The Quinault (/kwɨˈnɒlt/ or /kwɨˈnɔːlt/) are a group of Native American peoples from western Washington in the United States. They are a Southwestern Coast Salish people and are enrolled in the federally recognized Quinault Nation of the Quinault Indian Reservation.
In 1855, the Quinaults, Queets, Quileutes, and Hohs signed the Treaty of Olympia (sometimes called the Quinault River Treaty) and ceded their aboriginal lands. This treaty established the Quinault Reservation of 10,000 acres around the Quinault village of Taholah. The size of the reservation was increased to 220,000 acres in 1873. Today the Quinault Indian Nation manages a reservation of 330 square acres- 204,000 acres. Located on the southwest side of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, the Reservation reaches from the Pacific Ocean to the Olympic Mountains. All but the northeast corner of the Reservation, which reaches 2,769 feet elevation, is at a low elevation
The Quinault Nation is governed by an 11-member business committee, which meets with officers of the General Council. It functions under a set of by-laws, which the Tribe adopted August 24, 1922. The Quinault Indian Nation is a sovereign nation with the inherent right to govern itself and deal with other tribes and nations on a government-to-government basis. By-laws established in 1922 and a constitution approved in 1975 form the foundations of the modern-day Quinault government.
The Self-Governance Act of 1988 began as a demonstration project in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). In 1990, this tribe took the challenge, along with six other tribes, to implement self-rule in Indian affairs. This law was amended in 1991 and authorized planning activities in the Indian Health Service (IHS). It was obvious that tribes could manage their own affairs better and make their own decisions without external interference. This is the basic underlying philosophy of Self-Governance.
The Quinault are named after their largest settlement, kwi’nail (present-day Taholah), at the mouth of the Quinault River. Their original territory extended up the river to Lake Quinault and along the Pacific coast from the mouth of the Raft River to Joe Creek, near Pacific Beach. Historically, the Quinault were one of several societies on or near the coast in Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula. These societies included, from north to south, the Makah (on Cape Flattery), Ozette, Quilleute, Hoh, Queets (almost identical to the Quinault in language and customs), Quinault, Copalis-Oyhut, Chehalis, Shoalwater Salish, Willapah, and Chinook on the Columbia estuary. All those societies engaged in an interregional system of trade, marriage, feasting, and raiding and spoke a Chinook lingua franca.
Lewis and Clark estimated in 1805, based on their count of sixty lodges, there were approximately a thousand members. In the 1840s and 1850s a series of epidemics decimated that population. In 1870 there were only 130 Quinault, and in 1888 an Indian agent counted just 95. By 1902 the population had climbed back to 136. The Quinault began to adopt members of other groups as a strategy to secure more land under the General Allotment Act. By 1911 there were 748 allottees. In the 1920s the population was estimated to be not more than 800. The 1990 census counted 1,216 people on the reservation. Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) membership was 2,000 in 1990 and 2,453 in 1999.
Settlements Villages are found up and down the Quinault River. Thirty-eight sites were documented in the 1920s, although only twenty might have been occupied at any one time. Villages were located by favorable fishing spots and averaged from one to ten multifamily houses. Houses were built side by side facing the river. A post and beam construction with red cedar plank siding and gabled roofs was used. Houses varied in size from 30 to 60 feet (9 to 18 meters) in length and 20 to 40 feet (6 to 12 meters) in width.
Since their relocation to the Quinault Indian Reservation, the name “Quinault” has been associated with all the Indians who live on the 208,150-acre reservation regardless of their original cultural affiliations. The contemporary Quinault have forged a common identity based on shared residency and the collective struggle for control over their natural resources. In 1975 the Quinault reorganized their government and ratified the Constitution of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN). The nation includes the descendants of the Quinault, Queets, Hoh, Quileute, Chehalis, Chinook, and Cowlitz.
Salmon and steelhead fishing was the major economic activity of the Quinault people. In addition, the rich supply of timber played an important part in their lifestyle. They lived a rich existence with hunting, fishing, and ample supplies of timber for building and firewood.
Currently, only enrolled members of the Quinault Indian Nation and their guests are allowed onto the beaches throughout the reservation. However guests are able to obtain access passes that allow them to use the beaches for the day issued.