Swinomish Fish Company, owned by the Swinomish Tribe, is supplying Baker Lake spring chinook salmon to the largest independent grocery retailer in the Pacific Northwest.
Haggen Food & Pharmacy has 164 stores in Washington and Oregon, as well as California, Arizona and Nevada. Haggen’s seafood buyer, Amber Thunder Eagle, spent the winter meeting local fish companies and making arrangements for a spring catch to be delivered to Haggen’s seafood cases.
It’s as much a story about habitat restoration and resource management as it is economic development. For thousands of years, Swinomish ancestors living in villages along the Skagit and Baker rivers harvested salmon to meet the people’s dietary, ceremonial and trade needs: chinook from April to June; sockeye from June to August, pinks during odd-numbered years from July to September, and chum from September to November. The ancestors used weirs and traps, nets, spears, and hook-and-line to take salmon and other fish.
The 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott made land in this region available for non-Native settlement. The ancestors did not give up their people’s right to harvest salmon on the Skagit and Baker rivers. But in the post-treaty years, new industries – logging, mining, farming — took their toll on the rivers and the salmon. Dams built in the 1920s and 1950s to generate electricity, impeded salmon migration.“Rail lines and logging roads … increased sedimentation in the gravel beds used for spawning,” the Historical Research Associates report states. “In some instances, road embankments spilled directly into stream channels through landslides … Timber harvest methods, such as clearcutting, similarly proved damaging to fish habitat [by] increasing turbidity and sedimentation from erosion …”
In the 1890s, salmon runs were estimated at 20,000, by the time the first dam was built, that was down to 15,000. By 1985, only 99 spring chinook returned to spawn, according to the Historical Research Associates report.
But the health of the run rebounded, thanks to years of habitat restoration and resource management efforts, and conveyance systems that help salmon get to ancestral spawning grounds upstream of Lower and Upper Baker dams. In 2012, a record-high return was recorded with more than 48,000 fish returning to spawn, according to the Swinomish Tribe. The forecast for this year’s spring chinook run was 35,000; the summer sockeye run projection is 46,268, according to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
“We’re grateful for the restoration of the Baker Lake run,” Swinomish Fish Company vice president Everette Anderson said in an announcement of the Haggen contract. “The community who made this possible are steadfast in the preservation of this run, which will benefit the people of Washington for generations.”
According to the Swinomish Tribe, the Swinomish Fish Companyis the largest Native American-owned seafood wholesaler, retailer and custom processing plant in the United States. Its brand, NativeCatch, is all-natural, wild, and sustainably harvested, and distributed around the world.
The Swinomish Tribe has filed a lawsuit against BNSF Railway to stop oil trains from traveling through its reservation.
BNSF train tracks cross the top of the Swinomish Reservation in Skagit County. In recent years they’ve been used to move oil from North Dakota to two refineries in Anacortes.
In 1990 BNSF and the Swinomish reached a settlement that required BNSF to regularly update the tribe on the type of cargo moving through the reservation. It also limited traffic to two 25-car trains per day.
Now, the tribe says BNSF is running several times that many train cars through the reservation each day (an estimated six oil trains of more than 100 cars per week).
The Swinomish Tribe says BNSF does not have permission for the increased oil train traffic and that the company is putting the tribe’s way of life at risk.
“We told BNSF to stop, again and again,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “Our signatures were on the agreement with BNSF, so were theirs, and so was the United States. But despite all that, BNSF began running its Bakken oil trains across the Reservation without asking, and without even telling us.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle. It seeks to stop BNSF Railway from moving oil through the reservation.
BNSF spokesperson Courtney Wallace says the company has received the complaint and is reviewing it.
Farming interests in Skagit County often seem at odds with salmon habitat restoration, but an ongoing project by the Swinomish Tribe aims to show that it doesn’t have to be that way.
