Indian people have always relied on the natural resources of this land. Their personal, cultural and spiritual survival depended on the ability to fish, hunt and gather the bountiful natural resources that once blessed this country.
But the arrival of Europeans and the creation of the United States changed their lives forever. Most of the land and resources that tribes thought were theirs forever were slowly but surely lost over the centuries that followed.
Prior to European contact, tribes governed their own affairs, and continue to do so today. Tribes have a sovereign right to govern their members and manage their lands and resources.
The United States recognized tribes as sovereign nations and the rightful owners of the land through the signing of treaties that carry the weight of the U.S. Constitution. Tribal sovereignty is further recognized with the government-to-government relationship that the tribes have with the federal government.
For more information, read Understanding Tribal Treaty Rights in Western Washington or the treaties themselves: