Self Governance - Tulalip Today

What is Tribal sovereignty?

The Tulalip people govern themselves while providing for the well-being of community members through healthcare, utilities, law enforcement and other services.

Our status as a self-governing nation has been upheld by treaties, court cases, and the U.S. Constitution.

Our sovereignty guarantees our inherent right as a government to raise revenue for our community. In fact, 92% of our government services, family and senior housing, education, health and dental services, law enforcement, fire protection, infrastructure improvements and economic growth are funded from within.

Our government is self-sustaining and provides for our people’s needs with services like family and senior housing, education, health and dental services, law enforcement, fire protection, infrastructure improvements and economic growth.

Today, Tribal government and the people of Tulalip Tribes continue to protect our sovereign right through a number of initiatives:

  • Maintaining a strong Tribal Government
  • Providing Tribal opportunities for education, jobs, land, and housing
  • Improving the tribal community to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing and perpetuating cultural and environmental sensitivity
  • Improving infrastructure on and off the reservation
  • And improving the tribes’ economic base that provides the primary support for a growing population of young Tribal members who now account for over sixty percent of the Tulalip population.

Treaty Reserved Rights

The 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott reserved specific tribal rights which were not ceded to the United States.  An important provision tribal leaders insisted upon was the right to continue to fish in all usual and accustomed grounds and to hunt and gather on all open and unclaimed lands.  These “reserved rights” are rights which were essential to tribal culture, subsistence, and commerce. These rights were not granted in the treaty, rather they were rights that tribes have always possessed and which were protected by the treaty.  The Treaty of Point Elliott contains 15 articles.  In addition to reserving Reservation homelands and tribal rights, the treaty promised education, medical assistance and housing to the tribes.

The Treaty Through Time

Since the signing of the treaty, the Tulalip Tribes, and other local tribes have fought continually to uphold their treaty rights.  In 1974, the tribes in the region won a major fishing battle in the “Boldt” case (The United States v. Washington).  This case reaffirmed the tribes’ treaty-protected fishing rights in all our usual and accustomed places and established the tribes as co-managers of the fisheries resource. Later cases affirmed treaty rights to shellfish and treaty protection against destruction of habitat necessary to support the salmon runs.

Since the turn of the century, many commemorations of the treaty have been held on the Tulalip Reservation.  Treaty Days occur in our longhouse on January 22nd every year and always includes speeches on the importance of upholding the treaty.  In spite of the hardships brought on by the reservation system and the cession of millions of acres of land, the Tulalip Tribes celebrate the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855 as formal recognition by the United States of the Tribes’ inherent right to self-determination as a sovereign and distinct people.  Under the United States constitution, the treaty is the supreme law of the land and it is as legally binding today as it was the day it was signed. The treaty continues to support the tribes’ sovereign right of self-governance, and the protection of fish, animals, lands and waters on which tribal culture depends.