Washington Indian Tribes
Many Native Americans lived in the Washington region when European explorers first visited the area. Some of these groups lived west of the Cascades.
The Chinook, Nisqually, Quinault, and Puyallup hunted deer and fished for salmon and clams. Others, the Cayuse, Colville, Spokane, and Nez Percé, lived east of the Cascades on the plains and valleys.
One of the best known of the Native Americans in this area was Chief Sealth, also known as Chief Seattle, who is believed to have born in central Puget Sound.
He is better known by the English pronunciation of his name, after which the largest city in Washington state was named. He was a chief of both the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.
Chief Seattle was a member of the Suquamish people and welcomed the first European traders and settlers, eager to trade with them.
Unfortunately, Seattle’s efforts to work with Europeans made some of his own people suspicious, who plotted against him. Eventually, his people were defeated and Seattle died on a reservation.
WASHINGTON INDIAN TRIBES
FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED TRIBES
Federal list last updated 5/16
STATE RECOGNIZED TRIBES
None – Washington State does not have state-recognized tribes, as some states do.
UNRECOGNIZED / PETITIONING TRIBES
The following tribes are landless, non-federally recognized. Some are categorized as non-profit corporations; some are pending federal recognition.
Chinook Indian Tribe of Oregon & Washington, Inc. (a.k.a. Chinook Nation)is located on Quinault reservation; the one petitioning is in Oregon. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/23/1979; Declined to acknowledge 7/12/2003, 67 FR 46204.(Washington and Oregon)
Duwamish Indian Tribe. Merged with Suquamish. Letter of Intent to Petition 06/07/1977; Declined to Acknowledge 5/8/2002, 66 FR 49966.
Kikiallus Indian Nation
Marietta Band of Nooksacks
Mitchell Bay Band
Snoqualamie Indian Tribe, part of Tualip reservation
Snohomish Tribe of Indians. Located in Washington, Snowhomish bands on Tualip reservation. Letter of Intent to Petition 03/13/1975; Declined to Acknowledge 03/05/2004.
Snoqualmoo Tribe of Whidbey Island. Letter of Intent to Petition 06/14/1988.
Steilacoom Tribe. Descendants of this tribe live on the Skokomish reservation. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/28/1974; Proposed Finding 2/7/2000
FIRST CONTACT TO PRESENT
The earliest European to meet any of the peoples of Washington was probably Juan de Fuca, a Greek navigator sailing under the Spanish flag, who, in 1592, visited the straits which now bear his name.
The names of the first European explorers to what is now the state of Washington are found in the names of many physical places in the Pacific Northwest. Inlets and bays bear the names Juan de Fuca (1592), Cook (1778), Puget (1791) and Gray (1792).
Two islands are named after Vancouver and Whidby (1791) while the largest rivers are named after Gray’s ship Columbia, and Lewis and Clark’s expedition of 1805.
The State of Washington was occupied by a great number of Indian tribes formerly very populous, particularly those along the coast. There are few traditions regarding migrations and those which we have apply almost entirely to the interior people.
After the Whites came it was unlikely that the Indians would move eastward in the face of the invasion and impossible for them to move westward.
The Makah way of life changed amost immediately upon European contact in 1788. Before non-Indian people came to Makah territory, Makahs lived in five villages that were occupied all year long (Neah Bay, Ozette, Biheda, Tsoo-yess, and Why-atch).
Temporary residences were at locations that attracted people seasonally. These places allowed Makahs to harvest and process special food resources, like spring halibut or summer salmon.
The Makah belonged to the Nootka branch of the Wakashan linguistic family.The Makah people now live on a reservation that sits on the most northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
The Cathlamet belonged to the Chinookan stock. The dialect to which they have given their name was spoken as far up the Columbia River as Ranier.
The Cathlapotle belonged to the Chinookan linguistic stock and were located on the lower part of Lewis River and the southeast side of the Columbia River, in what is now Clarke County.
The Cayuse were located about the heads of Wallawalla, Umatilla, and Grande Ronde Rivers, extending from the Blue Mountains to Deschutes River in Washington and Oregon.
