Disease Among the Nisqually 1887


Nisqually, WA  1887

Miasmatic Diseases

Remittent Fever                        7 cases

Acute Diarrhea             27 cases

Acute Dysentary                       1 case

Erysipelas                                 4 cases

Chicken Pox                             20 cases

Scarlet Fever                            1 case

Mumps                                       8 cases

Tonsilitis (quinsy)                      53 cases

Enthetic Diseases

Constitutional Syphilis   20 cases

Diathetic Diseases

Acute Rheumatism                    102 cases

Anaemia                                   2 cases

Tubercular Diseases

Consumption                            8 cases

Scrofula                                    36 cases

Parasitic Diseases

Ascarides                                 14 cases

Diseases of the Nervous System

Convulsions                              1 case

Inflammation of the Brain          4 cases

Paralysis                                   1 case

Neuralgia                                  42 cases

Diseases of the Eye

Conjunctivitis                            128 cases

Iritis                                          18 cases

Amaurosis                                1 case

Diseases of the Ear

Otorrhea                                  24 cases

Other diseases                          4 cases

Diseases of the Organs of Circulation

Other                                       1 case

Diseases of the Respiratory Organs

Asthma                         1 case

Acute Bronchitis                       112 cases

Inflammation of the Larynx        1 case

Inflammation of the Lungs         6 cases

Inflammation of the Pleura         1 case

Diseases of the Digestive Organs

Colic                                        5 cases

Cholera Morbus                       1 case

Dyspepsia                                14 cases

Inflammation of the stomach      1 case

Hemorrhage from stomach        1 case

Acute Inflammation of liver        2 cases

Jaundice                                   1 case

Other                                       7 cases

Diseases of the Urinary and Genital Organs

Incontinence of urine                 2 cases

Disease of uterus                      4 cases

Other                                       3 cases

Diseases of the Integumentary System

Abscess                                   6 cases

Boil                                          6 cases

Carbuncle                                 1 case

Ulcer                                        7 cases

Skin Diseases                           6 cases

Wounds, Injuries, and Accidents

Burns and Scalds                      9 cases

Bruises                         1 case

Sprains                         3 cases

Simple Fracture                        1 case

Incised Wound                           6 cases

Punctured Wound                     2 cases

Poisoning                                  4 cases

In the Matter of Indians at Public Schools


Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington D. C.


      I have the honor to state that in accordance with instructions contained in Circular No. 1126, dated May 27, 1916, I wrote to the Superintendent of public schools of all the counties under my jurisdiction, advising them that the Government had made an appropriation to pay tuition of Indian children attending public schools in all cases where such children or their parents do not contribute to the payment of taxes toward the public school revenue and requested them to furnish me a report, giving the names and ages of all Indian children in their counties who were attending public schools and for whom tuition should be paid, for the reason above stated.

      Only three Superintendents replied to my request. One of these showed but one Indian child attending public school whose parents did not pay taxes. Another one showed that the Indian children who were attending public schools were only temporarily located in the district where they were working at a cannery. The other one reported two districts in the country where tuition should be paid for Indian children attending public schools.

      As soon as the blank applications were received I sent copies to each of these Superintendents with instructions as to how they should be filled out are returned. Two of these were never returned, but the Superintendent of Mason County returned the blank with one application for both districts, [the] application could not be used in the shape it was received. I then sent other blanks to the Clerks of the Boards of Trustees in these two districts. One of these was filled out, but the correspondence shows that the children who had been attend had left there and come to the Cushman School. In the meantime the Clerk of the Board of District No. 2, Mason, County, which is near the Skokomish Reservation, reported that the seven Indian children from the reservation who had been attending the public school had been dismissed. A copy of his letter dated November 27, 1916, is enclosed for your information. Later on I wrote to him for a full statement of the reasons for the dismissal of these children. A copy of his answer fated January 18, 1917, is enclosed for your consideration, but before this was received I sent him another application to be properly filled out. This was acknowledged in his letter of January 20, 1917, a copy of which is herewith enclosed.

From this correspondence you will see the prejudice that exists among the public schools against the attendance of Indian children, which makes it impracticable to obtain contracts for the attendance of Indian children in public schools.

On the application for public schools contract I find this statement, “Indian children, who under the laws of the state in which they live, are entitled to the privileges of the public school should not be included in the number of pupils asked for. Superintendents will specifically report to this Office all cases where such privilege is denied.”

I wish to invite attention to Section 1, of Article 9. Of the Constitution of the State of Washington which reads as follows: “It********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************e application blanks it seems to me that no contracts should be made for the payment of tuition for Indian children attending public schools.

I request specific instructions as to whether of not I shall make further efforts to have contracts entered into for the payment of tuition of Indian children.

Very respectfully,

                  Very respectfully,


In the Matter of the Cushman School


      I have the honor to recommend that there be authorized at this school the following positions:

Matron for the large boys at $660

      Disciplinarian at $1000

      Carpenter at $840

Out of the $50,000 appropriated for the support of this school there has been apportioned for salaries $22,420, which is $1240 less than last year. For annual estimate, $20,340.89. For other purposes, $7,231.11. Of this last item there is about $6000 for which no authority has been granted. The salary oer apita, I think is below the average, as we now have 330 pupils enrolled, and have several more applications. 

