Tribe - The Squaxin Island

Nestled between the rugged mountain peaks of the Olympic Peninsula and the snow-capped volcanoes of the Cascade mountains, within the heart of the marine waterways of South Puget Sound, lies a pearl of great beauty, a small, uninhabited island known as Squaxin. Undaunted by the ebb of time, the pulse of the island remains rhythmic and primal. This tiny island of sea fog and rain, salmon and cedar is centered near the entrances to the seven inlets of southern Puget Sound which surround it like the crosspoles of a sacred hoop.

For thousands of years, the waterways were the only highways, and our people traveled extensively along them, as far north as Vancouver Island and south along the Pacifi c Coast. This is where the Tribe's lifeblood begins and flows. Songs sailed out as tribal ancestors paddled their magnifi cent cedar canoes on their way to gather, trade or attend a family potlatch. Because of their strong cultural connection with the water, Squaxin Island tribal members are also known as "The People of the Water."

On Christmas Day, 1854 the Treaty of Medicine Creek, the first in Washington Territory, was negotiated and signed the following day. As a result of poor communication and worse cultural understanding, thousands of square miles of land we had called home for centuries, were ceded by our people. Only this one small island was retained as the main area for all of the people to reside.

There are no year-round residents on Squaxin Island today; yet, it is looked upon by tribal members as the bond that unites past, present, and future generations. The island is only accessible by boat, and only tribal members are allowed on land, but visitors are free to journey around the beautiful island by boat.

Museum Library and Research Center
Explore the captivating story of the "People of the Water" and their timeless relationship with the inland sea at the new Squaxin Island Museum Library and Research Center. Here you may stroll through the awe-inspiring Hall of the Seven Inlets, visit with native artists and view an extremely rare cedar bark gillnet and other phenomenal cultural items found at an ancient Eld Inlet village site. During the summer months, the Tribe's canoe carving shed is open to visitors. Located approximately two miles east of Little Creek Casino on Old Olympic Highway, the Museum is open Wed-Sat, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

For information on special events, workshops, new exhibits and cultural performances, call 360-432-3839 or visit

In 1862 W.B. Gosnell, the Indian agent stationed at Squaxin Island complained, "They will not quit gambling," for the urge to win and gain riches by games of chance was ever present among Squaxin Island tribal people. Bone game celebrations would last all through the night for days at a time. The games were serious business, and men entered into them with willful determination to win. Whole groups participated and spectators placed bets on the winners. It was also a fun way to spend time together and share each other's company.

Gaming, as we know it today, is different than it was in 1862. The economic rebirth of one of the oldest societies in the northwest is a product of the marriage between modern technology and ancient tradition. Today visitors to Little Creek Casino enjoy a full array of modern amenities. Located at the intersection of Highways 101 & 108 between Olympia and Shelton, the 47,000+ squarefoot gaming facility offers a relaxed atmosphere with northwestern flair and natural elegance. In December the Tribe celebrated the opening of a new hotel complete with approximately 100 rooms, a swimming pool, fitness center and conference facilities to accommodate as many as 500 people in multiple breakout rooms.

Kamilche Transportation Hub
After visiting the museum and Little Creek Casino, be sure to stop by the Kamilche Transportation Hub located behind the Kamilche Trading Post at the Highway 101/108 intersection. Here you can view a 56' totem pole, which incorporates the family crests of the seven bands of the Squaxin Island Tribe. Large kiosks explore Squaxin Island tribal history. The Kamilche Visitor Center provides information on lodging and local activities, as well as restroom facilities. Just a few yards to the north are the Little Creek observation deck and kiosk where you learn about the salmon life cycle. In the fall, the creek teems with salmon on their way upstream to spawn.

The Purest Oysters
Delicacies offered from the "heart of the earth (the sea)," such as clams, oysters and salmon, have always been highly respected by Squaxin Island people. The aquatic creatures that sustain and give life offer much more than mere physical nourishment; they provide spiritual sustenance as well. The Tribe has been actively involved in oyster operations for thousands of years.

Harstine Oyster Company, owned and operated by the Tribe, currently grows oysters on 41 acres of tidelands on pristine Squaxin Island. Because the island is uninhabited, the waters surrounding it are the purist in Puget Sound. The Tribe's environmentally-friendly product, sold under the name "Palala Bay Pacifics," was recognized as the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association's 2002 Most Beautiful Oyster. Harstine Oyster Company products are available for retail purchase at the Kamilche Trading Post or Red Apple grocery in Shelton.

Visit or call 360-426-9781.