Published on June 16, 2012 by Amy
Located in King County, Washington, the same county that claims Seattle as its biggest city, is the 1,275 acre (NAA, 285) Muckleshoot Reservation, the home of the Muckleshoot Indian Nation.
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The Muckleshoot, like many of the tribes found in western Washington State, are members of the Coastal Salish family of nations. These people made a living in the far west for over a thousand years relying upon the vast number of salmon that filled the rivers far beyond the needs of the local inhabitants.
The modern era finds the salmon in far fewer numbers, threatened by overfishing and an ever increasing human population. Since the “fishing wars” of the 1970s, the Muckleshoot, thanks to court intervention, have been designated legal co-manager of the King County watershed. This gives the Muckleshoot Nation control over the fishing and hunting in what has been formally designated there “Usual and Accustomed” fishing and hunting grounds. This is the first time that the Muckleshoot have been given a legal right to govern the lands that were historically there own (“Muckleshoot Indian Tribe – Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow”, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, undated, 3).
In the last twenty five years, the Muckleshoot people have begun to reclaim more than simply their hunting and fishing rights. In 1970 the tribe owned less than one acre of land for their people. Today, that number has reached 1,275 acres and continues to increase. Thanks to the opening of both a casino and bingo hall, the Muckleshoot have the financial resources to acquire additional lands to incorporate into their reservation. That reservation dates back to 1850, similar to other Washington and Oregon reservations.
In addition to providing the Muckleshoot people with a new source of revenue, the opening of the tribal bingo hall and casino in 1993, necessitated the adoption of a tribal flag. This is a very common basis for the adoption of tribal flags within the United States and is discussed elsewhere in more detail.
The flag adopted by the Muckleshoot is a turquoise blue field bearing a color representation of the tribal seal (photo provided by Harry Oswald).
The seal is a circular shield recalling traditional Native American warrior shields. From the shield hang five eagle feathers with red tassels. Centered on the shield is a representation of Mount Rainier, the dominant geographic element in the region anda sacred place to many of the local tribes such as the Yakima to the south. Behind Mt. Rainier is a sunburst of two colors – an inner burst of red and an outer one of orange. The rays of this outer burst shoot up into the tribal name which arcs over the Mountain in black lettering. Below the mountain are the words “Indian Tribe” also in black letters. Above the entire shield is the phrase “The Great Seal”, appearing in white. Completing the design are two traditional peace pipes, coming into the seal from either side. Both pipes have their bowl facing toward the shield. These are shown in an orange-brown color.
According to the tribal office, only three copies of the flag have been manufactured. One flies in the tribal council chambers, one in the president’s office and one is used outdoors. It is this last one that was raised over the casino and bingo hall when they officially opened according to an interview by NAVA member Harry Oswald with members of the Muckleshoot Tribe.
It should be noted that the seal when used alone, does not usually depict the sunburst nor does it have the legend “The Great Seal”. This simplified seal is also seen in some modified forms. One example is on t-shirts used by the tribal school. These shirts have the seal modified by replacing “Indian Tribe” with the phrase “Tribal School”.