After a careful investigation and study of the situation here, I am thoroughly convinced that it is absolutely necessary to have a competent matron in charge of the building where there are between 90 and 100 large boys. The dormitory is the home of the boys while they are here, but without a matron it is like a home without a mother; it cannot be kept clean and nest and homelike, and the boys become careless in their habits, rough and boisterous in their conduct, and coarse in their manner. A matron is necessary to direct the cleaning and arranging and ventilating of the rooms, and to lock after the boys clothing and many other things which are necessary to the welfare of the school, and which only a woman can do. 

It is utterly impossible to maintain proper discipline among 200 boys without a thoroughly reliable, competent and energetic disciplinarian, who can devote all of his time to the overnight, training, and drilling of the boys. He should be a man without a family so he can room in the building and thus be in constant touch with the boys so as to stimulate them to take greater pride in their personal appearance. 

The school is located within the corporate limits of the city, and public conveyance pass the school quite frequently, and the boys can easily get away at night and get into the city and int bad company. There has been some drinking among the boys and I fear that without the assistance of a disciplinarian there will be more. In office of August 22nd, 1914, instructing me in regard to my duties here, I am advised that whisky is the greatest menace to the Indian race, and that I should exercise the greatest precaution to see that steps are taken to fully protect the student body from actual contact with liquor.

A carpenter is badly needed to look after the outside work and in making repairs and improvements. There are many frame buildings, some of which are old and need considerable repairs. Besides there are a number of boys who are studying carpent 


 TBW(S) Cushman Indian School Tacoma, Washington. February 19, 1917.

In the Matter of Leschi’s Widow


Cushman Indian Schoool, Tacoma, Wash. Feb. 3, 1915.

 The Commissioner of Indian Affairs.  Washington, D. C.


      I have the honor to invite attention to the enclosed affidavit of Mary Stillman, who says she was foremerly the widow of Chief Leschi of the Nisqually Tribe of Indians, who was killed by United States Soldiers about 1854.  

      The killing of this Indian is a matter of history which has caused a great deal of comment by some of the older citizens of this state and by nearly all of the Indians in Western Washington, who believe that Leschi was murdered for the treason that they  do not think he was guilty of the crimes to which he was charged.

      There is on file in the Indian Office a report regard to the killing of Chief Leshi.

      Mr. Ezre Meeker who has written a book concerning the early history of Washington wrote several letters to the Office  requesting a copy of this report and was several times advised that it could not be found, but when he made a trip in his ox wagon over the Oregon Trail to Washington, D. C.,  about 908, I made a thorough search of the old records from the State of Washington, and found the report for him, and I would be very glad to have this report considered in connection with this affidavit. If there is anyt way possible to render this old lady assistance, I hope the Office will do so at an early date because she is in very destitute circumstances, and in fact is living on the charity of another Indian.

     If the Office could find some wat to furnish such things that will make her few remaining days more pleasant I believe it will have a good influence among the Indians who regard the killing of Leshi by the soldiers as unwarented.

 Very respectfuly,




January 13, 1902.

The Dispossessed: The Condemnation of the Nisqually Reservation

The Dispossessed: The Condemnation of the Nisqually Reservation

(With permission from Cecelia Svinth Carpenter)

Because the reservation set aside in the treaty was inadequate as a home for the Tribe, a two year armed conflict ensued between the Tribe and the territorial government. As a result of the Indian Wars in the Puget Sound, the location of the reservation was changed by executive order to a more extensive and favorable area which included 3,000 acres of grass land prairie, six miles of river and the confluence of the Nisqually River and Muck Creek. The new boundaries essentially encompassed many traditional village sites and some prime grazing areas of the Nisqually people. Hence, the “Squa-Squally” people of the grass or grass people, could now live and support themselves.

Thirty years later, the entire reservation was divided up under the Allotment Act among individual Nisqually families in an attempt to induce tribalistic people to become individualistic landowners and draw them into non-Indian society, i.e. assimilation. The Nisquallies did in fact become highly proficient in agriculture and horsemanship. This self-sufficient and tranquil lifestyle was shattered forever in 1917 when over two thirds of reservation, including the best prairie lands, was condemned on the Pierce County side of the River and transferred to the Department of War for the Fort Lewis Army Base.

In 1884 our lands were allotted to individual Nisqually families. The allotment boundaries were drawn in an east west direction so that most of the families who had land up on the prairie escarpment would also have a few acres of the bottom land below next to the river banks.  Homes were built on the upper prairie land with gardens planted on the lower bottom land. Ramps were installed along the hillside to pump spring water up to the prairie residents. The prairie land was found to host only berry crops and provide grazing areas for the cattle.

 World War I

For the next part of the story we have go back seventy years to the American involvement in the First World War. Some of the most serious violent incidents during the fishing disputes have their origins in the actions of the federal government in 1917.

 In 1916 two Tacoma businessmen went to Washington D.C. and offered the War Department 70,000 acres of land for a new fort (now Ft. Lewis) in south Pierce County. Besides their patriotic fervor about training an army division to fight in Europe, these men understood the economic benefits that thousands of soldiers stationed in their region would bring to the city of Tacoma. The county required a vote on providing bonds to buy the land for the base, and anyone who opposed the project was overrun by the war fever that was spreading across America. In an editorial (Jan. 17, 1917) in an Olympia newspaper the case for the base was expressed in the following way:

In a stirring address before a Tacoma audience, General J. Franklin Bell, commander of the western district of the United States Army, took occasion to scorn the ignorant opponents of the army project (Ft. Lewis) who placarded Tacoma with scurrilous posters libeling and defaming the army and the American soldiers. General Bell referred to the men who spread the posters about as “red anarchists.” He might have applied still stronger terms and have fallen far short of expressing the extreme disgust and contempt with which law abiding, respectable citizens regard the slander mongers who are vilifying the United States Army.

 As a matter of fact, the army post will be no more of a benefit to Tacoma than it will to the soldiers. The American Lake location is one of the most desirable in the country. The close proximity of Seattle and Tacoma to the post adds to the advantages. But there are still other reasons why the soldiers quartered at the post will derive great benefits. The American soldiers are a sober, law abiding lot of men. Most of them, as General Bell has said, come from farms. They take their service seriously. They are seeking to improve themselves.

The blatant, lying agitators who have been seeking to defeat the army post project by defaming the United States Army cannot be prosecuted, but it is a shame that such an element of undesirables should be permitted to associate with decent people.

The Washington legislature facilitated the county purchase of the land by passing a bill, which made it compulsory for Pierce county to sell bonds to raise not more than two million dollars for the purchase of the 70,000 acres. (That was not the only issue on the legislature’s agenda in early 1917. Another bill introduced that year prohibited “miscegenous marriages between whites and persons of as much as one-fourth Negro, Japanese and Chinese blood.”) After a vote in which the pro-base side recorded a 5 to 1 margin of victory, the county began condemnation hearings. The county used the right of eminent domain, which compensated property owners for their lands which were being taken over by the county. The condemnation hearings worked in the following manner. The county had a value attached to each parcel of land, usually based on property tax evaluations. In the case of Paul Seifert he asked $112,000 and the county offered $36,000. A condemnation jury heard arguments for each figure and awarded a settlement price. In the case of Seifert he received $40,000 for his 3,300 plus acres, but this was unusual because the juries usually awarded valuations equal to or below the county’s figure. Getting a fair market value for one’s land in 1917 was very difficult. One writer summarized it this way: “All kinds of pressure was used and many who tried to get a fair value were accused of being pro-German; and this and the war-time necessity had great influence, and one had to be very courageous to fight against war-time spirit.” Slowly the area for Ft. Lewis expanded. One of its neighbors was the Nisqually Reservation which at that time was located on both the Pierce and Thurston County sides of the river.

This changed after a visit of General Burr to south Pierce County in December 1917. The general made it clear to the local Bureau of Indian Affairs agent that “the safety of the Indians during hours of target practice would require the removal of the Indians . . . to avoid ricocheting shells; . . . the entire reservation would have to be abandoned during those hours.” This amounted to thirty-three hundred acres north of the Nisqually River. Constitutional law, however, makes it very clear that a county has absolutely no power to condemn and take over Indian land (which has the status of federal territory). The Indian agent at the scene suggested to the Army that they lease the territory from the Nisqually tribe and then return it after the war. He did not rule out altogether any type of deal for land which was so important to the Nisqually tribe. Before any official agreement could be reached the Army decided to act and ordered all of the Indians north of the river to leave their homes and settle elsewhere. Some left immediately and those that resisted were loaded onto wagons and carried away. Some received only a few hours notice of their removal and others had little to time to prepare their new houses and lived in makeshift shacks along the Nisqually River.

Next began a series of deals which can only be labeled as illegal. The county began “condemnation” hearings on the reservation lands on the Pierce County side of the river. The U.S. Interior Department (in which the Bureau of Indian Affairs is located) issued a protest against this. Meanwhile the “condemnation” hearings continued and the Army agreed to “buy” the land from the Nisquallies. Vine Deloria, summarized it this way:

The Army in effect purchased the Nisqually land long after it had removed the Indian owners, by allowing a local court to transfer the land titles to Pierce county, which in turn was bound by agreement to cede the Army several thousand acres in return for the construction of a fort near Tacoma. At best, it was a shadowy transaction, unworthy of the United States Government, but under the circumstances, not unlikely.

The compensation to the impacted tribal members provided by the federal government in April 1918 was $75,000. After the war the government reexamined the issue of the “land grab” and decided that further $85,000 in compensation was necessary. By this time, however, things had changed dramatically for the Nisqually Indians. Tribal members from the condemned land were scattered around the Pacific Northwest, one side of the river was now under the jurisdiction of Ft. Lewis, and the state began interpreting the “condemnation” of tribal lands as a reflection of the fact that the Nisquallies had “ceased to exist,” apparently ignoring tribal lands in Thurston County. Game Department officials began harassing Nisqually fishermen. (From “Usual and Accustomed Places” by Ed Bergh)


Nearly all existing Nisqually home sites were located in this condemned portion of the reservation. The families living there were given notice to vacate their homes and property immediately. Wagons, cattle, barns, farm implements and other valuable belongings had to be left behind as the families were evicted from their land by government soldiers and led across the Nisqually River in the dead of Winter. Most evicted families had no choice but to spend the winter subsisting in impoverished tent shelters on the remaining portion of the reservation. Later, many were relocated to other Indian reservation, or resettled on off-reservation lands in neighboring towns and Non-Indian communities. The devastating impact of this condemnation and dispersion on the economic, social and cultural survival of the Tribe cannot be overstated: the results of seventy years of hard work developing lands for a viable community on their new treaty reservation were wiped out overnight. An entire generation of Nisqually families were disenfranchised from their own homeland.

 In a section of a longer essay Cecilia Carpenter reflected on the condemnation experience

The 1918 Condemnation

The records show that in 1918 when the Pierce County side of the Nisqually Indian Reservation was condemned, we had at least 13 homes, six cemeteries, two churches and a tribal headquarters on this side of the river. Some of the dispossessed families moved across the river, but, because that segment of land had also been allotted and utilized, many of the families were forced to find other accommodation. Slowly we moved most of our dead. Many of them were reburied in a newly established cemetery across the river.

This area became a “no man’s land” as the military designed an impact area for a firing range. It became off limits to our Nisqually people who, however, continued to fish the river. Our fishing rights remained intact as they had not been included in the condemnation.

 Willie Frank Sr.

Willie Frank Sr. gave the following account of the Nisqually condemnation years later in 1966. He said: Indians were advised to lease the land on a long time lease. But no. Army would not do that… Finally just condemned the land and bought it… Picked Indians up in truck and hauled them over to standing trees and left them… No buildings …no shelter … Indians camped there. No place else to go… Later two white men (brothers) built a saw mill and made rough lumber… They never bought our fishing rights. We were paid $8,000, for ours. I bought this place, six acres, part in Thurston County. Never have to pay any tax on it… Just like the reservation… I built a nice little house . . .

Circular on Long Hair

Circular Long Hair Prohibited

January 13, 1902.
To, Superintendants:

This Office desires to call your attention to a few customs among the
Indians which, it is believed, should be modified or discontinued.

The wearing of long hair by the male population of your agency is not in
keeping with the advancement they are making, or will soon be expected to
make, in civilization. The wearing of short hair by the males will be a
great step in advance and will certainly hasten their progress towards
civilization. The returned male student far too frequently goes back to
the reservation and falls into the old custom of letting their hair grow
long. He also paints profusely and adopts all the old habits and customs
which his education in our industrial schools has tried to eradicate. The
fault does not like with the schools as with conditions found on the
reservations. These conditions are very often due to the policy of the
Government toward the Indian and are often perpetuated by the
superintendent’s not caring to take the initiative in fastening any new
policy on his administration of the affairs of the agency.

On many of the reservations the Indians of both cheeks paint, claiming
that it keeps the skin warm in winter and cool in summer; but instead,
this paint melts when the Indian perspires and runs down into the eyes.
The use of this paint leads to many diseases of the eyes. The Persons who
have given considerable though and investigation to the subject are
satisfied that this custom causes the majority of the cases of blindness
among the Indians of the United States.

You are therefore directed to induce your male Indians to cut their hair,
and both sexes to stop painting . With some of the Indians this will be an
east matter; with others it will require considerable tact and
perseverance on the part of yourself and your employees to successfully
carry out these instructions . With your Indian employees and those
Indians who draw rations and supplies it will be an east matter as a
non-compliance with this order may be induced to comply with the order
voluntarily, especially the returned students. The returned students who
do not comply voluntarily should be dealt with summarily. Employment,
supplies, etc., should be withdrawn until they do comply and if they
become obstreperous about the matter a short confinement in the guardhouse
at hard labor, with shorn locks, should furnish cure. Certainly all the
young men should wear short hair, and it is believed that by tact,
perseverance, firmness, and withdrawal of supplies the superintendents
can induce all to comply with this order.

The wearing of citizens clothing, instead of Indian costume and blanket,
should be encouraged.

Indian dances and so-called Indian feasts should be prohibited. In many
cases these dances and feasts are simply subterfuges to cover degrading
acts and to disguise immoral purposes. You are directed to use your best
efforts in the suppression if these evils.

Indian Stereotypes Used in the Press

Stereotypes in the Media

An article about the Shaker Church near Olympia:

Olympian Helps Indian Men of the Shaker Church Daily Olympian 2-27-17

An Indian has no imagination and therefore must have noise and realities to move his spirit, according to Milton Giles, of this city, the only white member of the Shaker faith in the state of Washington. . . .

Walter Dick, Charley Johnson, Fred Schuster and Antoine Peppomal, Puget Sound Indians, living on the Klamath reservation, were ordered off the Indian reservation by the superintendent, who alleged that they made so much noise with their yelps, ringing of bells and other religious services that it was impossible to have them around.

Milton Giles was consulted and immediately [asked] to get the banishment repealed.

[Giles was quoted as saying] “The superintendent was afraid that they would be carried away by their religion and rise up against the whites. That is foolish. The Shaker Indians are well educated. They write me letters on the typewriter all the time. They are progressive. They have their automobiles. They would not revolt against the white man, for they appreciate what he has done for them.”

A Scholarly Article About the Impact of Disease on Native Americans:

Indian Diseases As Aids to Pacific Northwest Settlement Oregon Historical Quarterly 1920s?

Without this desolation (disease) of the savages, settlement by ox-team pioneers would have been delayed one or two decades, and then would have encountered the protracted horrors of savage warfare. . . .

Therefore, one need not shed tears over the fate of the red man. The modern composers of tender songs and the writers of sobby fiction shed such tears-at so much per. . . The pioneer settlers and their honored memories are entitled to our respect and allegiance. The settlers solved their Indian problem in a practical way-be defending their own scalps, and subduing the enemy.

Always it will a source of thanksgiving that the destruction of the Indians of the Pacific Northwest by diseases spared the pioneer settlers the horrors of a strong and malignant foe.

An Anthropology Story:

When Women Wore Kilts in Oregon The Sunday Oregonian 6-24-34

In Any Event, the Costumes of the Coast Indian Were Very Odd, Indeed . . .

