Snohomish tribe

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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 "wet snow" according to the last chief of the Snohomish tribe, Chief William Shelton.

Historians have debated the meaning of the word; some believe it means "a style of union among them of the braves", while others believe it means "Sleeping Waters." Some commentators believe that a more accurate spelling in the Latin alphabet is Sdohobich. Others think Snohomish is correct.

Also known as The Lowland People, the Snohomish were sometimes called the Sinahomish (or Sneomuses). Other meanings attributed to the name include "a large number of people" and even "a warrior tribe." [1]


Fishermen, hunters, and gatherers, the Snohomish lived near the mouth of the Snohomish River, a Puget Sound affluent in northwestern Washington State. north of today's Marysville; on the southern tip of Camano Island; on Whidbey Island opposite the present day city of Mukilteo and up the Snohomish River as far east as today's Monroe.

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

In 1844, the Snohomish numbered 322. A decade later, their population stood at 350, indicating perhaps that a smallpox plague of that time did not strike them as severely as it did other Native Peoples of the Puget Sound Region. In 1980, Snohomish counted 700 members; by 2008, Snohomish numbered 1,200.[1]

When the Snohomish met the Hudson's Bay Company trader John Work in their Country in December 1824, they believed his party had come to attack them. They had long been in conflict with tribes such as the Clallams of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Cowichans of southeastern Vancouver Island. One Snohomish warrior demonstrated for Work's party how to kill the Cowichans if that tribe were to attack. The Snohomish were among the various peoples who traded at the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Nisqually, which was established in 1833 at the southern tip of Puget Sound. They were also among those who met the Roman Catholic Missionaries in their lands in the early 1840s. At the time of the contacts, the Snohomish were governed by headmen, with one such leader having influence over several villages.[1]

The area where the Snohomish tribe traditionally lived is now Snohomish County of Washington State. It is named for the tribe, who were living there at the time of encounter.

Legal status[edit]

Some members of the Snohomish tribe are enrolled in the federally recognized Tulalip Tribes of Washington. The Tulalip Reservation is west of the city of Marysville. Most live elsewhere.[2]

The Tulalip (formerly the Snohomish) Reservation had been authorized under the Point Elliott Treaty and was enlarged by executive order on December 23, 1873 from 22,489.91 acres to 24,320 acres. It lay in Snohomish lands but was also intended for occupancy by the Skykomish, the Snoqualmies and the Stillaguamish. Early in the reservation period, the agent Reverend Eugene Casmir Chirouse, O.M.I., employed various means to help the Indians survive the difficult transition. Many Snohomish vacated the reservation due to overcrowding that taxed their abilities to subsist in their forced environment. In the 1870s, many more left because of oppressive government policies that destroyed their traditional culture, language, way of life and ability to earn their livelihood as they had for centuries on historical ancestral grounds.[3]

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

Point Elliott Treaty of 1855[edit]

Nine Snohomish headmen signed the Point Elliott Treaty for which the council was held in 1855 in the Snohomish country near present-day Mukilteo. At the council, about 350 Snohomish and their allies, the Snoqualmies, were represented by Chief Patkanim, who had been hostile to Americans in pre-treaty times but had become impressed with their potential power. With a small band, Patkanim was allied with the Americans during the Indian War of 1855-1856. During that conflict, most of the other Snohomish remained neutral, which prompted an Indian agent in February 1856 to recommend to Washington territorial governor and superintendent of Indian affairs Isaac Stevens that the tribe be disbanded since they were "doing nothing for us." They were among the neutral Indians who were removed by government officials to such places in the Puget Sound region as Fox and Whidbey Islands and Port Gamble on the Kitsap Peninsula.[6]

In retrospect and in light of the resulting decades of struggle for the Snohomish nation, historical accounts and records do not establish with certainty whether the Indigenous Peoples who signed the Point Elliott Treaty fully understood the content and consequences of the agreement.

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. ^


External links[edit]