The tribe owns the land known as the Smokehouse tidelands along the Swinomish Channel south of the Swinomish Casino and Lodge. Historically, the land was part of a system of channels that served as estuarine rearing habitat for Skagit River salmon. When the Skagit Valley was settled, the tidelands were diked and drained for agricultural use.
Since 2005, the tribe has restored tidal flow and improved fish passage to the channels by replacing four traditional flap gates with self-regulating tide gates. In addition, three culverts have been replaced by bridges, and several have been removed.
“The big advantage is for fish, but the tide gates also have improved drainage capacity,” said Todd Mitchell, Swinomish environmental director. “As more water comes in, more water goes out. We don’t have the ponds of standing water that you see on other farmland after heavy rain.”
Fifty-foot buffers have been planted between the channels and the farmland. Some of the land will remain in agricultural use, with the tribe leasing it to farmers and monitoring for saltwater intrusion.
“Continued farming provides income for the Swinomish Tribe,” said Steve Hinton, restoration director for the Skagit River System Cooperative, the natural resources extension of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes. “The goal is to see that agriculture and salmon can not only survive, but thrive in the same space.”
The long-term plan is for riparian corridors, tidally connected channels and estuarine wetlands to exist alongside agricultural production.
“Resolving the differences between these competing uses of the resource are essential to significant and meaningful restoration of chinook rearing habitat across the Skagit delta,” Hinton said.
SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. — The house was going to be modest, 1,300 square feet with a big porch looking out over acres of fields. Next to it would be a garage with a caretaker’s apartment over it.
“I’m kind of an old guy already,” Richard Fox said, standing in the pouring rain on his property and gesturing to the spot where he and his wife’s dream retirement home was to be built. A handful of drenched cows looked on, vaguely curious.
“We’re not trying to break the law. We’re just trying to build a house. That’s all we’re trying to do,” he said. “Let us move on with our lives.”
Richard and Marnie Fox already have the plans in place. The well is drilled. The septic is in.
But Skagit County won’t issue them a building permit. By doing so, the county says, it would be violating a rule established in 2001 that says there has to be a certain amount of water left in the Skagit River to protect fish. And drilling more domestic wells like the Foxes’ will deplete the flow of the river.
The case will be heard Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court. The Washington Department of Ecology and the Swinomish Tribe are intervening in the case.
This is just the latest skirmish in an ongoing war over the future of water use in the Skagit River watershed. The Foxes are one of more than 450 homeowners who have been denied access to well water because of what is called the Instream Flow Rule. The rule established a water right for fish that trumps property owners who want to tap into groundwater reserves after the rule went into effect in 2001.
The rule has meant precipitous drops of up to 80 percent in property values for those 450-plus homeowners because the state has effectively invalidated their water rights.
For those landowners and other would-be developers in the area it’s a tough pill to swallow; especially when it’s pouring rain and there are flood warnings in place for the Skagit River.
For Richard Fox, it doesn’t help that his property has turned into a mini-lake. But that is not always the case. During the late summer months conditions here and elsewhere in the Skagit basin are dry. That’s when groundwater is a critical source of water for the Skagit and its tributaries. If more property owners, like the Foxes, are allowed to suck groundwater out via their wells, that will take water away from fish when they need it most, Ecology and the Swinomish Tribe assert.
During the drier parts of the year, groundwater can make up between 40 and 90 percent of the water in Skagit River tributaries (of which there are more than 2,000), according to research done by the Department of Ecology in preparation for the 2001 Instream Flow Rule. Other research from the U.S. Geological Survey supports those findings.
“This is the critical timing problem that we face,” said John Rose, a hydrogeologist with the Washington Department of Ecology. “We have these periods where the primary amount of inflow into our rivers is groundwater. It happens when we’re having the biggest drawdown due to human use and then right immediately afterwards, when we’re at the lowest levels, is when you have the fish runs.”
