Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
History of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley
For thousands of years, the S’Klallam (“strong”) people lived in villages along the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula, moving with the seasonal resources and living in harmony with nature. While historians originally thought that man could be traced back 10,000 years on the Olympic Peninsula, the discovery of the Manis Mastodon in 1977 offered definitive evidence that humans, Natives, hunted on the Olympic Peninsula as long as 14,000 years ago.
In addition to hunting in the mountains and harvesting and fishing in the salt and fresh waters of the area, the S’Klallams maintained the Sequim prairie by burning it back each year, to create a habitat for berries and other edible plants, and new grass to feed the deer and elk they hunted. Their culture relied heavily on the Western Red Cedar tree, which provided wood for shelter and canoes as well as bark which was used for clothing and blankets.
In the 19th century, non-Indian settlers began to arrive in the area, desiring the same abundant lands and waters that were so important to the S’Klallam people. In 1855, the S’Klallam leaders signed the Treaty of Point No Point with the federal government with the understanding that they would always be able to hunt, fish, and gather in their “usual and accustomed” grounds. Yet over time, the settlers forced the S’Klallam to move off their traditional land at Dungeness, out to the Dungeness Spit. The S’Klallam people looked for ways to preserve their lifestyle, identity, and cultural/traditional ways.
In 1874, under the leadership of Tulsmetum (“Lord James Balch”), the S’Klallam people living in the Dungeness area decided that to survive, they had to adopt a new value system that included property ownership. The Jamestown community pooled $500 in gold coins and purchased the 210 acres along the Strait, now called Jamestown. Many S’Klallams joined the local workforce, as farmers and dairy workers. Others continued to practice their traditional hunting and fishing, using these goods for trade with the local settlers.
Throughout the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, the S’Klallam people withstood racism by local citizens who often treated the darkest-skinned among them as second-class citizens. They weathered many political struggles with the federal, state, and local governments, which at times recognized them as a sovereign people (as promised in the Treaty of Point No Point), but more often did not – instead, choosing to refuse them any treaty rights. The S’Klallam people raised families, worshipped, contributed to the local economy, and sent their children to schools in Sequim.
In the 1970s, the Jamestown S’Klallam people joined with Tribes across the nation in a movement to gain justice for those whose treaty rights had been ignored for more than a century by the federal government. Through a long legal process, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe was “re-recognized” by the United States government on February 10, 1981. This finally confirmed the Tribe’s rights as a sovereign nation, and as they formed a government (like any local, state, or federal government), they became eligible for certain programs to build economic security for their people and to protect their traditional resources.
Under the leadership of W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chair since 1977, the many S’Klallam leaders who have worked on Tribal Council and Tribal committees, and the Tribal staff who have worked on the Tribe’s behalf for the past 30 years, the Tribe has become a highly collaborative, well-respected partner in dozens of programs in the areas of economic development, health care, natural resources, cultural preservation, and the arts.
In 2022, the Tribe is the second-largest employer in Clallam County. While acknowledging the difficult history of our local native peoples, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe maintains a value to co-exist respectfully and responsibly. The Tribe focuses on developing partnerships with local, state, and federal organizations and governments, as well as cultural education to these partners. The Tribe enjoys investing in the local Port Angeles, Sequim, and Port Townsend communities, school districts, healthcare and behavioral health, economy, charities, and more.
History provided by the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe.