The Quileute Tribe is a federally recognized Indian Tribe. Headquarters for the Quileute are in La Push, Washington, at the mouth of the Quillayute River, on the Pacific Ocean. In this wilderness location, just behind our offices, you can see tribal members fish for salmon or tribal boats enter the marina full of halibut or black cod. In the summer, bald eagles and brown pelicans are frequent visitors. This is an area of great natural beauty.
The Quileute Tribe is a signatory of the Treaty of Olympia (January, 1856) with the Hoh Tribe and the Quinault Indian Nation. Under The Treaty of Olympia, tribes reserved off-reservation rights to fish in “Usual and Accustomed Places” (U&A) and to hunt or gather in “Open and Unclaimed Lands” within the treaty area, which extends hundreds of square miles beyond the reservations. The U&A includes over 800 square miles of fishing watershed on the Olympic Peninsula and a marine area extending out along eighty miles of coastline, from Cape Alava in the north to the Queets River mouth in the south, and westward at least 40 nautical miles. There is great diversity of natural resources, which the tribe has legal title to by way of its treaty with the United States. Quileute Natural Resources, a department of the Quileute Tribe, is responsible for providing technical and policy information to the Quileute Tribal Council and Quileute Natural Resources Committee regarding the treaty-reserved natural resources within the off-reservation lands and waters ceded to the United States. The programs provide for collection of information and analysis of that information for management purposes. The staff communicates technical and policy information about the resources with the QNR Committee. Once a policy direction is decided, the Tribal Council then makes laws, resolutions and ordinances to implement harvest policies or legal defense issues.
QNR, as co-manager of the fisheries under U.S. v. Washington (Boldt Decision), regularly negotiates agreements with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, and other coastal tribes. Regular communications are underway with other coastal tribes and agreements are often reached on where and how management will be coordinated between these tribes. The foundation of the fishery program is the data collection field program implemented by our staff of dedicated biologists and technicians. This information is the core of the salmon, steelhead, groundfish and shellfish programs at QNR.
The 7-person, elected QNR Committee reviews and discusses treaty fishing rights, season regulations, intertribal allocation issues, hunting regulations, marine and in-river fishery issues, and U&A (usual and accustomed area) conflicts; hunting and gathering regulations; and considers staff and technical recommendations, past fisheries practices, and practical experience in their decisions and recommendations.
Treaty fishing rights include commercial, ceremonial, and subsistence fishing. Two important commercial marine stocks for us (currently) are Dungeness crab and groundfish. The tribe has a small fleet of fishing vessels that regularly engage in the marine fishery. Salmonids comprise most of the fresh-water fishery. Some QNR biologists are dedicated to marine management issues such as allocation, appropriate seasons, and correct gear. Others are dedicated to wild salmon redd surveys, juvenile rearing assessments, and habitat restoration; for these projects, we work most often with state and tribal agencies. Many of these projects are funded by competitive grants from state and federal programs focusing on salmonid recovery, while others come out of the regular tribal budget. Our QNR elected committee provides guidance on policy for resource use and care. In-river salmon and steelhead (salmonid) fisheries are of high importance for economic, ceremonial, and subsistence needs, as well.
The Quileute Natural Resources Committee, tribal fishermen, QNR policy and technical staff and legal counsel are developing a crab fishery management plan, outlining provisions affording opportunity to tribal fishermen to access the crab resource in the tribe’s U&A. Special management areas (SMAs) are annually defined and harvest regulations structured.
QNR co-manages groundfish species, including, but not limited to, black cod (sablefish), lingcod, pacific cod and rockfish complex. QNR staff develops fishery management plans for these species with the other coastal tribes, WDFW, NOAA and the Pacific Fishery Management Council. In addition to groundfish species, QNR co-manages the Pacific Halibut fishery. The International Pacific Halibut Commission is responsible for the overall management of halibut and determines the catch limits for each management region. Staff also commits significant amounts time to monitoring scientific and social information that affect these fisheries.
