Annual Community Meeting Thursday, January 26

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An Introduction to Our Neighbors: A History and Activities of the Squaxin Island Tribe

You are invited to join us for our Annual Community Meeting on Thursday, January 26th. The evening begins with a half-hour for socializing and speaking with representatives of local organizations present at the event. Local elected officials, too, are expected to attend.

The evening’s program begins with a brief business meeting. This includes an update on this year’s activities of the GNA. There will also be nominations and an election of members of the Griffin Neighborhood Association Board of Directors. Voting is open only to current members of the Association; now is a great time to renew your membership online or at the meeting.

The featured topic of this year’s meeting is by Rhonda Foster, Director of Cultural Resources for the Squaxin Island Tribe, and Joseph Peters, Natural Resources Policy Representative. Their presentation, An Introduction to Our Neighbors: A History and Activities of the Squaxin Island Tribe, will introduce you to the Squaxin Island Tribe, also known as the People of the Water. The presentation may include a description of some of the annual cultural events in which the Tribe participates – the First Salmon Ceremony, the Canoe Journey, and others – and the significance of those. Foster and Peters may also talk about the health and sustainability of the Tribe’s fishery programs, the Squaxin Island Museum, and other areas of interest.

Thursday, January 26
6:30pm: Join us for a half-hour of socializing. The program begins at 7:00pm.
Griffin Fire Department Headquarters

3707 Steamboat Loop NW

Our Potlatch Culture

Countless Potlatch gatherings were held for millennia by the Native Peoples of the coastal Northwest. The Paddle to Squaxin 2012 was the most recent Potlatch held on south Puget Sound.

Historical Potlatches

A Potlatch is an important gathering or festival of Native Peoples celebrating a major event of the host. Guests from far and near attended a Potlatch. Feasts were held, music performed, dances were performed, stories were told, and spiritual ceremonies were conducted, but most importantly, the hosts gave away most of their wealth to the honored guests.

The term “Potlatch” is a Coastal Salish Lushootseed word meaning “throw through the air” or “throw at”, relating to the practice of hosts giving gifts away at the Potlatch to visitors. This term is also part of the Chinook trade jargon, a language used by Native Peoples from Oregon to Alaska. Much of this jargon came from the language of the Chinook Tribe that lived at the mouth of the Columbia River. Other words came from languages of other Native Peoples, English and French.

Normally, a high-status person hosted a Potlatch. However, Potlatches were also held celebrating major events of the host family, such as the marriage of children, the erection of a house, a funeral, or the birth of a child. The entire village assisted in preparations for a Potlatch. Traditionally, the most important Potlatches were held during the winter, after food had been harvested and preserved.

A Potlatch could be held in a Potlatch House, erected in most larger villages, or in the host family’s long house. Both types of houses were constructed of cedar planks and were often quite large. The largest Potlatch House built by the Snohomish Tribe at Tulalip was 150 feet long and 43 feet wide. Most other Potlatch Houses were smaller. At least one traditional Potlatch house was located on Eld Inlet, and presumably all other inlets of Puget Sound.

The essential Potlatch practice of hosts giving away most of their wealth offended white settlers. Accordingly, white authorities attempted to ban Potlatches as part of their efforts to drive traditional practices from Native Peoples and “civilize” them into the ways of the white man. However, the Potlatch tradition continued.

Southern Puget Sound Native Peoples

In south Puget Sound, separate bands of closely related Native Peoples lived along the shores of each major inlet. The Clam Legend of the Puget Sound Native Peoples teaches that very long ago, the Raven stuck people into clamshells and dropped them all around Puget Sound. This started the various small bands of Native Peoples up and down Puget Sound.

A winter village was constructed at the closed or protected end of the inlet. Each winter village contained from one to three long houses of roughly 100 feet in length. The winter village of the T’Peeksin peoples of Totten Inlet was located at the southern end of the Inlet on Oyster Bay where Schneider Creek enters the bay. The winter village of the Squi-Aitl band of Eld Inlet was located at the southern end of the Inlet on Mud Bay, south of today’s Highway 101. This winter village had three long houses, each housing about 100 people.

Members of the band congregated in their winter villages during the cold months. This is where children learned much of their traditional stories and culture. During warmer months, members of the village moved out along both sides of the inlet, living in family units in temporary housing, and harvested food.

The Squaxin Island Tribe was created by administrative fiat of Isaac I. Stevens, the first Governor of Washington Territory, as part of the Medicine Creek Treaty in 1854. Seven bands of southern Puget Sound, including the T’Peeksin and Squi-Aitl, were combined into the Tribe.

Squaxin peoples continued holding Potlatches after contact with whites. This includes Potlatches held along both shores of Steamboat Island peninsula.

Tobin Potlatches

At least two major Potlatches were hosted by the James Tobin family along the north shore of Young Cove, off of Eld Inlet, on the Steamboat Island peninsula. James and Louisa Tobin were very prominent residents of this area who owned most of the land north Young Cove, as well as oyster lands stretching from the mouth of Young Cove, around Flapjack Point, and past Frye Cove county park. Mrs. Tobin was the only surviving child of Sitkum Kettle or Kettle Labatim, one of the last chiefs of the Squaxin Island Tribe.

