Back to Basics

It’s me again, one week older, and still learning the basics of native history around the Puget Sound. I’m looking for information on land “reservations.” These lands are apparently allocated to the Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Suquamish, Tulalip and Squaxin Island Tribes. A jumble of unruly questions comes to mind . . .

What was the chain of events that led these tribes to accept the reserved lands? And how do tribal members feel about it now?

What about the other nearby tribes, such as the Skagit, Swinomish, Sauk-Suiattle, Duwamish, Sahewamish, Skykomish, Snoqualmie, and Stillaguamish?  If there is no reservation, do they have any land? Have they integrated with other population groups  . . . Or have they simply disappeared?

In years past, I’ve driven by some of these reservations, and peered in from the outside. A nation within a nation. What does life look like from the other side of the border?

And why didn’t I learn this stuff in my high school “Washington State History” class? Was this basic information not being taught? Or was I just not listening?

A Stupid Question?

My school teachers used to insist that “the only stupid question is the question that you do not ask.”  I sure hope they were right!  It pains me to admit that I am unclear on the names of native groups in my area. Yet this lack of awareness is widespread among ‘white folks’ like me . . . and the best time to get informed is NOW.

According to various web sites, the Puget Sound region that I call ‘home’ is also ‘home’ to the Salish cluster of people groups. These include the Skagit, Swinomish, Snohomish/Tulalip, Sauk-Suiattle, Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Sahewamish, Skykomish, Snoqualmie, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Squaxin. They arrived here an estimated 11-12,000 years ago via land bridge from Siberia to Alaska. Their languages are variants of Lushootseed (or Whulshootseed).

Of course, web sites can mislead, and I’m eager to learn history from some living human beings. In the meantime, I can’t help but notice that most of the tribal names listed above are now used to refer to geographic places. For example, I recently drove across the Nisqually River bridge, and I shopped for cars at ‘Kia of Puyallup.’ Yet how much thought did I give to the destiny of the Nisqually and Puyallup peoples?