Saturday, May 11, 2013

Indian Culture on the Olympic Peninsula

Native American tribes are the original inhabitants of the land known as the Olympic Peninsula. Many moons ago, before white men moved into their neighborhood, the First People lived in cedar-planked villages at the mouths of glacier-fed rivers along a narrow ribbon of coastline, which tied together the Pacific Ocean and the inland waters of Puget Sound.

The First People named the peninsula's glacier-covered mountains Sun-a-do, which meant "protector of the tribes." Native legends sing the praises of their winged spirit Thunderbird, who swooped down from his Lair of Thunderbird atop Blue Glacier (Mount Olympus) to pluck a giant whale from the ocean and deliver it to a starving tribe on the coast.

Native tribes on the Olympic Peninsula are the S'Klallam, Lower Elwha, Makah, Hoh, Quileute, Quinault, Squaxin and Skokomish. On the North Olympic Peninsula three bands of the S'Klallam tribe – Jamestown, Little Boston and Lower Elwha – are what remain of 15 villages across the northern peninsula. The culture of the S'Klallam is best viewed at the tribal center, museum and galleries in Blyn on Sequim Bay, where the tribe operates a casino at Blyn and a golf course in Sequim, both open to the public. The Lower Elwha band invites visitors to its casino just west of Port Angeles.

The Makah Indian Reservation on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula is the most western point of the contiguous United States. One of the largest on the peninsula, it is administered from Neah Bay, where the Makah Cultural and Research Center displays artifacts of the Makah tribe's rich maritime culture. The drive to the Makah Reservation is along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, past Sekiu and Clallam Bay.

Quileute tribal members mostly live in LaPush, an active fishing village, along the Quillayute River about 12 miles off Highway 101 west of Forks. The Quileute tribal setting has received recent, international notoriety as "the tribe of Jacob" in the Twilight movie series.

The Hoh Indian Reservation at Oil City at the mouth of the Hoh River is the smallest reservation – only a mile square – and the smallest tribe. The reservation is off Highway 101 south of Forks and north of Kalaloch.

The largest of the peninsula reservations, the Quinault Indian Reservation extends from Lake Quinault to the Pacific Ocean. The two Indian communities are Taholah at the mouth of the Quinault River and Queets on Highway 101 near the mouth of the Queets River. The tribe sells excellent canned seafood such as salmon, clams and sturgeon under the Quinault Pride brand. Stop at the mini mart in Queets to stock up on these delicacies. To fish in Lake Quinault for the its famous Blue Back Salmon visitors must obtain a special permit from the tribe.

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