The Tobins hosted a Potlatch in 1900 celebrating the marriage of their daughter Katie Tobin to Edward J. Smith. Smith was the son of the last chief of the Chahalis Tribe. The Potlatch celebration of the wedding lasted three days. It is estimated that as many as 300 Indians attended the affair. The Morning Olympian reported that attendees included “many Indians of Puget Sound, some of them famous chiefs in pioneer days, whose names and deeds were in those time [sic.], household words. There were representatives from the Squaxin, Nisqually, Chahalis, Neah Bay, Puyallup, Skokomish, Oyster Bay and Mud Bay. Many whites also attended the multi-day affair.” The bride’s grandfather Chief Kettle was in attendance, but would not allow his photo to be taken. Most guests arrived by canoe.

The Tobins fed all of the guests. Food was served in a 35 foot long shed behind the Tobin house and under nearby fruit trees. The Tobin house was located just north or across the street from the modern-day boat launch on Gravelly Beach Loop. The fare included beef, bread, potatoes, oysters, clams, and side dishes. A dancing pavilion was erected near the house. The guests camped along the shoreline, which was the north side of Young Cove. The Potlatch continued for three days. The Morning Olympian reported that “it is most unusual now days to see so many Indian celebrities gathering at one place, and the wedding will have a resting place in the minds of the Olympia visitors who attended.” It referred to wedding as “great doings of a society nature”.

The Tobins hosted another Potlatch on their property in 1910, celebrating the double wedding of two sets of brothers and sisters – Angeline Tobin married Steve Frederick and Benjamin Franklin Tobin married Jessie Frederick. The Frederick brother and sister were the children of Joe and Mamie Frederick, prominent members of the Puyallup Tribe. Joe Frederick was know as one of the most prosperous Native Americans on Puget Sound. Again, more than 300 Native American guests attended the wedding which lasted for several days. Dinners were eaten on tables set out in the Tobin orchard. Again, most guests arrived by canoe.

Paddle to Squaxin 2012

The most recent Potlatch on south Puget Sound was the Paddle to Squaxin 2012, held this summer. Native Americans paddled almost 100 canoes into Olympia, arriving on the afternoon of Sunday, July 29, 2012. Canoes held members of many different Pacific coast and inland water tribes celebrating this year’s Native Canoe Journey for 2012. The Squaxin Island Tribe hosted this year’s event. Some paddlers paddled for weeks traveling many hundreds of miles from as far as the Queen Charlotte Islands and Bella Bella.

Elaborate landing ceremonies for the canoes were held at North Point, the northern end of the Port of Olympia’s facilities. Prior to landing, the crew of on each canoe, or group of canoes, raised their paddles into the air as a sign of friendship and requested permission to land. Members of the Squaxin Island responded and invited the paddlers ashore. Thousands of Native Peoples, and other people, viewed the landing, including Governor Chris Gregoire and Olympia Mayor Steve Buxbaum.

Canoes landed continuously from 1 PM until 6 PM. Crews of from 7 to 15 paddlers were aboard each canoe. Most canoes were cedar, dug out canoes. Many were 40 feet long. Canoes traveling the furthest landed first. Canoes from the Quinault Tribe, that will host the annual event in 2013, landed second to the last. Canoes from the Squaxin Island Tribe, representing this year’s host tribe, landed last.

The festivities continued through the week on Squaxin properties at Kamilche. Members of each participating tribe danced and sang their songs. The order was similar to the order of canoes landing – tribes from the furthest away performed first, with Quinaults, next year’s host performing second to the last, and the host Squaxin Tribe performing last. Great emphasis was made to instill pride, mixed with being humble, and emphasizing native languages and staying sober. Tribal youth were a real focus of the event. Elders were celebrated, including William Peters, a World War II veteran and one of the most venerated Squaxin Elders.

Guests at Kamilche were greeted by two huge tents, both about 100 yards long. The intricate ceremonies were performed in one tent, with bleachers along the sides. Food and beverages were severed at no charge in the second tent for all attendees, Native American or otherwise. It was a real treat to observe these ceremonies and partake in the friendship at Kamilche. A strong spirit of friendship and hospitality was evident.

Native Canoe Journeys are modern Potlatches where Native Peoples tell stories, dance, sing, and celebrate. The Squaxin Island Tribe presented gifts to the paddlers, reminiscent of Potlatches from many years ago.

Copyright 2012 by Steve Lundin

Steve Lundin is a long-time resident of the Griffin community located in northwest Thurston County. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington and a J.D. degree from the University of Washington Law School and retired as a senior counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives after nearly 30 years.

He is recognized as the local historian of the Griffin area and has written a number of articles on local history and a book entitled Griffin Area Schools, available from the Griffin Neighborhood Association at a cost of $10.

Click here to read more of Steve’s articles on the local history of the Griffin area.

Conservation of Pocket Estuary Identified by Gayle Broadbent-Ferris, Acquired with Assist from Steamboat Conservation Partnership

In early June 2011, Capitol Land Trust acquired a 34- acre property on the northeastern shore of Totten Inlet on the Steamboat Island Peninsula. The site has a small pocket estuary with critical salmon habitat, 1,400 feet of waterfront, steep bluffs that replenish natural gravel beaches, and small streams flowing from mature forests that cover most of the property.

