Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture

Native Cultures

historical photo of Olympic Coast Tribes In 1792, an unfamiliar ship nears Tatoosh Island and its deck crew busies itself lowering a longboat over the side. The small craft explores a new realm on the Olympic Coast, its master and crew gathering new information about an unexplored corner of North America. Imagining this scene, we probably place ourselves on the vessel, seeing with our Euro-American minds-eye the unfolding scene.
photo of canoes But instead, imagine that we are standing proudly on the rock outcrops at the very tip of the land, interrupted from our daily work and astonished to see strangers visiting the shore we know intimately, and which our people have known for generations. Most histories overlook this perspective, yet for descendents of those observers, the perspective has survived overwhelming odds and thrives today.

Members of the four Olympic Coast tribes - the Makah, Quileute, Hoh and Quinault, justifiably assert that the discoveries of European explorers were not original discoveries at all, rather just the first of many trespasses that forever altered the fabric of a world they well understood at the time.

photo of smoking fish Human presence on the Olympic Coast predates historical record and attests to the subtle understandings of the marine environment. When Washington Territory's Governor Isaac Stevens negotiated treaties that would exchange Indian claims to much of their ancestral land in return for reservations and support from the U.S. Government, significant rights were reserved by the Tribes. Those rights include the right to fish, gather shellfish and hunt in usual and accustomed places. In the Treaty of Neah Bay, Stevens agreed that the Makah would retain their right to hunt seals and whales. Taken together, the treaties recognized the profound relationships between Native Americans and the marine environment. As documents, they became the "law of the land."

photo of a tribal journey canoe Nearly 150 years after the treaties were signed, the documents form important bonds between the government of the United States and the governments of each of the treaty Tribes. They also bind all parties - U.S. and state governments and the Tribes - as stewards of the marine resources that we increasingly depend upon in common.

photo of Makah Council When Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary was created, the U.S. Government pledged that the sanctuary would honor existing treaty rights to fulfill our part of the historic bargain. The sanctuary was designated with support from the four tribes of the Olympic Coast. In supporting the sanctuary, tribal resource managers saw the promise of a partner in preserving marine resources and the cultural links to the marine environment that Native Americans forged over the millennia.

The tribes play crucial roles in assisting the sanctuary to shape policy, research and education programs through ongoing consultations, joint projects, and as members of the Sanctuary Advisory Council. On a day-to-day basis the sanctuary and the tribes act collaboratively, different perspectives focusing on the long-term health of a common priceless ecological and cultural legacy.



Contact for page content: George Galasso
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