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The Suquamish are a Lushootseed-speaking Native American people, located in present-day Washington in the United States. They are a southern Coast Salish people. Today, most Suquamish people are enrolled in the Suquamish Tribe, an indigenous nation and signatory to the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855.
Like many Northwest Coast indigenous peoples, the Suquamish enjoyed the rich bounty of land and sea west of the Cascade Mountains. They fished for salmon and harvested shellfish in local waters and Puget Sound. The cedar tree provided fiber used to weave waterproof clothing and beautiful utilitarian items, and provided wood for longhouses, seagoing canoes and ceremonial items. Today, the Suquamish fish and harvest within their historical territory, and a new generation of local artists — among them Ed Carriere, Betty Pasco, and Andrea Wilbur-Sigo — carry on the ways of their ancestors in creating beautiful carved or woven items that help tell the story of the Suquamish people.
The Suquamish traditionally lived on the western shores of Puget Sound, from Apple Tree Cove in the north to Gig Harbor in the south, including Bainbridge Island and Blake Island. They had villages throughout the region, the largest centered on Old Man House, the largest winter longhouse in the Salish Sea.
The first contact between Suquamish and European peoples came in 1792 when George Vancouver explored Puget Sound and met members of the Suquamish Tribe, possibly including Schweabe and Kitsap. More regular contact with non-Natives came with the establishment of British trading posts in Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia in the early 19th century.
Once the Washington Territory was established in 1853, the U.S. government began signing treaties with area indigenous leaders to extinguish aboriginal claims and make land available for non-Native settlement. In the Point Elliott Treaty signed on January 22, 1855, the Suquamish agreed to cede land to the United States in exchange for certain payments and obligations. They reserved for themselves the land that became designated as the Port Madison Indian Reservation, near their winter village on Agate Pass. They also reserved the right to fish and harvest shellfish in their Usual and Accustomed Areas, and reserved certain cultural and natural resource rights within their historical territory. Today, the Suquamish Tribe is a co-manager with the State of Washington of the state's salmon fishery.
Two members of the Suquamish came to be recognized across the region as great leaders. One was Kitsap, who led a coalition of Puget Sound Tribes against the Cowichan Tribes of Vancouver Island around 1825. Another was Seattle (also spelled Si-ahl, Sealth, See-ahth, and Seathl, pronounced [ˈsiʔaːɬ]), son of Schweabe, who was a peacekeeper during the turbulent times of the mid-19th century.
Lawrence Webster (1899-1991) served as chairman of the Suquamish Tribe from 1979-1985. In 1979, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to represent Native Americans at an event commemorating the 15th anniversary of the government program, VISTA. In 1983, he helped establish the Suquamish Museum. Earlier in his life, he was a noted baseball catcher, playing on a Suquamish team in 1921 that was sent by a national sporting-goods company on a goodwill tour of Japan.
Leonard Forsman, an anthropologist and archeologist who has served as the Suquamish Tribe’s chairman since 2005, is a governor-appointed member of the state Board on Geographic Names and an Obama appointee to the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
Cindy Webster-Martinson, a former Suquamish Tribal Council member, is vice president of the North Kitsap School Board (elected in 2013 to a four-year term) and is believed to be the first Native American elected to non-Tribal public office in Kitsap County. She is a granddaughter of Lawrence Webster.
The Suquamish Tribe is governed by a seven-member council, elected by citizens of the Suquamish Tribe. Government departments include administration, child support enforcement, community development, court, early learning center, education, fisheries, human services, legal, natural resources, police. (The Tribe contracts with local fire districts for fire protection service.)
Economic contributions (in 2012): $52.2 million in wages and benefits paid to employees; $46.8 million in goods and services purchased; $18.6 million in capital project investment. Community contributions (in 2012): $694,033 awarded to 201 organizations.
Port Madison Enterprises, the Tribe’s economic development arm, is the second-largest private-sector employer in Kitsap County with 752 employees, surpassed only by Harrison Medical Center.
Port Madison Enterprises is governed by a seven-member board of directors, which includes a Tribal Council liaison. Ventures: Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, White Horse Golf Club, Kiana Lodge, PME Retail, Property Management. Subsidiaries: Port Madison Enterprises Construction Corporation. The PME Fund sets aside non-gaming funds for distribution as grants to organizations that “[improve] the lives of community members” and “support worthy programs in the region.”
The Tribe has reacquired land lost during the allotment era, and “the Tribe and Tribal members now own more than half of the land on the reservation for the first time in recent history,” Suquamish Tribe communications director April Leigh said. Major acquisitions include White Horse Golf Club in 2010, placed into trust in March 2014; and 200 acres known as the Place of the Bear, in the Cowling Creek watershed, in November.
As of 2014, the reservation area consists of 7,657 acres, of which 1,475 acres are owned by the Suquamish Tribe, 2,601 acres are owned by individual citizens of the Suquamish Tribe, and 3,581 acres are owned by non-Indians.
In 2011, the Suquamish Tribal Council voted unanimously to approve same-sex marriage.
- "Notable Native American Women". Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- Seattle Times
- Walker, Richard (January 30, 2015). "Suquamish Tribe’s economic boom ‘breathtaking’". North Kitsap Herald.
- Yardley, William (August 12, 2011). "A Washington State Indian Tribe Approves Same-Sex Marriage". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2011.
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