Major grants from US Fish and Wildlife/WA Dept. of Ecology’s Coastal Wetlands Grant program and the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board helped finance the project. Other funds came from Taylor Shellfish, the Squaxin Island Tribe and the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.

“This is a relatively small piece of shoreline, but it has enormous biological value that will now be preserved and enhanced,” said Capitol Land Trust’s conservation projects manager Laurence Reeves.

According to Laurence, the project was originally championed by local resident and south Sound conservationist Gayle Broadbent-Ferris who died in an accident in 2009. She introduced the property to the Trust and helped keep interest in its preservation alive during a period when development was contemplated. “Gayle, more than anyone, would have been thrilled to know the property is now under conservancy,” Laurence said.

Dave and Joanne Schuett-Hames, local residents who provided marine habitat expertise for the project, also mentioned Broadbent-Ferris’s dedication to conservancy of the Adams Cove area. “She lived near the property,” Dave said, “and felt it was not suitable for intensive development. She had great appreciation for the natural values of the wetlands and the estuary.”

“This was a very complex project,” said Laurence, “but eventually, through a lot of hard work on the part of many organizations and individuals, it all came together. We have skilled and dedicated staff, but we can’t do it all. As with many of our projects, we relied on contributions of time and expertise from many members and volunteers. Their involvement was absolutely critical.”

Near the start of the project, Laurence visited the site with Dave and Joanne to assess its potential. What they found was a pocket estuary in relatively pristine condition, with many acres of neighboring forest and wetlands that provide clean fresh water. The property, known locally as Adams Cove, includes a protective sand spit at the estuary entrance, a beach used by spawning forage fish, an intertidal salt marsh, and mudflats providing habitat for Puget Sound coho, winter steelhead, chinook, summer chum, and coastal sea-run cutthroat.

“This is a pretty special piece of the south Puget Sound ecosystem,” said Dave. “Our job was to capture the nature of the place in language that biologists would understand, to provide heft for the technical and scientific aspects of the grant applications. We helped explain why this particular place, in its current state, is so beneficial to fish and other marine populations.”

Dave and Joanne do this kind of work professionally, but they did it as volunteers for this project. They have helped Capitol Land Trust with several other projects as well.

The threat of commercial development above the shoreline bluffs accentuated the sense that the property should be conserved in its entirety. According to Dave, “The upland area is a forested wetland system that provides habitat for birds and plants, and is the main source of cool, clean fresh water for the estuary. Anything built on the bluffs would more than likely degrade water quality and the entire system’s ability to sustain plant and animal life.”

The estuary is also the mixing zone for fresh and salt water, and it’s especially important for the very large native chum run that spawns each year in Kennedy Creek at the southern end of Totten Inlet. According to Dave, “The fry come out of the freshwater creek in the spring as very small fish, only a couple inches long. The open water of Totten Inlet can be dangerous for them. The salinity presents a huge physiological adjustment, and it helps to have places like Adams Cove where they can find relatively fresh water to reduce that shock. The estuary, with its protective spit, shallow water, and overhanging trees, is a refuge from wave action and from predatory birds and fish. It’s also a source of small organisms for them to eat.”

There is also evidence that young Chinook salmon from central and even northern Puget Sound forage in Totten Inlet and its estuaries before migrating out to the ocean.

One other important feature of the Adams Cove habitat, Dave said, is its undeveloped shoreline, with intact forest. “You have well-developed shoreline vegetation to feed the nutrient food chain,” he said. “Some of the trees will fall into the estuary, providing good cover habitat in the water. And trees hanging over the water provide shade and help keep the water cool.”

The other benefit of conserving this piece of land is the preservation of natural “feeder” bluffs, which help maintain the viability of beaches that are the spawning ground for sand lance, pacific anchovy, herring, and other “forage” fish on which salmon feed.

According to Dave, “When this kind of shoreline becomes highly developed, people often build bulkheads because they don’t want the erosion. Eventually, over time, as that erosion is eliminated or controlled, the gravel can get scoured out, leaving nothing but clay. It’s important to have unarmored bluffs with some erosion to provide gravel and sediment to replenish the beaches.”

The Totten Inlet coastal shoreline is a permanent or migratory home to more than 100 bird species, including eagles, owls, ospreys, plovers, sandpipers, woodpeckers and loons, and the property has potential as a possible restoration area for the native Olympia oyster, Laurence said.

Both Laurence and Dave emphasized that Adams Cove is a particularly unspoiled pocket estuary. Many similar estuaries, especially those with spits, have been dammed up in the past to create freshwater ponds.

Dave stressed that each pocket estuary is part of a larger ecosystem that is important to newly hatched fish. “They don’t just function in isolation,” he said. “You get more benefit if there are a series of them along the shoreline that the fish can move into. Maintaining a network of them would be much better than just preserving one.”

