Fish and wildlife have always been a central part of our culture. That is why we reserved our right to hunt, fish and gather the natural resources of this region when we signed treaties with the United States government. In return for the guarantee to be able to hunt and fish as we always have, we gave up most of the land in what is today western Washington.
Tribal hunters do not hunt for sport. Hunting is a spiritual and personal undertaking for each hunter, as it has been for as long as anyone remembers. There are many important family and tribal traditions that are a part of hunting. As traditional foods, deer and elk meat, for example, are important elements of funerals, potlatches and naming ceremonies. Hooves and antlers are still used for traditional ceremonial items and clothing.
Many of our reservations are remote, and few family-wage jobs are available. Unemployment runs as high as 80 percent on some reservations. For hungry families, deer, elk and other wildlife are a very important source of food.
As co-managers with the State of Washington, the health of the wildlife resource is the primary concern of the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington.
Tribes set seasons and bag limits based on the ability of a wildlife population to support harvest. Tribal enforcement personnel ensure that tribal hunting regulations, which are similar to state regulations, are followed. The difference is that our treaties guarantee our right to hunt when and as needed. Tribal staff work closely with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to ensure the best management possible. We share harvest data and work on cooperative projects to enhance deer and elk herds.
Tribal hunters harvest only about 2 percent of the harvestable number of deer and elk. Today, most deer and elk herds in Washington are healthy. Loss of habitat, more than any other factor, is the biggest threat to the wildlife resources of this region. That’s why we are active in efforts to protect good wildlife habitat and restore damaged habitat.
The wildlife resources of this region are as much a part of us as the air we breathe, and hunting is central to our spiritual and cultural identity. Like you, we want the wildlife resources of this region to thrive. We hope you will read the rest of the information on these pages to learn more about us as hunters and managers.