For centuries, the Quileute tribe has relied on the area’s ocean and rivers. Native fishermen and hunters once escaped dangerous weather along territory that stretched across the Olympic Peninsula. But that’s no longer an option. In 1855, the tribe signed a treaty ceding thousands of square miles of land in exchange for fishing and hunting rights. Now, restricted to their small coastal plot, they are facing increasing risks.
University of Washington researchers say that rising temperatures have resulted in reduced snowpack and diminishing glaciers, but also more winter rainfall. Heavy rains have already destroyed vital hunting grounds and homes on the reservation.
“I see water running down the street in the wintertime,” said Lonnie Foster, treasurer of the tribal council, adding that floods come on faster now than when he was a child. “Back then it would take two to three days before [the tides] would come up to the flood level. But now, when it rains hard, it comes up overnight.”