The people of Quinault are among the small number of Americans who can walk the same beaches, paddle the same waters, and hunt the same lands as their ancestors did centuries ago. The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) consists of the Quinault and Queets tribes and descendants of five other coastal tribes: Quileute, Hoh, Chehalis, Chinook, and Cowlitz.
Ancestors of the Quinault people lived on a major physical and cultural dividing line. Beaches to the south are wide and sandy, while to the north, they are rugged and cliff-lined. They shared in the cultures of the people to the south as well as those to the north. Living in family groups in long houses up and down the river, they were sustained by the land and by trade with neighboring tribes. Superb salmon runs, abundant sea mammals, wildlife, and forests provided substantial material and spiritual wealth to their ancestors. A great store of knowledge about plants and their uses helped provide for the people. The western redcedar, the “tree of life,” provided logs for canoes, bark for clothing, split boards for houses, and more. They are known as the Canoe People; the people of the cedar tree. They remember their past while employing modern principles in a marriage that brings hope and promise to the Quinault people now and in the future.
The QIN is a sovereign nation with the inherent right to govern itself and deal with other tribes and nations on a government-to-government basis. By-laws established in 1922 and a constitution approved in 1975 form the foundations of the modern-day Quinault government. The QIN General Council meets annually the last Saturday in March to hold elections, accept new tribal members, allocate fishing grounds, and discuss other issues relevant to tribal operations. The Quinault Business Committee, which consists of four executive officers and seven councilmen, is entrusted with the business and legislative affairs of the QIN throughout the year.
The Self-Governance Act of 1988 began as a demonstration project in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). In 1990, the QIN took the challenge, along with six other tribes, to implement self-rule in Indian affairs. This law was amended in 1991 and authorized planning activities in the Indian Health Service. After 150 years of direct management by the federal government, it was obvious that tribes could manage their own affairs and make their own decisions without external interference. This is the basic underlying philosophy of Self-Governance.
Current tribal governmental operations consist of Administration, Natural Resources, Community Services, and Health and Social Services Divisions. In addition to these governmental operations, the QIN also manages several tribal enterprises: Quinault Pride Seafood, Land and Timber, Quinault Beach Resort, Maritime Resort, Q-Marts, and the Mercantile; all of which promote the growth and development.
The Quinault Indian Reservation is a land of magnificent forests, swift-flowing rivers, gleaming lakes, and 23 miles (37 kilometers) of unspoiled Pacific coastline. Its boundaries enclose over 208,150 acres (84,271 hectares) of some of the most productive conifer forest lands in the United States.
Located on the southwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula, its rain-drenched lands embrace a wealth of natural resources. Conifer forests composed of western redcedar, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, Pacific silver fir and lodgepole pine dominate upland sites, while extensive stands of hardwoods, such as red alder and Pacific cottonwood, can be found in the river valleys. Roosevelt elk, black bear, blacktail deer, bald eagle, cougar, and many other animals make these forests their home.
Twenty-five thousand years ago, woolly mammoths roamed here as glaciers plowed the land; creating the rolling terrain which makes up much of the Quinault Reservation today. The glaciers also created Lake Quinault, the gem of Quinault country. The lake's twelve miles (19.3 kilometers) of shoreline enclose 3,729 acres (1,509 hectares).
As a wet, mild climate began to evolve 12,000 years ago, the glaciers withdrew to the higher peaks of the Olympics. These conditions led to the development of forests of centuries-old trees, towering nearly 300 feet into the sky, and a land of untold forest resources.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
The Reservation is more than trees and fish; It is people. People remain the most important resource and it takes educated people to fill QIN's many technical jobs. Nearly 700 people are employed by QIN and its enterprises, making it one of the largest employers in Grays Harbor County.
There is much to do with limited resources. While this is a land of great wealth, there is still devastating poverty on the Reservation. During the last three decades, the tribal government has taken the steps necessary to reestablish control over their own destiny and has developed a strategic plan as a road map. This plan keeps all the sections of the tribal government focused and heading in the same direction.
QIN encourages individuals to develop their own businesses and also maintains many of its own enterprises. The only way to predict the future is to create it. With the combined strength, courage, and willingness to work together, they will build a brighter future for the Quinault People.