It may seem like an intractable problem, but Ecology has been exploring ways to offset the water usage of new development by installing rainwater catchment systems and trucking in water. Ecology is also speaking with hydropower operators on the river – Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light – to see about getting them to release more water from above the dams during those late summer months to accommodate the higher demand.
Rainwater catchment systems present an added cost for property owners, as do water truck deliveries.
“It’s just not necessary,” said Zachary Barbornias of Just Water Alliance. “Who’s going to pay for that?” Just Water Alliance has joined with Washington Realtors, the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Washington State Farm Bureau and others to petition the state to repeal the instream flow rule, arguing that Ecology’s proposed mitigation attempts are costly and “provide little or no actual benefit to instream resources.”
Zachary Barborinas is the head of the Just Water Alliance, which opposes the instream flow rule because it limits development. Credit: Ashley Ahearn.
“We support all of the habitat restoration that goes on and millions that are spent. We, as taxpayers, pay for that,” Barborinas said, “but Ecology at the same time should be setting aside water for people. That’s the bottom line.”
In 2006 Ecology brokered a deal with Skagit County that would have satisfied Barborinas and other landowners by changing water allocations in order to allow for development in the Skagit basin. The Swinomish Tribe sued Ecology, saying it had no right to change the rule to allow for any more wells. That battle went all the way to the State Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Swinomish in October of last year.
The Fox case represents the next round in the ongoing legal battle between development interests and environmental interests in the Skagit watershed, and it is wearying for everyone.
“Washington State Supreme Court has ruled on this issue already,” said Larry Wasserman, referring to the 2013 State Supreme Court decision. Wasserman is the environmental policy director for the Swinomish Tribe, which is intervening in the Foxes’ case on Tuesday. He’s worked on this issue on behalf of the tribe for more than 20 years. “This is settled law and the science behind that rule and that law has been well established, well vetted and supported fully by the Washington Department of Ecology.”
The Swinomish and other tribes argue that the river has been depleted, bit by bit, as each new home or development has gone in over the years and no further groundwater depletion should be allowed.
“At some point you reach a point where any additional impact is too much,” Wasserman said. “And if we say, ‘Well just these 400 or 500 landowners’ [which would include the Foxes], what happens to the next landowner that comes along and makes the same argument, and the next one after that? The issue is we have an inadequate amount of water right now.”
The Swinomish Tribe and Ecology have both indicated that they will appeal if the court rules in favor of granting the Foxes a building permit on Tuesday. And so the fight will go on, with countless more dollars spent on legal fees by the state, the tribes and building interests.
“This is kind of ground zero for the state right now for water issues,” Barborinas said. State legislators have been meeting with interested parties in the Skagit to brainstorm possible legislative solutions to the water fight.
Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) are studying shellfish contamination on the Swinomish reservation and nearby Fidalgo Bay.
Both the Swinomish Tribe and Samish Nation have partnered in the project with OSU’s Superfund Research Program, focusing on clam contamination on tribal lands.
Butter clams were sampled from sites in Fidalgo Bay near an oil refinery, and from the relatively pristine Kukutali Preserve. Kukutali is co-managed by the Swinomish Tribe and the state of Washington.
“We predominantly are looking for chemicals that come from fossil fuels,” said Blair Paulik, OSU Ph.D. candidate. “We were interested in seeing sites that were the extremes within the area. We expect if there’s going to be an area that’s more contaminated it will be near the refinery. We expect Kukutali to be less contaminated.”
The samples are being analyzed in Professor Kim Anderson’s lab at OSU’s department of environmental and molecular toxicology.
Swinomish clam digger Benny James helped the OSU researchers locate butter clams on Kukutali. Butter clams specifically were sampled because they are an important part of the tribe’s traditional diet.
“The information will help us understand how much of these types of chemicals are already in the area, and how much we will have to clean up in the event of an oil or coal dust spill,” said Jamie Donatuto, Swinomish environmental health analyst.
