The Squaxin Island Tribe of the Squaxin Island Reservation is made up of several Lushootseed clans living along several inlets of southern Puget Sound in Washington state, including the Noo-Seh-Chatl of Henderson Inlet, Steh Chass of Budd Inlet, Squi-Aitl of Eld Inlet, Sawamish/T’Peeksin of Totten Inlet, Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish of Hammersley Inlet, Squawksin of Case Inlet and S’Hotle-Ma-Mish of Carr Inlet.
Official Tribal Name: Squaxin Island Tribe of the Squaxin Island Reservation
Address: 10 SE Squaxin Lane, Shelton, WA 98584
Email: Contact Form
Official Website: squaxinisland.org
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:
The modern tribe is named after the Squawksin of Case Inlet – meaning “in between” or “piece of land to cross over to another bay” in the Lushootseed language.
Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:
Squawksin was changed to Squaxin Island.
Alternate names / Alternate spellings:
People of the Water
Name in other languages:
Region: Northwest Coast Tribes
State(s) Today: Washington
Their traditional territory extended from the Cascades on the east to the Black Hills on the west, and from Mt. St. Helens to the Skookumchuck and Chehalis Rivers on the south and Wilke’s Portage Vashon Island and the divide between the Puyallup and White Rivers on the North.
Confederacy: Coast Salish
Christmas Day, 1854 – Treaty of Medicine Creek
The treaty negotiated on Christmas Day in 1854 was written in Chinook Jargon, a trade language inadequate to convey the complex issues of treaty making. This treaty, signed on December 26, was the first in Washington Territory. Approximately 660 people attended the negotiations, although it was raining and miserably cold. More could not attend because of the severity of the weather. The ancestral lands ceded to the United States government (by the Squaxin Island, Nisqually and Puyallup Tribes) in the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek included 4,000 square miles, or 2,560,000 acres.
Reservation: Squaxin Island Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land
The Squaxin Island Indian Reservation is in southeastern Mason County, Washington. Most of the main reservation is composed of Squaxin Island, but there is also a small plot of 26.13 acres at Kamilche, in addition to two parcels of off-reservation trust land near Kamilche, as well as a plot of 6.03 acres across Pickering Passage from Squaxin Island and a plot of 35.93 acres on Harstine Island, across Peale Passage.
Although there are no year-round residents on Squaxin Island today, it is used for fishing, hunting, shellfish gathering, camping, and other activities. Only tribal members are allowed on the island, but permits can be obtained through the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department for tribal members to take friends on the island with them.
Land Area: 1,715.46 acres
Tribal Headquarters: Kamilche, WA
Time Zone: Pacific
Population at Contact:
Registered Population Today:
Approximately 1,071 as of 2016.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
As of April 13, 2009, the Tribal Council put a moratorium on enrollment, except for children born to a tribal member with at least 1/8 Indian blood. Enrollment must be applied for within one year of birth.
There will be DNA Testing on all new applicants.
The Tribe will assume the cost of the the DNA test, provided the applicant and his/her family members are tested at a laboratory scheduled by Tribal Enrollment. If the applicant becomes enrolled, the Tribe will deduct $25 per test from the applicant’s first per capita payment. Testing can also be done in the Enrollment Office for your convenience.
Please contact the Enrollment Office with any questions.
Tammy Ford, Enrollment Officer
Name of Governing Body: Tribal Council
Number of Council members: 3 plus executive officers
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Executive Officers: Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer
Language Classification: Salishian => Coast Salish => Lushootseed => Southern Lushootseed or Whulshootseed / Twulshootseed (Southern Puget Sound Salish) => Squaxin Island
The language was spoken by many Puget Sound region peoples, including the Duwamish, Steilacoom, Suquamish, Squaxin Island Tribe, Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, Nisqually, and Puyallup in the south and the Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Skagit, and Swinomish in the north.
Language Dialects: Lushootseed consists of two dialect groups which can be further divided into subdialects. Squaxin Island is one of the subdialects of the Southern Lushootseed.
Number of fluent Speakers:
The last fluent speaker of Lushooseed was Vi Hilbert, who died in 2008. She helped linguists study and extensively document the language before her death. A revitalization program is in progress and language programs have been established at several universities and by other Lushootseed speaking tribes.
