The Chimacum Center operates from the community of Chimacum, located in rural Jefferson County on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. The Chimacum landscape looks west to the Olympic Mountains and includes forested ridges, agricultural valleys, and the various arms of salmon-bearing Chimacum Creek flowing into Port Townsend Bay. In partnership with local conservations groups, there are many farm and forest land conservation projects and watershed restoration projects underway. A long history of forestry and family dairy farming has evolved to a landscape of many small, diversified farms whose meat, produce and grain is offered at local farmstands and Farmers Markets.
Historic patterns of settler colonization have shaped the human and wild landscapes here. The Chimacum Center recognizes the necessity and the complexities of trying to make an Indigenous land acknowledgment. The Native history of Chimacum (Čə́məq̓əm) is multifaceted and emerges from the experiences and perspectives of many cultures and peoples moving through this landscape for 14,000 years, if not longer. Known for its once fertile camas prairie, abundant salmon runs in Chimacum Creek, multiple village settlements, sacred sites, and ample beaver, elk, and deer populations, Chimacum was a lively region that witnessed many millennia of Indigenous dwelling and travel.
We occupy the unjustly colonized lands that are the traditional and contemporary territories of the S’Klallam (Nəxʷsƛ̕áy̕əm̕) and the Chemakum (Aqokúlo or Čə́məq̓əm), and we are committed to the continued education and action that upholds and honors the Indigenous experience, past and present. As we deepen our awareness, we grow to understand our responsibilities as settlers on this land and commit to the work of respectful and humble relationship.
Ancestral S’Klallam homelands span from the Hoko River to Indian Island, with villages anchored along the shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Olympic Mountains. The Chemakum--a non-Coast Salish* community--became displaced from their relatives, the Hoh and Quileute, during a large tsunami in pre-colonial times. Chemakum survivors relocated from the far west of the Olympic Peninsula to S’Klallam territory, settling in what is known as the Chimacum region. As a result, the Chemakum formed close ties with their S’Klallam neighbors, sharing villages and intermarrying into S’Klallam families despite speaking different languages. Although Chemakum individuals signed the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point alongside S’Klallam, Twana, and Skokomish leaders, the Chemakum eventually became incorporated into S’Klallam communities as a single entity.
Additional Indigenous nations met, traded, and gardened in this area, includingthe Snohomish (Sdoh-doh-hohbsh), other Coast Salish peoples, and the Makah (Qʷidiččaʔa·tx̌). We acknowledge that Indigenous people have been here since time immemorial and that this land will continue to hold deep significance for present and future generations of local Native communities.
In Chimacum, we also acknowledge the legacy of Lag-wah of the Snohomish people, who was among a number of Coast Salish refugees who relocated to Chimacum Prairie when their Puget Sound villages were burned down by Euro-American settlersin the mid 1800’s. The nucleus of this Chimacum community was the dairy farm of Lag-wah (“Sally”) and William Bishop Sr., a former British seaman. Not only did other mixed-ancestry households buy land or camp around the edges of the Bishop property, but William and Sally Bishop's sons--Thomas G. Bishop (1859-1923) and William Bishop Jr. (1861-1934)--became pioneer Native American political leaders: Thomas as founder of the first inter-tribal treaty-rights organization, the Northwest Federation of American Indians (NFAI), and William Jr. as an outspoken state legislator and first president of the Snohomish Tribe of Indians. Descendants of William and Sally Bishop and their Native and mixed-ancestry neighbors continued to live in the Chimacum area and to identify as Native American, many specifically as Snohomish, into the twenty-first century, although in 2003 the Snohomish Tribe of Indians was denied federal recognition despite signing the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. (Source: https://historylink.org/File/20249)
It was also during the late 1800s that the S’Klallam were forced to leave Port Townsend and adjacent areas. S’Klallam homes were burned by government officials, and city ordinances legally banned the S’Klallam from entering white settlements without a chaperone. Anyone who defied these orders faced hefty fines and possible incarceration. Many S’Klallam individuals were exiled to Indian Island, Port Gamble, and Jamestown (near Sequim), where they occupied small ancestral village sites.
This region is complex, containing a multitude of experiences related to ancient S’Klallam history and cosmology, as well as Chemakum and Snohomish refugees during times of cultural crisis and political duress. We acknowledge the ongoing harmful impacts of the settler colonialism responsible for the displacement of Indigenous nations from these territories, and we stand in solidarity for continued Indigenous sovereignty.
We encourage folks visiting from near and far to research the Indigenous history of and continued presence on the Chimacum Prairie and beyond.
Some useful educational resources include:
The čičməhán Trail, an educational walking and biking path dedicated to S’Klallam history located in Port Townsend
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe(StətíɬəmNəxʷsƛ̕áy̕əm̕), based near Sequim:
The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (NəxʷqíytNəxʷsƛ̕áy̕əm̕):
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (ʔéʔɬx̣ʷaʔNəxʷsƛ̕áy̕əm̕), near Port Angeles:
The Snohomish Tribe of Indians (on Puget Sound, north of Seattle and south of Whidbey Island in what is now Edmonds):
The Quileute Nation, on the Pacific coastline, near La Push, and the Hoh Tribe (Chalá·at), near Forks. (The Quileute and Hoh are related to the Chemakum, who sought shelter in S’Klallam territory after a massive flood.):
Coast Salish Country, dedicated to Coast Salish landscapes, archaeology, and oral histories of the Olympic Peninsula:
* “Coast Salish” is an anthropological “umbrella” term used to refer to Native nations whose territories occupy lands bordering the Salish Sea, which consists of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound, Georgia Strait, and numerous bays, inlets, rivers, and lakes. In Washington, these include communities such as the S’Klallam, the Snohomish, the Skokomish, the Suquamish, the Puyallup, and the Duwamish, amongst many others. Coast Salish tribes are unique in their lands and livelihoods, though share related languages and cultural customs. It is best practice to refer to individual Indigenous communities by their nations’ names, acknowledging that Coast Salish is a general term that describes dozens of such communities--and a term that was not used by Coast Salish peoples themselves until fairly recently.
With thanks to the many cultural and historical resources provided by the tribes and to Alexandra Peck for her research and contributions on the statement above. Follow her on Instagram at: Coast Salish Country. And with gratitude to the many folks who contributed insights and input to this statement.