The OSU team also tested a way to measure contamination using passive samplers. At each site where a clam was sampled, the team placed a small membrane in the sediment to soak up the chemicals. The results from the passive samplers will be compared to the data from the clams.
“Down the line, this could be used if you were worried, like the tribe is, about whether or not your seafood is contaminated,” Paulik said. “You could just put out our samplers instead of removing clams from the food source.”
Washington State’s rail system is aging, and that combined with the flammability of Bakken crude oil spell danger for ecosystems and people, a top official and 10 tribes said in a Seattle Time sop-ed on November 20.
The Quinault have spoken out numerous times against such rail transport, a practice with potentially tragic consequences as evidenced by the July 2013 explosion in Lac Megantic Quebec, that killed at least 47 people.
The Quinault as well as Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, issued a joint statement in conjunction with the op-ed piece. Tribes, Goldmark noted, are rightfully at the forefront of this debate.
“Tribal leaders bring unique perspective and concern about threats to our treasured landscapes,” Goldmark said in the statement issued jointly with the 10 tribes. “It’s an honor to join them in this important message about the growth of oil train traffic in our state and the threat it poses to public safety, environmental sustainability, and our quality of life.”
Swinomish Tribe Chairman Brian Cladoosby said it was time to move away from the Northwest’s “pollution-based economy” in general and oil trains in particular.
“We are the first peoples of this great region, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our ancestral fishing, hunting and gathering grounds are not reduced to a glorified highway for industry,” said Cladoosby, who is also president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), in the statement posted at the website of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. “Our great teacher, Billy Frank, Jr., taught us that we are the voices of the Salish Sea and salmon, and we must speak to protect them. If we cannot restore the health of the region from past and present pollution, how can we possibly think we can restore and pay for the impact of this new and unknown resource?”
Besides Cladoosby, Goldmark and Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp, the statement was signed by Lummi Nation Chairman Tim Ballew II; Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Jim Boyd; Cowlitz Indian Tribe Chairman William B. Iyall; Hoh Indian Tribe Chairwoman Maria Lopez; Squaxin Island Tribe Chairman David Lopeman; Quileute Tribe Chairman Charles Woodruff; Tulalip Tribes Chairman Herman Williams Sr., and Gary Burke, chairman of the board of trustees of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Together they urged policy makers to take up critical regulatory issues surrounding the increased traffic of oil trains throughout the state of Washington.
“I’m there for the commission to help carry the voice of the 20 tribes in their interests,” Yanity said. “It’s a huge honor, and it’s a huge responsibility.”
The commission, based in Olympia, represents 20 tribes in the state, with a member from each tribe serving in the group. A chair, vice chair and treasurer are elected from among the commissioners.
Former Chair Billy Frank Jr. died in May at age 83. He is remembered as a lifelong fisherman, a passionate advocate for the fishing and hunting rights of Northwest tribes, and a longtime leader of the commission.
Lorraine Loomis, fisheries manager for the Swinomish Tribe and previous vice chair of the commission, was selected as the new chair.
Yanity, 49, became chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe in 2004 and has been on the fisheries commission since 2000.
“Together we focus on all the treaty issues, everything from clean water to salmon, shellfish, groundfish and wildlife,” Yanity said.
The commission provides resources for tribes facing specific concerns, such as microbiologists to handle disease outbreaks at fish hatcheries. The group also acts as a sort of database on Washington fish and their habitats, from mountain streams to the salty coastline.
Commission goals include upping wild salmon populations, pushing for legislation to prevent pollution in Puget Sound and cleaning up rivers and streams around Western Washington, Loomis wrote in a message to the commission earlier this year.
“Our tribe can be a little more active in this,” Yanity said. “It’s an honor for us to do that, but now we have to step up to the plate a little more and honor those responsibilities and traditions.”
Frank left his wisdom and teachings for the commission, Yanity said. The group aims to follow in his footsteps, pushing for cleaner waters, protecting native fish populations and advocating for the tribes’ treaty rights to fish and hunt throughout the state.
