The Jamestown and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes would like to correct several misleading statements put forward by the Quileute Tribe in a recent press release to local news outlets, and as contained in a paid advertisement within the Peninsula Daily News on 10/17/2019. Our two S’Klallam Tribes have not been contacted by these news outlets to fact check or to ask for comment on the Quileute’s release and advertisement. As a result, and as responsible managers of Olympic Peninsula wildlife and fisheries resources, we feel we must respond to these misleading claims by one of our neighboring Tribes.
“The Quileute paid advertisement portrays our co-management agreement with the State of Washington as “expanding” the geographic scope of our hunting areas through “secret” meetings with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). They claim this will be of a major impact to their Tribe and the public. The Quileute statements could not be further from the truth, ” said Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam CEO/Tribal Chairman.
Today the Port Gamble, Jamestown and Lower Elwha Tribes are three separate federally recognized Tribal governments. However, all three Tribal communities share Treaty rights and ancestral heritage as the S’Klallam people who settled across the northern Olympic Peninsula and have lived here for thousands of years. Our ancestors hunted, fished, gathered and traveled throughout the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic Mountains. Many of the travel routes used by our ancestors were identified by early non-Indian settlers.
This fact is further reflected by the S’Klallam treaty fishing rights area, recognized by federal law as extending from the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, across to and including the San Juan Islands area, south through Admiralty Inlet along Whidbey Island, and over to and including the Hood Canal area. All three Tribes are signatories to the Treaty of Point No Point, which our ancestors signed in the year 1855 to reserve our hunting and fishing rights throughout these areas forever.
Our ancestors made use of all this territory for hunting, gathering and fishing. Historical documents record travel and hunting routes from S’Klallam settlements into the Olympic Mountains and throughout the northwestern side of the Olympic Peninsula including the area of modern-day Hoko, Dickey, Sol Duc, and Pysht Game Management Units (GMUs). Travel overland included using these trails for traditional and customary trade with our Quileute neighbors.
For over thirty years now, our two Tribes have also exercised our treaty right to hunt game by promulgating hunting regulations within our joint wildlife management program. This program was established by us in 1986 to ensure proper harvest regulation and conservation of our precious wildlife resources.
There never was an attempt by our Tribes to “expand” our hunting area by “secret” agreement with the WDFW. Rather, our Tribes have put considerable effort toward establishing co-management partnerships in areas in which our ancestors have hunted for millennia.
In 2013 we established a co-management agreement with the State to facilitate the responsible management of wildlife resources. The WDFW recognizes the S’Klallam Tribes as co-managers. In the 30 years our Tribes have been issuing hunting regulations in these areas the first and only objection from another Tribe came in 2014 after we signed the co-management agreement.
The Quileute Tribe has waged a negative political campaign against this agreement. In response to that negative campaign, in 2014, Mr. Phil Anderson, the WDFW Director at that time, stated publically in the Peninsula Daily News that “It is without question that the three Tribes’ Point No Point Treaty rights extend to the affected areas,” and he continued with “we believe they provided sufficient evidence that state law is pre-empted because of a treaty right, and the Quileute disagree with that conclusion.” He added that “There is no debate there whatsoever that it is within the scope of their treaty right to hunt, because it is within the scope of their ceded area.”
“Our Tribes have always been transparent regarding our agreements and meetings with the WDFW, and have held meetings with Quileute representatives to provide opportunities to directly address their issues regarding wildlife management and sharing in overlapping GMU areas. We attempted to discuss how our collective Tribes could work together. The WDFW have met with them on several occasions to review their issues, said Jeromy Sullivan, Chairman of Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.
Despite past and present Quileute statements to the contrary, the S’Klallam Tribes are simply requesting annual renewal of the co-management agreement with WDFW. Renewing such an agreement between the WDFW and our two S’Klallam Tribes supports the sharing of harvest, regulation, data, and extends cooperation on additional research needs, all to ensure wildlife is harvested in a sustainable manner. Maintaining healthy wildlife populations is a top priority to assure sustainable wildlife management goals.
So why is the Quileute Tribe again carrying out a negative, misleading public campaign against our two Tribes and the WDFW? We do know it is not because of conservation concerns. We believe it is based on a new interpretation to restrict our historical and ancestral treaty rights.
The elk herds currently hunted by our S’Klallam Tribes are healthy and numerous. Our wildlife biologists monitor population size and harvest, and research the regional elk herds. If elk or deer populations decline (from disease, weather, hunting or any number of other factors) our wildlife biologists and our Tribes will be leading the call for conservative management decisions.
The Quileute falsely asserts that there will be hundreds of new hunters from our two Tribes in the region. Between 1986, the date of the initiation of our wildlife management program, and the year 2014, S’Klallam hunters (in total) harvested an average of 7 elk per year in the Dickey, Pysht and Sol Duc GMUs combined. By comparison, the WDFW last year harvested 14 cow elk and 89 bull elk in the Dickey and Sol Duc GMUs, plus an additional 14 bulls in the Pysht GMU. That is a total of 117 elk reported by the WDFW as harvested last year in the same GMUs where our S’Klallam hunters averaged only 7 elk per year.
We do not know how many elk the Quileute hunters have harvested in these regions for comparison purposes because they choose to not share their harvest data and so far have not elected to participate in joint management planning. Since our hunting regulations are more conservative when compared to theirs, we suspect that our harvest is far below their harvest.
If the Quileute Tribe is concerned about our S’Klallam Tribes, or other Tribes, or the non-Indian public hunting in these regions, we once again encourage them to join us and the WDFW in a cooperative effort to coordinate wildlife management, enforcement, and research programs. This coordination of resources is what responsible co-management is about, ensuring harvest planning and sharing among the parties within shared hunting areas, and ensuring wildlife species for future generations.
We urge the Quileute Tribal leadership to stop their negative and inappropriate public campaign that is littered with so many false statements and to reverse course by working together for the collective wellbeing of all our citizens, and to protect our precious wildlife resources. Misleading the general public is not a constructive and respectful approach to resolve hunting disputes between Tribes.
Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe,
Chairman Jeromy Sullivan;
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe,
Chairman W. Ron Allen