The year was 1855. Washington’s territorial government hoped to persuade the Nisqually, Puyallup and various other Puget Sound Native American tribes to sign away their ancestral land in exchange for reservations that would exist as rather sovereign nations, albeit with certain restrictions; for example, the Indians wouldn’t be able to sell legal heroin or stop state highways from crossing their land. But the Nisqually refused to sign and such defiance launched the “Plateau Indian Wars.” These hostilities didn’t last long. By 1859, all the “renegade” tribes were slaughtered or seriously scattered and demoralized.
The Muckleshoots were never an official Native American tribe. Instead, it was created by the U.S. Army – which also chose the name – from three bands of miscellaneous, displaced Indians. In 1859, this collection signed a treaty which established a reservation that was composed of three squares of land, currently consisting of about 1,201 acres, that were arranged in checkerboard fashion along the White River.
You have to admit the reservation’s shape is unusual. I strongly suspect the government’s design had some ulterior motive that wasn’t especially beneficial to the Indians.
Throughout my childhood, Muckleshoots were the recipients of some of the most bitter racial comments I ever heard. Disparaging remarks about them were far more common than similar barbs aimed at African-Americans, probably because, at the time, there weren’t any blacks around here.
After such a corrupt, violent and cultural-destroying history, one could hardly expect the members of this artificial tribe to make a rapid recovery and readily accept the white man’s manicured lawns, freshly-scrubbed homes and Christian religion. But dissipated as they were, the Indians tried as best they could to regroup and develop a society that preserved some of their native beliefs and ways. They built several dilapidated homes that tended to confirm the white’s bigoted opinions.
One time when I was just a little kid, I remember driving through the reservation with my father, just as an Indian fellow stumbled and fell down the front steps of a house with a bottle of booze in his hand. I asked my dad what was wrong with that “Indian guy.” My father, who wasn’t an especially bigoted man, nevertheless quickly replied, “That’s just another drunken Indian.”
Back in the day, it seemed like anytime the Muckleshoots seized upon a method of improving their economic plight the local citizenry, and oftentimes the local government as well, disapproved. You may recall the squabbles that resulted when the Indians demanded the share of the salmon allotted them. White fishermen complained the treaties were unfair and several court cases followed, which the Muckleshoots won. But alas, the money the Indians made off their salmon harvest, smoked or otherwise, never amounted to much.
The sales of fireworks and tax-free cigarettes have always generated considerable controversy, to the point that, at one time, state and local police arrested customers leaving the reservation. Yet, here again, despite all the publicity raised over these business operations, they were never very profitable.
But now, at last, the Muckleshoots have stumbled upon a first-class, money-making enterprise. We speak, of course, of the casino. Predictably, some of our local citizenry complain that the Indians have an unfair advantage in the gaming business because gambling enterprises off the reservation, and there are many of them, can only have card tables; that is, they can’t have slot machines, roulette wheels or craps. The only fair thing to do is legalize casino-type gambling all over the state, like Nevada.
Maybe so, but this isn’t about to happen any time soon. So, in the interim, you’ll have to give your money to the Muckleshoots and no people deserve it more.