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Preserving our Traditions and Culture

Treaty Rights Office

Treaty Rights timeline

For thousands of years, our ancestors relied on the abundant marine, freshwater and upland resources to support the subsistence, spiritual, ceremonial, medicinal and economic needs that continue to constitute our traditional lifeways. With great respect for and a deep connection to the natural world, they served as stewards of these lands and waters, ensuring the resources and places which they depended upon were available and sustained for nourishing future generations.

In 1855, representatives of the several tribes that are now known as the Tulalip Tribes were among the signers of the Treaty of Point Elliot made with the United States. As part of this treaty, Tribes ceded millions of acres of their land in exchange for a small amount of money and permanent protection by the United States government. Importantly, the treaties also specified that the tribes retained their fishing, hunting and gathering rights. By signing and ratifying this Treaty, the United States affirmed that the tribes had inherent sovereignty over the lands, waters, territories and resources that they retained. Sovereign tribal rights that were not explicitly ceded in the Treaty were retained, not granted. These rights retained by treaty, constitute “reserved rights”. Treaties with the Tribes are defined by the United States Constitution as the “supreme law of the land”.

Treaty of Point Elliott

January 22, 1855

ARTICLE 5.
The right of taking fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory, and of erecting temporary houses for the purpose of curing, together with the privilege of hunting and gathering roots and berries on open and unclaimed lands. Provided, however, That they shall not take shell-fish from any beds staked or cultivated by citizens.

The Treaty of Point Elliott remains as relevant today as it was in 1855. In signing the Treaty, the intention of our ancestors was self-governance and maintaining ways of life and traditions that reached back into time immemorial. As a signatory, the Tulalip Tribes has a continuous interest in activities taking place both inside and outside of the reservation, particularly those that might affect the Tribes’ treaty protected fishing, hunting and gathering rights as reserved in Article 5 of the Pt. Elliott treaty. The federal court has interpreted the nature and extent of those retained rights, and ruled that the tribes, along with the State of Washington, have co-management responsibility and authority over fish and wildlife resources. The meaning of co-management in this context does not mean that tribes are merely one stakeholder among many competing interest groups, but that they possess sovereign authority and significant management responsibilities over these treaty resources, and that joint decision making is based on equal standing and mutually agreed terms.

The Treaty Rights Office assists the Tribes and its membership in securing the recognition, implementation and protection of these treaty-reserved rights. We work with other governments to ensure that tribal treaty rights are acknowledged and affirmed, and that the habitat and resources upon which they depend are sustained. We accomplish Tulalip treaty resource protection through establishing intergovernmental agreements and partnerships with other governments, private and non-governmental organizations. The Treaty Rights Office also assists in treaty rights implementation by developing policies and strategies at local, regional, national and international levels. We work to anticipate potential threats to treaty rights resources and develop frameworks that will help ensure resource conservation and sustainability, as well as access and opportunity for tribal members to continue to exercise these rights.

Vision, Mission, and Approach

Vision: Tulalip Tribal members will continue to exercise their rights to fish, hunt, and gather as reserved in the Treaty of Point Elliott in order to maintain the vibrant and enriching culture of our ancestors for many generations to come.

Mission: To protect, enhance, restore and ensure access to the natural resources necessary for Tulalip Tribal members’ long-term exercise of our treaty-reserved rights.

Our Approach:

  • Identify and develop opportunities and address emerging threats to the long term exercise of Tulalip treaty rights;
  • Provide policy and strategy recommendations and guidance for other tribal efforts to protect, enhance, restore, and provide access to natural resources in the exercise of treaty and other cultural rights and practices;
  • Develop and coordinate tribal policy, legislative, and legal strategies to lead other governmental, non-governmental, and business organizations as necessary to assure protection of Tulalip treaty rights;
  • Develop partnerships with federal, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and landowners to identify and implement creative and effective solutions to sustain and enhance treaty resources and the ecological processes needed to sustain them;
  • Uphold and protect Tribal Treaty fishing and natural resource management rights and responsibilities associated with the Tribe’s salmon hatchery enhancement, harvest, and habitat management programs.
  • We collaborate with our partners to produce and synthesize the best available science in order to inform and implement a broad array of policies that connect the protection and restoration of natural and cultural resources within the context of tribal treaty rights.
  • Engage in education and outreach to the public to improve public understanding of treaty rights and the Tribes stewardship and co-management roles in natural resources conservation and enhancement;

Program Areas

A rich and diverse ecosystem supported our people since time immemorial. This ecosystem stretched from the Pacific Ocean into shorelines along the Salish Sea, from wide brackish estuaries, inland through forested river valleys, and high into the crest of the Cascade Mountains. In the years since the signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott, lands ceded by the tribes in the treaty area have undergone dramatic changes. In the course of a few generations, thousands of years of sustainable stewardship has been supplanted by widespread agriculture, timber and mineral resource extraction, hydropower development, and a densely populated urban corridor that scarcely resembles the lands our ancestors knew. Global resource extraction has dramatically altered the atmosphere, which will have dramatic effects on the climate, some of which we have already begun to witness. These many changes to the ecosystem have disrupted the various habitats and put at risk many of the places and resources upon which the Tribes rely.

In recognition of these risks, and consistent with our mission to ensure opportunity and access to treaty resources for future generations, the staff of the Treaty Rights Office focus efforts on the following issues:

1855 Treaty of Point Elliott map

1855 Treaty of Point Elliott ceded territories (approx. area in pink)

Source: G. K Warren, Lt. Topographical Engineers, 1858
Tulalip Natural Resources Department line art image of forest or wetland area