What is now known as the Skokomish Tribe actually was primarily composed of Twana Indians, a Salishan people whose aboriginal territory encompassed the Hood Canal drainage basin in western Washington State. The tribe's first recorded direct contact with European culture came in 1792 and resulted in a devastating smallpox epidemic that took the lives of many. There were nine Twana communities, the largest being known as the Skokomish, or "big river people." The Twana subsisted on hunting, fishing and gathering activities, practicing a nomadic life-style during warmer weather and resettling at permanent sites during the winter. Twana descendants live on the Skokomish Reservation, and all have become known as the Skokomish Tribe.
Between 1900 and 1960 the Tribe faced many difficulties. Sometime around 1900, a tycoon from Tacoma acquired the land between the west channel and main channel in the mouth of the Skokomish River. His subsequent diking and ploughing resulted in the loss of various plant species, including the sweetgrass used by the Skokomish for their basketry. At about the same time, the Tribe's shellfish gathering activities were severely restricted due to the State of Washington's claims of jurisdiction over tidelands. Furthermore, the City of Tacoma, between 1926 and 1930, constructed two dams on the North Fork of the Skokomish River, resulting in the destruction of important cultural sites and increased restrictions on the Tribe's saltwater access. Finally, Potlatch State Park was opened in 1960 on a prime piece of shoreline property. All of these actions have been the subject of land claims brought by the Skokomish. An award of about $374,000 in 1965 was directed toward the purchase of a fish processing plant, as well as toward tribal housing. In 1974 the Tribe was successful in regaining disputed fishing rights through the Boldt Decision.
Today, many tribal members continue to work within the region's fishing and logging industries. In an attempt to diversify its economy, the Tribe has purchased property for economic development and resource enhancement, as well as for housing. The Tribe operates its own businesses including a tribal hatchery and a gas station/convenience store. As for traditional culture, a number of ceremonies that had been dormant for 70 years or more were re-established during the late 1970's and early 1980's. Traditional basketry, carving and dance projects represent other facets of the reemerging interest in traditional arts of the Skokomish Reservation.
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