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Snoqualmie Tribe looks to the future
SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - For the Snoqualmie Tribe, dreams and reality are often intertwined.
Many of their dreams have been passed down from past generations that heard of, or even saw for themselves, a vibrant Native American tribe that called the Valley home.
Jerry Enick believes those dreams can become a reality again. As the new chief of the Snoqualmie Tribe, Enick, 72, said that after years of looking back in order to give an identity to his people, he can finally look ahead.
"There are a lot of things missing from this Tribe," Enick said. "We can get them back."
Enick's history in the Tribe goes back all the way to his mother's father, Jerry Kanim. A popular chief who provided the namesake for Chief Kanim Middle School in Fall City, Jerry Kanim was the nephew of Pat Kanim, the Snoqualmie chief who was one of the signers of the Treaty of Port Elliott. That treaty, signed by a long list of U.S. officials and other Native American leaders in 1855, gave over most of the Native American land in the Puget Sound area south of Canada to the federal government.
Getting that land back, and some of the culture that went with it, has been part of Enick's life ever since he was a youngster listening to his grandfather tell stories about their people. Enick grew up in Carnation (then known by its traditional Snoqualmie Tribe name, Tolt). Although he was the only Native American in his class, Enick said he got along well with his classmates; perhaps because many of them mistook him as Italian because of his dark skin.
After graduating from Tolt High School, Enick joined the Army. He was stationed in Austria and served two years before coming back to the Valley to work as a logger in North Bend. He later moved to Yakima, where he met and married his wife Genevieve, a member of the Yakima Nation. They had four children and lived in Yakima for about 17 years before moving back to the west side of the state to settle in Marysville. He worked in construction most of his life and retired at the age of 65.
No matter where he was, though, Enick always kept ties with his home in the Valley (his grandfather, Jerry Kanim, saw him off at the airport when he was shipped overseas for his Army deployment). In order to get some of the benefits from being part of a recognized Native American tribe, however, Enick joined his father's Tribe, the Sauksuiattle based near Darrington.
When he moved to Marysville, Enick became more active in getting the Snoqualmie Tribe recognized by the federal government, a designation the Tribe actually had at one time but lost in a bizarre twist of circumstances. Following the Treaty of Port Elliott, some Snoqualmies moved to the Tulalip Reservation. Many stayed behind, however, and continued to lobby the government for their own reservation, a provision of the Treaty of Port Elliott. In the 1930s, the federal government worked on plans to give the Tribe its own 10,000-acre reservation near Tolt. Enick said his grandfather, who became chief in 1914, worked to get the Tribe the land promised to them under the treaty.
"This [getting recognition] went back 150 years," Enick said. "My grandfather used to correspond with [former Washington Congressman Henry] Jackson and [former Washington Congressman Warren] Magnuson and all those people. He couldn't read or write. My mother was his secretary and he would say what he wanted to say to her and she would write it up."
Jerry Kanim never got to see his Tribe get its land. When Word War II came, he withdrew the Tribe's application for the sake of the war effort. After the war Jerry Kanim resubmitted it, but it never came to be. In 1953 the federal government said the Snoqualmies could no longer be recognized as a tribe because they had no land to call their own. Jerry Kanim died in 1956. The Snoqualmies of the Valley continued to lobby the federal government, though, for recognition, land and fishing rights. There were more setbacks than victories for many years and the Tribe didn't have another chief until 1986 when Earnest Barr was chosen.
While the Tribe has been without a chief at times, it never lacked leadership. In 1914, the Tribe set up a Tribal Council, which operates similar to other municipal councils. Council members are elected by the Tribe's general membership (now around 600) to four-year terms, as is the tribal chair. Those council members hold meetings and appoint positions that take care of the business of the Tribe.
The chief, however, is a much more traditional position. They serve life terms and must be unanimously elected by the Tribe with a verbal vote. They are revered by Tribal members who go to the chief to solve personal disputes and to seek advice. It is an important role that has been left vacant since Barr died in 1994.
Enick worked with the Tribe to finally get its recognition. It was recognized in 1997 by the federal government, but the ruling went through two years of appeals by the Tulalip Tribe before it was finalized. After the Tribe finally received its recognition, Enick said it got calls from people all over the region claiming to be Snoqualmie Tribal members. Enick told those who were with other tribes to stay put since the Snoqualmie Tribe, just recognized, didn't have much to offer. Enick even recommend his own children to stay in the tribes they married into or had ancestry in.
Even now, eight years later, there is not much the Tribe can offer to its members, Enick said. It has a food bank and has started community clinics, but there is little to offer in terms of services or employment. The Tribe is hoping that will change when its casino near Snoqualmie is finished. Since 2000, the Tribe has worked to get a casino built on a 55-acre plat of land located on the north side of North Bend Way and on the east side of 372nd Avenue Southeast. Legal and technical issues have held up the project, but Matt Mattson, Snoqualmie Tribe administer, said the Tribe has all of its ducks in a row and is now just waiting for the federal government to sign off on the project.
Enick said the casino will give the Tribe the resources to build its future. To be sure, many bloodlines of the Snoqualmie Tribe have died (Enick's mother was the last living Kanim), but, as with any group, the future is in the children. Enick said he would like to see a school set up to keep the Tribe's culture and language alive. It has been working to teach the younger generation how to build canoes so they can join other regional Native American tribes, including those in Canada, at an annual meeting held at various locations in the Northwest.
"What an event to see all those war canoes out there [at the meeting in Tulalip two years ago]. That was something to see," Enick said. "Reliving how it used to be in the past, so many Natives. It makes you feel very proud."