“The commission has a lot of important work that’s set out before us, and the committee is still as strong and dedicated to protecting the treaty resources as we’ve always been,” Yanity said. “But we know that we lost a great leader.”
LA CONNER, Wash. – With 95 percent of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s reservation borders on the water, the tribe is concerned about the rise in sea level and storm surges expected as the planet warms.
As sea level rise pushes high tides and winter storm surges farther inland, coastal tribes in the Northwest worry that their archaeological sites will be wiped out, Swinomish Tribal historic preservation officer Larry Campbell said. They also worry that traditional food sources like salmon and oysters may be affected.
Campbell said food and medicine resources used by tribes around the country have moved or disappeared altogether in some places from where they were traditionally gathered, which is believed to be a result of the changing climate and shifting weather patterns. Those changes affect not only physical access to the natural resources, but the cultural well-being of the tribes.
“It’s important when you look at overall health to look at not just the foods and the resources, but the gathering,” Campbell said. “There’s a process of gathering these things that’s traditional in nature.”
Traditions are passed down through generations as elders share family gathering secrets with their next of kin, he said.
The Swinomish tribe has gained national recognition for its commitment to protecting the culture and natural resources of the Skagit Valley in the face of climate change and is gearing up to begin a new research project. Building off past studies, the tribe will evaluate both the physical and social impacts climate change may have on local near-shore environments.
Swinomish environmental health analyst Jamie Donatuto said the study will build upon earlier research by looking at indigenous health indicators, which take into account cultural, familial and emotional aspects of the impacts climate change may have on the natural resources the tribe values.
Over the course of the three-year study, Swinomish environmental specialist Sarah Grossman will lead efforts to monitor waves and winds on the shorelines during the winter, when storm surges roll in. She will also lead beach surveys to document characteristics like sediment, wood debris and eelgrass cover.
Donatuto will lead the social science side, organizing a series of spring workshops to invite the community to review and discuss the scientific data collected.
“You can’t assess health without actual conversations with community members,” she said.
A $756,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results program grant was awarded in June to support the multiyear project.
Swinomish intergovernmental affairs liaison Debra Lekanof said the Swinomish have invested $17 million in collaborative work on the nation’s natural resources over the past 10 years.
“We’re protecting the universal resource rather than the tribal resource. We’re doing a lot more for the state and the county, and then in the end the tribe benefits by taking care of the whole,” Campbell said. “We’re a very aggressive tribe when it comes to our environment.”
The tribe has also been chosen as a finalist for the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development’s Honoring Nations Program. The program, run by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, “identifies, celebrates and shares excellence in American Indian tribal governance.” This year, the tribe gained its place among 18 finalists in the running for the single “High Honor” because of its climate change initiative. The winner will be announced in October.
The Swinomish Indian Senate passed a proclamation on its climate change initiative Oct. 2, 2007, that marked the start of the tribe’s commitment to addressing the potential effects of climate change. The tribe developed an Impact Assessment Technical Report in 2009 and a Climate Adaptation Plan in 2010 that have provided a framework for other tribes to follow, and has continued to conduct related research, Donatuto said.
The Kukutali Preserve in Similk Bay near La Conner has opened through a partnership between Washington State Parks and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
The preserve opened to the public during a ceremony June 16.
State and tribal officials said the preserve is believed to be the first park in the United States to be co-owned and co-managed by a tribe and another government, such as a state. Management of the preserve will focus on conservation and research, public education and limited recreational use, according to a State Parks news release.
“It’s a great day to be making history,” Swinomish tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby said during his keynote address at the opening ceremony.
“It’s going to be great for visitors to witness and see the beauty that we’ve seen here forever,” Cladoosby said in the release. “This wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of people coming together to make sure this dream became a reality.”
Located entirely within the Swinomish Reservation, the preserve includes 84 upland acres on Kiket Island and Flagstaff Point and 9 upland acres on Fidalgo Island. It includes more than 2 miles of nearly intact shoreline, with native eelgrass beds, multiple fish species and shellfish.
