Tumwater, Wash. – The Squaxin Island Tribe and Port Blakely have reached historic agreements for the Tribe to acquire approximately 1,000 acres of its ancestral lands from the forest products company. Included in the transaction are timberland, shoreline, and tidelands on the Little Skookum Inlet in Mason County.
The agreements finalized earlier this year include an agreement for the Tribe to purchase approximately 875 acres of upland working forest from Port Blakely. The purchase price of these upland acres was not disclosed. Separately, in recognition of the cultural significance of the shoreline to the Tribe, pursuant to a second agreement, Port Blakely returned the adjacent two miles of waterfront acreage and 125 acres of tidelands to the Tribe at no cost. This transfer of the shoreline and tidelands restores the Tribe’s direct access to the Puget Sound and to some of the most productive shellfish beds in the region, a key reason their ancestors made it home for thousands of years.
As neighboring landowners, the two parties have built a strong working relationship in recent years, resulting in the Tribe purchasing several small parcels in the area from the company. This year, as Port Blakely reviewed the company’s strategic priorities and future goals for its land holdings, it decided that the socially just and highest and best use for the Kamilche property, land which it acquired following the signing of the 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty, would be to offer it to the Tribe.
“We are honored and grateful to reclaim these lands and for the return of the shoreline. The Squaxin people lived and stewarded this very land and waterway for thousands of years before it was taken from us in the mid to late 1800’s,” said Squaxin Island Tribal Chair Kris Peters. “It is honorable of the leadership at Port Blakely to recognize this injustice and offer this land to come back to us. These beautiful and bountiful tidelands and beaches will be something all Squaxin’s can enjoy. It will undoubtedly be a place to reconnect with our ancestors in ceremony, harvest, and other tribal gatherings. My spirit is singing today. Hawadubš cələp, thank you!”
“Both Port Blakely and our family owners recognize the cultural significance of this land to the Squaxin Island Tribe, land they were unfairly forced to surrender more than 150 years ago,” said Mike Warjone, President of Port Blakely US Forestry. “We are grateful for the relationships we’ve built with the Tribal council and hope this agreement allows them to build a legacy for generations to come. We hope other landowners will look for ways to work together with Tribal communities to honor the heritage of the original stewards of the land.”
About the Squaxin Island Tribe:
The Squaxin Island Tribe are descendants of the maritime people who lived and prospered along the shores of the southernmost inlets of the Salish Sea for untold centuries. Because of their strong cultural connection with the water, they are also known as the People of the Water.
About Port Blakely:
Port Blakely grows and markets renewable forest products around the globe, owning and managing sustainable working forests in Washington, Oregon, and New Zealand. A 150+-year-old family-owned company whose forestry roots run five generations deep in the Pacific Northwest, they work to advance the ideals and best practices of good stewardship – for their business, their communities, and the environment – to help cultivate a healthy world.