QNR is a scientific and management leader on monitoring and warning for harmful algae blooms (HABs) on the West Coast . These are naturally occurring microorganisms in shellfish. They produce toxins which at certain levels are harmful for humans to ingest. The tribe relies on state-of-the-art techniques to detect HAB toxin levels in the shellfish, but also uses state (WA DOH) and federal analyses (NOAA) to provide warnings to the public.
QNR staff participates in committees and programs related to potential formation of coastal marine protected areas (MPAs). While the tribe has always supported management of natural resources that will assure harvestable levels for future generations, we must still safeguard the treaty right to fish for marine resources such as shellfish and groundfish. This is because, unlike non-treaty fishers who can fish the entire Pacific coastline, the treaty tribes are place-based — they can only treaty-fish within their designated areas.
The Quileute Tribe conducts assessments of salmonid habitat, including escapement, spawning, and smolting studies; and surveys of fish passage conditions and channel conditions. Assessment of stream habitat often leads to replacement of fish passage barriers with new culverts or bridges, in partnership with private landowners such as Rayonier, WDNR, or USFS. Other restoration projects include bank stabilization, and placement of large woody debris. Recently the tribe has engaged in control of noxious weeds that destroy riparian habitat, in partnership with the County and federal/state/private landowners.
Hatchery operations at QNR’s Lonesome Creek Hatchery in La Push include rearing winter steelhead and summer Chinook. For Coho, the tribe works with state hatcheries off-reservation. QNR closely monitors the health of its hatchery stocks. The Quileute Tribe continues to be an active co-manager in responsible fish disease management.
Quileute does not own significant timber acreage, but works closely with the timber landowners (state, private, and federal) on salmon habitat restoration projects and wildlife/gathering issues. Our Timber Fish Wildlife biologist must be apprised of all the forest practice regulations, as well as salmon recovery protocol. Our biologists, attorney, and policy personnel serve on a number of committees regarding timber harvests and their potential impacts on plant and animal resources, or water quality. We plan and join in a number of restoration projects with the landowners.
The Quileute Tribe is at the cutting edge in developing its very own gathering regulations, to deal with management of “forest products”—the vegetation other than commercially important trees. These are experiencing pressure from the florist industry, so timber landowners desire to manage them. The tribe, having treaty rights to culturally important forest products and the legal right to manage its members, developed an ordinance and regulations, which have received recognition by state and federal agencies.
The tribe uses forest products not only for basketry and traditional cedar clothes (cedar bark source), but also for traditional carving (canoes, rattles, masks, etc.). We also need to cut and gather downed trees for firewood. Additionally, many products are used for food—berries, camas roots, and mushrooms, to name just some.
The Quileute Tribe is actively engaged in co-management of the Roosevelt elk on the Olympic Peninsula, as well as other game such as cougar, black bear, beaver and birds. Recent projects have included surveys on elk population ratio (cow:bull and cow:calf), herd numbers, and body condition (e.g., body fat, pregnancy, parasites, and chronic wasting investigation), funded by BIA and USFWS. Locally, elk do not yet show chronic wasting disease, but suffer from a number of other stresses related to hunting practices and available forage. Our data, combined with other studies, will help to adjust management protocol as needed.
We are also working with the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary to keep track of beached birds (survey and provide data) and to train in oil spill response.
The enrollment committee conducts family trees verification, certification of enrollment and provides voter rolls for General tribal, QT School Board and QNR Commttee elections. This is also the program that identifies the tribal members entitled to harvest treaty fish, game, and traditional plants under the Treaty of Olympia.
Quileute Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Officers enforce tribal ordinances and regulations for treaty fishing, hunting, and gathering by way of systematic patrols of the river and U & A.
The ultimate goal of QNR is to serve all of the treaty protected natural resource needs of this tribe.
A summary of our activities are included in a brochure. To download the PDF, click here.
- Natural Resources
- The Treaty of Olympia
- Important Links
- Committee and Policy Representatives
- Enrollment Committee
- Staff Directory
- Shellfish Hotline
- Elders' Traditions
- Climate Change
- Subproceeding No. 09-1