The Swinomish tribe’s headquarters are in the historic Swinomish Village across Swinomish Channel from La Conner. What people might be more familiar with, though, is the Swinomish Casino & Lodge on Highway 20 east of Anacortes.
The sweeping views from the lodge take in land where the Coast Salish people have lived for thousands of years. Their culture centered around abundant saltwater resources, particularly salmon and shellfish, which remain a key part of the tribal economy today.
In addition to the casino, which began as a small bingo operation in 1985, the tribe operates the Swinomish Chevron Gas Station, which includes a tobacco, liquor and convenience store; the Swinomish Fish Company which processes salmon and shellfish for a global market that includes the United Kingdom and the European Union; and a Ramada Hotel in Ocean Shores on the Washington coast.
The tribe has become one of the five largest employers in Skagit County, with more than 250 employees in tribal government and approximately 300 employees in its casino and other economic enterprises.
The reservation is about 15 square miles. The tribe has jurisdictional authority within the reservation’s boundaries and provides governmental services to all residents, including police, water and sewer service, and planning and permitting services.
The tribe operates a fisheries department, a fish processing plant, a water resources program, an environmental education program, social services, a fitness center, senior services, a housing authority, a work training program and many other services.
The tribe has about 900 members.
Historically, the large and powerful Samish Nation lived in finely crafted longhouses on Guemes, Samish and Fidalgo islands and along other coastal areas in the Salish Sea. They relied largely on saltwater resources.
The Samish’s status as a federally recognized Indian tribe was lost through a clerical error in 1969 when it was left off a list by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It took more than 26 years of administrative and federal court proceedings to regain recognition for the Samish Indian Nation in 1996.
Since then, the tribe has acquired property in and around Anacortes, including its cedar administrative offices, a health administration building and an art gallery, all on Commercial Avenue, as well as a preschool, the Fidalgo Bay RV Resort and two tracts of land for future housing and economic development.
A point of pride: One of Washington State Ferries’ newest vessels will be named Samish.
www.samishtribe.nsn.us | PH: 360-293-6404
The 84-acre Upper Skagit Reservation is east of Sedro-Woolley, and the tribe has 504 enrolled members who are descended from a tribe that inhabited 10 villages on the Upper Skagit and Sauk rivers.
The tribe opened its $28 million Skagit Casino Resort (http://www.theskagit.com) on a 15-acre site adjacent to Interstate 5 in Bow in 1995, and opened an $11 million, 103-room hotel and conference center in 2001.