“Reservation is located in the north side of Shoalwater Bay, about 150 miles southwest from the agency. It is very small and nearly deserted, being incapable of cultivation or of sustaining any considerable population. Most of the enterprising Indians have moved across the bay and bought land and homes at Bay Center, where they get employment in gathering oysters”
— BIA Agent Edwin Eells, regarding conditions on the Shoalwater Bay Reservation, 1893
On July 1, 1855, Governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens negotiated the Treaty of Olympia at the Quinault River. Without agreement from the Chinook, this treaty allowed the President to add, amend, or remove lands in Washington Territory for the “welfare of said Indians.” The general language of the treaty and the larger authority given to the president assumed that the Treaty of Olympia could extend to all coastal tribes, including the Chinook. Treaty of Olympia, Article 6.
The President may hereafter, when in his opinion the interests of the Territory shall require, and the welfare of the said Indians be promoted by it, remove them from said reservation or reservations to such other suitable place or places within said Territory as he may deem fit, on remunerating them for their improvements and the expenses of their removal, or may consolidate them with other friendly tribes or bands….
In 1866, under the Treaty of Olympia, and by executive order, President Andrew Johnson created the 334-acre Shoalwater Reserve for the Willapa Bay Chinook who had resisted removal. Several Chinook families settled on the reserve, but the majority of Chinook remained along the lower Shoalwater (Willapa) Bay at places like Bruceport and Bay Center, Washington. Although the Shoalwater see no cultural distinction between themselves and other Chinook, the federal government differentiates them. The Shoalwater Chinook are federally recognized. Consequently, they are viewed as a sovereign nation and have all the associated benefits of Native sovereignty. These benefits include forming a government with the power to determine legal cases within reservation borders, levy taxes, establish membership, manage resources, and protect treaty rights. Members of the Chinook Indian Nation have sought these benefits through legal means since the late nineteenth century. Despite repeated nominal recognition, the federal government has granted and withdrawn acknowledgment of Chinook existence many times since the mid-nineteenth century.
In 1873, President Grant issued an executive order to expand the Quinault reservation for “the Quinaielt, Quillehute, Hoh, Quit, and other tribes of fish-eating Indians on the Pacific Coast.” This statement consolidated tribes, and according to the federal government, included the Chinook. Significantly, this order identified Chinook on the Quinault reservation as Chinook, and later provided the basis for allotments. It also allowed them to vote as Chinook “in the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act elections to set up a government on the Quinault Reservation.”
Beckham, Stephen Dow. Chinook Indian Tribe, Petition for Federal Acknowledgment. Chinook, Washington: Chinook Indian Tribe, 1987.
Kappler, Joseph Charles. Indian Affairs, Laws, and Treaties. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1903.