History & Culture - Tulalip Today

A Living Culture

Our oral traditions tell us that we have always been here.

Tulalip is a place — a spectacularly beautiful, sheltered bay on the eastern shore of Washington’s Puget Sound. The Salish word for it is dxʷlilap. It means “far to the end” and refers to how canoes entering the bay had to cut a wide berth around the sandbar on the south side to avoid running aground.

Tulalip Tribes

If you look among the historical listings of the early groups of Coastal Salish people who lived below the line that separates Canada and the U.S., you won’t find a reference to “Tulalip” (pronounced Tuh’-lay-up) Indians until modern times.

The “Tulalip Tribes” are the direct descendants of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other signers of the Treaty of Point Elliott who collectively ceded our ancestral lands and then relocated to the Tulalip Reservation. After living alongside one another in Tulalip for seventy-nine years, there was an agreement to form a single governmental structure under the auspices of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

Learn more about our “nation within a nation” status.

Culture & Traditions


Lushootseed - Our sacred language

We aspire to be “living records” of our first language. To preserve the x̌əč̓usadad (traditional training, teaching) of the people of Tulalip by protecting its records and by becoming “living records” ourselves who by speaking, teaching and involvement in living culture pass on to the tribal community what we have learned.

Photo credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, #NA657


Canoes - Gifted to us by the sacred old growth cedar tree

Canoes were once a mode of transportation for our people. There were an ocean, hunting, canoes, racing, war, and river canoes. In a land once dominated by old growth forests, our people were gifted the canoes by the sacred cedar tree. The waterways were our highways.

Photo credit: MOHAI, Ferdinand Brady Collection, #MOHAI 88.11.25


Lifeways (x̌əč̓usadad) - Our traditional teachings

Our lifeways are teachings and values. They have always been followed to protect what we need in order to live. x̌əč̓usadad encompasses our traditional teachings, stories, history, food, language, and instructions for rites of passage. It is a sacred knowledge that is honored in order to live as one with the land. It is our responsibility to honor the earth so it can sustain future generations.

Photo credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, #NA858

Salmon Ceremony

Salmon Ceremony - Honoring the return of King Salmon

Each spring our people watch for the yellow butterfly. It is a sign of the return of King Salmon. We honor the life of the salmon each year so that it will return to us.

Photo credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, #NA709