‘These lands are being loved to death’

Snoqualmie Tribe educates residents about ancestral lands.

As part of a new movement, the Snoqualmie Tribe is asking residents to practice respectful and sustainable habits when recreating on its ancestral lands.

The Ancestral Lands Movement, which was started by the Tribe this summer, is intended to educate residents about land acknowledgment, the Snoqualmie people and the importance of practicing respectful recreational habits.

“We hope that by proactively sharing information with the public about these sacred spaces that people will be more mindful, respectful and restrained when they choose to recreate on the Snoqualmie Tribe’s ancestral lands,” said Robert de los Angeles, Snoqualmie Tribal Chairman.

One goal of the movement is teaching residents about how their recreational habits can lead to land degradation, especially near popular parks and trails. Mt. Si, Rattlesnake Ledge, Issaquah Alps, Tiger Mountains, Snoqualmie Falls, Lake Sammamish and other popular locations are all located within the Tribe’s ancestral lands — and have cultural significance to the Snoqualmie people.

“Unfortunately, because of the exponential increase in outdoor recreation coupled with the selfish and destructive practices of recreators who are unaware, these lands are being loved to death,” said McKenna Sweet Dorman, a member and assistant director of government affairs with the Tribe. “The Tribe is asking its neighbors to show respect when interacting with these lands so that future generations may also experience their unique beauty.”

In the future, the Tribe said in addition to education, it wants to work with local businesses to organize events and encourage people to follow sustainable practice while on trials.

An online pledge supporting the movement has garnered over 6,000 signatures in its first month. On July 6, the City of Sammamish became the first city to announce support for the movement, via a proclamation signed by Mayor Karen Moran on behalf of the city council.

“As a city partner, [we] acknowledge that we are on the indigenous land of Coast Salish peoples, who have reserved treaty rights to this land,” the proclamation reads. “The City of Sammamish thanks the Snoqualmie Tribe, caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here since time immemorial. The City of Sammamish urges its residents and neighbors to practice respect for the Tribe’s ancestral lands.”

Sammamish and the Snoqualmie Tribe had previously developed a working relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic, setting up the Snoqualmie Tribe Vaccine Partnership at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah. The partnership was the Eastside’s only community-based mass vaccination site and vaccinated up to 300 people per day.

“This is a historic day for the city and Tribe,” de los Angeles said of the proclamation. “The city is stepping up to support the Tribe exercising sovereignty in an educational effort to encourage mindfulness as people enjoy ancestral lands.”

The City of North Bend is planning to discuss whether to support the movement at an upcoming city council meeting, Danna McCall, a spokesperson for the city said.

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson said the City of Snoqualmie will not support the movement over concerns it could be used as legal leverage against future city developments or projects.

“I’m fully aware Tribes have lived on these lands long before Europeans,” Larson said. “[But] our concern is that what looks like a respectful and innocuous gesture would be used as another tool in courts in the future to legally complicate the local jurisdictions’ ability to complete projects.”

In response to Larson’s claims, Jaime Martin, a spokesperson for the Tribe said:

“The Ancestral Lands Movement is seeking to educate the public about the Snoqualmie Tribe’s connection to the land as we have a vested interest in our own ancestral lands. We want to make sure all visitors have the knowledge they need to respectfully recreate our ancestral lands. We have lived here since time immemorial, and we will continue to steward these lands for generations to come.”

In addition to Sammamish, Seattle Mountain Rescue, Oxbow Farms, Issaquah Alps Trail Club, Conservation NW, and King County Parks have all signed on to support the movement.

A link to the movements Facebook page can be found here: bit.ly/3wIvhuC