Tulalip Indian Tribes

The present-day Tulalip Tribe is a confederation of tribes from the northern Puget Sound, Washington, area.

The 22,000 acre reservation, more than half of which is held in federal trust*, is adjacent to the city of Everett. The tract includes land suitable for development, forests, creeks and lakes, wetlands, tidelands and marine waters.

As of 2004, 3,611 tribal members resided on the reservation.

The aboriginal Tulalip band was one of three clans of the Twana, a Salish tribe that inhabited the west side of Hood Canal. The ancestral tongue was Lushootseed, a variant of the Salish language. The Tulalip Tribe's ancestral home, Hebolb, lay at the mouth of the Snohomish River.

In similar fashion to numerous neighboring Northwest tribes, the Tulalip followed a fishing, hunting and gathering way of life based on the seasons. They harvested salmon during the spring and summer runs, then preserved and stored it for the winter. They rounded out their diet by game hunting, and gathering berries and roots. The Tulalip moved from place to place to subsist, and the cedar canoe was a principal means of transportation. They also used cedar to build durable longhouses in which they lived during the cold months.

Inherent in Tulalip lifeways was a profound reverence for their environment; they shared a spiritual kinship with living things. For example, a ceremony was held to honor the first-caught salmon of the season.

The Tulalip also traded with neighboring tribes. By the time of European settlement in the early 19th century, members of the tribe pursued trading and fishing opportunities throughout Puget Sound and as far north as the Fraser River of present-day British Columbia.

Overwhelmed by the force and numbers of non-Indian settlers in the Puget Sound region, the Tulalip and others eventually gave up the land their forebears had dwelt upon for millennia, in exchange for a nominal monetary pay-out and permanent protection provided by the federal government. The leaders of 22 local tribes signed the historic Point Elliott Treaty at Mukilteo on January 22, 1855.

Among other reservations, the treaty established the Tulalip Reservation, which was enlarged by a presidential executive order in 1873. It became a permanent home for the Tulalip as well as members of the Samish, Skagit, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Stillaguamish and Suiattle tribes. Relegation to the so-called reserve radically changed their lives and sense of self-identity by removing their autonomy. They were forced to abandon much of their traditional culture and their native tongues.

In 1857, Roman Catholic missionary Father Chirouse came to the Tulalip Reservation to found a church and a school for boys. In 1858, he was joined by several Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence of Montreal to teach the girls.

As part of an effort in the 1880s to assimilate native people into American society, the federal government sent Indian children to off-reservation boarding schools. The schools were first opened by missionaries with government consent, then by the government. Parents were threatened with incarceration if their children did not attend. Classrooms and dormitories were organized on a quasi-military format, including discipline and uniforms. Children were compelled to speak English. They could not observe native spiritual practices, and were not permitted to go home until the end of the school year. Traditional teaching by elders and growing up within the family and community were disrupted.

Along with English, students were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and such occupational skills as farming, sewing and blacksmithing. Automobile repair was added later. The boarding school practice persisted into the 1920s, when Indian children began to attend reservation and public schools.

Another example of social engineering occurred when the federal government started an allotment program intended to induce an agrarian way of life among Native Americans. It was conducted on the Tulalip Reservation between 1883 and 1909. The tribe did not adjust to farming quickly, preferring rather to continue in the old ways. But many had to seek off-reservation jobs to make do.

The Tulalip tribe was organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which promoted greater Indian autonomy. The Tulalip drafted a constitution and bylaws, which were approved on January 24, 1936, and a charter was ratified on October 3, 1936.

By the 1970s, more than half of the reservation, some 13,995 acres, had been sold to non-Indians. Indians owned 4,571-acres; 3,845 acres of that land was tribally owned in trust.

By 1992, only 17 elders of the Tulalip tribe spoke Lushootseed. Around that time, the tribe established the Tribal Cultural Resources Department to preserve the tribe's language and culture. In addition, the tribe and the Marysville School District began a program that provides linguistic and cultural learning activities in the classrooom and community.

In May 2004, Puget Sound area Native Americans and local government officials met in Mukilteo to sign a pledge to collaborate on a number of social, health, educative and economic issues. Tulalip tribal leaders were in attendance. The signing ceremony was held at the site of the monument commemorating the Treaty of Point Elliot, inked near the location on Jan. 22, 1855.


*Land owned by the federal government, but maintained by a tribe.
See
Indian Wars .
See also
Native American Cultural Regions map.

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