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Can two men save thousands of acres of Kitsap Peninsula forest?

Port Gamble and its surrounding forests have been logging territory for more than a century. Owner Pope Resources is willing to strike a deal with local tribes that would conserve thousands of acres of forestland. If the two sides can agree on terms.

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"(Jon and I) have to find some common ground for anything to work out in a positive way," Sullivan says. "Otherwise, we're going to go back to beating our heads against a wall. We are the reason this is going to be successful or fail. We both have a lot of people counting on us."

In June 1853, William C. Talbot sailed the 50-ton schooner Julius Pringle out of San Francisco toward Puget Sound. Talbot and his partners, including his brother-in-law Andrew Jackson Pope — both sons of Maine timber families — were searching for a prime spot to log and mill trees for the California Gold Rush.

They found a small, protected bay off the Hood Canal, a narrow fjord along the western edge of the Kitsap, where ships could easily load logs. Thick forests of colossal Douglas firs, 12 feet across at the base and 150 feet tall, stretched miles inland from the wide beach. By the end of the year, a steam-powered sawmill was humming away.

As the story goes, company agents encountered a band of S'Klallam Indians (sometimes called Clallam or Klallam) at the mill site and eventually persuaded them to move 1,900 feet directly across the water, to a spot named Point Julia. The company promised that, in exchange, "We will build you homes from this mill and you will have jobs. (The S'Klallam) were camped on shore; there were no structures there that we can tell," says Rose, during a one-on-one interview. "It was not, 'We're sending you out at knifepoint or gunpoint.' "

Port Gamble S'Klallam leaders remember things differently, arguing that the site was an ancestral village used for centuries. Both the mill and company town were originally called "Teekalet," a S'Klallam name meaning "brightness of the noonday sun," a reference to the way the water mirrored the big trees near shoreline. One oral history claims that the encamped band of Indians agreed to move only after being promised Christmas and gifts. An elder told a historian that they "didn't know what Christmas was, but it sounded good."

"I can't understand how it went down," says Sullivan, "but, in the end, there's a mill there, and our ancestral village was moved across the bay to Point Julia."

Whatever happened, the Pope & Talbot company founded a land empire centered at Port Gamble. The "lumber kings of the Pacific Coast," as the partners were called, acquired tens of thousands of acres — typically 160 or 320 at a time — through federal land grants, soldier allowances and laws meant to speed settlement and fend off British claims to the Pacific Northwest. The cost was never more than $2.50 per acre — equivalent to about $70 today.

By 1909, Pope & Talbot owned over 42,000 acres in Kitsap County alone, including much of the upland forests and shorelines around Port Gamble Bay. Next to the mill, they built a company town of quaint wood-frame buildings that so closely resembled the founders' Maine hometown, it looked as if it had been transported across the continent.

Indian rights were an afterthought, and their land claims were addressed retroactively by treaty — a process stacked against the tribes, who had no concept of private property. Through the 1855 Point No Point Treaty, the S'Klallam, Skokomish and Chemakum ceded rights to over 750,000 acres for $60,000 in government services, and agreed to move to a shared 3,800-acre reservation. Most of the S'Klallam eventually returned to old village sites, including Point Julia, which the federal government finally bought from Pope & Talbot in 1938 to create what is now the Port Gamble S'Klallam Reservation. (Today, there are three recognized bands of S'Klallam –– at Port Gamble, Jamestown and Elwha, spread around Hood Canal and the Olympic Peninsula.)

Such treaties did, however, guarantee Indians' rights to fish at "usual and accustomed grounds … in common with all citizens of the United States." But population growth, the advent of industrial fishing and canning, dams, and other development soon depleted fisheries and shellfish stocks and destroyed habitat.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Nov 30, 12:10 p.m. Inappropriate

I hope Pope, the S'Klallam, and Kitsap folks can get most of that land into conservation status. It's a tremendous opportunity.

Thanks for the reporting.

louploup

Posted Fri, Nov 30, 8:49 p.m. Inappropriate

This is one of Crosscut's best articles ever: knowledgeable, well-researched, balanced, with an accurate sense of history. And it's about something other than the dreary minutiae of Seattle City Hall politics. Kitsap County may seem far off because it's a ferry ride away. But you can stand on the shoreline at Suquamish and look across the bay at the Seattle skyscrapers.

woofer

Posted Fri, Nov 30, 11:53 p.m. Inappropriate

There's no turning back the clock and when both sides continue to play the history cards as though the cards are somehow the most accurate portrayal of the past, well it isn't going to resolve the issue. This is so typical of the way Indians and whites interact about issues. Both nod their heads and mouth the words out loud "I understand" but under their breath they add "I don't believe or trust you".

I, for one, want the water cleaned up and I don't care who does it, just do it. But I don't believe for one minute that the future of the waterfront land in question, if passed into Indian hands, won't be turned into a casino resort area. Indians aren't stupid and they realize with the right piece of property there's a ton of money to be milked from "us". This is that right piece of property. There's a bigger payoff from a casino then a clam bed. Sure they'll manage the resources but they won't pass up the chance to go greenback. It's called a diverse income portfolio.

Djinn

Posted Mon, Dec 3, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Dear louploup, woofer and others who enjoyed this story -- this story was original reporting and writing paid for and published by High Country News, a nonprofit independent newsmagazine that's been covering the American West for more than 40 years. The story originally appeared here:
https://www.hcn.org/issues/44.20/a-washington-tribe-and-a-timber-company-wrestle-over-a-forests-future

You'll find more great news, analysis and stories at hcn.org. Thanks for reading. Sincerely, Jodi Peterson, High Country News Managing Editor

Posted Mon, Dec 3, 6:43 p.m. Inappropriate

I htink Djinn is right.

I personally feel very uncomfortable with the continued "different" worlds of the native Americans vs. the rest of us interlopers. And, no, it doesn't make sense for us to go back, we can't undo that either.

But I look at casinos as a money maker, but they do nothing to enhance the so-called native ways of life. This is 2012. It's time to come together, and ensure equal opportunity in lives and careers for all of our children.

Posted Mon, Dec 3, 11:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Most Indians are heavy gamblers, it's been part of the culture long before we showed up. I've had presentations and show me tours cancelled because the elders wanted the bus for a trip to tribe XVR to play bone games. Some of the tours were to examine salmon enhancement methods on their reservation. Didn't matter.

To be fair not all tribes are this way but they are small in number, maybe less then 25%. Given the close proximity to large population centers, this property has casino written all over it.

Djinn

Posted Sat, Dec 8, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

These threads always seem to degenerate into petty stereotypical rants , and cynical statements that take the low road. Development is development, and if we are going to allow the incremental removing of natural habitat to continue, then the water quality and wildlife will continue to decline. If we protect our remaining shoreline, and clean up the industrial waste, then the environment will start to recover. Right now we are all losing, because when it is the environment V making money... We allow making money to dictate our decisions.
We're gambling with losing the whole ecosystem. All of us.

Blake

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