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The Samish are a Native American tribe who live in the U.S. state of Washingtonmarker. The seat of their tribal government is in Anacortesmarker. The name "Samish" comes from the Skagit word "samens", meaning "hunter".


Pre-Contact with Europeans

The Samish were less sedentary than the majority of their neighboring tribes, conducting much of their fishing in the islands and channels off the coast of Skagit County, Washingtonmarker. The Samish had winter villages at sites on Samish, Guemesmarker, and Fidalgo Islandsmarker. The rest of the year, the tribe migrated throughout the San Juan Islandsmarker, moving from site to site with the salmon runs. In 1847 the tribe had over 2,000 members, although onslaught by measles, smallpox, ague and attacks from Haida and Tsimshian tribes from the north decreased the population to approximately 150 members in one village at the time of the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty. As well, some members of the tribe were subsumed into the Lummi tribe after the Treaty.

Post-Contact with Europeans

Though 113 Samish were present at the treaty council, no Samish signed the Point Elliott Treaty. The Samish were attached to the treaty by the signature of either the Lummi chief Chow-its-hoot, or Pateus, a chief of a Lower Skagit band called Nuwaha signed the treaty in their name. Lacking a reservation of their own, many Samish were sent to live on the reservations of the Lummi, or the Swinomish. However, many Samish refused to go to the reservations, and stayed in their traditional territory. However, as Samish were often confused with Skagits, when they went to the Swinomish Reservation, there was only 6 allotments for the entire tribe. So, members went to Guemes Island, and established New Guemes (now referred to as "Potlatch Beach"), where they built a longhouse that housed over 100 people. By 1912, the Samish had either moved onto the Swinomish Reservation, into other communities, or were pushed off of the island by white settlers, as the Samish occupied the land with the only fresh water.

In 1926, a formal constitution was organized by the Samish, which was later altered several times, but finally the tribe became officially known as the Samish Indian Tribe. In 1971, the tribe was awarded US$5,754.96 for lands taken by the Point Elliott Treaty. The judgment deemed that they had exclusively occupied of land at the time of the treaty.


The Samish language is a dialect of the Northern Straits Salish (Lkungen) language; a close sister language is Southern Straits Salish (Clallam or Klallam. Both are in the Central Coast Salish branch of Coast Salish, itself a branch of the large Salish(an) language family (Tim Montler 1999:"Language and dialect variation in Straits Salishan". Anthropological Linguistics 41 (4): 462–502, Kuipers, Aert H. Salish Etymological Dictionary. Missoula, MT: Linguistics Laboratory, University of Montana, 2002. ISBN 1879763168) Coast Salish.. In 1990, The Canadian Museum of Civilization published "A Phonology, Morphology, and Classified Word List for the Samish Dialect of Straits Salish, by Brent D. Galloway (Canadian Ethnology Service, Mercury Series Paper #116). This is the first grammatical sketch and extensive word list for the Samish dialect of this language; it was based on linguistic field work by Galloway with the last known remaining speakers then. Galloway's recorded tapes are on file with the Museum of Civilization and the Samish Tribe. There may be three or four fluent or partially fluent speakers still left.


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