Second new ferry could be named after Skagit treaty signer


COUPEVILLE, Wash. – A state ferry proposed to be completed in summer 2011 could be named for Squi-qui (c. 1816 – 1874), the Skagit leader who signed the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855.

The naming, under consideration by the Washington State Transportation Commission, was endorsed by the Swinomish Tribal Senate Nov. 20 and the Coupeville Town Council Nov. 24. Several Squi-qui descendants, among them Swinomish Vice Chairwoman Barbara James, attended the Town Council meeting to advocate for the naming.

The naming is also endorsed by the Central Whidbey Island Chamber of Commerce, the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, and the Island County Historical Society.

The ferry is one of two that will travel between the Whidbey Island town of Keystone, which is located close to where Squi-qui’s longhouse and village were; and the Olympic Peninsula city of Port Townsend, which is historically Klallam territory. The transportation commission Oct. 20 voted to name the first new ferry the Chetzemoka, in honor of Squi-qui’s contemporary who was leader of the Klallam people from the mid-1850s until his death in 1888.

Squi-qui, whose name is spelled S’kwai-kwi on the Treaty of Point Elliott, signed the document with an “X” on Jan. 22, 1855. While the treaty made roughly one-fifth of the state available for settlers, it also established reservations and reserved rights for the signers, their people and their descendants.

The Swinomish reservation is one of the reservations established by the treaty. Many Skagit people from Whidbey Island relocated there.

In treating with the 82 indigenous leaders who signed the document, the U.S. recognized its government-to-government relationship with the region’s indigenous nations.

“As control of his homeland shifted from Native hands to incoming settlers, Squi-qui helped guide his people through the difficult period of post-treaty life, both on the island and in neighboring Indian communities,” Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby wrote in a letter to state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.

“In 1859, Indians from the region assembled in Squi-qui’s longhouse to meet with Indian Agent Robert Fay, who reported to them that the United States Congress has approved the treaty signed four years before but had not sent money to pay them. Despite four years of broken promises by the American government, Squi-qui rose to speak for his people from a position of peace and strength by reiterating what the Indians had been promised, clarifying what they still expected, and expressing his desire that his words be carried to the President of the United States.”

Cladoosby added, “Descendants of Squi-qui still live on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Reservation, where they continue to advocate for their people in the enforcement of treaty rights and the protection of habitat and fisheries.”

The next step for the proposed M/V Squi-qui: Submitting public comment to the Washington State Transportation Commission, which will make the final decision, Write to: P.O. Box 47308, Olympia, WA 98504-7308. Send an e-mail via

Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry system in the United States, serving eight counties in Washington and British Columbia. The system has 10 routes and 20 terminals, currently served by 22 vessels.

The system is building four new ferries to replace ferries that have been taken out of service. Nine of WSF’s ferries are between 40 and 65 years old and must be replaced in the next 20 years. The last new state ferry was put into service in 1999. The state ferry system has $211.6 million to spend on construction of three 64-car ferries through 2013.

Other ferries bear names of historic indigenous figures, peoples and place names. One of the more prominent is the M/V Sealth, named for the leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish people during the time of the settlement era of the mid-1800s. Vessels named after peoples include the Cathlamet, Chelan, Kittitas, Puyallup, Skagit, Spokane, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, and Yakima.