Working with tribal governments

Ecology works with Tribes in a government-to-government relationship to protect and manage shared natural resources and to cooperate across jurisdictions. The unique legal status of Tribes and the presence of treaty-reserved rights and cultural interests throughout the state create a special relationship between Tribes and agencies responsible for managing and protecting the state's natural resources.

Native American Tribes and communities have been in the Northwest for at least 10,000 years. Currently, there are 29 federally recognized Tribes in Washington State. Each of these Tribes continues to have close connections to its aboriginal territories and twenty-one tribes have treaty reserved rights to fish and other natural resources throughout much of the state. Additionally, several out-of-state Tribes have treaty rights or traditional territories within the state.

Under eight treaties negotiated by Territorial Governor Stevens on behalf of the United States, Tribes ceded 64 million acres of land to the U.S. for non-Indian settlement and the subsequent establishment of Washington State. Tribes retained about 6 million acres of reservation land and specifically retained the right to take fish in their “usual and accustomed” areas along with the privilege of hunting on “open and unclaimed lands,” among other things.

Today, Tribes continue to possess property and self-government rights that are guaranteed under treaties and federal laws and each tribal reservation in the state constitutes a bordering jurisdiction subject to federal and tribal environmental laws.

Government to government relationship

Under the 1989 State/Tribal Centennial Accord and the 2012 State/Tribal Relations Act (Chapter 122, Laws of 2012), we maintain a government-to-government relationship with Tribes. We are fully committed to the principals of government-to-government consultation and cooperation with Tribes consistent with our mission to protect, preserve, and enhance Washington’s environment, and promote the wise management of our land, air, and water for the benefit of current and future generations.

We work with Tribes and the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to ensure that ground-disturbing activities under the agency’s purview are compliant with federal and state historical and archeological preservation laws. Learn more about opportunities for financing historic preservation projects.

Our Centennial Accord Implementation plan is available at the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs website.

We also have maps showing tribal locations and ceded lands.