The Evergreen Playground

Native Americans


Native American tribes have inhabited the land of the Olympic Peninsula for thousands of years. The tribes of the peninsula once lived in relative isolation surrounded by unlimited natural resources. Their societies depended on rivers plentiful with wild salmon; the Pacific Ocean with fish, seals, and whales; and immense forests providing cedar for canoes, baskets, and everything else needed to sustain them.

Well-known for their skill with canoes and superb knowledge of their surroundings, tribal members were enlisted to paddle tourists along the coastal waters as well as along rivers and lakes.

"The Olympic range is one succession of scenic surprises.Ozette Lake in the extreme western end of Clallam County lies in the heart of one of the wildest sections, and while it is accessible it is only visited by those seeking solitude and adventure. Lake Quinault is where the famous Quinault salmon is caught..lOn this lake Indian guides can be secured to take the visitor in a canoe down the Quinault river and out into the broad Pacific."

- "Puget Sound/Rainier National Park" brochure, Union Pacific System, 1925

"Fifty miles west of Lake Crescent, over good automobile roads that wind through fine stands of big timber, is the settlement of Mora. From here one may go by boat or foot to LaPush, an interesting Indian village on the Pacific Coast."

- "Where-to-Go, Directory of the Pacific Coast," ca. 1930s

An interest in tribal culture was recognized in the 1930s. For the first time in Clallam County fair history, Makah "craftsmanship" was to be on exhibit.

"...The display goes back as far as three hundred years for some of its features. Contrasting the old handicraft methods with the present day way of doing things, rugs made many years ago are shown along side handsome rugs make by the present generation of Makahs. And not only will Indian baskets and kindred products be shown but Indian women will be in the booth at all times to show visitors exactly how they are made..."

- Port Angeles Evening News, August 23, 1935

Tribes on the Olympic Peninsula include the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S'Klallam, Port Gamble S'Klallam, Skokomish, Squaxin Island, Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah.

Most western Washington tribal languages are rooted in the Salishan language. Yet in the relatively small area of Clallam County, three distinct language families exist: Salishan, Chimakuan, and Wakashan, spoken by the S'Klallam, Quileute and Makah respectively.

The tribes of the Olympic Peninsula are stewards of the Peninsula's resources and partners in preservation. They retain strong cultural traditions and are committed to having their youth carry forward traditional knowledge and Native language.

The world-famous Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay has been open since 1975. The Quileute at LaPush welcome tourists to their village. The Lower Elwha Klallam tribe is known throughout the state of Washington for its language program which is now taught at Port Angeles High School. The Jamestown S'Klallam tribal complex greets people as they enter the peninsula from the east.


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The Community Museum is a project of community organizations and Tribes across the Olympic Peninsula and the University of Washington.
Support for the project comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Preston, Gates and Ellis, LLP.