The Chehalis belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family, being most intimately related to the Humptulips, Wynoochee, and Quinault.
The Chelan Indians were an interior Salish tribe speaking the Wenachee dialect.
The Chilluckittequaw lay along the north side of Columbia River, in the present Klickitat and Skamania Counties, from about 10 miles below the Dalles to the neighborhood of the Cascades. They may have been identical with the White Salmon or Hood River group of Indians and perhaps both. In the latter case we must suppose that they extended to the south side of the Columbia.
The Chimakum, the Quileute, and the Hoh together constituted the Chimakuan linguistic stock, which in turn was probably connected with the Salishan stock. They were located on the peninsula between Hood’s Canal and Port Townsend.
The Clallam (also spelled Nu-sklaim, S’Klallam, Tla’lem) were on the south side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Port Discovery and Hoko River. Later the Clallam occupied the Chimakum territory also and a small number lived on the lower end of Vancouver Island.
The Columbia or Sinkiuse-Columbia got their name because of their former prominent association with the Columbia River, where some of the most important bands had their homes. The Sinkiuse-Columbia belonged to the inland division of the Salishan linguistic stock, with their nearest relatives being the Wenatchee and Methow.
The Colville belonged to the inland division of the Salishan linguistic stock which included the Okanagon, Sanpoil, and Senijextee. They got their name from Fort Collville,a post of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Kettle Falls. They lived on the Colville River and that part of the Columbia between Kettle Falls and Hunters. See Colville Confederated Tribes.
The Copalis belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family located on the Copalis River and the Pacific Coast between the mouth of Joe Creek and Grays Harbor.
The Cowlitz belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family, yet shared some peculiarities with the inland tribes. Originally living along most of the lower and all the middle course of Cowlitz River, they were later divided between the Chehalis and Puyallup Reservations.
The Duwamish belonged to the Nisqually dialectic group of the coast division of the Salishan linguistic stock. They were closely related to the Suwamish tribe, and Chief Seattle was chief of both tribes in the mid 1800s.
The Hoh spoke the Quileute language and were often considered part of the same tribe, constituting one division of the Chimakuan linguistic stock and more remotely connected with the Salishan family. They lived on the Hoh River on the west coast of Washington.
The Humptulips belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic stock, being connected most closely with the Chehalis. They lived on the Humptulips River, and part of Grays Harbor, including also Hoquiam Creek and Whiskam River.
The Kalispel extended over into the eastern edge of the State from Idaho. (Washington, Idaho and Montana).
Klickitat is a Chinook term meaning “beyond” and having reference to the Cascade Mountains. The Klickitat belonged to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic family.
The Chinook belonged to the Lower Chinook division of the Chinookan family. They were located on the north side of the Columbia River from its mouth to Grays Bay (not Grays Harbor), a distance of about 15 miles, and north along the seacoast to include Willapa or Shoalwater Bay.
The Kwaiailk belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family but a part of them were associated with the inland tribes by certain peculiarities of speech. Their nearest relatives seem to have been the Cowlitz and Chehalis.
The Kwalhioqua belonged to the Athapascan linguistic stock on the upper course of Willopah River, and the southern and western headwaters of the Chehalis.
The Methow located on the Methow River spoke a dialect belonging to the interior division of the Salishan linguistic stock. A detached band called Chilowhist wintered on the Okanogan River between Sand Point and Malott.
The Mical were a branch of the Shahaptian tribe called Pshwanwapam who lived on the upper course of Nisqually River.
The Nez Perce lived primarily in Oregon and Idaho, but occupied territory in the extreme southeastern part of Washington state. In later years, Chief Joseph, who was from the Wallowa Valley in Oregon, was sent to spend his final years on the Colville Reservation in Washington. His grave is alongside the highway that runs through Nespelem. (Washington, Idaho and Oregon).
The Nisqually gave their name to one dialectic division of the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic stock. They lived on the Nisqually River above its mouth and on the middle and upper courses of Puyallup River.
The Nooksack belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family. They separated from the Squawmish of British Columbia and speak the same dialect. (Washington and British Columbia, Canada).
The Palouse belonged to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic stock, and were most closely connected with the Nez Perce. They lived in the valley of Palouse River in Washington and Idaho and on a small section of the Snake River, extending eastward to the camas grounds near Moscow, Idaho.
The Palouse are said to have separated from the Yakima. The Palouse were included in the Yakima treaty of 1855 but have never recognized the treaty obligations and have declined to lead a reservation life.
The Pshwanwapam belonged to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic family, and probably were most closely connected with the Yakima.
The Puyallup tribe lived at the mouth of Puyallup River and the neighboring coast, including Carr Inlet and the southern part of Vashon Island. The Puyallup belonged to the Nisqually dialectic group of the Coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family.
The Queets (also known as the Quaitso) belonged to the Coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family and were most intimately related to their neighbors to the south, the Quinault.
Together with the Hoh and Chimakum, the Quileute constituted the Chimakuan linguistic family which is possibly more remotely related to Wakashan and Salishan. They are now on the Quileutc and Makah Reservations.
The Quinault belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family in the valley of the Quinault River and the Pacific coast between Raft River and Joe Creek. They were associated with a band called Calasthocle.
The Sahehwamish belonged to the Nisqually dialectic group of the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic stock. They have several sub-divisions.
The Samish on Samish Bay and Samish Island, Guemes Island, and the northwest portion of Fidalgo Island, belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family. The Samish were later placed on Lummi Reservation.
The Sanpoil belonged to the inland division of the Salishan linguistic stock, and were related most closely to its eastern section. Originally located on the Sanpoil River and Nespelem Creek and on the Columbia below Big Bend, they were later placed on the Sanpoil and Colville Reservations.
The Satsop belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family, and have usually been classed with the Lower Chehalis.
The Senijextee (also known as Lake Indians because they lived on Arrow Lake) belonged to the inland division of the Salishan linguistic stock, and were most closely connected with the Sanpoil.
The Senijextee lived on both sides of the Columbia River from Kettle Falls to the Canadian boundary, the valley of Kettle River, Kootenay River from its mouth to the first falls, and in the region of the Arrow Lakes, B. C. The Lake Indians on the American side were placed on Colville Reservation.
The Sinkaietk are sometimes classed with the Okanagon, and called Lower Okanagon, both constituting a dialectic group of interior Salishan Indians. They lived on the Okanagan River from its mouth nearly to the mouth of the Similkameen.
Subdivisions included the Kartar, from the foot of Lake Omak to the Columbia River; the Konkonelp, who had winter sites from about 3 miles above Malott to the turn of the Okanagan River at Omak; the Tonasket, from Riverside upstream to Tonasket; and the Tukoratum, who had winter sites from Condon’s Ferry on the Columbia to the mouth of the Okanagan River and up to about 4 miles above Monse, Washington.
The Sinkakaius belonged to the interior division of the Salishan linguistic stock and were composed largely of people from the Tukoratum Band of Sinkaietk and the Moses Columbia people.
They lived between the Columbia River and the Grand Coulee extending up to Waterville.
The Skagit lived on the Skagit and Stillaguamish Rivers (except about their mouths), and belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic stock. There are numerous sub-divisions.
The Skilloot lived on both sides of Columbia River above and below the mouth of Cowlitz River, and belonged to the Clackamas dialectic division of the Chinookan linguistic family. (Washington and Oregon).
The Snohomish on the lower course of Snohomish River and on the southern end of Whidbey Island belonged to the Nisqually dialectic group of the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic stock. Subdivisions included the Sdugwadskabsh, Skwilsi’diabsh, Snohomish, and Tukwetlbabsh.
The Snoqualmie on the Snoqualmie and Skykomish Rivers belonged to the Nisqually branch of the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family.
Subdivisions include the Snoqualmie, Skykomish, and Stakta’ledjabsh.
