The Indigenous Tribes of Seattle and Washington, A guide for Employer and Community Understanding (Created by ACRL 2021)

Indigenous Tribes of Seattle and Washington

For the original link to this resource click here. 

ACRL Land Acknowledgement

The Association of College & Research Libraries, a Division of the American Library Association acknowledges the land and water it originally intended the conference to gather on; there are 29 tribal nations in Washington. The ancestral homelands of those American Indian tribes that have inhabited this place for centuries, include the Chehalis, Colville, Cowlitz, Hoh, Jamestown S’Klallam, Kalispel, Lower Elwha Klallam, Lummi, Makah, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Nooksack, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Puyallup, Quileute, Quinault, Samish, Sauk-Suiattle, Shoalwater Bay, Skokomish, Snoqualmie, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip, Upper Skagit, and Yakama. In addition, the ACRL recognizes the Duwamish, Wanapum, and Chinook; tribes working for recognition by the U.S. federal government and have a long history in present-day Washington.

As we ascend into an open future in academic and research libraries, let us learn more about the histories, cultures, and traditions of indigenous peoples. Let us explore how we might build relationships with sovereign tribal nations to lead higher education to be an inclusive space fostering innovation and collaboration. We have provided additional information about the tribal nations of this region to further our knowledge of the area and its indigenous people who have resided here since time immemorial, and still thrive in Seattle — alive and strong.


There are 140,714 Native citizens in Washington alone. Seattle has a vibrant Native culture that can be found in museums, galleries, streets names, and other public spaces. The name of Seattle actually comes from Chief Si’ahl (pronounced See-ahlth) which makes Seattle the only major city name after a tribal leader.  Chief Si’ahl led both the Suquamish and Duwamish people; it is the Duwamish lands that make up what we call the Seattle metropolitan. Native people make up 0.8% of Seattle’s population and the area sees concerted effort to revitalize the Native languages through immersion schools on the Indian reservations. To ensure that children are taught their cultural heritage and continue tradition, Washington State has implemented a curriculum called Since Time Immemorial, or STI. These lesson plans can be adapted for any existing lesson and encourage both teachers and students to shift the focus from the western settler-colonial history.


In terms of livelihood, the Native people rely on fishing as their main source of income; sea life and salmon are especially culturally important for the Coast Salish people. The Puget Sound, a system of water that runs along the northwestern coast of Washington, is an important source of sea life for the tribes located along the coast. The sound is known for its plentiful sea life, especially the various salmonid species. The Puget Sound War took place between the U.S. military and the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, and Klickitat nations in the 19th century.


While fishing is essential for most lifestyles, other tribes work to operate health clinics, youth centers, and gaming venues for locals. The Yakama Nation is known as one of the largest employers in central Washington; known for producing lumber by implementing sustainable practices. The Seattle City Council recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day, this is a day of parades, speeches, and celebratory music.

One common misconception regarding tribal artwork in Washington State is that totem poles are traditional art forms from the Coast Salish peoples. Totem poles are actually crests that represent clans from the indigenous people of Coastal Alaska and Canada. The reason why totem poles are associated with Seattle is because a group of men from Seattle came across a totem pole while in Alaska in 1899. The group brought the totem pole back to Seattle and was there known as the “Seattle Totem.” The Tlingit Indians later sued for the unlawful removal of the totem and the courts ruled in favor of the Tlingit people.


The above information was gathered from a combination of the below websites. We encourage you to visit the sites to learn more about the various Indigenous cultures in Washington State.

When in Washington, visit the following centers to learn more about the area’s historical and current Indigenous populations:

Communities fighting for federal recognition and related resources:

Additional resources related to tourism and the Washington State tribes:

The above information may be used by libraries, librarians, and other educators for nonprofit training and educational purposes. All such uses should include the notice “Content used by permission of ODLOS, ALA”. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to email our office at

By CJ Sanchez (He/Him)
CJ Sanchez (He/Him) Career Coach