Thursday, June 17, 2010

Samish Island Washington Clam Digging & Crabbing with the Samish Indian Nation

That is my mom and dad on the left. They are sitting around the communal crab bucket, breaking dungeness crab free from its shell.

Samish Bay is to my mom and dad's left. This crabbing and horse clam digging likely took place on Father's Day weekend, which would make it in June.

Well, actually this would have taken place on the weekend date with a good low tide, suitable for crabbing and clamming, closest to Father's Day.

This annual event took place on Samish Island. Which isn't really an island. It used to be an island, but then, long ago, some industrious pioneers, likely Dutch, built dikes to turn block the sea, creating farmland and easy access to the former Samish Island.

The Samish are one of the Northwest Indian Tribes. Samish Island was Samish Nation land.

The Samish were very good at carving canoes and building longhouses. One of the Samish Longhouses, on the eastern end of Samish Island, measured approximately 1,250 feet long.

There is no town named Samish, but there is a Samish River. And Samish Bay. The Swinomish Tribe and the Skagit Tribe have big casino resorts. The Samish Tribe does not.

In 1847 the Samish Tribe had over 2,000 members. By the time of the Point Elliot Treaty, 1855, the Samish had dwindled to around 150 members, decimated by measles, smallpox and attacks by the Canadian Haida and Tsimshian Tribes.

Though there were Samish Tribe members attending the Point Elliot Treaty Council, none signed the treaty. Thus, the Samish were not given a reservation of their own. Without their own reservation the Samish were sent to the Lummi and Swinomish reservations.

But, many of the Samish had reservations about being stuck on rival tribe's reservations. So, a large group of Samish went to their tribal land on Guemes Island, which is a short distance west of Samish Island. On Guemes the Samish established New Guemes and built a big longhouse which housed over 100 tribemembers.

By 1912 the Samish were pushed off Guemes Island by bad behavior by white settlers.

The Samish Tribe kept plugging away, trying to get recognized and respected. In 1926 the Samish organized a formal constitution.

In 1971 the Samish Indian Tribe was awarded compensation for land taken by the Point Elliot Treaty. For 26 years the Samish fought in adminstrative and federal court proceedings til they finally regained official federal recognition,, for the Samish Indian Nation in April of 1996.

The Samish Nation is currently headquarted in Anacortes. I don't know if the tribe has any plans to build a casino.

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