An Anthropology Story:

Puget Sound Indians Has Strange Customs Seattle Times 1-1-53

The early Puget Sound Indian would never work if there were clams for his klootchman. . . .[The only thing the male did not think below his dignity was fishing. In this he permitted no co-operation from his squaw. . .]

The klootchman became decrepit in appearance, bowed in form from her heavy labors and an unsociable as a black bear.

The squaw doted on loud colors and was obsessed with anything bright and showy. She aged early and, after her first 16 years, all traces of her feminine charm had passed.

A Weather Story:

Scalping Winds End Our Indian Summer Daily Olympian 10-21-63

Indian summer with its peaceful days is over. For the next few days, winds on the warpath will be moving through the area, ready to scalp anything with a poorly died down top

A Travel Story:

The Leaves are Red as War Paint Daily Olympian 9-20-64

A Sports Story:

Royals to Face Ambush Inclined Indians Seattle Times 10-7-65

The cardinals will seek their fourth straight win tomorrow night against Rentonís ambush-inclined Indians

A Picture Caption:

One Chief Talks, Another Listens Seattle Post-Intelligencer 3-4-64

Gov. Albert Rosellini, addressing a protest meeting of some 2,000 Indians and whites at the State Capitol yesterday, has an ardent listener in Chief Bob Satiacom of the Puyallup Tribe.

Usual & Accustomed Places III – The Depression, The New Deal, & the Indian Reawakening

The relationship between the original inhabitants of Washington and the non-Indians who started arriving in the late 18th century is one of the great ongoing stories of this state’s history. The impact of trade, disease, culture, conflict, and law on Native Americans from this region tells us a lot about our nation and ourselves. The following is an examination of the struggle between Indians and non-Indians over the right to fish for salmon, one of the great natural resources of the Northwest.


This section of the struggle over fishing in Washington covers the era of the depression and World War II. Both of these events profoundly shaped the course of fishing rights and tribal history in this state.


Fishing in the state would next be influenced by political events shaped by the forces of the depression that struck the U.S. in the early 1930s. Unemployment in Seattle reached 23% in 1931 where some 12,000 people were without work. Mills all around the state were shutting down or cutting back wages and hours. The 1932 salmon pack (the measurement of canned salmon) was 120,000,000 pounds under that of 1929. Not surprisingly many ideas gained credence for solving this increased lack of work. Also, large businesses, corporations, and the wealthy in general became the targets of the public anger about the lack of work.

In the world of Washington fishing this anger was aimed at the fish wheel and fish trap operators. In the minds of some people these enterprises which relied heavily on technology and required few people to operate were taking jobs away from honest workers. Using the initiative process, backers of Initiative 77 obtained enough signatures on their measure to put it on the ballot in 1934 where it would be up to the public to vote on whether or not to eliminate all fish wheels, traps, beach seines, and set nets from use in the state. The measure also would close certain parts of Puget Sound to all commercial fishing except by Native Americans. The initiative received its strongest support from purse seine operators who were in competition with fish wheel and trap operators. Also, sport fishermen, who had earlier supported the move to make the steelhead a “sport” fish supported the initiative idea.

Proponents of the bill made many arguments in favor of Initiative 77. The following comments come from newspaper articles supporting the initiative. Think carefully about whether you would have believed each argument.

  1. The measure provides for the perpetuation of the salmon fishery and will save Washington’s third largest industry. It will rehabilitate the run of king and silver salmon in Puget Sound as fish traps take the larger share of these species.
  2. It will establish Puget Sound as a sport fishermen’s paradise by the protections offered the two important species of salmon. It will give the great salmon fishing industry back to the people instead of leaving it in the hands of a financially powerful minority.
  3. Purse seine boats . . . in the open waters employ eight men to the boat, whereas each trap employs an average of two men.
  4. [Initiative 77 will bring] hundreds of thousands of dollars to many diversified lines of trade from tourists who now do their salmon fishing in Canada and Alaska because Puget Sound is fished out.
  5. It would enhance property values through the entire 2,000 miles of shoreline on Puget Sound
  6. Trap sites are obtained for a fee of only $50 per year to the state and can be held perpetually.
  7. Give this great natural resource back to the people instead of leaving it in the hands of a powerful financial minority involving large interests of Eastern and California capital.
  8. Initiative No. 77 is a fight between thousands of . . . citizens of this state [and] a mere handful of wealthy fish barons.
  9. It will bring profitable employment to a minimum of 30,000 citizens of this state with runs of salmon built back to the 1913 level. It will permit these 30,000 citizens to share equally in their rightful ownership of the great salmon runs, because these runs belong to all the people, and not a small group of wealthy fish trap owners.

Opponents of the measure didn’t have chance. The measure could not possibly increase salmon sales because the nation was in the midst of a depression. Thirty thousand jobs were not going to appear overnight. Salmon weren’t going to be saved; on the contrary, under Initiative 77 purse seiners and sport fishermen were actually going to catch more. Tourists were not going to flock to this “fishermen’s paradise” because people out of work during a depression don’t go on vacations. Even so, the measure passed overwhelmingly with over 131,000 votes in favor and only 76,000 against.

As originally written the initiative was not to apply to Indian fishing, but within a few years sports clubs started demanding state action against Indians who, in their words, were fishing in “defiance” of the law. This “defiance” was merely the Indians fishing with their traditional methods in accordance with the law which did not regulate them. The sport fishermen went even further stating that the state should arrest all “young bucks” because the Indians “were infringing on state rights. The state is not infringing on the privileges of Indians.” The sport fishermen even turned to the U.S. Congress to prohibit Indian trapping. Sportsmen accused Washington Indians of committing a “depraved and callous slaughter” of salmon and that the tribes should be forced to “observe the principles of conservation.” The sportsmen even argued that Indian fish traps caught more fish in a single haul than sportsmen would catch in the same stream in an entire season.


User Group Chinook Coho Chum Sockeye Humpback
Purse Seines 29 61 80 80 79
Gill Nets 58 31 16 5 14
Reef Nets 2 4 * 5 4
Trollers * 1 *
Indians 10 3 3 <1 2
          * Less Than 1
In the Swindell Report on fishing in the state the author wrote:

The measure known as Initiative 77 had as its commendable object, the conservation of the declining fish migrations and, of course, was not primarily directed at the Indian fishery. However, its passage constituted a serious blow to the Indian fishery being carried on at usual and accustomed grounds since due to their extremely limited financial means their gear necessarily must be obtainable at a minimum of expense. Generally speaking, the Indians were unable to finance the purchase of other more expensive gear and operating equipment, the use of which was not entirely outlawed. In order to continue to provide the necessities of life, the Indians, as a result of the above conservation statute, were literally forced to confine their fishing with such gear to reservation waters. The fact that such was the situation led to considerable agitation in the Pacific Northwest and especially in the state of Washington looking to the further curtailment of the Indians’ commercial fishery.

During these decades there were dozens of individual dramas as tribes appealed to the government for fairness or as individual Indians continued to fish and were arrested. One of the latter was Sampson Tulee who, in the state of Washington’s eyes, used an outlawed dip net and was also fishing without a license when he was arrested in 1939. He was accused and convicted of violating state law in the county court and lost his appeal at the state supreme court. From the state Supreme Court he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that the Yakama Treaty of 1855 protected his right to fish without following state law.

In its 1942 decision in Tulee vs. Washington the Supreme Court held that the treaties between the tribes and the federal government remained in effect after Washington became a state and that Sampson Tulee did not require a state fishing license in order to fish off reservation. The state had argued that a fishing license was one method they used to protect and conserve salmon, but the court stated that there were better ways to accomplish this goal. The court wrote:

Even though this method may be both convenient and, in its general impact fair, it acts upon the Indians as a charge for exercising the very right their ancestors intended to reserve. We believe that such an exaction of fees (a fishing license) as a prerequisite to the enjoyment of fishing in the “usual and accustomed places” cannot be reconciled with a fair construction of the treaty. We therefore hold the state statute invalid as applied in this case.

But earlier in this decision the court wrote that “the imposition of fees is not indispensable to the effectiveness of a state conservation program.” This meant that court might tolerate other types of state restrictions placed on off-reservation Indian fishing. This was more clearly spelled out when the justices wrote: “the treaty leaves the State with the power to impose on Indians equally with others such restrictions of a purely regulatory nature concerning the time and the manner of fishing outside the reservations necessary for the conservation of fish.” The state of Washington would use this latter language as a justification for continued restrictions on Indian fishing in the state, and the stage was set for the next round of the fishing conflict of Washington.


The administration of Franklin Roosevelt from 1933-45 was a pivotal point for Indian tribes in this nation. Under the Wheeler-Howard Act tribes were encouraged to organize themselves, write their own tribal constitutions, and increasingly govern themselves. Native Americans were brought into some of the New Deal work programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps. Others found jobs in the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the new tribal governments that were established, and more Native Americans went to college. With the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941 much of the money dried up for the above programs, but the experience of World War II altered the consciousness of Indians who participated in the war effort. Nationwide 25,000 Indians served in the armed forces and another 50,000 worked in the defense industry. As in the case of African-Americans who served in similar roles, these Native Americans would act as agents of change with their local communities.

This new consciousness, however, ran headlong into renewed federal efforts to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American culture. During the Eisenhower Administration of the 1950s a policy of tribal “termination” was proposed. According to this policy, the government would put an end to the legal idea of a tribe. Reservations would no longer exist. Property and other assets owned by tribes would simply be divided up among the individual Indians. And Indians, who once were part of a tribe and tribal law, would now be governed only by the laws of the cities, counties and states in which they lived. Two tribes were actually “terminated” under this policy: the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin and the Klamath tribe in Oregon. Most Indians and tribes were shocked and angry at this idea. Even though the US government had broken many treaties and promises in the past, tribes knew that, if they were terminated, the state governments would treat them even worse. Even the U.S. Supreme Court had once identified the states as the “deadliest enemies” of Native Americans. When looking back at the history of fishing in this state, the Indians of Washington could only feel pessimistic about their future under a policy of termination. Termination, however, did not become standard policy and eventually was killed by President Nixon, but its unintended result was to help spur Indians to reassert their rights and tribal identities even more. In Washington this would take place in the streams and rivers of the state.

Usual & Accustomed Places II – Catch a Fish, Protect a Fish (1891-1933)

The relationship between the original inhabitants of Washington and the non-Indians who started arriving in the late 18th century is one of the great ongoing stories of this state’s history. The impact of trade, disease, culture, conflict, and law on Native Americans from this region tells us a lot about our nation and ourselves. The following is an examination of the struggle between Indians and non-Indians over the right to fish for salmon, one of the great natural resources of the Northwest.


In the 20th century the salmon industry in Washington expanded quite rapidly. Developments in technology changed both who fished and where salmon were caught. Gillnetters, purse seiners, trollers, Indians, and sport fishermen all competed to take their “fair share” of the salmon runs in the state. This competition would play itself out in the legislature and courts of the state.


The case of the steelhead provides another interesting chapter to the fisheries dispute in Washington. The following excerpt from the 1974 U. S. Supreme Court decision on Native American fishing rights describes part of the fishing history of the Nisquallies:

During treaty times the Nisqually Indians recognized separately and harvested the following species or races of anadromous fish:A) Tlhwai (Chum or dog salmon); b) Skowitz (coho salmon); c) Huddo (humpback salmon); d) Satsop (Chinook salmon), To-walt (King or tyee salmon) were recognized as Satsup, the basis of distinction being size; e) Skowl (steelhead). Their fishing techniques included trolling in saltwater, and nets, traps, weirs, gaffs, spears, and hook and line in freshwater. Such fish were the Nisqually Indians most important item of food. They were eaten fresh, were smoked and preserved, and were used for nonfood purposes such as glue base used by the Nisqually Indians. . . .

Dr. George Suckley, who reported information respecting salmon which he recorded from the Indians while he resided at Puget Sound between 1853 and 1856, reported that “. . . the salmon known to the Nisquallies as the skowl (steelhead). . . arrives in the bays and estuaries of the Puget Sound about the middle of autumn, and towards the first of December commences to run up the larger rivers emptying into the sound. Their ascent of these streams continues through December and January. This arrival of the species in fresh water is not as simultaneous, neither do they arrive in such great numbers at any one time or in schools, . . . but the run being somewhat more drawn out affords a steady moderate supply to the Indians during its continuance.”

The usual and accustomed fishing places of the Nisqually Indians included at least the saltwater areas at the mouth of the Nisqually River and the surrounding bay, and the freshwater courses of the Nisqually River and its tributaries, McCallister (Medicine or Shenahnam) Creek, Sequalitcu Creek, Chambers Creek and the lakes between Steilacoom and McCallister Creeks. The saltwater fisheries were shared with the other Indians. . . .These fish were important to the Indians as an item of diet and subsistence, an item of trade, [and] a medium of exchange.

According to historical evidence the steelhead was an important fish (some estimates were that winter steelhead runs represented half of some Indians food supply) for the Nisquallies who harvested them with nets and traded them in order to obtain items not part of the Nisqually environment.

During the early part of the 20th century sportsmen increased in numbers in Washington as “sport” fishing became a way of relaxing and returning to nature for people engaged in the increasingly industrialized economy of the state. The steelhead “trout” became a particular favorite of anglers who liked the challenge of hooking one of these feisty fish and reeling it in. These fishermen also became politically vocal in the state. As a result of their well organized efforts the Washington legislature passed a law in 1925 which declared steelhead a “game fish” once it entered fresh water streams and rivers. Up to this time steelhead had been considered a “salmon” by both Indians and non-Indians. With this new legal designation for steelhead the new state Game Department began to pass new regulations to protect the steelhead for the recreational fisherman. Thus, steelhead could not be taken by net except by Indians on the reservation. Consequently Indians were excluded from using traditional methods of harvesting in their “usual and accustomed places.” Complicating the steelhead and salmon issue was the development of fish hatcheries in the state. Beginning in 1891 the state built hatcheries to fight the decrease in fish runs. In the case of the steelhead much of the funding for these hatcheries came from the revenues obtained from sport fishing licenses. (This latter development increased the state’s desire to force Indians to obtain licenses.) The establishment of hatcheries also complicated the issue surrounding the state’s desire to regulate fishing on the reservation. If hatcheries were located upstream from a reservation, the state of Washington believed it had a right to regulate fishing on the reservation as a conservation measure. Needless to say this increased tensions between the state and Indians.


Technology was changing the fishing equation in this state. As mentioned before the ability to can salmon increased the demand for salmon because canning meant that salmon could be delivered all around the nation for consumption. Supplying this new market were new and improved methods for catching fish. This is described most aptly in the book Treaties on Trial:

In three decades the odds changed remarkably: a salmon bound for its native stream was much more likely to end up packed in a can before it could reach either the nets of the Indians or its birthplace.

There are several reasons for this. On the Columbia River fish wheels had been introduced. We have already examined the development of the fish wheel industry in the previous section. The fish wheels, however, took a very large initial investment and were not suitable for the typical commercial fisherman. (A typical site might call for an initial investment of $20,000, for example.)

The development of an effective marine gasoline engine (replacing rowboats or sail powered vessels) meant that larger nets could be set; by 1915, for instance, the entire Columbia gillnet fleet was motorized. Gillnets also provided fishermen with flexibility in order to pursue runs of salmon. Fishermen could move their boats to fishing grounds in front of the fish wheels and use either gillnets or purse seines to catch salmon.

Gillnets had been used by Indians, but those used by non-Indians as early as the 1880s could be as long as 1800 feet. Essentially a gill net was a rectangular piece of webbing. One end was held up by a buoy and the other end was attached to a boat. Cork attached to the top of the net allowed the net to float in the water as the boat and buoy drifted. The size of the openings in the net determined the size of salmon you would catch as they attempted to swim though the net. At the turn of the century these openings were eight inches on each side and allowed fishermen to catch the most mature type of salmon. On the Columbia River in 1930 gillnetters accounted for a little over half of the salmon catch.

