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Snoqualmie Tribe Restores Homeland

Snoqualmie FallsWe might be later than other tribes, but we still have never lost the battle . . . we still move forward. This is what I tell my people. We have to be strong. We have to be patient.

–Jerry Enick, Head Chief, Snoqualmie Tribe

The Snoqualmie, the People of the Moon, have been slowly but steadily reclaiming their homelands over the past half century. Their story, one of tragic loss and a hard fought recovery, represents one of the greatest comebacks in Indian Country.

The Snoqualmie, one of the many tribes who make up the larger group of Coast Salish peoples, have historically lived in the Puget Sound region. Since time immemorial, the Snoqualmie hunted deer, elk, and other game animals, fished for salmon, and gathered berries and wild plants for food and medicinal purpose in the region. Snoqualmie Falls has always been at the center of the Tribe’s spiritual traditions and is regarded by the Tribe as its birthplace. At the time it signed the Point Elliot Treaty in 1855, which ceded their lands to the U.S. government, the Tribe was one of the largest in the Puget Sound region, numbering around 4,000 members.

The Tribe had been promised by the government that it would one day receive its own reservation. But that promise, like so many others, was never kept. Many Snoqualmie stayed in the area, but some moved to other reservations in the Sound. In 1953, the Tribe suffered a major blow when it then lost federal recognition due to a new federal policy that limited recognition to tribes that had reservations. Finding themselves both landless and without the resources to support their tribal members, many of which were living in poverty, the Snoqualmie began the arduous process of rebuilding their nation and their land base. 

In 1999, after 46 years of petitioning, the Snoqualmie received re-recognition based on the evidence that they had maintained a continuous community from historical times to the present. In March 2006, the Tribe received 55 acres for its initial reservation. They have since built a casino, the profits from which have allowed them to provide their 650 tribal members with basic services, improved housing conditions and new employment opportunities.

Poised to rebuild its land base, the Tribe still lacked the resources to purchase additional lands in order to expand housing and health care services, especially for its elders. In October 2006, ILTF made a $20,000 grant to the Snoqualmie Tribe to fund a strategic land planning training for tribal leaders and staff. The resulting document, “Where We Want to Be,” has been used by the Tribe to help it develop its larger, long-term vision and strategic plan for land recovery.

In 2007, based largely on the strength of the Tribe’s strategic plan, the Indian Land Capital Company made a $1.2 million loan to the Snoqualmie toward the purchase of 56 acres of land, which includes the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. The Tribe has been continuing to operate the hospital, with plans to improve its profitability. The additional land will eventually house tribal offices and be used for community purposes.

As they have been rebuilding their land base, the Snoqualmie have also been strengthening their cultural and spiritual ties to their homelands. ILTF made another grant to the Tribe in 2008 to produce an educational DVD of recorded interviews with tribal elders relating the history, culture and spiritual beliefs of the Snoqualmie Tribe. The DVD has been used by the Tribe to educate its tribal members about the places sacred to the Tribe and their historical and cultural importance.

Today, the Tribe continues to thrive and make plans for its future.

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