The main purpose of this project was to conserve the estuarine habitat. A corollary to that is recognition that human visits to the property, especially on land, are not necessarily beneficial to that purpose. “As with many of our projects,” Laurence said, “we encourage thoughtful and respectful visitation for educational and scientific purposes. We want people to remember that hands-off is probably the best policy. Our five-year management plan for Adams Cove is to just let it do its own thing. And that’s in keeping with the intent of the funding agencies.”

Steve Kelso is an Olympia writer, photographer, and painter who appreciates the work of Capitol Land Trust.

Capitol Land Trust Would Like to Thank These Project Partners:

WA Department of Ecology
US Fish and Wildlife Service
WA State Salmon Recovery Funding Board
Squaxin Island Tribe
Taylor Shellfish Farms
Steamboat Conservation Partnership
Dave and Joanne Schuett-Hames
ADESA Environmental Services
Michael and Lorrie Asker, William and Bonita Asker, Michael and Tracy Evans.

Article reprinted with permission from Capitol Land Trust. This article and accompanying photographs was originally printed as “Pocket Estuary on Totten Inlet Conserved” in the Summer 2011 issue of the Capitol Land Trust Newsletter.
The Griffin Neighborhood Association formed the Steamboat Conservation Partnership with Capitol Land Trust “to conserve the rich and diverse natural landscapes of the Steamboat Peninsula region.” Help us to preserve habitat, now and forever, right here in our neighborhood. Click here to learn how you can support the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.

Pocket Estuary on Totten Inlet Conserved

Capitol Land Trust’s collaboration with the Steamboat Conservation Partnership has resulted in the conservation of 34 acres on Totten Inlet, one of the most significant shorebird habitats in Washington’s inland marine waters. The purchase includes a small pocket estuary and 1400 feet of undeveloped shoreline on the Steamboat Island Peninsula known locally as Adams Cove. Most of the new preserve is covered by mature forest, about half of which is forested wetland. Several small freshwater streams flow into the estuary.

The tireless dedication of Gayle Broadbent-Ferris directly resulted in Capital Land Trust’s efforts to acquire this spectacular property. We are forever indebted to her encouragement.

The Capitol Land Trust thanks their partners who made this project possible: Washington Department of Ecology, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Squaxin Island Tribe, Steamboat Conservation Partnership, Dave & Joanne Schuett-Hames, WRIA 13-14 Lead Entity Coordinator, ADESA Environmental Services, Michael & Lorrie Asker, William & Bonita Asker, Michael & Tracy Evans.

Click here to read The Olympian’s coverage of the purchase.

Click here to learn more about the Steamboat Conservation Partnership and how your support will help to identify and conserve habitat right here, in our own neighborhood.

Photo by Steve Kelso


Local Native American Heritage

SquaxinIslandLogoIndigenous peoples have inhabited the southern Puget Sound area for many centuries.

Prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans, indigenous peoples inhabiting Puget Sound had a vibrant culture and relatively dense populations. They were maritime peoples who called themselves “People of the Water”. Puget Sound was sacred. It also served as their basic means of transportation and a source of food.

Prior to the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1855, native peoples living in southern Puget Sound were known by the inlet on which they lived. A separate band of native peoples occupied each inlet. They were known by the name of their inlet. People living along both shores of what is now called Eld Inlet were known as the Squi-Ailt. People living along both shores of what is now called Totten Inlet were known as the T’Peeksin. The Squaxin Tribe was formed after the Medicine Creek Treaty from seven separate, but closely related, bands of native peoples living on seven separate inlets in southern Puget Sound.

During the cold weather season, members of each band lived in a large cedar long house in a more or less permanent village located at the sheltered end of their inlet. These were the times when members of the band lived communally, repeated their legions and stories, and instructed their children in tribal ways. During the warm weather season, families units from each band fanned out along both sides of their inlet and lived in less permanent dwellings. They harvested the bounty of the inlet and prepared for the next cold weather season. Proximity to fresh water was a prerequisite for locating a permanent cold weather village and the more numerous, transitory warm weather sites.

One of these winter village sites for the Squi-Ailt was at the archeological dig on former Secretary of State Ralph Munro’s property located on the eastern shore of Mud Bay near the southern end of Eld Inlet.

T. T. Waterman was a noted anthropologist at the University of Washington during the early years of the 20th century. He met with tribal elders in southern Puget Sound in 1910 and recorded important sites. More than 33 of these sites were noted on the Steamboat peninsula or Griffin area.

Waterman noted the abandoned site of a “large and thriving” village at the southern end of Mud Bay, a little north of the modern-day intersection of Delphi Road and MacKenzie Road. He failed to note the site of the archeological dig at Ralph Munro’s as being the site of a village, although he mentioned the three creeks on Ralph Munro’s property. Apparently, the village site mentioned by Waterman had succeeded the earlier village site at Munro’s property, although both sites were abandoned by 1910.

Perry Creek was known as “Balablts” or on the side toward the spring. It is noted as being a “large creek flowing into a cover”.

Rocky Point is also called Maple Point and was called “TsEbtsEdid” which suggests dancing place or “elderberry place”.

Young Cove was called “q!abt!o” or “abounding in food”.

Flapjack Point was noted as being prominent and was known as “qwet qs” or down-stream promontory.