Purse seiners also operated with nets. In this operation a boat set out a net (attached to some type of flotation device) and slowly made a circular route until it came back to the starting point. Then the 200 foot net was closed like a purse drawstring and thousands of fish might be hauled on board. By 1930 purse seiners were hauling in 14 percent of the Columbia River catch.

The gasoline powered engines also allowed for the large scale introduction of trollers in the competition. Operated usually by one or two people, these boats could travel up and down the coast of the Puget Sound and Washington coast and catch fish on barbed hooks run from up to six different poles. One author described the above process in the following way:

Competing fishermen eagerly sought advantages by fishing further from shore than the rest. For example, gillnetters would intercept fish before they could reach the traps; trollers would go further out to sea–beyond the reach of state regulation–and intercept fish before they would reach the gill nets. A pattern of leapfrogging evolved. Each leap oceanward involved more cost to the fishermen in time and fuel, as they chased after fish which would eventually have returned home on their own. Fishermen far from shore also preyed upon immature fish which swam in groups of many intermingled stocks that had yet to separate and head for their own rivers. Fewer and fewer fish reached the Indians waiting at the end of the salmon’s journey.

This was best demonstrated by the fact that by 1934 only 2% of the total fish catch on the Columbia River was taken by Indians. In addition to this the total number of fish on the river had already declined by two thirds. Elsewhere in the state the story was much the same.

$3,000,000 Claim is Heard

$3,000,000 Claim is Heard
Aged Puyallup Indians Testify They Were Tricked by Governor Stevens
Tacoma News Tribune
March 25, 1927
by Nelson R. Hong

In their fight to collect more than $3,000,000 from the federal government for violations of their rights, Indians of the Puyallup tribe, at a hearing which opened in Firwood Friday morning, unwound the traditions of their race, and retold, through documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony, the happenings at the Medicine Creek powwow which led to a treaty between them and Isaac I. Stevens, territorial governor, in December of 1854.

Three Indians, who where born so long ago that they have forgotten their ages, are on hand to tell what they remember of the proceedings at Medicine creek, about one and one half miles from the mouth of the Nisqually river, more than 72 years ago.

The three ancients are Wapato John and Tom Milroy of Nisqually and Lucy Slagham, who was born near Gig Harbor and has made her home in various sections of the Northwest.

Indians Say They Were Tricked

According to Puyallup valley Indians, these three are between 85 and 90 years old, They were reaching the age of responsibility when, with 750 other member of their tribe, they answered Gov. Stevens’ call for a conference. The conference led to a treaty, in which the Indians claim they were tricked by smooth talking and the superior intelligence of the white men.

The treaty was full of jokers which worked to deprive the natives of their land rights, it is charged. Since then the Indians, continually pushed in to the background by the advance of white men, have suffered on account of the unfair tactics of the government they charge.

Their allegations, which include bitter personal charges against the honesty and integrity of Gov. Stevens are made up of a score of counts. The main charges can be summed up as follows:

Charges Summarized

That the government failed to provide sufficient property for the Puyallup Indians.

That the government failed to live up to its promise of establishing and maintaining an industrial and agricultural school.

That the provision in the treaty, which the Indians believed gave them a permanent right to fish, contained a joker which rendered the supposed stipulation powerless.

The government, the Indians claim, should have acquired a large tract of fertile land near Everett for the use of the Puyallup tribe.

The case of the tribe is being handled by Arthur E. Richards, also of Seattle, who is commissioner of the United States Court of Claims.

Must Wait for Decision

The testimony being taken Friday from witnesses and by reference to state and national documents, will be sent to Washington, DC, for final action. It is expected that the decision on the claim will not be made for at least five years.

Indians at the hearing are particularly bitter toward Gov. Stevens. Wapato John, whose age and infirmities, make both walking and talking difficult , when asked for a statement on the Medicine Creek meet said: “Gov. Stevens no good. Him big liar.”

Tom Milroy, the oldest of the trio of survivors of the now historic “powwow,” is badly bent by age and his eyesight is so bad that he needs assistance whenever he walks. Even under the pressure of an Indian interpreter, before the hearing began, no amount of persuasion could force him to make a statement. The interpreter said that Milroy was saving his energy for the hearing.

Prominent in Indian Councils

Although neither Wapato John nor Milroy has been head of the tribe, they are and have been for more than 50 years prominent in the counsels of the council. They also are members of the Nisqually Northwest tribe.

The woman, in addition to her membership in the Puyallup tribe, belongs to the Gig Harbor Indians and other Indian organizations. She is estimated to be about 85 years old, and probably is the youngest of the trio. She was a girl of 13 or 14 when she attended the Medicine Creek meeting with her parents.

The Medicine Creek treaty, which the Indians claim was so unfair to them is held directly responsible for the bitter Indian war, led against the whites by Chief Leschi, famous Nisqually leader.

They claim that the great majority of the Indians present at the treaty making did not realize the intent of the document. They approved it, but Chief Leschi refused to make his mark opposite his name. He left the treaty ground in a rage, and died on the scaffold with intense hatred in his heart against the whites.After the treaty was put into effect, Chief Leschi opened relentless warfare against the whites. They considered his warfare nothing but murder, and, after capturing him, hanged him on the plains a short distance west of present outlet of Steilacoom lake.

It’s Indians vs. U.S. Army Again

But this time the red men’s ‘shots’ are legal documents, fired by a Seattle Attorney.