What is the Muckleshoot Tribe?

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  • Written By: J. Leach
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Formed in tha 1850s, the Muckleshoot Tribe is a group whose members are the descendants of Northwestern North American aboriginal groups, such as the Skopamish, Smulkamish, Stkamish, Tkwakwamish, and Yilalkoamish. The Duwamish, Snoqualmie, Tulalip, and Suquamish groups were gradually incorporated into the tribe starting in the 1860s. These groups are part of the Pacific Northwest Coast Salish peoples. Coast Salish peoples, prior to European settlers arriving, were primarily fishing communities, with some groups augmenting their food supply by hunting. The Muckleshoot Tribe now resides on the Muckleshoot Reservation, located in the United States, in Washington state.

The population of the Muckleshoot Tribe is the largest of any other aboriginal group in Washington state. It has about 3,300 members who reside on or near the reservation. The reservation was set up in accordance with the treaties of Point Elliott and Medicine Creek. The native groups initially fought relocation to the vastly smaller area given to them by the treaties, but were forced to give in. The groups who settled there gradually took on the name of their new home, Muckleshoot.

In 1936, the Muckleshoot Tribe drafted their constitution. As a federally recognized tribal government, they are allowed to govern themselves. The constitution stipulates that the tribe will be run by a nine-person council. Its membership rotates every three years. This council answers to the General Council, which includes all members of the tribe.


The group refers to themselves as the people of the salmon because of the importance of the fish in their culture. The groups of the Pacific Northwest depended on salmon to sustain their communities and cultivated methods for preserving the fish for future consumption, like smoking and salt curing. Surpluses from their salmon stores were often traded for other commodities with neighboring people. Each year, they celebrate the First Salmon Ceremony, which marks the start of each fishing season.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Muckleshoot Tribe came into conflict with the fishermen of Washington because it felt the salmon runs were being threatened and wanted to protect them. The tribe’s protests have come to be known as the Fish Wars, and the U.S. Federal government conceded to it's pressure and issued the Boldt Decision in 1974. The Boldt Decision stated that the tribe had the right to protect its ability to harvest salmon, even in areas not on their reservation.

The tribe decided to take advantage of it's close proximity to the city of Seattle and built a casino in 1995. The casino helps support the tribe by helping it to purchase surrounding lands so that it can expand the borders of the reservation. The proceeds also allow the group to create a solid education system to ensure the survival of it's culture.


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