The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe has purchased thousands of acres of ancestral forestlands in East King County, land that holds special meaning to the people who have been without a reservation for generations.
“This means a whole new level of connection,” Jaime Martin, a tribal member and executive director of governmental affairs, told KUOW.
They have named the land the Snoqualmie Tribe Ancestral Forest.
“The land is is not just a place, it’s connected to us as people,” Martin said. “And so I think including our ancestors in that title is really critical and important, and speaks to the tribes values in this transaction.”
At the end of 2021, the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe closed on the sale of 12,000 acres (4,856 hectares) of land in East King County. The purchase concludes a decades-long effort to reclaim ownership in an area that’s enormously important to the Tribe. The property holds environmental, economic, and historic value.
“For perspective, when I was 12, was when the tribe was re-recognized,” Martin said. “And at the time, the Tribe could not own land. We didn’t own land. We operated out of spaces that we could rent or that were donated to us.”
The land purchase is so “monumental” that Martin finds it difficult to fully express what this moment means to her and the Snoqualmie. From her ancestors to the Tribe’s elders, a lot of work has gone into this effort. The product of that work is that, within one generation, the Snoqualmie Tribe went from not owning any land to overseeing 12,000 acres in their ancestral territory.
Martin notes that much of the Snoqualmie’s historic territory is highly used for outdoor recreation. One of its most sacred sites, the Snoqualmie Falls, is a popular tourist destination. With the newly acquired land, the Tribe has hope that it will provide healing for its members.
“Having this space for future tribal members, but also current tribal members, to be able to have the space to connect with this land, and the plants and the animals is just going to be very healing for us,” Martin said.
“The reason that this location is so special to the Tribe is that it’s very close to property that was originally promised to the Tribe by the U.S. government in the 1930s, for our original reservation,” she said. “And despite them never having delivered on that promise, through resiliency, we have claimed that land, and repurchased that land, now in 2022.”
The land has been used as an industrial timber site in past years. The Snoqualmie Tribe already has plans for how they will manage and work the new property.
“The Tribe’s plan is to care and steward the land in a way that makes our ancestors proud and future generations proud,” Martin said. “Through sustainable harvesting, we’re going to be generating the revenue necessary to fund the work required to steward the land in a way that really supports the diversity of native plants and the characters the wildlife populations that are there, which include a few endangered species.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly the news organization where it originated. This story has been updated to correct the attribution to KUOW.