A Brief History of the Klallam Tribe and the protection of their treaty rights
- Approximately 14,000 years ago: Ancestors of the Klallam live at the Manis Site, the oldest known archaeological site identified to date on the Olympic Peninsula.
- Approximately 3,000 years ago: Evidence of Coast Salish Languages emerges. Ancestors of the Klallam people live at the Tse-whit-zen site associated with the S’Klallam village of č̕xʷícən (near present-day Port Angeles).
- Approximately 2,000 years ago: The Indian Island settlement has been continuously occupied for at least 2,000 years.
- Approximately 1,000 years ago: Archeological evidence dates the S’Klallam settlement nəxʷq̕íyt, which came to be known as “Little Boston” in the late 19th century. These archaeological sites tell us that the ancestors of the S’Klallam people have occupied this region for thousands of years.
- 1853: Washington Territory is established.
- 1855: The S’Klallam, Chemakum, and Twana (Skokomish) sign the Treaty of Point No Point. The treaties ceded tribal land to the U.S. Government while reserving the Tribes’ preexisting rights, including the right to harvest fish and shellfish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations, as well as the right to hunt and gather on Open and Unclaimed lands.
- 1859: The Treaty of Point No Point is ratified.
- 1871: The Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Washington Territory orders the destruction of S’Klallam settlement of qatáy in Port Townsend and the forced removal of S’Klallam and Chemakum People from the Port Townsend area to the Skokomish Reservation.
- 1872: The majority of S’Klallam and Chemakum who were forcibly removed from settlements the year before return to other S’Klallam settlements, including to the settlement of nəxʷq̕íyt on Point Julia in Port Gamble Bay. S’Klallam people continued to practice their traditional fishing, hunting, and gathering.
- It is during this period that many S’Klallam families throughout the S’Klallam area begin to consolidate at Little Boston, Dungeness, and Elwha. Families living in the Port Gamble Bay area begin to re-acquire lands and establish a S’Klallam land base on the east side of Port Gamble Bay.
- 1939: Under the Indian Reorganization Act, the Port Gamble S’Klallam are the first of three federally recognized Klallam tribes to achieve federal recognition as a Tribal government. The Port Gamble S’Klallam share ceded lands on the Olympic Peninsula with two other Klallam tribes, as well as Usual and Accustomed fishing locations.
- 1969: Following statehood, Washington state increasingly sought to marginalize and undermine Tribal Treaty Rights. This led to a series of lawsuits, which culminated in the filing of US v. Washington, the case that resulted in the historic Boldt Decision.
- 1974: Federal District Court Judge George Boldt re-affirms tribes’ right to harvest fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations. Boldt interprets the treaty phase in-common as reserving for the Tribes 50% of the resource. The Boldt Decision dealt exclusively with finfish, and led to the development of the Point No Point Treaty Council by the Point-No-Point Treaty Tribes for the purpose of managing Point-No-Point Treaty fisheries. Following the Boldt Decision, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has developed a large, successful commercial fishing fleet that fishes throughout the Tribe’s adjudicated Usual and Accustomed grounds and stations.
- 1989: The tribes file suit under the umbrella of US v. Washington to defend their shellfishing rights. Because the Boldt Decision applied only to finfishing rights, tribal members were frequently arrested and prosecuted when practicing traditional shellfish harvesting.
- 1994: Judge Edward Rafeedie rules that the provisions of the Boldt Decision extend to shellfish as well as finfish. The Rafeedie Decision led to the development of the geoduck fisheries and the increase of shellfish’s impact on the tribal economy. Rafeedie ruled all public and private tidelands within the case area are subject to treaty harvest, except for shellfish contained in artificially created beds. His decision requires tribes planning to harvest shellfish from private beaches to follow certain time, place, and manner restrictions on harvest.
- 2016: The Culvert Case, a subfiling under US v. Washington, was filed to remove culverts that were blocking salmon fishing and habitats.
- The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe continues to assert, advance, and protect the Tribes Treaty Rights, including the right to hunt and gather on open and unclaimed lands which has not been adjudicated in federal court yet.
- The Tribe supports on-going historical and anthropological research and legal actions in the defense and protection of their treaty right for the benefit of current and future generations of S’Klallam people.