Quileute Tribe Uses the Forest for Traditions
Quileute Tribe – Years ago, while strolling through the woods, Rayonier forester Blake McMichael paused when he detected an unusual noise coming from beneath his cork boot.
He noticed right away that he was standing in front of history when he looked down: it was an old Native American spearhead. The Quileute Tribe, who live next door to us in La Push, had the priceless artefact in a matter of hours. A fragment of their past was given to them after countless years.
The spearhead relates the tale of a tribe that formerly inhabited the entire west coast of the United States and was made from obsidian rock, which does not present in this region. They numbered in the tens of thousands and migrated from the coastal rainforests to the glaciers of what is now Washington state. They ate salmon for food.
The tribe’s reservation now occupies a square mile off the northern Washington coast. The Quileute are fiercely committed to their tradition despite the fact that their community is now significantly smaller. They collaborate with their neighbours to carry on customs that have existed for so long that it is impossible to pinpoint their exact age. “We’ve been here since time immemorial,” they claimed.
Like several tribes in Washington, the Quileute frequently collaborate with nearby forestry businesses to gain access to the resources they require.
Frank Geyer, the tribe’s director of natural resources, claims that Rayonier is the largest private landowner in the area covered by our treaty. “We strive to understand their requirements, and they have been extremely good about listening to the tribe and recognising our demands. It’s constant.
Providing the Quileute Tribe with the Resources They Need
Mike Leavitt, a longtime resident of Forks and a longtime employee of Rayonier, has worked with the Quileute throughout his career.
He declares, “I’m proud of the bond we’ve built with the tribe over the years.” We have a great working relationship that is cordial and warm.
When the tribe needs wood for a carving or a traditional salmon bake, when it’s time to go foraging for herbs to produce Labrador Tea, or when it’s time to get cedar bark for traditional weaving, they call on Mike.
We’ve collaborated on initiatives to better the forest ecology and research the fauna that inhabits it.
Restoring together kilometres of fish habitat
Additionally, Mike has asked the tribe for assistance in our mission to revive upland streams in Rayonier woods. The initiatives, which are a component of Washington’s Forests & Fish programme, aid in reintroducing salmon populations that have occasionally been absent from the waters for more than a century.
In one instance, the tribe obtained grant money to build a substantial bridge on a private Rayonier road in place of two perched culverts (undersized pipes). An essential 7 12-mile stretch for salmon spawning and rearing was effectively opened by that initiative.
Frank explains that “fish really are the lifeblood of every tribe in the northwest.” Therefore, the tribes depend heavily on the forests and the waterways that run through them.
Peeling Cedar Bark for Traditional Weaving
The Quileute tribe travels to cedar forests to carry out their long-honored bark peeling custom during a certain period each spring when the sap of the cedar trees makes them ideal for peeling. For a year’s worth of weaving tasks, Mike assists the tribe in locating the best place to get the materials.
A number of generations participate in this unique event as they congregate in the same woodland. They make a flap near the tree’s base, move backwards holding it, and peel a large strip of bark off the tree to collect it. The thin cambium layer must then be exposed by removing the outer bark.
Here in Forks, the Quileute have been our neighbours for almost a century. It is our responsibility to safeguard and maintain healthy woods for future generations. As a result, we have a shared objective with our neighbours who have a long view of the past and the future.
According to Frank, the Quileute Natural Resources Manager, “It’s my responsibility to manage the resources of this tribe in the best way that we can to ensure that those resources are there for what we call the next 7 generations.” “It goes beyond today. Knowing that inspires me to support the Quileute population.
The tribe and Rayonier may share tales of this generation and how it lived in 100 years from now.