Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
February 26, 2000 - Issue 04

Tribe Gathers Historical Clam Harvest
rewritten by Vicki Lockard from various sources

Once again, Native American treaty rights have been honored. Last week, the Suquamish Indian Tribe was allowed to dig for clams on private non-Indian land for the first time since 1994.

U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie upheld rights from the 1855 Point No Point Treaty. That document gave Native Americans the right to fish and take shellfish from "usual and accustomed grounds." This treaty covers the claims of 15 Western Washington tribes and requires a 50-50 split between the Native Americans and the white settlers.

So, under a crisp, clear three-quarter moon, the sound of a drum and ancient chants were heard as the diggers approached the land. Out of respect for the property owners and tradition, the diggers came by boat.

The group of around 20 tribal members dug for clams in front of Robert and Sharon Tucker's property, and that of three other land owners. Sharon Tucker inherited her land from her grandfather. Although some property owners are not pleased with the Judge's decision, Mrs. Tucker does not share those views.

"I thought, well, gee, why not let them? I grew up here. But the Indians were here for centuries before my grandfather got here. How could anyone say , "No'?" she says. She went on to say, "I think it's important to understand how much communication went on between the tribe and us property owners. They never came on our property. They always came by water and are very respectful of our privacy.

Last week's dig was to harvest about 2,000 pounds of Manila and little neck clams sized at least an inch and a half across. Anything smaller was left on the beach to reburrow itself for another year.

The harvest was sold to a commercial shellfish dealer who will transfer the clams for marketing.

Said Merle Hayes, a Suquamish Tribe official, "This is a real stepping stone for us. We're hoping that people now will be less fearful about Indian diggers on non-Indian land."

Suquamish Tribal Homepage

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