The Spokan (now spelled Spokane), belonged to the inland division of the Salishan linguistic stock, and were most closely connected with the Kalispel, Pend d’Oreilles, Sematuse, and Salish. They lived near the falls on the the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers, southward to, and perhaps including, Cow Creek, and northward to include all of the northern feeders of the Spokane. They were given a reservation at Ford, Washington.
The famous contemporary poet, Sherman Alexie, is from this tribe. Subdivisions of the Spokan include the Lower Spokan (about the mouth and on the lower part of Spokane River, including the present Spokane Indian Reservation), the Upper Spokan or Little Spokan (occupying the valley of the Little Spokane River and all the country east of the lower Spokane to within the borders of Idaho), the South or Middle Spokan (occupying at least the lower part of Hangmans Creek, extending south along the borders of the Skitswish).
The Lower and most of the Middle Spokan, and part of the Upper Spokan, were finally placed under the Colville Agency; the rest are on the Flathead Reservation in Montana and the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington.(Washington, Idaho and Montana)
The Squaxon on North Bay, Puget Sound, belonged to the Nisqually branch of the coast division of the Salishan linguistic family.
The Suquamish belonged to the Nisqually branch of the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic stock, their closest connections being with the Duwamish. The famous Chief Seattle (Sealth or Ts’ial-la-kum) was chief of both tribes.
The Swallah belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family on Waldron Island, Orcas Island, and San Juan Island.
The Swinomish belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic family, and are sometimes called a subdivision of the Skagit. They lived on the northern part of Whidbey Island and about the mouth of Skagit River. There were a number of sub-divisions or villages.
The Taidnapam on the headwaters of Cowlitz River, and perhaps extending over into the headwaters of the Lewis River, belonged to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic family.
The Twana constituted one dialectic group of the coastal division of the Salishan stock on both sides of Hood Canal. There were a number of sub-divisions and villages. Later they were placed on Skokomish Reservation.
The Wanapam belonged to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic stock and were connected closely with the Palouse. They lived in the bend of Columbia River between Priest Rapids and a point some distance below the mouth of Umatilla River, and extending east of the Columbia north of Pasco. There were two branches, the Chamnapum and Wanapam proper.
The Watlala occupied the north side of Columbia River from the Cascades to Skamania and perhaps to Cape Horn, and also a larger territory on the south side in Oregon.
The Wauyukma on the Snake River below the mouth of the Palouse belonged to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic family and were very closely related to the Palouse.
The Wenatchee belonged to the inland division of the Salishan linguistic family, their nearest relations being the Sinkiuse-Columbia Indians. Subdivisions included:
- Sinia’lkumuk, on the Columbia between Entiat Creek and Wenatchee River.
- Sinkumchi’muk, at the mouth of the Wenatchee.
- Sinpusko’isok, at the forks of the Wenatchee, where the town of Leavenworth now stands.
- Sintia’tkumuk, along Entiat Creek.
- Stske’tamihu, 6 miles down river from the present town of Wenatchee.
- Camiltpaw, on the east side of Columbia River.
- Shanwappom, on the headwaters of Cataract (Klickitat) and Tapteel Rivers.
- Siapkat, at a place of this name on the east bank of Columbia River, about Bishop Rock and Milk Creek, below Wenatchee River.
- Skaddal, originally on Cataract (Klickitat) River, on the west bank of Yakima River and later opposite the entrance to Selah Creek.
The Wenatchee are now under the Colville Agency.
The Wishram (also known as Wu’cxam, E-che-loot, and Ila’xluit) on the north side of Columbia River in Klickitat County belonged to the Chinookan stock, and spoke the same dialect as the Wasco. They had a number of villages.
The Wynoochee were closely connected with the Chehalis Indians and belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic stock.
The Yakama (also known as Cuts-sah-nem, Shanwappoms, Pa’ kiut`1ema, and Waptai’lmln) lived along the river of the same name and belonged to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic family. Pa’ kiut`1ema (meaning “people of the gap”) and Waptai’lmln (meaning “people of the narrows”) are their own names for themselves.
