Washington State Parks Reservations preserve a fast-vanishing way of life

Washington State Parks Reservations preserve a fast-vanishing way of life.

Long before the Europeans had the courage to sail west into the setting sun and search for a new home in the New World, hundreds of thousands of people called this land, this America, their home. We call them now the Native Americans, but they were their own sovereign nations, with their own languages and their own cultures. And they each had their own names.

Washington State Parks Reservations preserve a fast-vanishing way of life

Washington State Reservations. Reproduced under a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of IMLS DCC on Flickr

These tribes of Native Americans were spread from the north to south and from the east coast to the west coast. In the Pacific northwest, specifically the area which we now call Washington State, many of these tribes took advantage of the rich environment, the abundance of vegetation and the nearness of the ocean with its cornucopia of fish. These tribes of people flourished among the towering pines and made a home that they believed would last for an eternity.

Washington State Park Reservations Today

Today, just 24 of these Native American tribes remain in Washington State Parks Reservations.

They retain their tribal names and their culture and offer a rare glimpse into the world that was America before it had a name.

They are the Makah, Quileute, Chehalis, Quinault, Skokomish, Lower Elwha, Jamestown S’Klallam, Squaxin Island, Port Gamble, Nisqually, Tulalip, Swinomish, Lummi, Kalispel, Yakama, Colville, Spokane, Shoalwater, Hoh, Ozette, Muckleshoot, Puyallup and Sinkiuse-Columbia.

Each is just a microcosm of the nation they once were.

As communities they hold on to ancient beliefs and principles. They still dance the ancient tribal dances and practice the language spoken by their ancestors. They dress in costumes and pay homage to those who have come before them in the land they now call home.

For many of these tribes, demonstrating these customs for outsiders, welcoming strangers in to their community in the Washington State Parks Reservations, is still a way of life. They want to spread the knowledge they have gained from living so close to the land, and they make it available to any who come seeking it.

Washington State Parks Reservations preserve a fast-vanishing way of life

Washington State Reservations. Reproduced under a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of IMLS DCC on Flickr

Others have embraced new ways, such as gambling at the Washington State casinos, that brings their nation much-needed revenue and an opportunity to protect their land and provide for their people.

The Chehalis people represent two large groups of Salish-speaking Native Americans who lived along the Chehalis River, where they fished for salmon long before the arrival of white settlers. Today they operate the Lucky Eagle Casino and Eagles Landing Hotel, which both provide an abundance of wealth to their community. This wealth recently built a new community wellness center.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation manage a litany of natural wonders, including the Huge Balancing Rock near Omak Lake. They welcome visitors and offer sightseeing trips through Summit Pass.

These are also the people of the ‘Sasquatch’, who consider this mysterious man-beast we call Big Foot to be a kindred spirit.

They have honored him with a 1,500 pound metal sculpture at Disautel Pass between Nespelem and Omak.

They also offer the Inchelium Ferry service crossing the Columbia River above Lake Roosevelt.

There is also the tribe operated, newly-built Paschal Sherman Indian School adjacent to the original St. Mary's Mission, which was built in 1886.

If you are in the area, you should make a visit to the Suquamish Museum, the third Native American Museum to open in Washington State Parks Reservations. It contains a complete collection of tribal artifacts, oral histories and traditions and old photographs.

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