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News from the Pacific Northwest: Northwest Indian country at a glance

Squaxin Island Tribe building 100,000-square-foot hotel

SHELTON, Wash. - Little Creek Casino and the Squaxin Island Tribe are building a 100,000-square foot, 92-room hotel on the casino site.

Revenue from the casino is helping the tribe become self-reliant and provide employment opportunities. Using revenue generated at Little Creek, the tribe is expanding the scope of programs and services it offers tribal members and the community.

Located at 91 W. Highway 108 in Shelton, north of Olympia on Highway 101, Little Creek Casino is one of four major enterprises operated by the tribe. The others are Harstine Oyster Company on Harstine and Squaxin islands in South Puget Sound; Kamilche Trading Post, a convenience store and gas station at the intersection of highways 101 and 108 near Shelton; and the Skookum Creek Tobacco Company, a cigarette manufacturing plant located behind Little Creek Casino off Highway 108.

The Squaxin Island Tribe is based in Shelton, 22 miles northwest of Olympia. The tribe still owns Squaxin Island to the east, which it was given in the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek.

"(The treaty) was negotiated in Chinook Jargon, a trade language inadequate to convey the complex issues of treaty making," the tribe states on its Website.

The treaty was the first in Washington Territory. The ancestral lands ceded to the United States government by the Squaxin Island, Nisqually and Puyallup tribes included 4,000 square miles, or 2,560,000 acres. The Squaxin Island Tribe received the island - 4.5 miles long and a half-mile wide - for all of its people to live.

Squaxin Island tribal members soon began to leave the island to take up permanent residence near their original homes. Today, there are no permanent residents on the island but the island is used for fishing, hunting, shellfish gathering, camping, and other activities. Only tribal members are allowed on the island.

'New' Tulalip Casino showcases art, culture

MARYSVILLE, Wash. - An expanded Tulalip Casino had a grand re-opening on June 5.

The Tulalip Tribes spent $72 million to expand the 12-year-old casino to four times its original size, to 227,000 square feet. The casino is also a showcase for Northwest art and Tulalip Indian culture.

The entrance features rushing waterfalls, four fountains and numerous ponds. One pond holds an orca whale sculpture; another has a 20-foot statute of an Indian fisherman about to spear a leaping salmon.

Inside, a towering seaweed sculpture shimmers with 10-foot copper salmon swimming beneath a night sky of fiber optic stars.

Tulalip Casino now has three restaurants, six bars and a gift shop. Tulalip Bay, the casino's fine-dining restaurant, has a glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly and a granite fireplace with handmade copper tiles and etched glass.

For more information about the casino, call (888) 272-1111 or visit

'Family Healing Gathering' for Indian, Latino families

LAPUSH, Wash. - Understanding family strengths, resources and concerns in the American Indian and Latino communities was the focus of the "Peninsula Family Healing Gathering" May 19 - 20 at the Ak-A-Lat Community Center in LaPush.

The Olympic Peninsula's Quileute Tribe hosted the event, which was sponsored by the state Department of Social and Health Services Division of Children and Family Services and local communities.

The two days featured traditional meals, music, story telling and craftwork. Cultural ceremonies were presented to honor those who serve children and families. Elders shared their stories and traditions with children to ensure that future generations will preserve the historical perspectives of their culture.

Recognized leaders from the Latino and American Indian communities did individual and family consultations.

Foster home licensers answered questions about the licensing process and on how to create new foster homes.

Other presenters included Bruce Miller, traditional leader of the Skokomish Tribe; Jorge Chacon, a family counselor; Catherine Reimer, Inuput leader and a psychologist who works incorporating traditional values into modern lives; and Hank Gobin, Tulalip leader, who shared his experiences of working with foster children in a traditional longhouse.

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Marilyn Wandry, Suquamish leader, shared her experiences working with American Indians who have lost their heritage connection and provided methods of reconnecting with cultural kinship. Youth and elders panels provided an interactive opportunity to hear personal stories.

Through a collective willingness to share with others through traditional celebrations and festivities, the gathering addressed issues involved in working together for the children and families whose world views and collective cultural experiences are varied.

DSHS produced a video documentation of this gathering to use as a training tool and to recruit additional resources to serve these children and families.

Nisqually Tribe hosts restoration workshops

EATONVILLE, Wash. - The Nisqually Tribe hosted a three-part workshop on the history of the Nisqually Valley and restoration of Ohop Creek on May 22 - 31.

The workshops covered a range of topics regarding salmon restoration on Ohop Creek, including the history of the valley's habitat, the salmon life cycle, and current and future restoration efforts.

Local residents were encouraged to share their memories of the creek and salmon.

Jayme Gordan, coordinator of the district's Stream Team, called the event "a great opportunity to learn more about salmon and to get involved in the protection and restoration of Ohop Creek."

The Nisqually tribe, Pierce Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have been working with local landowners during the last few months to develop a habitat restoration plan for Ohop Creek.

"The people who are going to be affected the most by salmon restoration on Ohop Creek are the ones that are going to decide what restoration will look like," Gordan said in a press release.

Ann Marie Finan, Nisqually Stream Stewards coordinator for the tribe, added, "There are a number of different ways habitat can be restored in Ohop Creek ? Ohop Creek, people and salmon play major roles in the basin's heritage and I've seen a large interest from the people in protecting and restoring that heritage."

Nisqually Stream Stewards offering free training

NISQUALLY, Wash. - Want to learn how to be a salmon recovery volunteer?

The Nisqually Tribe is offering free Nisqually Stream Stewards training to all Nisqually watershed residents in a series of classes beginning June 11. Topics include watershed hydrology and ecosystems, salmon of the Nisqually and their habitat needs, water quality and stream health and the cultural history of the Nisqually Tribe.

Field trips to various parts of the Nisqually watershed will be included: Mount Rainier, the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, the Clear Creek Hatchery and salmon habitat restoration sites.

In exchange for the free training, participants will pledge 40 hours of volunteer service, which may be in ongoing watershed education and restoration projects or projects of their own. Graduates will also be treated to a salmon bake in late July.

"Salmon recovery in the Nisqually can only happen with the help of the people that live here," Jeanette Dorner said in a press release. Dorner is the salmon recovery manager for the Nisqually Tribe.

"The tribe has done a lot in recent years to change harvest and hatchery management to recover salmon, but without good habitat for them to come back to we won't be successful. These classes are an opportunity for people who live in the Nisqually watershed to learn how they can help recover salmon by making sure the salmon have healthy places to spawn and live in our local creeks and river."

Volunteers for the Nisqually Stream Stewards Program often pitch in on local salmon projects such as removing invasive grass from stream channels, planting trees along stream banks and monitoring stream health.

In the last few years, Nisqually Stream Stewards helped reestablish a chum run through the city of Roy, where no chum had been seen for almost 50 years.

"Volunteers are really the backbone for salmon recovery in the Nisqually River," Dorner said. "Without their commitment and help, restoring salmon runs here would be almost impossible."

For more information about this program, visit

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at