Snohomish people

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The Snohomish are a Lushootseed Native American tribe who reside around the Puget Sound area of Washington, north of Seattle. They speak the Lushootseed language. The tribal spelling of their name is Sdoh-doh-hohbsh, which means "lowland people" according to the last chief of the Snohomish tribe, Chief William Shelton. Some commentators believe a more accurate spelling in the Latin alphabet would be Sdohobich, as their language has no nasal consonants.

Historians have debated the meaning of the name. Some believe it means "a style of union among those of the brave", while others interpret it as "Sleeping Waters." Other possible meanings include "many people" and even "a warrior tribe." Sometimes known as The Lowland People, the Snohomish have also been referred to as the Sinahomish (or Sneomuses).[1]


Fishermen, hunters, and gatherers, the Snohomish formerly lived near the mouth of the Snohomish River, a Puget Sound tributary north of today's Marysville, on the southern tip of Camano Island, on Whidbey Island opposite today's city of Mukilteo, and along the Snohomish River as far east as today's town of Monroe.

Among the Snohomish subdivisions in those locations, there were the Sdohobcs of the lower Snohomish River and Whidbey Island and the Sdocohobcs on the Snohomish River between Snohomish and Monroe. Other subdivisions were the N'Quentlamamishes (or Kwehtlamamishes) of the Pilchuck River. Today the river, the city, and a county all bear their name.[1]

In 1844, the Snohomish numbered 322. A decade later, their population was 350, indicating that a smallpox plague of the time probably did not affect them as much as it did other Native Americans of the Puget Sound area. In the 1980 census, there were 700 Snohomish, but by 2008 people identifying as Snohomish had increased to 1,200.[1]

When the Snohomish encountered the Hudson's Bay Company trader John Work in December 1824, they feared his party had come to attack them. They had long been in conflict with other tribes, such as the Klallams of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Cowichans of southeastern Vancouver Island. Once they realized the traders were friendly, a Snohomish warrior demonstrated how to kill the Cowichans, if they attacked. The Snohomish were among the tribes that traded at the Hudson's Bay Company Fort Nisqually, established in 1833 at the southern tip of Puget Sound. They also met Roman Catholic missionaries who entered their lands in the early 1840s. At the time of these contacts, the Snohomish were governed by headmen, each leader having influence over several villages.[1]

The traditional homeland of the Snohomish now constitutes Snohomish County. It was named in their honor, since they were the first inhabitants.

Legal status[edit]

Many Snohomish are now enrolled in the federally recognized Tulalip Tribes of Washington. The Tulalip Reservation is west of the city of Marysville. However, most live elsewhere, including in the cities.[2]

The Tulalip Confederation of Tribes Reservation was created under the Point Elliott Treaty, and on December 23, 1873 was enlarged by an executive order from 22,489.91 acres to 24,320 acres. It was in Snohomish lands, but was also intended to be shared by the Skykomish, the Snoqualmies, and the Stillaguamish. Early in the reservation period, Indian agent Reverend Eugene Casmir Chirouse, O.M.I., used different means to help the Native Americans survive the difficult transition. Many Snohomish left the reservation because the overcrowding that reduced their ability to survive in their forced environment. In the 1870s, even more left due to oppressive government policies that destroyed their traditional culture, language, way of life, and ability to earn their livelihood as they always had on their historical ancestral grounds.[3]

Snohomish members are seeking federal recognition as a tribe. They argue that the Treaty of Point Elliott (1855) explicitly recognized them as a tribe, since they are listed by name.[4][5]

Point Elliott Treaty of 1855[edit]

Nine Snohomish headmen signed the Point Elliott Treaty which was written by a council held for 1855 near present-day Mukilteo. About 350 Snohomish and their allies, the Snoqualmies, were represented by Chief Patkanim, who had originally been hostile to Americans, but had become impressed by their potential power. Patkanim allied himself with the Americans during the Indian War of 1855-1856, while most of the other Snohomish leaders had remained neutral. This neutrality prompted an Indian agent in February 1856 to recommend that Isaac Stevens, territorial governor and Superintendent Indian affairs, disband the tribe, since they were "doing nothing for us." As a result, the Snohomish and other neutral Indians were removed to other areas on the Puget Sound, including Fox and Whidbey Islands and Port Gamble in the Kitsap Peninsula.[6]

Because of the decades of struggle for survival by the Snohomish nation, historical accounts and records do not tell if the Indigenous Peoples who signed the Point Elliott Treaty really understood the contents and consequences of the treaty.

Article 7 of the Point Elliott Treaty allows the President of the United States to subsequently act on behalf of the tribes affected by the agreement:

The President may hereafter, when in his opinion the interests of the Territory shall require and the welfare of the said Indians be promoted, remove them from either or all of the special reservations herein before make to the said general reservation, or such other suitable place within said Territory as he may deem fit, on remunerating them for their improvements and the expenses of such removal, or may consolidate them with other friendly tribes or bands; and he may further at his discretion cause the whole or any portion of the lands hereby reserved, or of such other land as may be selected in lieu thereof, to be surveyed into lots, and assign the same to such individuals or families as are willing to avail themselves of the privilege, and will locate on the same as a permanent home on the same terms and subject to the same regulations as are provided in the sixth article of the treaty with the Omahas, so far as the same may be applicable. Any substantial improvements heretofore made by any Indian, and which he shall be compelled to abandon in consequence of this treaty, shall be valued under the direction of the President and payment made accordingly therefor.[7]

Notable Snohomish[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ruby et al. 303
  2. ^ "Snohomish". Four Directions Institute. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  3. ^ Ruby et al. 304
  4. ^ "Who We Are Page". Snohomish Tribe of Indians. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  5. ^ "History Page". Snohomish Tribe of Indians. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  6. ^ Ruby et al. 303-304
  7. ^ "Governor's Office of Indian Affairs". Archived from the original on 2004-11-13.


External links[edit]