Numerous endangered or threatened species make their home in the preserve’s diverse habitats, which include old-growth trees.
Among the preserve’s unique features is a rare type of environment called a “rocky bald,” according to State Park officials. Found on Flagstaff Point, west of Kiket Island, this area has fragile, thin soil that hosts a unique community of native plants and nesting waterfowl. To protect that ecosystem, access to Flagstaff Point is prohibited.
The preserve also contains cultural resources important to the Swinomish tribe.
Right now, there are 2 miles of walking trails with plans to add an ADA-accessible boardwalk, another trail and amenities such as a picnic shelter, picnic sites, interpretive information and two vault restrooms, according to the release.
The preserve is open daily for day use only, from dawn to dusk. Vehicles will be limited to the parking lot, and the remainder of the site is accessible only by foot. The parking lot is at the northwest corner of Snee-Oosh and Kiket Island roads, west of La Conner. A Discover Pass is required to park at the preserve
State Parks, with the help of the Trust for Public Land, acquired the upland portion of the property in June 2010 after it had been owned privately for almost 100 years.
From the late 1800s until 1934 in the U.S. and 1951 in Canada, the potlatch—the great system of celebration, honoring, witnessing, and wealth redistribution—was banned in an effort to kill indigenous cultural ways. Potlatch-related activities, such as carving, were banned. Authorities confiscated regalia. People who went to potlatches were arrested and jailed. And yet, the cultural ways survived.
Among those who defied the unjust laws of the time were the artists who continued to carve regalia masks, house posts, great totem poles, and sea- and ocean-going canoes. Here’s a list of some of the carvers and their artistic heirs whose legacy is a culture that is living and thriving. This list is by no means complete.
Charles Edenshaw, Haida (1839-1920) For three months this year, the National Gallery of Canada exhibited 80 objects created by Edenshaw, calling him “one of the most innovative artists working on the West Coast at the turn of the 20th century.”
He was in his mid-40s when Canada’s anti-potlatch laws were enacted, yet, according to the National Gallery, his “deep-seated belief in Haida traditions … gave him the agility and fortitude to thrive as a Haida artist during oppressive colonial rule.”
His works included bentwood boxes, masks, rattles, staffs and totem poles. He advanced gold and silver engraving in traditional formline design. He had, the gallery wrote, an “ability to animate Haida stories in his carving.” He was interested in new materials and visual ideas and, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, may have been the first Haida artist to work in silver and gold.
Edenshaw produced many commissioned works; major collections of his works are housed in museums in Chicago, New York, British Columbia, Quebec, and Oxford. His drawings were published in the anthropologist Franz Boas’s 1927 book, Primitive Art. And his work was first exhibited as “fine art” in 1927 by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; the exhibit later travelled to the Musée du Jeu-de-Paume in Paris.
Chief John McCarty, Makah (c. 1850- unknown) McCarty, whose Makah name was Hishka, was a hereditary chief whose uncle signed the Treaty of Neah Bay in 1855. Hishka carved canoes used in whaling and sealing and “had a whaling canoe of his own,” said John McCarty, Hishka’s namesake and grandson. He said a sealing canoe carved by his grandfather still existed in the 1950s.
Hishka also created a large Thunderbird with moveable wings and beak, which was used to tell the story of how Thunderbird captured a whale for food. Hishka’s grandson and great-grandson made a similarly dramatic presentation when the Makah Nation hosted the 2010 Canoe Journey: they created a large whale with moveable fins, eyes and mouth. Singers sang a song to wake up the whale, its eyes opened, and dancers came out of the whale’s mouth.
Hishka’s descendants continue his legacy of service to the Makah Nation—his son, Jerry, served as chairman. His namesake grandson served as director of the Makah Whaling Commission and dances the chief’s song he inherited from his grandfather, and his great-grandson, Micah McCarty, served as Makah Nation chairman.
