History of Tulalip Tribes

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History of Tulalip Tribes

The Tulalip Tribes is a federally recognized Indian tribe with a reservation located west of Marysville, established by the Point Elliott Treaty of January 22, 1855. The Tulalip Tribes include the tribes of Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, and other bands and tribes of Indians who inhabited the shores of the rivers which now bear their names as well as parts of Whidbey and Camano Islands and the mainland shore from Mukilteo north to the mouth of the Stillaguamish River. At the time of European settlement, members of these tribes traveled throughout Puget Sound and as far north as the Fraser River in pursuit of fishing and trading opportunities. Today the adjudicated usual and accustomed fishing area of the Tulalip Tribes extends from the Canadian border 120 miles north to the southern end of Vashon Island. The name “Tulalip” is from the ‘non native’ pronunciation of “dxwlilep”, which is the native descriptive meaning small mouthed bay. At low tide the bay would entrap the sea life within, giving sustenance to the many people of the area.

The Tulalip Tribes have worked tirelessly to preserve their fishing heritage, and save endangered species of salmon. Furthering this goal, the Bernie Kai-Kai Gobin Hatchery is operated by the Tulalip Tribes. The hatchery raises and releases three species of salmon, which provide fishing opportunity for Tulalip tribal members in terminal area fisheries on and near the Tulalip Reservation as well as contributing to other commercial and sport fisheries in Washington and British Columbia.

Because many wild salmon runs are currently depressed or endangered, the hatchery returns are especially important to the Tulalip Tribes at this time. Having a reliable return of hatchery salmon allows tribal members to fish for ceremonial, subsistence, and commercial purposes, without over harvesting those wild salmon runs that require protection. The long-term vision of the Tulalip Tribes is the restoration of wild salmon production to levels that will support fishing needs.

The Tulalip tribes are also working to restore their legacy of native language. Only a decade ago, Lushootseed, an ancient language used by Coastal Salish Native American tribes along the northern coast of Washington, was a mystery to most Tulalip tribal members. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tribal children were forbidden to speak their native language when they were sent to boarding schools, a federal experiment designed to absorb Native Americans into mainstream culture. Knowledge of tribal languages dwindled until the words were only distant memories. Now, about 50 young tribal members are attending Lushootseed Language Camp. They are learning with game show-style quizzes, with computer programs developed by the Tulalip Tribes, and by practicing plays that use English and Lushootseed phrases. The plays are performed at the Tulalip Amphitheatre, in the hopes that renewed interest will bring their ancient language back to life.