On Indigenous Land

We Are On Indigenous Land

Red, blue, and black graphic states "We are on indigenous land"

 

SPSCC's Native Land Acknowledgement

We Are On Indigenous Land.

South Puget Sound Community College is located on the ancestral lands of the Steh-Chass band of the Squaxin Island Tribe and Nisqually Indian Tribe, who have long been stewards of the region’s waters, plants, and animals. The southernmost point of the Salish Sea, these lands were—and still are—a place of gathering, trade, and community for many Coast Salish peoples. We recognize that all who are not Salish peoples are visitors here. We commit to join these peoples to share their history, build relationships, increase representation, and restore the living world around us.

Squaxin Island Tribe - People of the Water

The Squaxin Island Tribe includes the descendants of maritime people who lived along the shores and watersheds of the seven southernmost inlets of Puget Sound (historically called the Salish Sea). The Squaxin Island Tribe is comprised of seven bands of Indigenous people who were placed on a single reservation called Squaxin Island in 1854 (read more about the Medicine Creek Treaty below).

Steh-Chass

Olympia sits on the shores of Budd Inlet, historically known as Steh-Chass ("STAY-chaass"), titled after the band of People who lived there since time immemorial.

The additional six bands of the Squaxin Island Tribe are:

  • Noo-She-Chatl - lived on the shores of Henderson Inlet (northeast Olympia)
  • Squi-Atl - lived on the southern shores of Eld Inlet (west Olympia)
  • T-Peeksin - lived in the Kennedy Creek and Totten Inlet watershed (near the Thurston/Mason County line)
  • Sah-heh-Wamish - lived along the shores of the Oakland Bay and Hamersley Inlet watershed (Shelton)
  • Squawksin - lived on the shores of Case Inlet watershed (Allyn)
  • S'Hotl-Ma-Mish - lived on the shores of Carr Inlet (Purdy)

Image of Salish Sea (Puget Sound) waters with bands of Squaxin Island listed

SPSCC Welcome Figure

In 2005, SPSCC's Associated Student Body wanted to acknowledge the rich connections between the college and the Squaxin Island Tribe. As part of this effort, the ASB commissioned the creation of a Welcome Figure to stand outside the Student Union Building (building 27). The figure, installed in June 2005, is made of old-growth red cedar and was carved by Master Artist and Coast Salish Woodcarver Andrea Wilbur-Sigo.

You can learn more about Wilbur-Sigo's work and background at arts.wa.gov.

Image of the Welcome Figure

Nisqually Indian Tribe - People of the river, people of the grass

The Nisqually people have always been a fishing people and have lived in the Nisqually River Watershed for thousands of years. Prior to the Medicine Creek Treaty, their homeland included about 2 million acres near present-day Olympia, Tenino, and DuPont, extending all the way to Mount Rainier in the east. Their current reservation is approximately 5,000 acres that stretches from northern Thurston County up through Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County.

Medicine Creek Treaty

As told by the Squaxin Island Tribe,  

"On Christmas Day, 1854 the Treaty of Medicine Creek was negotiated 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, extending 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. Three small reserves. Only one small island, four and a half miles long and a half mile wide was reserved as the main area for all of our people to live. The island was named after the people of Case Inlet and became known as Squaxin Island." From <https://squaxinisland.org/government/who-we-are/>

The Medicine Creek Treaty was one in a series of treaties signed between 1854-1856 that left Native groups with only a fraction of their former homelands. Faced with a choice between fighting a war they could not win or ceding their land, tribes ceded millions of acres in Washington Territory in exchange for a guarantee that they would maintain their rights to fish, hunt, and gather in all of their traditional places.

The Medicine Creek Treaty has been in dispute since its signing and Native communities have repeatedly fought to have their treaty rights upheld, notably in the Puget Sound War (sometimes called Indian War) of 1855-56 and, more recently, in the Fish Wars of the 1960s and 70s.

Sources, Resources & Further Reading

Squaxin Island Tribe - squaxinisland.org

Squaxin Island Museum - squaxinislandmuseum.org

Nisqually Indian Tribe - nisqually-nsn.gov

Fish Wars - nwtreatytribes.org/looking-back-at-the-fish-wars-50-years-later

Understanding Tribal Treaty Rights in Western Washington (PDF) - nwifc.org/w/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2014/10/understanding-treaty-rights-final.pdf