Lake Sammamish & the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe
– Lake Sammamish, WA
Between the mid 1800s and the turn of the century, there was a transition period after the treaties were signed. Snoqualmie was not given a reservation as we were promised; while we waited, our people were burned out of their longhouses. We had to find jobs in lumber mills and hop fields to support our families. Many families were able to stay in our traditional lands by homesteading the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish and working in the Monohon lumber mill. By the turn of the century, there were seven Snoqualmie homesteads along the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish with multiple Snoqualmie families living together.
In the 1980s streams on the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish were renamed to reflect the Snoqualmie families who are connected to this land and have lived here for generations. These renamed creeks include George Davis and Zackuse creeks, which are named after George Davis’ family and the Zackuse family from the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe.
Photo of the Davis family on their homestead along the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish.
Credit: Photo is housed in the Issaquah Historical Society
This artist rendering of a shed-style longhouse is an example of the traditional house of the Snoqualmie people.
Artist: McKenna Sweet Dorman
This region is still home today to the first people of this land who had village sites all around the Snoqualmie and Sammamish watersheds. The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe lives by the teachings passed down from our ancestors. Rather than forcing the land to become something it’s not, we live with the land.
Each village site was chosen with care and the construction of our longhouses took into account their position within the surrounding landscape. The direction of the rivers and waterways determined the positioning of the longhouse. This thought comes from the teaching of always thinking of those who came before us and those still to come after. We are not who we are today without all of those teachers who came before us and we are shaping the future for generations still to come.
The original highways of this region were the rivers and lakes that interwove all the peoples of this region together. Traveling took place every year to visit relatives in other villages and tribes as well as to hunt and gather different types of foods in the salt water or up into the mountains.
Starting at Lake Sammamish, the Sammamish River was taken into Lake Washington and out to the Sound. Likewise, most of the major roads that exist today are built on old trail routes that would take us through our Valley and over the mountains. Though our modes of transportation have changed over time, our highways have remained constant.
This canoe is from the south end of Lake Sammamish and made in the late 1890s. It was traded to a settler family that kept it in a barn and cut notches on the side for their paddles and painted it. The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe was offered a chance to purchase it in the early 2000s and is now installed on the Tribe’s Administrative Campus.
Photo: Michael Brunk
The locations that people know today as Issaquah and Lake Sammamish were known by different names for time immemorial. Issaquah is in itself a misinterpreation of sqawx̌ (pronounced sqaw-h), which is the traditional name of Issaquah creek.
Many other locations and cities in this region are also named this way, such as the town of Carnation, which used to go by Tolt, a mispronunciation of toltxʷ (pronounced tolt-wh). Similarly, the city of Snoqualmie has retained the name of the indigenous people of this region, sdukʷalbixʷ (pronounced s-dokwh-albee-wh), the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe. These place names belong with their locations and it is time they are returned home.
Kokanee Salmon Habitat
Lake Sammamish indigenous kokanee salmon populations have been dwindling over the last several decades to a point where they were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2007. Ten years later, the kokanee had the lowest ever recorded return of only 52 fish compared to thousands. Land use changes from increased development have heavily impacted the quantity and quality of habitat that kokanee need to survive in the Lake as well as in the key tributaries that feed the Lake.
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe is dedicated to returning the kokanee home to healthy spawning tributaries, some that they have not had access to for the last 40 years. We will accomplish this through partnering on fish passage and restoration projects on key tributaries such as Zackuse, Ebright and Laughing Jacobs Creek. Soon, we hope to be able to partner on other projects in locations like George Davis creek.
Volunteers at a restoration event at Tolt MacDonald Park
Photo: Snoqualmie Tribe