Micah McCarty continues his great-grandfather’s work on behalf of Makah’s culture and people. He’s served as chairman of the Makah Nation, and was a 2012 finalist for the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award. Ecotrust wrote that McCarty has strengthened “response to oil spills in coastal waters, has helped to protect tribal whaling rights, and has fostered strong connections between tribal and non-tribal governments.” (Ecotrust)
Charles Edwards, Samish (1866-1948) The Samish Indian Nation had “a reputation for its skilled craftsmen,” historian Bret Lunsford wrote in his book, Anacortes. To that reputation, Edwards contributed The Telegraph, a famous racing canoe carved circa 1905, now on display at a museum on nearby Whidbey Island; the Question Mark 2, a racing canoe carved in 1936 after the original Question Mark went into retirement (it now resides in Virginia); and a 60-foot pole in 1938 that depicted important cultural figures.
The 1938 pole was removed in 1981; the carved images were restored and are on display in the Swinomish Tribe’s social services building. Swinomish artist Kevin Paul carved a replica pole that was raised in 1989.
Edwards was also a leader and advocate for Native treaty rights. He represented the Samish before the U.S. Court of Claims in 1926 in Duwamish, et al Tribes of Indians v. United States. His son, Alfred, served as chairman of the Samish Indian Nation. A great-granddaughter, Barbara James, is treasurer and former vice chairwoman of the Swinomish Tribe.
William Shelton, Snohomish (1869-1938) At a time when his people were disallowed from speaking their language and practicing their customs, Shelton devoted his life to preserving and sharing the traditions of the Snohomish people through art, public presentations, and his book, The Story of the Totem Pole or Indian Legends, written at the Bureau of Indian Affair’s request. (The book was republished in 2010 by Kessinger Publishing, which specializes in rare, out-of-print books.)
Shelton’s works included a longhouse and a story pole on the Tulalip Reservation; a story pole commissioned by residents of the City of Everett; a 37-foot story pole for a park in Freeport, Illinois; and a story pole, requested by his state’s governor, for the state capitol grounds.
In 1931, he was a speaker at the dedication of a bronze and granite marker commemorating the 1855 signing of the Point Elliott Treaty; other speakers included a member of Congress and the governor.
Shelton passed away before his final pole was finished and the work was completed by other Tulalip carvers. There was some symbolism in that; historian Margaret Riddle wrote on HistoryLink.org that Shelton’s accomplishments “served as the bridge for following generations who found new ways to continue his work.”
William Shelton carves a story pole circa 1920. He wrote a book about totem poles and Native stories, and used his art to build bridges of understanding between Native and non-Native peoples. (HistoryLink.org/Museum of History and Industry)
Mungo Martin, Kwakwaka’wakw (1879-1962) Martin was raised in the potlatch tradition of the Kwakwaka’wakw and hosted the first public potlatch since his government’s potlatch ban of 1884. His career was long and prolific; he carved his first commissioned totem pole in Alert Bay around 1900.
In 1947, Martin was hired by the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia to restore and create replicas of sculptures, totem poles, masks and other ceremonial objects. Between 1952 and 1962, he created new and replica poles for Thunderbird Park at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. Among his monumental works: Wawadit’la, a Kwakwaka’wakw big house; a 160-foot totem pole that remained standing until 2000; and the Centennial Pole, presented to Queen Elizabeth to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of British Columbia. This pole stands in Windsor Great Park near London.
In his later years, Martin sang and recorded songs, and prepared novices for Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonies.
Martin’s descendants include some of the most accomplished Northwest Coast Native artists: Richard, Tony and Stanley Clifford Hunt are his grandsons; Shirley Hunt is a granddaughter; Jason and Trevor Hunt are great-grandsons.
Mungo Martin is one of the 20th century’s most distinguished Kwakwaka’wakw carvers. (Wikimedia)