Both of their names for themselves refer to the narrows in Yakima River at Union Gap where their chief village was formerly situated.
There are a number of sub-divisions and it is quite possible that under the term Yakama several distinct tribes were included.
The Yakama are mentioned by Lewis and Clark under the name of Cutsahnim, but it is not known how many and what bands were included under that term.
In 1855 the United States made a treaty with the Yakima and 13 other tribes of Shapwailutan, Salishan, and Chinookan stocks, by which these Indians ceded the territory from the Cascade Mountains to Palouse and Snake Rivers and from Lake Chelan to the Columbia.
The Yakima Reservation was established at the same time and upon it all the participating tribes and bands were to be confederated as the Yakama Nation under the leadership of Kamaiakan, a distinguished Yakama chief.
Before this treaty could be ratified, however, the Yakima War broke out, and it was not until 1859 that its provisions were carried into effect.
The Palouse and certain other tribes have never recognized the treaty or come on the reservation. Since the establishment of the reservation, the term Yakama has been generally used in a comprehensive sense to include all the tribes within its limits, so that it is now impossible to estimate the number of true Yakama.
PRE-CONTACT WASHINGTON TRIBES
The Clatskanie belonged to the Athapascan linguistic stock. The Clatskanie at one time owned the prairies bordering Chehalis River, Washington, at the mouth of Skookumchuck River, but on the failure of game, crossed the Columbia and occupied the mountains about Clatskanie River on the Oregon side of the river. For a long time they exacted toll of all who passed going up or down the Columbia.
The Neketemeuk were a Salishan tribe that lived above and near The Dalles in very early periods of contact.
The southern bands of the Ntlakyapamuk hunted in territory that is now in Washington.
The Semiahmoo belonged to the coastal division of the Salishan linguistic stock around Semiahmoo Bay in northwest Washington and southwest British Columbia. They have been absent from the Washington side since 1843. Only 38 remained on the Canada side in 1909.
The Wallawalla language belongs to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic stock and is very closely related to the Nez Perce. They lived on the lower Wallawalla River, except perhaps for an area around Whitman occupied by Cayuse, and a short span along the Columbia and Snake Rivers near their junction, in Washington and Oregon. They are now on Umatilla Reservation, Oregon. (Washington and Oregon).
PRE-HISTORIC CULTURES IN WASHINGTON
40-17 million years ago – The Cascade Mountains are formed. The Olympic Mountains appear as islands in the Pacific.
17-6 million years ago – Floods of lava cover the Columbia Basin and destroy the Columbia River waterway.
6 million – 10,000 years ago – Washington’s Ice Age. Volcanos form in the Cascades and huge glaciers cover the mountains and Puget Sound. Floods shape the southern part of the state.
11,000 BP – People of the Clovis Culture inhabit the Northwest.
6,700 BP – Mount Mazama erupts
Between 12,000 and 16,000 years ago, scientists say a group of nomadic hunters crossed the frozen Bering Strait from Siberia into present-day Alaska and eventually moved further south into the Pacific Northwest.
Native american oral history says they were always there and the migration moved in the opposite direction, from the Pacific Northwest up into Alaska.
Although distinct communities developed over time, all of these native groups were dependent upon the land and the water for their livelihood. Most of their lives revolved around fishing, the smoking and drying of fish, and moving across the land in search of fish.
They lived in waterside villages of cedar plank houses. Another distinctive feature of these groups was their building of totem poles, which tell the stories of families, clans and individuals.
A 9,300 years old nearly complete skeleton found on the banks of the Columbia River on the Washington-Oregon border in 1996 was dubbed the Kennewick Man and battles between Indian tribes and scientists who want to study the skeleton have spawned lengthly court battles.
Ten years isn’t long. Not in a history that began 9,000 years ago. But the discovery of Kennewick Man on July 28, 1996, is dramatically reshaping beliefs about how humans populated the Americas. And his skeleton may continue to raise more questions about the past than it answers.
Here is a list of places to visit in Washington State USA to learn about native american culture.