Fry Cove was noted as being a very narrow cove that was known as “Tu caix” signifying an edible root that was dug by Native peoples. This may have been Camus.

Sanderson Cove was described as being a very narrow cove known as “Tu qwa’lot sid” or “fish trap at its mouth”. A weir was built across the mouth of the inlet that would trap fish when the tide receded.

Hunter Point was known as “Djie’ kclL” which means “foot”. Presumably this meant wet foot describing waves that rush up to the foot of the cliff, fall back, and then rush up again.

Sandy Point, near where the bridge to Steamboat Island is located, was known as “CxwE’ tsugEL” which suggested sharp breath.

Steamboat Island was known as “SxetElp” or “pushing off from shore”, presumably referring to the appearance of the island as though a canoe was leaving the mainland. It is fitting that one of the modern rationales for naming the island Steamboat Island is that the island resembles a steamboat.

Gallagher Cove was known as “Bicola’lala” or “a place with many cattail rushes”. Cattails were very important for weaving baskets.

The promontory at northern point at the northwest end of Gallagher Cove was known as “hwEts – toi’q – stEb” which means “sharp prodding”. This relates to the belief that a storm will be caused if anyone pokes the bottom of the inlet there with a pole or paddle.

Burns Point was known as “T!EbE’ x” which means “gooseberries”.

Copyright 2011 by Steve Lundin

Steve Lundin is a long-time resident of the Griffin community located in northwest Thurston County.  He received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington and a J.D. degree from the University of Washington Law School and is now retired as a senior counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives after nearly 30 years.

He is recognized as the local historian of the Griffin area and has written a number of articles on local history and a book entitled Griffin Area Schools, available from the Griffin Neighborhood Association at a cost of $10. 

Lundin also wrote a comprehensive reference book on local governments in Washington State entitled The Closest Governments to the People – A Complete Reference Guide to Local Government in Washington State.  The book costs $85, plus shipping and handling.  It is available on the web from the Division of Governmental Studies and Services, Washington State University, at or from WSU Extension at

Click here for more articles of interest, regarding local history.

Capitol Land Trust Eld Inlet Acquisition Conserves 1.25 Miles of Puget Sound Coastal Habitat

More than a decade ago, Capitol Land Trust identified lower Eld Inlet’s coastal habitats as a strategic conservation priority. Now, ten years of investment have culminated in the conservation of six miles of Eld Inlet marine shorelines and more than 600 acres of surrounding upland habitat, spanning 17 individual sites.

Completion of the Eld Inlet Coastal Preserve project, the Trust’s latest Eld Inlet success, is the result of extraordinary collaboration and an agreement between Anderson & Middleton Company and Capitol Land Trust, with support from many other partners. Anderson & Middleton is a family-owned agri-business company involved in forestland management, table grapes, wine grapes and wine production (click here and here). Anderson & Middleton was founded in Aberdeen, WA in 1898 and today is headquartered in Hoquiam, WA. Capitol Land Trust began working with cousins Jim and Rick Middleton more than three years ago to explore the potential for purchase of the site. Rick Middleton and his family live on Eld Inlet and the Middletons were personally invested in the outcome of this effort.

“It was a pleasure to work with Eric Erler and Capitol Land Trust on this project. Our company owned this property for many years and we can attest to its unique and special character. Capitol Land Trust will be a great steward of this property going forward. From our perspective, this was a win-win for all of us,” said Rick Middleton.

The site is located along the eastern shoreline of lower Eld Inlet (Mud Bay), just south of Capitol Land Trust’s Randall Property and the Highway 101 Bridge. The property encompasses 1.25 miles of high-quality, undeveloped Puget Sound estuarine shoreline, 40 acres of saltmarsh and freshwater wetlands, and 15 acres of mature forest. McLane Creek, recognized for its hearty, native salmon runs, flows through the property and into Puget Sound. The vegetation on the Preserve consists of saltmarsh and wetland emergent grasses near the shoreline, and native coniferous and hardwood forests. The property also conserves an area of great cultural and historical importance to the Squaxin Island Tribe.

The new Preserve provides intact habitat for five salmon species and anadromous coastal cutthroat trout. Large numbers of juvenile salmon smolts produced in McLane Creek use the waters along the property for feeding and transitioning to life at sea. Forage fish species and numerous waterfowl, shorebird, waterbird and landbird species also take advantage of the property’s unique coastal habitat.

The site also contains a rare mineral salt deposit which is an important source of nutrients for the Band-tailed pigeon, a Bird of Conservation Concern as identified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Approximately 350 Band-tailed pigeons visit the property in early morning every day from late June to September. There are fewer than 100 documented mineral sites in Oregon and Washington frequented by these pigeons.

Capitol Land Trust wishes to thank all of the project partners, especially the former landowners, Anderson & Middleton Company, for their support and commitment to seeing the project to completion. Generous funding support and project oversight was provided by the WA Department of Ecology and the US Fish and Wildlife Service through the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, and the WA Recreation and Conservation Office through a Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant. According to Jeanne Koenings of the Department of Ecology, “Protecting the shorelines of Washington State, particularly Puget Sound, is a job that the Department of Ecology and local governments can’t do on our own. Partnering with groups like Capitol Land Trust is crucial to our success. Thanks to the high quality projects Capitol Land Trust works on, Washington State has been able to secure more funding from the US Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA than most other coastal states.”

