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Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States (Washington)
English, bəqəlšuɫucid (Muckleshoot)
Related ethnic groups
other Salishan peoples

The Muckleshoot (Lushootseed: bəqəlšuł ) are a Lushootseed-speaking Indian tribe, part of the Coast Salish peoples of the Pacific Northwest. They are descendants of the Duwamish and Puyallup peoples whose traditional territory was located along the Green and White rivers, including up to the headwaters in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, in present-day Washington State. Since the mid-19th century, their reservation is located in the area of Auburn, Washington, about 15 miles (24 km) northeast of the port of Tacoma and 35 miles (55 km) southeast of Seattle, another major port.

The federally recognized Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is a group that formed post-Treaty, made up of related peoples who shared territory and later a reservation near Auburn. They organized a government in 1936; the tribe is composed of intermarried descendants of various tribal groups who inhabited Central Puget Sound and occupied the Green and White rivers' watershed, from the rivers' confluence in present-day Auburn to their headwaters in the Cascades. These include the following:

  • Buklshuhls (later known as Muckleshoot) (buklshuhls - "from a high point from which you can see", which probably referred to a lookout site between the White and Green rivers) - they lived along the White River, from present-day Kent eastwards to the mountains and eventually to the Green River
  • Duwamish - this people formed two bands before the mid-1850s
    • Dxʷ'Dəw?Abš / Dkhw'Duw'Absh ("People of the Inside (the environs of Elliott Bay)", also known as doo-AHBSH - "People of the Doo, i.e. Inside")
    • Xacuabš ("People of the Large Lake (Lake Washington)", also known as hah-choo-AHBSH - "people of HAH-choo", meaning 'a large lake', referring to what is known today as Lake Washington)
  • Snoqualmie (S·dukʷalbixʷ / Sduqwalbixw) - they lived along the Tolt River and the Snoqualmie River)
  • Upper Puyallup (River) people: Puyallup (Spuyaləpabš or S’Puyalupubsh) bands along the Upper Puyallup River
  • White River Valley tribes:
    • Stkamish / Skekomish (Steq-ABSH) ("People of the log jam", named after the village Steq ("log jam") on the White (now Green) River in the Kent vicinity, the people of Steq were the Steq-ABSH; Settlers and government officials anglicized "Steq-ABSH" into Stkamish and applied the term to all villages between Auburn and Renton Junction, also known as White River Indians)
    • Smulkamish / Smalhkamish ("People of White River", named after the term that referred to the former course of the Upper White River) - They lived in villages on the present Muckleshoot Indian Reservation and near present-day Enumclaw)
    • Skopamish (Skop-ABSH / Skwohp-AHBSH) ("The People of the variable stream" or "Green ('fluctuating') River People". They were also known as the Green River Indians, related to their territory.) - They lived in the central Green River Valley, mostly above the former confluence near present-day Auburn. The term skop means "first big and then little," in apparent reference to fluctuations of the Green River. Another source says their name is derived from the village name ill-AHL-koh ("confluence" or "striped water") at the historic confluence of the White and Green rivers at the present-day town of Auburn, possibly from the striped appearance of the Green River below the confluence before the waters merged.
  • Tkwakwamish / T'Qua-qua-mish (along the headwaters of the Puyallup River)
  • Yilalkoamish tribe
  • Dothliuk (they lived in the area of South Prairie, Washington, south of the mouth of the Cole Creek at its confluence with South Prairie Creek, a Carbon River tributary)


Traditionally, the ancestors of the Muckleshoot lived along the eastern shores of Washington State's Puget Sound region and the adjacent rivers of the Cascade Range. They spoke Whulshootseed, a local form of Lushootseed. Most Muckleshoot today do not speak their ancestral language, but some do. The tribe has an active program for its preservation and resuscitation.

Most Muckleshoot now live on or near the 15.871 km² (6.128 sq mi) Muckleshoot Reservation. They have an approximate population of more than 3,000, making the Muckleshoot one of the largest Native American tribes in Washington State. The 2000 census reported a resident population of 3,606 on reservation land, with 28.65 percent reported solely Native American heritage. The Coast Salish and Muckleshoot had long absorbed other peoples into their tribes and have had multi-racial descendants. Their children are raised culturally as Muckleshoot.

The reservation is located on Muckleshoot Prairie, between the White and Green rivers southeast of the city of Auburn (at 47°15′43″N 122°08′45″W / 47.26194°N 122.14583°W / 47.26194; -122.14583) in King and Pierce counties. The city of Auburn overlaps and extends within the reservation. Some 72.6 percent of the reservation's population lives within the city boundaries.

Traditional culture

WRVM - Muckleshoot winter house model
Model of a traditional Muckleshoot winter house

Although they were skilled hunters, salmon fishing was the mainstay of traditional Muckleshoot life. Salmon was gathered and cured, and very often traded with other peoples along the coast and inland. Salmon was treated with reverence, which continues to this day. In the elaborate First Salmon Ceremony, which is still observed, the entire community shares the flesh of a Spring Chinook, then returns its remains to the river where it was caught, so that it can inform the other fish of how well it was received. The other ceremony for the first salmon is to roast it until it is made to ashes. The Muckleshoot toss the bones back into the water or stream they found it in. They believed it would come alive again.

With a seemingly endless supply of food, the Muckleshoots could engage in various crafts, including weaving, wood-carving, and basket-making. A complex social structure also emerged, consisting of a nobility, middle class, and slaves, which were generally captured members of other tribes.

Colonial contact

Muckleshoot life changed radically as a result of first encounters with European and American traders and explorers. Lacking immunity to the newcomers' diseases, the population was decimated by the mid-nineteenth century. At the same time, amicable relations with American settlers deteriorated as whites began claiming choice land for themselves. In a last-ditch attempt to stem the tide of white colonization, the Muckleshoots aligned themselves with other local peoples in the Puget Sound Indian War (1855–1856). Upon their defeat, they were forced into a tiny reservation.

Recent history

Tensions abated only slightly, however, particularly in the wake of rapid population growth in the region. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Muckleshoots engaged in a series of protests, intended at protecting their fragile ecosystem. Known as the Fish Wars, these protests attempted to preserve Muckleshoot fishing rights in the nearby rivers not part of the official reservation. The federal government finally conceded to the protests with the Boldt Decision, which designated the Muckleshoots as co-managers of the King County watershed, with control over fishing and hunting in their "Usual and Accustomed" historical fishing and hunting grounds.

While this improved the tribe's economic standing, the Muckleshoots were soon forced to contend with a sharp decline in the salmon population due to the effects of urbanization and industrialization on the environment. While they continue to fight for the preservation of the ancient salmon runs, the Muckleshoot also found other venues to improve their financial circumstances. Taking advantage of their proximity to Seattle and other urban centers, they opened casino and bingo parlor in Auburn, Washington called Muckleshoot Indian Casino and Muckleshoot Bingo. The earnings have also been used to reacquire lands near the reservation and lay an infrastructure for the benefit of future generations.

The Muckleshoot constitution, adopted in 1936 and ratified in 1941, determined that the tribe would be governed by a Muckleshoot Tribal Council of nine elected members. This Council is subject, in turn, to a General Council, consisting of all members of the tribe.

On November 6, 2013 KIRO-TV announced that the Muckleshoot Tribe bought 150 square miles (390 km²) of forest in Washington state.


Muckleshoot Tribal Schools is in King County, near Auburn.

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