As of 2013, the Tulalip Tribes’ Lushootseed Language Department teaches classes in Lushootseed, and its website offers a Lushootseed “phrase of the week” with audio. The Tulalip Montessori School teaches Lushootseed to young children. As of 2013, an annual Lushootseed conference is held at Seattle University.
A course in Lushootseed language and literature is offered at Evergreen State College. Lushootseed has also been used as a part of environmental history courses at Pacific Lutheran University. It has been spoken during the annual Tribal Canoe Journeys that take place throughout the Salish Sea.
There are also revitalization efforts within the Puyallup Tribe. They have created their own language department which operates a Lushooseed language website and a Facebook page available to assist anyone wanting to learn. Their website and social media are updated often.
In the summer of 2016, the first ever adult immersion program in Lushootseed will be offered at the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus. It will be taught by Assistant Professor Danica Miller, a member of the Puyallup Tribe, in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.
Dictionary: Lushootseed Dictionary
Squaxin Island Tribe Bands, Gens, and Clans
- the Sahewamish (Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish / Sahe’wabsh) of Hammersley Inlet (Big Skookum) watershed (between Oakland Bay and Shelton Inlet to the Nisqually River and Allister (Medicine) Creek, there were about six villages, including the main village of Sahe’wabsh at Arcadia, Washington, and a village opposite the town of Shelton, Washington, main group of the modern Squaxin Island Tribe, sometimes identified as a subgroup of the Nisqually people)
- the Noo-Seh-Chatl / Noosehchatle of Henderson Inlet watershed (their main village Tuts’e’tcaxt / Tutse’tcakl was in the Woodard Bay area on the western shore of the inlet, a subdivision of the Sahewamish/Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish/ Sahe’wabsh tribe, therefore sometimes identified as a subgroup of the Nisqually people)
- the Steh-Chass / Statca’sabsh of Budd Inlet watershed (southernmost arm of Puget Sound, lived along the Deschutes River – former Steh-Chass River, their main village was Bus-chuthwud at todays Tumwater, Washington, a subdivision of the Sahewamish/Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish/ Sahe’wabsh tribe, therefore sometimes identified as a subgroup of the Nisqually people)
- the Squi-Aitl / Skwayaithlhabsh of Eld Inlet watershed or Mud Bay (a subdivision of the Sahewamish/Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish/ Sahe’wabsh tribe, therefore sometimes identified as a subgroup of the Nisqually people)
- the T’Peeksin / Tapi’ksdabsh of Totten Inlet watershed (their main village was on Oyster Bay or Totten Inlet below the town of Oyster Bay, a subdivision of the Sahewamish/Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish/ Sahe’wabsh tribe, sometimes identified as a subgroup of the Nisqually people)
- the Squawksin (Squaxin) of Case Inlet watershed, and
- the S’Hotle-Ma-Mish of Carr Inlet watershed.
- Squaxin Island Tribe
Ceremonies / Dances:
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
Lushootseed Legends / Oral Stories:
Art & Crafts:
Today the tribal economy is primarly based on tourism and seafood. In 1976 the Squaxin Island Tribe purchased the Kamilche Valley School which became its first official Tribal Center, police headquarters and Kamilche Trading Post (a convenience grocery and gas station). Shortly thereafter the Tribe purchased Harstine Oyster Company (now Salish Seafoods) which includes 5 acres of uplands and 5 acres of tidelands on Harstine Island.
Subsidiaries and related businesses now include several Trading Post gas stations and convenience stores, Salish Seafoods, the Ta-Qwo-Ma Business Development Center, Skookum Creek Tobacco Company, Skookum Creek Distributing, SI Distribution, and Island Search & Consulting.
The tribe owns Little Creek Casino and Resort. Several tribal members offer guided kayak trips, traditional canoe rides, guided one day or weekend hiking trips, fishing trips, horseback riding and seasonal ski packages to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. They also operate a nightclub and an entertainment venue that books entertainment throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Traditional Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Newspapers: Klah-Che-Min Newsletters
Lushootseed Chiefs & Famous People:
Squaxin Island was one of the first 30 tribes in the nation to enter into the Self Governance Demonstration Project with the federal government. Now the Tribe establishes its own priorities and creates budgets for funds previously administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
In the News: