The Snoqualmie Tribe has purchased Salish Lodge & Spa and about 45 acres surrounding Snoqualmie Falls for $125 million from the Muckleshoot Tribe, owners of the land for the past 12 years.
The 268-foot waterfall on the Snoqualmie River is one of Washington State’s biggest tourist attractions, drawing more than 1.5 million visitors annually.
“This purchase represents the Snoqualmie Tribe’s ongoing work to reclaim its traditional lands and will allow the Snoqualmie people to appropriately care for our sacred Falls and share it with all who wish to experience the powerful connection,” said Tribal Chairman Robert de los Angeles in a press release.
The purchase marks a triumph in the Snoqualmie Tribe’s longtime pursuit to reclaim and protect its ancestral lands. The Snoqualmie people’s traditional burial site sits above the falls, and the Snoqualmie people believe “the mist from the falls is what transcends our prayers to the heavens, to the Creator. It’s what heals us,” said Michael Ross, the Tribe’s Vice Chair.
The Snoqualmie Tribe, which opposed the Muckleshoot Tribe’s plans for housing, a hotel and conference center near the falls, will halt those proposed developments in favor of introducing signs to educate viewers about the area’s rich cultural history. The Snoqualmie Tribe will continue to encourage tourists to visit the landmark.
In 2007, the Muckleshoot Tribe outbid groups, including the Snoqualmie Tribe, to purchase the Salish Lodge & Spa and surrounding land from private operators for $62.5 million.
The Snoqualmie Tribe also plans to discuss with Washington State the potential for Tribal ownership of the waterfall’s underlying aquatic lands. The Tribe has long taken issue with the diversion of water flow to two hydroelectric generating plants operated by Puget Sound Energy at the falls. The utility inked a 40-year operating license for those hydroelectric facilities in 2004.
The Snoqualmie Tribe’s recent $125 million purchase doubles its land size. The Snoqualmie Tribe lost its traditional lands through the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855, when they and other Puget Sound Tribes were pressured to sign and give up the vast majority (or in the Snoqualmie’s case, all) of their lands.
In 1952, the Congressional Record listed the Snoqualmies as an unrecognized Tribe, because it owned no land. Its Tribal status was restored in 1999, and the Tribe purchased a small piece of land in 2007. Today the 55-acre Snoqualmie Reservation is home to business development, including the hugely successful Snoqualmie Casino.