Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal members recently celebrated the return of nearly 1,000 acres to tribal ownership, 165 years after the tribe signed the Point No Point Treaty that ceded most of the tribe’s land to the U.S. government.

Since 2013, the tribe has been negotiating with property owner Pope Resources to purchase 937 acres of timberland north of the reservation, and a conservation easement for 18.4 acres and adjacent tidelands where Pope operated a mill for more than 150 years. 

The purchase of development rights and restoration planning was funded by $4.5 million in grants from the state Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, and Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account programs for the purpose of protection, restoration and public access.

“The Port Gamble S’Klallam have a long history with Pope Resources,” said Jeromy Sullivan, tribal chairman. “The mill played a big role in our lives as a source of employment as we adapted to European settlement, but also hurt Port Gamble Bay and its shoreline. The last several years have brought good things: the cleanup work on the bay and, of course, our conversations with Pope Resources that led to this deal.”

Other outcomes include a commitment between the tribe and Pope Resources to work together on the redevelopment of the town of Port Gamble in ways that are more environmentally responsible and respectful of the tribe and its history on the land.

The tribe also has a 25-year lease on the tidelands south of the old mill site and north of the Port Gamble Heritage Park shoreline for possible shellfish harvest, and the option to purchase an acre of the mill site property outside of the conservation easement after the site is cleaned up. 

The tribe plans to keep the 937 acres north of the reservation as open space for the immediate future and eventually put it into trust status, Sullivan said. 

“We look forward to the future and watching this area – that we call (noo-kayet) – continue to heal and come back to life,” he said. “Our culture and traditions depend on it.” 

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe chairman Jeromy Sullivan honors Pope Resources President and CEO Tom Ringo and Director of Administration and Corporate Affairs Adrian Miller. Photo: Tiffany Royal