The Puyallup Indians have lived along the shores of Puget Sound for thousands of years. In our native language we were known as S'Puyalupubsh, meaning "generous and welcoming behavior to all people (friends and strangers) who enter our lands."
We are part of the Salish speaking people of the Pacific Northwest. Our particular dialect is called the "Lushootseed." Our relatives in the neighboring tribes all spoke the same stock language, but many had different dialects. Many were intimately related by marriage and we were connected by common religion observances, myths and traditions.
The Puyallups were one of the tribes that signed the Treaty of Medicine Creek in 1854 with Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens. This treaty established the boundaries of the Puyallup Reservation and spelled out specific rights for tribal members such as access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds.
In the modern era the Puyallups have been known as a people who stand up for our rights. In the decades the followed Medicine Creek, our rights to fish slowly eroded. Tribal members engaged in actions to demand our traditional rights. These efforts attracted national attention, such as when actor Marlon Brando was arrested during a “fish-in” with tribal leaders along the banks of the Puyallup River in 1964.
Ten years later Federal Judge George Boldt handed down what came to be known as the Boldt decision in the historic case of U.S. vs. Washington. His decision allocated 50 percent of the annual catch to the Puyallups and other treaty tribes in western Washington.
In the 1980s representatives of the Tribe engaged in negotiations with governmental bodies at the local, state and federal level regarding the Tribe’s traditional lands in the Tacoma area. In 1990 the Tribe formally accepted a settlement of $162 million in cash, real estate and economic development programs in exchange for giving up claims to about 18,000 acres along Commencement Bay. This resolved disputes over property titles and allowed Port of Tacoma to develop land for shipping terminals and other industrial uses.