Finally, completion of the Eld Inlet Coastal Preserve project would not have been possible without generous private contributions from Taylor Shellfish Farms, the Squaxin Island Tribe, Margery Sayre and other Capitol Land Trust members and supporters.

Eric Erler is Capitol Land Trust’s Executive Director.
Reprinted from Issue 49, Summer 2010, of Capitol Land Trust News

Help support the Capitol Land Trust’s efforts right here on the peninsula between Eld and Totten inlets by contributing to the Steamboat Conservation Partnership. Click here to learn more about this unique partnership between the Capitol Land Trust and Griffin Neighborhood Association.

Journal of Peter Puget Describes Our Area in 1792

As any area student will tell you, the Puget Sound is named after Peter Puget, who sailed on the HMS Discovery, with Captain George Vancouver. Below is a portion of Puget’s journal, transcribed by local historian and author Steve Lundin. This portion of the journal describes his trip down Totten, Eld, and Budd Inlets. Incidentally, Vancouver anchored Discovery near present day Seattle and sent Puget in command of two rowing craft to survey south, in May and into June, 1792. So, you see, Puget wasn’t in our area with a ship like that depicted in the photo here. The portion of the journal here starts part way down page 197.

[Puget refers to “Friendly Indians” who followed his boats near Nisqually Flats.] They did not leave us to after we had passed the SSW Channel and still conducted themselves in the most inoffensive and peaceable Manner — by Noon we had reached the Continental Shore that now trended about West and pursued it for Ten Miles to an Island where we were glad to stop and erect our Tents to avoid a threatening Squall from the SE about two it came on with Thunder Lightning and a heavy Gust which continued without Intermission all the Afternoon The Rain fell in perfect torrents; we therefore were obliged to remain in our Quarters Till Next Morning Thursday May 24th.

We again set out Early and pursuing the Continent which now trended to the Northward of West by 8 we had determined the termination of this Branch about 12 Miles from Wednesday Island [probably Herron Island in Case Inlet], here we tryed the Seine and caught only one Salmon trout. from this termination we entered another Branch trending in a SW and Southerly and in various Directions [Pickering Passage, between Harstine Island and the Olympic Peninsula] but not more than 1/4 or 1/2 a Mile Broad we continued on till 6 in the Evening when we brought too for the Night and dinner, from this Situation we could see a Channel to the SE [either Peales Passage or Squaxin Passage] by which we hoped to return into the Main Branch through an Opening in the Opposite Shore where the last Canoes had left us.

Early Next Morning Friday May 25th we had a Survey on the Provisions which we found would last till Wednesday next. I therefore thought it best to determine this alternative Navigation and save the trouble of a Second Expedition to this Extent [page 198] We had likewise been successful in procuring a good Quantity of Clams which with Nettle tops Fat Hen and gooseberry Tops greatly assisted the customary allowance of Provisions and Yesterday during a hard Shower of Rain we were particularly fortunate in that Respect — — for the Boats could have loaded with the former, and the People were not averse to eating Crows of which we could always procure plenty. Therefore, as our continuance out could not be attended with any Inconvenience, but would be saving time, We pursued our Examination of the Southern narrow Inlet [Totten Inlet] the termination of which we sounded out by Noon — In this Branch were many beautiful Spots the Low Surrounding country though thickly covered with Wood had a very pleasant Appearance, now in the height of Spring. We had already passed during this Expedition several Small deserted Villages which were supposed to be only the temporary Habitations of Fishermen, we took advantage of the Remaining part of the Tide to come down as far as possible and about five Miles from the termination stopped to Dine

In the Evening we were fortunate in reaching the SE passage seen from last Nights Sleeping Place where we pitched out Tents in a very pleasant Situation; Early next morning Saturday May 26th with a continuance of favorable Weather we pursued another Small Branch [Eld Inlet] that nearly ran parallel to the one we had determined yesterday. About an Hour after we had set out, An Indian Village made it Appearance from whence some Canoes came off perfectly unarmed He pointed that we were near the Termination of this Arm, which Intelligence we found true; In our Way down we landed for a Short time and were received by the Inhabitants with all the Friendship and Hospitality we could have expected — These people I should suppose were about Sixty in Number of all Ages and Descriptions they lived under a Kind of Shed open at the Front and Sides. The Women appeared employed in the Domestic Duties such as curing Clams and fish, making Baskets of various Colours and as nearly woven that they are perfectly watertight. The Occupations of the Men I believe consists chiefly in Fishing, constructing Canoes and performing all the Labourious Work of the Village; Though it was perfectly Curiosity which had induced us to land, yet that was the sooner satisfied by the horrid Stench which came from all parts of these Habitations, with which they were delighted.

