S'Klallam or Klallam

Historically, the S'klallam lived throughout the northern Olympic peninsula and were united by language and kinship. Today they are divided politically into three resservations: the Elwha Klallam, The Jamestown S'Klallam, and the Port Gamble S'Klallam. There are various spellings of the word S'Klallam. The Jamestown and Port Gamble S'Klallam use the spelling S'Klallam as it appears in the 1855 treaty. The Elwha Klallam omit the S'. In this volume the word is spelled S'Klallam, unless reffering to the Elwha specifically or the Klallam language.

S'Klallam is an anglicized version and according to tradition means "strong (or mighty) people." The Klallam language is of the Central Salish branch of the Salishan linguistic family. The S'Klallam are most closely related linguistically to the Sooke, Songish, and Saanich Canadian First Nations on southeastern Vancouver Island and to the Lummi Tribe near Bellingham, Washington.

In th 1790s maritime exploration of the Olympic Peninsula brought Spanish travelers to S'Klallam country. Manuel Quimper anchored his sloop, the Princesa Real, on July 21, 1790, in Freshwater Bay near the Elwha River. Quimper wrote how a group of Native Americans met him in two canoes, offered the crew salmonberrries, and directed them to freshwater. He traded small iron pieces for the berries and noted the "delicious water [was] taken from a beautiful stream". A description of one of the two Dungeness villages that Quimper mapped and claimed for Spain on July 4, 1790, was described in the log on Don Juan Pantoja, Juan Francisco de Eliza's pilot on the location as having "streams of good water, a great abundance of salmon and a large settlement of natives". On August 2, 1791 Eliza named the bay behind Ediz Hook Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles and mapped the harbor.

Early explorers and those who followed brought with them epidemics against which the indigenous people had no immunity. The anthropologist Herbert Taylor (1963) estimated that the S'lallam numbered approximately 2,400 around 1780. In 1845 the Hudson Bay Company recoreded 1,760 S'Klallam, and by 1855 there were only 926. This drastic decline was the result of smallpox, whooping cough, and measles.

Each S'Klallam village functioned as a semiautonomous group, although intervillage relationships and kinship ties were strong. With the advent of immigrant homesteading in the area, S'Klallam lands were taken, and fewer, more central villages were occupied.

The S'Klallam, along with the Chemakum and Kokomis, were signatories to the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point. In signing the treaty to cede 438,430 acres of S'Klallam territory to the federal government, the S'Klallam understood that a reservation was to be established for them between Sequim and Dungeness Bay. Treaty journal notes show a reservation was considered "on the straits". Indian agent Michael Simmons recomended in 1859 that the "Clallams, living on the straits of Fuca be allowed a reserve at Clallam Bay". However, no reservation was established and they were informed they had to move from their usual and accustomed fishing areas and traditional homeland.

There was a concerted effort by the BIA to organize the S'Klallam under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 and provide them with reservation land. The first proposal was to combine the three S'Klallam bands, and the second was to organize the Jamestown and Elwha separately from the Port Gamble, however, all efforts to consolidate the tribes were abandoned in the late 1930s, and today the three S'Klallam tribes are distinct federally recognized tribes with separate reservations.

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