Snoqualmie Indian Tribe
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, a federally recognized Tribe in King County and a signatory of the Treaty of Point Elliott (1855), has received historic support from a diverse nationwide coalition of experts and authorities as it seeks to protect the Tribe’s hunting and gathering rights at the Supreme Court of the United States.
In Snoqualmie v. State of Washington, the Tribe asks the federal judiciary to require Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to recognize the Snoqualmie Tribe’s hunting and gathering rights which are protected by the terms of the Treaty of Point Elliott. The U.S. Federal government recognizes the Tribe as a treaty signatory, while the Inslee Administration has interpreted decades-old verdicts during a time period when the Snoqualmie Tribe was not recognized as precluding the Tribe from exercising its Treaty-reserved rights today, despite its decades-long status as a federally recognized Tribe and treaty signatory.
On March 11th, 2022 the Snoqualmie Tribe filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its treaty hunting and gathering civil rights case. As part of the Snoqualmie Tribe’s fight to have its rights to hunt and gather recognized by Washington State, the Tribe secured three extensive amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs of support from expert authorities from around the country. The supporters include leading Tribal and civil legal scholars, a leading Tribal enterprise, and other Tribal Nations. As the vast majority of petitions to the Supreme Court are filed without any amicus curiae briefs in support, the filing of three separate briefs from three separate legal perspectives in support of Snoqualmie’s case is a historic demonstration of the support for the Tribe’s fight for its hunting and gathering rights.
Amicus curiae briefs were filed by the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, victorious Supreme Court litigant and leading Tribal enterprise Cougar Den, Inc., and a large coalition of legal scholars led by Professor Robert A. Williams Jr., Faculty Co-Chair of the University of Arizona Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program. Professor Williams’ brief was co-signed by leading legal and policy scholars including Professor Ezra Rosser American University, Professor Vickie Sutton Texas Tech University, Professor Jo Carrillo University of California Hasting Law, Associate Clinical Professor Heather Whiteman Runs Him University of Arizona, and the Center for Indian Law and Policy at Seattle University.
“Snoqualmie v. State of Washington could be the most important Tribal Supreme Court case of our generation, a fact which is proven by the unprecedented support our case has received from around the country,” said Snoqualmie Tribal Chairman Robert M. de los Angeles. “Our Tribe is fighting for the rights our ancestors made sacrifices to protect for us, their descendants, by signing the Treaty of Point Elliott. The Snoqualmie People have hunted and gathered in our ancestral lands since time immemorial, and we are counting on the Supreme Court to listen to our supporters from around the country who say neither a Governor nor a federal court can unliterally decide to ignore our treaty right. The Snoqualmie Tribe will never surrender in its fight to exercise our traditional practices, free from government harassment and oppression.”
“As stated in our amicus brief supporting the effort of the Snoqualmie Tribe to reclaim its Treaty Rights, the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe—and all tribes — must support their extended family tribes,” said Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Chairman Nino Maltos. “In Time Immemorial we were all One People, placed here with tasks from the Creator. We never drew lines between us. As resources become scarce and we became subject to laws dividing up the earth, thoughts of excluding one another and claiming exclusive rights can poison our relationships if we allow it. As Sahkuméhu, that is not our way. We were proud to support our mountain relatives in this matter.”
The second amicus curiae are Indian Enterprise, Cougar Den, Inc., which successfully defeated the State of Washington in another landmark Supreme Court case. In 2019, Cougar Den, Inc a tribal fuel distributor owned and operated by the Ramsey family for the last 28 years, was sued by the state of Washington in Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc. Cougar Den successfully argued to the Supreme Court their interpretation of specific sections in the Yakama Nation Treaty of 1855, and the justices agreed 5-4 upholding their treaty rights.
"As Indigenous People, our actions today breathe life into the preserved promises and cultures secured by our ancestors,” said Cougar Den President “Punia” Kip Richard Ramsey, Sr. “It is our duty to protect the rights preserved in our treaties at all costs and it is our privilege to stand with all Indigenous Nations in their fights to protect their sovereignty and the treaty promises preserved by their ancestors. Any step otherwise perpetuates the legacy of broken treaties.”
The third amicus brief was written by Robert A. Williams Jr. a renowned Indian law professor, acclaimed author, and Faculty Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program at the University of Arizona. Professor Williams was joined by law professors from across the country, urging the high court to hear the case. In the brief, Professor Williams eloquently explains why the Ninth Circuit justices faltered in using the doctrine of issue preclusion against the Snoqualmie Tribe’s hunting and gathering reserved treaty rights.
“Snoqualmie did not try to reopen the issue of fishing rights, which was already litigated in Washington II. Instead, it seeks to affirm its never-before-adjudicated hunting and gathering rights under the Treaty of Point Elliott. This conforms to the reasoning the en banc Ninth Circuit used in Washington IV, that a newly federally recognized tribe could “present a claim of treaty rights not yet adjudicated.”
“The Snoqualmie Tribe is humbled, honored, and blessed by the support we have received from so many different leaders from around the country in our sacred fight to protect our treaty rights,” said Chairman de los Angeles. “In addition to the authors and co-authors of the briefs previously mentioned, we would like to honor the many others who have supported our human rights as Snoqualmie people.”
About the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe is a federally recognized tribe in the Salish Sea region of Washington State. Known as the People of the Moon, Snoqualmie were signatories to the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855. Tribal enterprises provide over 1,700 jobs in the Snoqualmie Valley, and the Snoqualmie Tribe has donated more than $12 million to nonprofit organizations in Washington State since 2010. For more information visit www.snoqualmietribe.us