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The Quileute Nation

The Quileute, along with several other tribes represented in the book, (Ref: Yakama, Colville, Jamestown S'Klallam, Kalispel, Lower Elwha, Lummi, Makah, Muckleshoot, Quinault, Spokane, Suquamish, Upper Skagit) belong to the Northwest Coast peoples ( The Northwest Coast is a strip of land no more than 100 miles (160km) at its widest point, but stretching from the mouth of the Columbia River at the southern end of Washington State, all the way through British Colombia to southern Alaska in the north. The region -- corseted between the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Cascade Mountain Range in the east -- was relatively isolated from the rest of North America until, starting in the late seventeenth century, English and Russian fur traders moved into the area with the usual disastrous effects on Native inhabitants.) whose advanced and diverse cultural groups predate by several millennia the fifteenth-century European exploration of North America. By the fourteenth century, the Northwest Coast was the most densely populated area in North America with some 60-70,000 inhabitants (Indians of the Northwest, Petra Press, Running Press Book Publishers, 1997.). Of these, only about 32,000 remain today among the 28 Federally-recognized Native tribes in Washington States (Ref 3); the Quileute tribe enrollment in 1995 was 736 people (Indian Service Population and Labor Force Estimates, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1995, pp. 16-17.) and their land trust was 804 acres (325 hectares) (Annual report of Indian Lands, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1985.).

The tribal lands on the Olympic Peninsula near La Push, Washington, overlook the Pacific Ocean about 40 miles (64km) south of Cape Flattery,the state's most northwesterly tip, home of the Makah. Ms. Barbara Bocek from the Quileute Historic Preservation Office sent us a picture of the flag along with a description to which Mr. Allen Black added important details. According to them, the background of the flag is light gold or beige. The name "Quileute Tribe" in heavy black cursive script stretches on a black-borderedred banner across the top of the central design, which is contained in a semi-circle with the light-gold (or beige) sky above and the blue ocean below.

Dominating the lower part of the ocean is that essential means of transportation for all Northwest coast peoples -- the canoe. "Canoes meant survival,"writes Petra Press, "... Sharp-ended canoes were built for rough ocean water and river rapids, while blunt-ended ones were designed for still-water navigation" (see Reference 2, p. 20.). Interestingly, the right end of the black canoe in the Quileute flag is sharp-ended, while the other appears blunt-ended. The canoe carries a pair of angled red stripes at each end and the legend "Since 1889" in thin white cursive script between the pairs of stripes. At each end of the canoe, to the foreground, a white killer whale is outlined and highlighted in with heavy black borders ( "The whale hunt, typically performed by eight highly trained men in a single ocean-going canoe made of red-cedar, using nothing more than mussel-shell harpoons and spruce-root ropes ... The hunt became exciting after the orca whale was hit by a harpoon. The contest could go on for days, the wounded creature diving as deep as twelve hundred feet (366m) and then breaking through the water's surface for air, whipping the see into foam with its powerful tail and spouting a twenty-foot (6m) geyser of blood through its blowhole, all the while dragging the canoe at a ferocious speed across the ocean. Sometimes, before it finally died, the wounded whale would turn and attack the boat." (ibid., p. 17-18)). In the background are 2 light-brown islands with dark-brown highlights and dominated by green fir trees and grassy moss. In the far background, between and above the islands float 3 black eagles under billowing white clouds. Below the central image are the words "La Push, Washington" in heavy black cursive script, indicating the location of the tribe.

Ms. Bocek describes the symbolism of the flag as follows:

"Everything shown on the flag is important to the identity of Quileute people. Our land borders the ocean and so most of our foods came from it. The ocean was our provider not only for food, but for clothing and tools andspiritual cleansing as well. The whales are on the flag because of the five men's societies one was dedicated to the whale, and this whalingsociety was the strongest of the five. The canoe was our means of travel and hunting for whale and seal, it was the way of life for the Quileutein the past and brings us together as a people in the present. The canoe says "Since 1889" because that's the date of our Federalrecognition as a Tribe. The island are called in Quileute A-KA-Lat, or James Island and Little James Island. The islands are a central focus ofthe village, lying just offshore of the ocean at the mouth of the Quileute River. A-KA-Lat has one of our oldest village sites. The island was used a burial site for the chiefs and as fortress. There are often eagles flying over A-KA-Lat, and they nest there as well."

The flag resulted from a contest held in the late 1980's, with the winning design formally adopted by Tribal Council resolution.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603