The Battle over What is Sacred: Development Threatens City, Tribe Relationship

Still looking for an avenue to stop future growth on land they deem to be sacred, the Snoqualmie Tribe and the Save Snoqualmie save fallsFalls coalition plan to rally at Snoqualmie City Hall and address the city council during its Monday, October 12th meeting .

The rally coincides with National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday to honor Native American history and culture. The public is invited to join the coalition at 7PM for their rally to “save sacred Snoqualmie Falls and to protect clean water, forests and open spaces.”

According to a press release, the coalition also plans to request the city council reject a planned 175 home development, which it states is on “ancient burial grounds adjacent to Snoqualmie Falls.”

The land for the home development (includes 15% affordable housing) is owned by the Muckleshoot Tribe and is part of a bigger development agreement that also allows for a future Salish Lodge expansion – which the Muckleshoot Tribe also owns.

According to Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, the home development is slated further north on Tokul Road, beyond the current upper Snoqualmie Falls parking lot and the future Salish expansion –  or “roughly 1/2 mile away and well out of view of the Falls” which is sacred to the Snoqualmie Tribe.

Controversial Tokul Roundabout

Since the City of Snoqualmie began the controversial Tokul Road roundabout project in June, the Save Snoqualmie Falls coalition has been working to stop the development project, calling on the city to stop bulldozing land sacred to the Snoqualmie Tribe.

The coalition feels the discovery of a prehistoric hunting point, estimated to be between 4,500 and 9,000 years old, should’ve halted construction.

According to the City of Snoqualmie, though, the artifact – located exactly in the middle of the large project with little to no encrusted and embedded clay and dirt – was deemed an isolated find by an outside archeologist and did not warrant further National Register eligibility, additional consultation or mitigation, or construction stoppage.

Government Relationship Threatened

Recently the Snoqualmie Tribe Council called out Mayor Larson over his statements they say mischaracterize the Tribe’s opposition to development of land surrounding the Falls and calls into question the Tribe and city’s relationship.

Larson contends during the two years of planning for the new housing development, and over a decade of roundabout planning, the Snoqualmie Tribe did not state the area was sacred burial grounds – and that accusation did not surface until the project was underway.

The Snoqualmie Tribe contends the Falls is a sacred site where members have been practicing cultural ceremonies for centuries – and for decades they have worked to protect the falls and nearby land, noting their past objection to the Falls Crossing development in 2000, where concerns were raised over the area also being a burial ground.

According to the City of Snoqualmie, the Falls Crossing development site and the Tokul development site both underwent similar archeological analysis and study. At the never built Falls Crossing site, which sits high on the south side of the Snoqualmie River, “prehistoric or historic evidence” was found, but no similar evidence was found at the Tokul site where the land surface was determined to have already been extensively disturbed by logging and road and power line construction several decades ago.

Traditional Cultural Property Boundary

Currently the federal government recognizes the Snoqualmie Tribe’s “Traditional Cultural Property” (TCP) as being the bowl of Snoqualmie Falls – and the roundabout is 1/4 mile away. Larson explained the Tribe is in the process of trying to expand their officially recognized TCP boundary to include any area from which the mist of the Falls is visible –  because that land is considered sacred.

Larson stated when the weather is right the mist is visible for half of the Valley, so the Tribe is working to expand its TCP by several miles. He added that the expansion did not include the site of the Snoqualmie Casino nor a potential adjacent hotel.

In any case, it seems the battle over land near Snoqualmie Falls will continue, but it does not appear the construction will stop.

Mayor Larson comment,  “No one would be served by stopping the project mid-way, leaving a large scar in the ground. Once completed and revegetated, this project will provide a much safer and more respectful and beautiful entrance to the Snoqualmie Falls. It will considerably reduce the amount of net paved surfaces and will pull a good bit of the current SR202 alignment away from the Falls and river.”

For more information on the Save Snoqualmie Falls coalition visit their Facebook page.  For more information on the Tokul Road Roundabout project visit the City of Snoqualmie website.








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  • in·dig·e·nous: originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native.
    I’m “indigenous” to the valley and so was my Father, I don’t have a problem with the round about or the development of the areas around the Falls. Not my land, not my say, Happy Lief Erickson Day.

  • Living Snoqualmie