The Squaxin Island Tribe (also Squaxin, Squaxon) is a Native American tribal government in western Washington state in the United States. The Squaxin Island Tribe is made up of several Lushootseed clans: the Noo-Seh-Chatl, Steh-Chass, Squi-Aitl, T’Peeksin, Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish, Squawksin, and S’Hotle-Ma-Mish. They live along several inlets of southern Puget Sound. They moved onto their reservation in modern-day Mason County, Washington, in 1855. The Squaxin Island Tribe was one of the first Native American tribes in the U.S. to enter into the Self Governance Demonstration Project with the federal government. Now the Tribe establishes its own priorities and budgets for funds previously administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Squaxin Island Tribal culture and traditions included a natural abundance of fish, wild fruits and berries, and the forest. They were known for elaborate baskets and wood carvings. Salmon and other foods from the rivers and waterways were the mainstay of their diet and central to their ceremonies. The western red cedar was also important. The cedar tree was steamed and bent into boxes, baskets, serving dishes, and eating utensils. Clothing, mats, furnishings, and rope were made from the bark. Leadership was determined by the amount of wealth acquired. Their social structure included a hereditary nobility, middle-class and a slave class. A social and cultural ceremony, the “potlatch” was practiced traditionally. They are closely linked to the Nisqually people through similar traditions, family ties and traditional language. The Squaxin tribe participated in a treaty council with the US government in 1854 along with other southern Puget Sound tribes. These negotiations ended in the cession of large territories from the tribe to the government in the Treaty of Medicine Creek.
On Christmas Day, 1854 the Treaty of Medicine Creek was negotiated in Chinook Jargon, a trade language inadequate to convey the complex issues of treaty making. This treaty, signed on December 26, was the first in Washington Territory. Approximately 660 people attended the negotiations, although it was raining and miserably cold. More could not attend because of the severity of the weather. The ancestral lands ceded to the United States government (by the Squaxin Island, Nisqually and Puyallup Tribes) in the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek included 4,000 square miles, or 2,560,000 acres, extending from the Cascades on the east to the Black Hills on the west, and from Mt. St. Helens to the Skookumchuck and Chehalis Rivers on the south and Wilke’s Portage Vashon Island and the divide between the Puyallup and White Rivers on the North. Three small reserves. Only one small island, four and a half miles long and a half mile wide was reserved as the main area for all of our people to live. The island was named after the people of Case Inlet and became known as Squaxin Island.
The Tribe operates under a constitution which was approved on July 8, 1965. The governing body is the Squaxin Island Tribal Council consisting of seven persons elected to three-year terms by the general council. The Squaxin Island Reservation occupies most of a small island north of Olympia. Tribal headquarters are now located in Kamilche, between Little Skookum and Totten Inlets, where hundreds of acres of land has been purchased and a thriving community has been established. The General Council of all members elects a seven-member council that oversees all branches of Tribal government and enterprise.
Squaxin Island was one of the first 30 tribes in the nation to enter into the Self Governance Demonstration Project with the federal government. Now the Tribe establishes its own priorities and budgets for funds previously administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Squaxin Island Indian Reservation is in southeastern Mason County, Washington. Most of the main reservation is composed of Squaxin Island, but there is also a small part of 26.13 acres (105,700 m2) at Kamilche, in addition to two parcels of off-reservation trust land near Kamilche, as well as a plot of 6.03 acres (24,400 m2) across Pickering Passage from Squaxin Island and a plot of 35.93 acres (145,400 m2) on Harstine Island, across Peale Passage. The total land area including off-reservation trust lands is 6.942 km² (2.68 sq mi, or 1,715.46 acres). Of the total resident population of 405 persons (2000 census), 383 lived in off-reservation trust land to the southeast of Kamilche, and 22 lived on Harstine Island, while the bulk of the reservation’s territory, Squaxin Island, was unpopulated.
Although there are no year-round residents on Squaxin Island today, it is looked upon by our people as the bond that unites our past, present, and future generations. Squaxin Island is used for fishing, hunting, shellfish gathering, camping, and other activities. Only tribal members are allowed on the island, but permits can be obtained through the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department for tribal members to take friends on the island with them.
Tribal headquarters are now located in Kamilche, between Little Skookum and Totten Inlets, where hundreds of acres of land has been purchased and a thriving community has been established.
They are the Noo-Seh-Chatl of Henderson Inlet, Steh Chass of Budd Inlet, Squi-Aitl of Eld Inlet, Sawamish/T’Peeksin of Totten Inlet, Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish of Hammersley Inlet, Squawksin of Case Inlet and S’Hotle-Ma-Mish of Carr Inlet. The reservation occupies most of a small island directly north of Olympia.
The Squaxin Island people speak the Lushootseed language.
The Tribe works cooperatively with the State of Washington as co-managers of natural resources such as salmon and shellfish. Tribal members participate in fisheries conducted in Usual and Accustomed areas with permits obtained by the Tribe following Tribal policies, regulations and restrictions and in accordance with Tribal/State agreements and federal guidelines.
Some of the tribal businesses are:
Community Kitchen – The Squaxin Community Kitchen is available for meetings, banquets, birthdays, parties, and more!
Island Search Services – At Island Search Services, we offer a full spectrum of executive search services. We will conduct a needs assessment and then customize the search process to our client.
Salish Seafoods – Today Salish Seafoods grows oysters on 41 acres of tidelands on pristine Squaxin Island which is uninhabited tribal reservation land. Salish Seafoods is located on 5 acres of uplands on Harstine Island adjacent to 5 acres of tidelands.
Skookum Creek Tobacco – Skookum Creek Tobacco is a small tobacco manufacturing company located about 20 minutes west of Olympia, in Shelton, WA. Located in the lush rainforest landscape of the Pacific Northwest, Skookum Creek Tobacco, a 100% tribally owned entity.
Ta-Qwo-Ma Business Center – Promote economic diversity through entrepreneurship, Directly assist tribal and community members to create business plans, learn business skills and gain access to capital
Trading Post Stores -Kamilche Trading Post Store, KTP Tobacco Drive-thru
Principal industries: wood products, food products, manufacturing, agriculture.
The Squaxin Island Tribe is governed by a Tribal Council consisting of seven members who are elected during annual general body meetings and serve staggered terms. Tribal Council meetings are held at least twice a month, and are open to all enrolled Tribal members. During these meetings,the Tribal Council establishes all laws, rules and regulations governing the Squaxin Island Reservation. They also make decisions and negotiate with other governmental agencies and organizations for the benefit of all Tribal members.
The Executive and Deputy Executive Directors work to ensure all departments are performing their duties in accordance with the wishes of the Tribal Council and the General Body. These departments include Community Development (DCD), Cultural Resources, Family Services, Health Clinic, Human Resources (HR), Information Systems (DIS), Tu Ha’ Buts Learning Center (TLC), Legal, Natural Resources (NR), Planning and Public Safety. Each department is guided by one director, and staff work under the direct supervision of program managers.
City: Shelton, population 7,530, elevation 12.
County: Mason, population 36,000, Native American 1,247, 44% of nonwhite, 3% of total population. 962 square milesCounty’s assessed value averages $2,290 an acre.
Rainfall: 64.2 inches, temperatures, 41-61.