The Natives had but Two Sea Otter Skins which were purchased and a variety of Marmot, Rabbit Raccoon Deer and Bear skins were also procured The Men had a War Garment on, it consisted of a very thick Hide supposedly made from the Moose Deer, and well prepared — I have no doubt but it [page 199] is a Sufficient Shield against Arrows, though not against Fire Arms The Garment reaches from the Shoulders down to the Knees, this however was got in exchange for a Small piece of Copper, from which we may suppose they were not of much Value, they likewise disposed of some well constructed Bows and Arrows, in Short it was only to ask, and have your Wish gratified, the only Difference, I perceived between our present Companions and former Visitors, were the Extravagance with Which their Faces were Ornamented. Streaks of Red Ochre and Black Glimmer, were on some, others entirely with the Former, and a few that gave the Preference to the Latter — ever Person had a fashion of his own, and to us who were Strangers to Indians, this Sight conveyed a Stronger Force of the Savageness of the Native Inhabitants, then any other Circumstance we had hitherto met with; not but their Conduct, friendly and inoffensive, had already merited our warmest Approbation, but their Appearance was absolutely terrific. And it will frequently occur, that the Imagination receives a much greater Shock by such unusual Objects, than it would otherwise would, was that Object divested of its Exterior Ornaments or Dress, or the Sight was more familiarized to People in a State of Nature and Though we could not behold these Ornaments with the same satisfactory Eye as themselves, yet in receiving the looking Glasses, each appeared well Satisfied with his own Fashion, at least the Paint was not at all altered. — They likewise had the Hair covered with the Down of Birds; which certainly was a good substitute for Powder, and the Paint only differed in the Colours and not the Quantity used by our own Fair Country women — In those two Instances we meet with some Resemblance to our Customs and I believe the above mentioned Ornaments were of a Ceremonious Nature for our Reception at the Village — —

From Friendly Inlet we pulled up another [Budd Inlet] in the same Direction and landed not far from its termination to Breakfast whither the Indians from the last Arm had followed us. here they made Signs, that this Branch was the Same as their own, which after a Quarter of an hours Row we found to be the case.

Steve Lundin is a long-time resident of the Griffin community located in northwest Thurston County. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington and a J.D. degree from the University of Washington Law School and recently retired as a senior counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives after nearly 30 years.

He is recognized as the local historian of the Griffin area and has written a number of articles on local history and a book entitled Griffin Area Schools, available from the Griffin Neighborhood Association at a cost of $10.

Lundin also wrote a comprehensive reference book on local governments in Washington State entitled The Closest Governments to the People – A Complete Reference Guide to Local Government in Washington State. The book costs $85, plus shipping and handling. It is available on the web from the Division of Governmental Studies and Services, Washington State University, or from WSU Extension.

If you have old historic photos of the Griffin area, or family stories of the old days in the Griffin area, please contact Steve Lundin at Steve is most interested in photos of the old two-story Grange Hall in the Griffin area and the old Schneider’s Prairie schoolhouse that burned to the ground in 1926.

Griffin Historical Sketch

Tcover13he Griffin community is located in northwest Thurston County and occupies the Steamboat Island peninsula that extends northward into southern Puget Sound.

The history or the Griffin community falls into three distinct periods.

The first period was the history of indigenous peoples before contact with white people. Indigenous peoples inhabited Puget Sound for thousands of years before the arrival of white people. They were known as the “People of the Water” and considered Puget Sound to be a sacred place. They relied the Sound their basic means of transportation and as a source of food, including clams, oysters, and salmon.

Separate, but closely related, bands of indigenous peoples inhabited the seven inlets of southern Puget Sound. Each band occupied the watershed of the inlet – both sides of the inlet, including the Squi-Ailt who occupied the Eld Inlet watershed and the T’Peeksin who occupied the Totten Inlet watershed.

During cold weather, members of a band occupied cedar long houses in a village located at the sheltered end of each inlet. Remains of a large long house have been found on former Secretary of State Ralph Munro’s property located on the eastern shore of Mud Bay at the southern end of Eld Inlet. During warm weather, families units from each band fanned out along both sides of their inlet and lived in less permanent dwellings.

The second period involved the arrival of white people and their early interactions with indigenous peoples. These interactions had calamitous consequences with large numbers of native peoples losing their lives to disease brought by white men.

The first whites arriving in the Puget Sound area included Captain Vancouver, Peter Puget, and Captain Gray. Peter Puget explored the southern portion of Puget Sound in 1792. He named many areas which remain as local place names, including Eld and Totten Inlets. His journal describes indigenous peoples as being friendly and hospitable.

The United States and Great Britain jointly occupied what was called Old Oregon Country from 1818 until 1846 without consulting the indigenous peoples of this area. The Hudson Bay Company opened Fort Nisqually on southern Puget Sound in 1833. Michael T. Simmons and George W. Bush led the first American settlers on Puget Sound, arriving at what became Tumwater in 1845. A Treaty of 1846 ended the Joint Occupancy and established the western boundary between Canada and the United States. Congress created Oregon Territory in 1848 from the American portion of what remained of Old Oregon Country. The Oregon Territorial Assembly created Thurston County in 1852. Congress created Washington Territory out of the northern portion of Oregon Territory in 1853.

