic Mountains in the northwest Washington State. Their hunting territories extended westward to the Olympic Mountains, while on the south they bordered the principal Sahewamish village (now the town of Shelton). The Twana neighbors were the Klallam people, the Squaxon and Suquamish to the east and southeast; Satsop territory bordered them on the southwest. The Skokomish Tribal Council is the governing body of the Skokomish Tribe. It was established and derives its power from Articles III and VI of the constitution and by-laws of the Skokomish Indian Tribe of the Skokomish Reservation as amended and approved, February 23, 1938, by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior.
There are approximatelyh 796 enrolled members. Encompassing a total of almost 5,000 acres, the reservation is located on the delta of the Skokomish River where it empties into what is called the Great Bend of the Hood Canal on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. It is largely wooded and marshy. For the past three decades Skokomish Tribal members have come together to develop a proactive government for its People and forge ahead with the necessary efforts and visions to provide a diversified mix of services for its youth, seniors and adults. The Skokomish Tribal government today provides a comprehensive array of community-based health, social, cultural and community services to 884 enrolled Skokomish Indians as of May 2003, in addition to their spouses and other family members living within and near the Reservation’s boundaries.
At Treaty Time, the Skokomish River supported large fish runs including all species of Pacific Salmon and Steelhead. This broad range of species and fish runs returned to the Skokomish River during almost every month of the year and provided a stable and diverse fishery for the Tribe. Between 1900 and 1960 the Tribe faced many difficulties. Sometime around 1900, a tycoon from Tacoma acquired the land between the west channel and main channel in the mouth of the Skokomish River. His subsequent diking and ploughing resulted in the loss of various plant species, including the sweetgrass used by the Skokomish for their basketry. At about the same time, the Tribe’s shellfish gathering activities were severely restricted due to the State of Washington’s claims of jurisdiction over tidelands. Furthermore, the City of Tacoma, between 1926 and 1930, constructed two dams on the North Fork of the Skokomish River, resulting in the destruction of important cultural sites and increased restrictions on the Tribe’s saltwater access. Finally, Potlatch State Park was opened in 1960 on a prime piece of shoreline property. All of these actions have been the subject of land claims brought by the Skokomish. An award of about $374,000 in 1965 was directed toward the purchase of a fish processing plant, as well as toward tribal housing. In 1974 the Tribe was successful in regaining disputed fishing rights through the Boldt Decision.