The Suquamish Tribe recently acquired 157 acres of culturally important tidelands on Dyes Inlet.

A traditional shellfish harvesting area, the swath of land is also the site of old wintering villages and homesteads, stretching between Chico Creek and Phinney Bay.

The tribe has been harvesting shellfish on the tidelands in cooperation with previous owners since 2004. The tribe plans to seed the tidelands with clams and oysters. Funding from the 2007 commercial shellfish growers’ settlement agreement was used to purchase the tidelands. The landmark agreement addresses treaty shellfish harvest rights, preserves the health of the shellfish industry and provides greater shellfish harvest opportunities for everyone in the state.

The property also includes tidelands at the mouth of Chico Creek, one of the most productive chum streams in Puget Sound.

“It’s a great acquisition for the tribe because it is within the tribe’s Usual and Accustomed area, which gives the tribe latitude in decision making and harvest planning,” said Viviane Barry, the tribe’s shellfish manager.

Aside from greater opportunities to exercise treaty rights, the area is historically important to the tribe. A permanent winter village was located at Erlands Point and included the last great meeting house of the tribe after Old Man House burned down in the 1870s. Tribal families including the Sigos, Henrys and Bagleys homesteaded nearby.

“The Dyes Inlet Indian Communities have a rich past,” said Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman, who studied the area extensively in acquiring a Master’s Degree in historic preservation.

“Ethnographic places, archeological sites, former Indian villages, former Indian homesteads, cemeteries, clam beaches and fishing areas associated with the long occupation of Dyes Inlet by the Suquamish continue to be important to contemporary Suquamish,” he said.