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Snoqualmie gain recognition
Last Wednesday, Oct. 6, approximately 1,000 members of
the Snoqualmie tribe learned that, once again, they were a nation in the
eyes of the Federal government.
The word _ delivered by John D. Leshy of the Department of Interior
_ came after the government rejected the Tulalip tribe's challenge of
the Snoqualmie's status. As a recognized tribe, the Snoqualmie are now
granted status of a sovereign nation and are eligible for federal dollars for
health care, education, social services, housing and tribal-government purposes.
The government's announcement culminates over 140 years of
efforts to resolve the tribe's status. At one time, one of the largest and most
powerful nations in the Puget Sound, the Snoqualmie have effectively been
disenfranchised since the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty of Jan. 22,
1855. On that date, Chief Pat Kanim - along with 81 other chiefs, including
Chief Sealth and representatives of the Duwamish, Suquamish,
Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Swinomish, Skagit, Lummi and other tribes _ signed
over their lands in the presence of Washington Territorial Governor
At the time of the signing, the Snoqualmie numbered over 4,000
and occupied 14 villages in the Valley. However, with the signing of the
treaty and the influx of settlers from the United States, the tribe quickly
dispersed, with many of its members eventually taking up residency in
the Tulalip Reservation near Marysville.
Others _ led by Chief Jerry Kanim, nephew of Chief Pat Kanim and
the last lineal leader of his nation - remained in their ancestral lands in
the Snoqualmie Valley. In November 1919, Chief Kanim formally
requested a return of the lands promised in 1855. In 1937, the Bureau of
Indian Affairs proposed the establishment of a 10,240-acre reservation
for the Snoqualmie near Carnation on the Tolt River. The proposal fell by
the boards during World War II, and in January 1953, the government
formally ended recognition of the Snoqualmie. Chief Kanim died
In the mid-1970s, the Snoqualmie and several other tribes again
asked for federal recognition. Four nations _ the Nooksacks, Upper
Skagits, Sauk-Suiattles and Stillaguamishes _ received the requested status from
the government, while federal courts turned down the Snoqualmie,
Samish, Snohomish, Duwamish and Steilacoom tribes.
Recognition for the Snoqualmie finally came on Aug. 22, 1997,
at which point the Tulalip tribe filed suit, claiming they were the true
successors of the Snoqualmie tribe. Tulalip leaders pointed out that the majority of
the Snoqualmie were relocated to their reservation following the 1855
treaty. They also stressed the Snoqualmie currently living in their historic
valley do not possess a reservation, and are therefore not qualified for
independent tribal status.
The Department of the Interior disagreed, setting off celebrations at
the Snoqualmie Tribal Offices in Carnation and other locations,
including their sacred Snoqualmie Falls.
Tribal members understand there is a long road ahead, including
another possible legal challenge by the Tulalips. A particular problem
will come in securing federal grants, as the tribe does not possess a land base.
However, according to tribal secretary Arlene Ventura, everyone
is upbeat and "still kind of in awe."
"Everybody is kind of overwhelmed here with all kinds of
phone calls offering congratulations, people offering to help," she
"It's exciting. We do have some office formalities to go through, but
I think we're going to _ hopefully some time in November _ bring it to
our membership, and see where they want to go. We have a semi-annual
meeting; it will probably be a houseful this time."
Whatever comes next for the Snoqualmie people, the future at
the moment looks bright and filled with pride.
Many seasons ago, the Ancient Ones lived in this Valley called Snoqualmie.
An Ancient one named Earth Maiden married Star
Warrior of the night, and moved away.
Heavy with child, she became homesick and returned to her people
in the Valley.
Upon this news the Dog Salmon people plotted. After the birth of
the Earth Maiden's child, they stole him away to be raised in their land.
After coming of age, he was given a special power; he became
"Transformer," or the "Changer." He vowed to return to his natural home.
Upon arriving, he realized that the land had yielded little for the
descendents of the Ancient Ones. So, with his power, he changed
everything. Transformer said, "You are my people and your children will
have the `sdo-kwal-biuh' (Snoqualmie) name forever."
- An abbreviated version of the Snoqualmie's creation story, last
printed in the Snoqualmie Valley Record, Aug. 28, 1997.