Law | Trust

Swinomish Tribe seeks recognition of original treaty boundary

An aerial view of March Point in Skagit County, Washington, which the Swinomish Tribe claims as part of its reservation. Photo by J Brew

The Swinomish Tribe of Washington is seeking recognition of the reservation it was promised by the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott.

Chairman Brian Cladoosby told The Anacortes American that the the boundaries were changed by an executive order in 1873. But he said then-president Ulysses S. Grant lacked the authority to do so.

“Our people have been fighting for this since 1873,” Cladoosby told the paper.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Nebraska v. Parker, only Congress can diminish a reservation. The March 22 ruling was unanimous.

Despite the clear legal underpinnings, the tribe's proposal has stirred up controversy. A letter and map released by in Skagit County warns landowners of an "annex" of their properties into the reservation.

"We're not here to take over your home. We're not here to take your property," Vice Chairman Brian Porter told KING5 News. "It's just a matter of jurisdiction, regulation."

The tribe has asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to recognize that its reservation includes an area known as March Point. That area is home to two oil refineries that generated $9.7 million in tax revenue in 2015, The Anacortes American reported.

Read More on the Story:
Swinomish want historic reservation reinstated (The Anacortes American 12/14)
Swinomish plan to expand reservation could have major impact (KING 5 12/5)

U.S. Supreme Court Decision:
Nebraska v. Parker (March 22, 2016)

U.S. Supreme Court Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Docket Sheet No. 14-1406 | Questions Presented | Hearing List: January 2016

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Supreme Court enters final stretch of historic yet unusual term (06/20)
Supreme Court ruling emboldens tribes in another boundary case (03/25)
Supreme Court backs Omaha Tribe in reservation boundary case (03/22)