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Quileute turns to eco-tourism to boost economy; Tribe capitalizes on the environment that sustains it

LA PUSH, Wash. - The Quileute Tribe is turning to eco-tourism to boost its
economy and create jobs for its people.

Like other Northwest Indian nations, Quileute's economy plummeted during
the decline in fishing and logging, and tribal unemployment today is 70
percent, according to Quileute General Manager Wally Jackson.

On a reservation comprising one square mile - its historic area was more
than 800 square miles - Quileute's economic development opportunities would
seem limited.

Still, Quileute tribal members voted down a proposal to build a casino. The
tribe instead decided to capitalize on what it already has: the environment
that sustains it.

Quileute is expanding its Quileute Oceanside Resort, improving its marina,
redeveloping its oceanfront Quileute RV Park, promoting its close proximity
to Olympic National Park and working with local chambers of commerce and
the Audubon Society to spread the word about what Quileute has to offer.

This is, indeed, a paradise for those who love the outdoors.

Quileute is surrounded by Olympic National Park and the Pacific coast. It
lies within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and nearby is the
Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge.

Gray whales migrate past Quileute in March, April and May. Quileute's
shoreline attracts fishers, sea kayakers and surfers; in summer, kayak and
surfing schools set up shop and noted surfer Bill Curry did a televised
surfing program last year. Storm-watchers like to watch the drama of
Pacific storms.

The beaches - First Beach, Second Beach, Third Beach and Rialto Beach -
have sheltered cliffs, forested hiking trails and tide pools.

At the visitor's center, Pam Morganroth weaves baskets, greets visitors and
answers questions. The center has displays of traditional handmade items,
maps, photographs and Quileute alphabet posters. The guest book has been
signed by visitors from Germany, Canada and the eastern United States.

Quileute Vice Chairman Bert Black sees eco-tourism as a way to provide a
better future for the 400 - 450 people who live on the Quileute
reservation. He said employment increases 15 - 20 percent during the
tourism season.

Black would like people to visit Quileute year-round. "We are looking at
other ways to bring people to the [Olympic] Peninsula," he said. There are
a lot of visitors to attract: The North Olympic Peninsula Visitors &
Convention Bureau handled 73,726 inquiries in 2004."

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Quileute Chairman Russell Woodruff said, "We want to create more employment
so when our kids go off to college they can come back and be managers for
the tribe. This is for them."

Black said Quileute's efforts to attract tourists are succeeding. "The same
people and families have come to Quileute for years," he said. "We have
progressed quite a bit since 1997."


The Quileute Tribe uses eco-friendly practices to maintain the environment
that sustains it.

"We're working on improving the whole community," said Jackson, who chaired
the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians' tourism committee.

Woodruff said Quileute is going back to using cedar in construction because
it lasts longer in this wet climate. "We're starting to see where the
ply-board grows fungus," Woodruff said. "It's not made for this type of

Quileute works with Olympic National Park and state environmental groups to
keep clean the headwaters of the rivers that flow through Quileute to the
Pacific. Salmon runs have improved.

Quileute Natural Resources manages the tribe's fisheries programs, restores
fish habitat and operates a hatchery for winter steelhead and summer

Quileute is actively engaged in elk management and essential in
understanding the life cycles of the Roosevelt elk on the peninsula, as
well as other wildlife such as cougar, black bear, beaver and birds.

Woodruff said the warmer weather brought by El Nino is causing some
environmental changes. "With the warmer current, we're getting different
types of sea mammals [not common to Quileute]," Woodruff said. "We're
getting turtles and pelicans, which are usually down in California. That's
telling us something."

For thousands of years, the Quileute people have lived on this land beside
the Pacific Ocean. Their love, respect and care of the land that provides
for them are ensuring their transition to a modern tourism-based economy.

For more information on the Quileute Tribe, visit

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