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Stillaguamish Indian Tribe

The Stillaguamish Reservation is located in northern Snohomish County near Arlington, Washington, between the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound. The Stillaguamish Watershed drains 694 square miles of Snohomish and Seattle. Tribal facilities are located primarily on a 40-acre site with housing and tribal offices. Altogether, the reservation consists of 76 acres. The Stillaguamish Tribe comprises descendants of the Stoluckwamish (river people) River Tribe. Given the mild climate, the men and children needed clothing only in the winter. The women wore garments fashioned with cedar bark. They harvested salmon and other seafood, gathered berries and roots, and hunted goats in the Cascades. After Europeans arrived in their area and introduced them to potatoes, the Stillaguamish began to grow them in small bottomland plots. The Stillaguamish traded with neighboring tribes, and later, Europeans. Eventually they were employed by white settlers, toiling at such tasks as clearing land and harvesting crops. By the time one Samuel Hancock encountered the Stillaguamish people in 1850, members indicated a previous contact with Christianity by making the sign of the Cross over their chests. However, he reported, a handgun was something new to them. The name Stillaguamish has been used since around 1850 to refer to those natives who lived along the main branch of a river of the same name and camped along its north and south forks. Slowly capitulating to the domination of the new white settlers in the Puget Sound region, the Stillaguamish and others eventually relinquished the land their forebears had called home for millennia. They became a party to the Treaty of Point Elliott, held in Mukilteo on January 22, 1855, under the spelling Stoluckwamish. The treaty called for the cession of Indian lands to the U.S. Government in exchange for federal assistance and acreage reserved for the Indians. However, no separate reservation was established for the Stoluckwamish Indians. Some moved onto the Tulalip Reservation, as called for in the treaty, but most remained in their ancestral area along the Stillaguamish River, or became assimilated elsewhere. The Rev. Eugene Casimir Chirouse, a Catholic missionary, established a mission in the lower Snohomish River country in 1857. His efforts had a positive effect on the inhabitants. By the turn of the 20th century, however, the Stillaguamish tribe was nearly extinct. With no formal existing organization, tribal members had dispersed. In the 1920s, surviving members asked Esther Ross, a young, educated woman who was one quarter Stillaguamish*, to help them sue for lost land and gain government services. After moving to the Pacific Northwest from California, Ross made it her mission to restore the Stillaguamish to a gathered people and to win federal recognition for them as a tribe. She found that the Stillaguamish lacked a tribal identity; solely through federal recognition, she was convinced, could it be rekindled. Ross waged her campaign for half a century. When she began, the Stillaguamish numbered 29 souls; at the time of her death there were 160, but she had believed that the true count was closer to 500. A milestone during that period was the Stillaguamish Tribal Council's approval of a constitution on January 31, 1953. The tribe filed a claim with the Indian Claims Commission to seek compensation for lands ceded to the U.S. under the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855. On January 8, 1970, the commission entered a judgment in the amount of $64,460 for the tribe's former 58,600 acres. Also in 1970, Ross managed to make the Stillaguamish a party in a fishing rights suit against the state government by Washington Indian tribes. At the same time, she worked steadily to get a piece of land put into trust** status so that her tribe could prove that it had a land base — a necessity for federal recognition. This, allied with the historic 1974 decision of District Judge Hugo Boldt to grant the Stillaguamish (and other Northwest tribes) fishing rights based on treaty guarantees, raised the Stillaguamish to a new level of viability. The tribe petitioned the secretary of the interior to acknowledge them for recognition as an Indian Tribe in 1974. On October 27, 1976, they achieved federal recognition and treaty rights, and were made eligible for federal services. The Stillaguamish Tribal Hatchery was started in 1978 to help restore the the Stillaguamish River's diminishing Chinook and Coho salmon runs. The tribe was included in the Federal Register in 1979, which made it eligible for Indian Health Service care. The IHS Puget Sound Service Unit then incorporated the tribe as part of its user groups. In 1994, the Stillaguamish Tribe became involved with monitoring the water quality in the Stillaguamish Watershed as part of their efforts to recover the salmon runs. The tribe has since worked with local, state and federal agencies to isolate water quality problems as human demands on ground and surface water increase. In late 2002, tribal leaders announced plans to build a casino on 20 acres of property surrounding the tribe's administration building north of Arlington. Thirty-two Stillaguamish families were residing on the tract. The tribe bought out 30 of the families, provided them housing elsewhere in Snohomish County or compensated them with cash. Angel of the Winds Casino opened in 2004. That year, the 22,000-square foot facility featured 425 slot machines and 10 table games. The property also had a snack bar and employed about 200 persons.

*On her matrilineal side, Ross could trace her ancestry to Chief Caddus, an influential leader of the Stillaguamish.
**Land owned by the federal government but maintained by a tribe.
See Indian Wars Time Table.