Newly appointed Governor Isaac I. Stevens negotiated a number of treaties between the United States and indigenous peoples in Washington Territory. This included the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854 that was signed by Governor Stevens and representatives of various tribes and bands of indigenous peoples living on southern Puget Sound. Indigenous peoples ceded 4,000 square miles of land in return for three small reservations and the right to fish “at all usual and accustomed grounds”. The Squaxin Tribe was recognized as a combination of the bands of indigenous peoples living on the seven inlets in southern Puget Sound, including the Squi-Ailt and T’Peeksin bands. Many indigenous peoples moved to a reservation located on Squaxin Island but most soon left as the Island had no source of drinking water. They supported themselves by logging, working on hop and berry farms, and harvesting shellfish and fin fish.

Early white settlers in the Griffin area were William W. Puffer and Benjamin F. Cross. Puffer filed a donation land claim in the early 1850’s for 160 acres of land on what became known as Schneider’s Prairie. He lived in a cabin was located near the current intersection of Sexton and Steamboat Island Road, north of the Highway 101 overpass. Puffer’s claim was rejected by the federal government. Then Benjamin Franklin Cross filed a claim for the same 160 acres. Other white people soon filed claims or purchased earlier land claims, including August and Konrad Schneider after whom the local prairie is named.

The third period is the modern period since the early interactions between white settlers and indigenous peoples. Many settlers and new comers moved into the Griffin area during this period. The Griffin community was transformed from rural settlements of whites and indigenous peoples into a suburban area with many residents commuting to work outside of the peninsula.

Thurston County remained as the local government providing governmental services and facilities in the Griffin area. This included a system of road, law enforcement, a court system, and public health regulation. Early roads were provide by the forced labor of adult males and property owners using a system of small road districts.

Thurston County created a system of public schools throughout the county. Mud Bay School District was formed around 1870 and served all of the northwestern portion of the county, including the Griffin community. The first schooling in what is now the Griffin community was in the late 1870’s at the log cabin of John and Ella Olson, located in what is now called the Holiday Valley Estates. Schneider’s Prairie School District was created out of part of Mud Bay School District in 1881. A schoolhouse was soon constructed at what is now the north end of Whittaker Road immediately south of the Highway 101 overpass. Territory was gradually removed from Schneider’s Prairie School District to create a number of new districts — Hunter Point School District at the north end of the Griffin peninsula in 1891, John Fry School District at the middle portion of the peninsula in 1891, and Oyster Bay School District at the southwest portion of Schneider’s Prairie School District in 1907.

These new districts were eventually reunited with Schneider’s Prairie School District, which was renamed as the Griffin School District. Oyster Bay School District consolidated with Schneider’s Prairie School District in 1922. John Fry School District consolidated with Schneider’s Prairie School District in 1923. The Schneider’s Prairie schoolhouse burned to the ground in the summer of 1926. Arthur Griffin owned considerable acreage on Schneider’s Prairie. He gave the school district five acres of land in exchange for the two acre site where the burned schoolhouse was located and the school district was renamed in his honor. A new brick schoolhouse opened at the new school property in the Spring of 1927. Hunter Point School District consolidated with Griffin School District in 1934.

Griffin School has changed since its early days. A new 12-classroom facility opened in 1969 and the old 1927 building was torn down. A middle school complex was added in 1978. Additional classrooms, and a gymnasium, music room, kitchen and cafeteria were added in 1989. A major remodeling project was completed in 2004.

Griffin Fire District (Thurston County Fire District No. 13) was created in 1962 to provide fire protection and emergency medical services in the Griffin area.

The county operates a public park at Frye Cove off of Young’s Road. Griffin School District and the county jointly provide additional facilities off of 41st Street.

Employment in the Griffin area during the early years of the modern period was based upon logging, farming, oyster growing, working on steamships, and working at local commercial enterprises. Major logging camps and logging rail roads at one time served the Griffin community and nearby area. Major shellfish harvesting operations also were located on both Oyster Bay and Mud Bay. These operations remain today, although the Olympia oyster is no longer the primary shellfish that is harvested. Somewhat large farming operations were located in the Griffin area at one time. Modern farming is much less substantial. A number of local businesses provide employment and services. Most residents now commute out of the Griffin area for their employment.

The Squaxin Tribe emerged as a major economic and cultural presence in the Griffin area during this period.

Copyright 2008 by Steve Lundin

Steve Lundin is a long-time resident of the Griffin community located in northwest Thurston County. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington and a J.D. degree from the University of Washington Law School and recently retired as a senior counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives after nearly 30 years.

He is recognized as the local historian of the Griffin area and has written a number of articles on local history and a book entitled Griffin Area Schools, available from the Griffin Neighborhood Association at a cost of $10.

Lundin also wrote a comprehensive reference book on local governments in Washington State entitled The Closest Governments to the People – A Complete Reference Guide to Local Government in Washington State. The book costs $85, plus shipping and handling. It is available on the web from the Division of Governmental Studies and Services, Washington State University, or from WSU Extension.

If you have old historic photos of the Griffin area, or family stories of the old days in the Griffin area, please contact Steve Lundin at Steve is most interested in photos of the old two-story Grange Hall in the Griffin area and the old Schneider’s Prairie schoolhouse that burned to the ground in 1926.