Quileute Tribe Brings Treaty Rights Dialogue to Campus
BY CASSANDRA JOHNSON-VILLALOBOS
Panel of speakers gathered on campus Feb. 28 and discussed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s treatment of treaty rights. The current agreements allow three non-Quileute tribes to hunt in Quileute game areas, which compromises Quileute access to food and resources.
Organized by Evergreen State College student and Quileute tribal member Anna Sablan, the “Treaty Rights at Risk” Kick Off event included speeches by famed activist Hank Adams, and Quileute Natural Resources Director Mel Moon, both Evergreen graduates.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently rezoned hunting lands allotted to specific tribes in treaties that preceded Washington statehood. According to Moon, WDFW allowed neighboring tribes to use three Quileute hunting zones without consultation with the Quileute tribal government. Moon first heard about the agreement last December when tribal law enforcement found members of other tribes hunting on Quileute treaty lands.
“We’re entering into the strange situation when the State of Washington has negotiated a deal with three tribes…who don’t have any historical record of coming into [these] watersheds. And the state has offered them the right to hunt,” said Moon.
The event’s purpose was to open dialogue on a state action that foregoes millenia-old land-use traditions and more modern laws alike, one that is straining intertribal relationships and promoting resource competition rather cooperation.
A Short History of State and Tribal Co-management
The 1856 Treaty of Olympia ceded Quileute, Hoh, and Quinault lands to the United States in exchange for continued hunting and gathering rights on those lands.
Article 3 of the document promised “the right of taking fish at all usual and accustomed grounds … together with the privilege of hunting, [&] gathering.” Similar passages reserved rights in the six treaties that still guarantee traditional subsistence for Washington’s 24 treaty tribes.
Throughout the 1960s, watersheds in and around the Olympic Peninsula, Puget Sound, and Columbia River were sites of intense conflict between Native Americans and state officials. Washington tribes staged public acts of resistance and filed federal lawsuits that brought national attention to the legality of practicing traditional methods of survival.
The federal government took the state of Washington to court in 1974, resulting in a legal affirmation of tribal ownership of 50 percent of resources on “usual and accustomed” lands and waterways.
Tribal governments now negotiate with state offices like Department of Ecology and Department of Transportation, as well as with one another, to address issues of environmental, economic, and cultural governance throughout Washington state.
According to the Peninsula Daily News, WDFW signed agreements last fall with non-Quileute tribal governments that granted access to game management areas previously open only to Quileute hunters. Now, the Quileute tribe is concerned with uncontrolled over-harvest of culturally and ecologically significant species, such as elk, on their lands.
Significance of the Event
Mel Moon of Quileute Natural Resources spoke first at the panel, addressing the historical relationship of the state with his people. “For the most part, it’s been very difficult to have the full treaty exercised. Because the State of Washington over the years has had a different interpretation and has interfered with the tribe exercising its rights,” said Moon.
The second speaker was Walter Jackson, a former tribal council member. “Speaking as a former tribal leader, we are always taught to honor and respect one another, learning from our ancestors. What we do and how we take care of our natural resources has always been a way of our life—to always manage and protect it to benefit future generations,” said Jackson.
Hank Adams, a critical researcher in the Boldt case, explained the developments in Native American law since the Boldt decision as well as the importance of consultation and consent. According to Adams, family ties connect Northwest Native people who live on separate lands. However, separate land ownership have remained critical to maintaining cultural distinctions for millenia.
Adams reminded the audience that land ownership was non-negotiable during pre-contact and as well as treaty times. Primary owners gave permission to others seeking to use resources on their land. Laws that Adams and other Native American activists fought for were intended to reflect aspects of land sovereignty in-place before Western contact, according to Adams.