Snohomish tribal leader builds on interest in Chimacum/Peninsula heritage

CHIMACUM — Standing on the banks of Chimacum Creek, Nancy McDaniel looks into the swirling waters and sees reflections of the past.

They show her visions of the days when her ancestors camped at the creek mouth to harvest salmon and shellfish.

As the creek glides silently into Admiralty Inlet, it speaks to her of births and deaths of generations, including her great-great grandmother, who lived along its shores.

It speaks of a way of life that time has washed away, leaving almost no trace.

Now, she is working to restore a tangible legacy of that heritage to the Chimacum area that has been home to Snohomish peoples for generations.

“I think what’s unusual about it is that while we’re not recognized, we’re not just sitting here,” McDaniel said.

“We’re pursuing our culture, having powwows and council meetings. Our focus is on maintaining our culture and trying to build some way to maintain ourselves financially.”

Tribal chairwoman

McDaniel is chairwoman of the Snohomish tribe, the descendants of Native Americans who once lived along the shores of Puget Sound, including the mouth of Chimacum Creek.

Although not recognized by the federal government, the tribe is developing a vision of the future that encompasses cultural tourism, language and craft classes, and maybe even a tribal center, McDaniel said

“We’ve never had a land base,” she said.

“That’s our goal — to have enough property to have a tribal center with meeting hall, offices, maybe even a museum.

“It’s always been there, always been a part of our quest.”

Pioneer settlers

McDaniel is a descendent of Sally (Klasitook) Bishop-Williams, whose first husband, William Bishop, was one of first settlers in the Chimacum Valley.

She grew up in Chimacum, graduated from the University of Puget Sound, and after 22 years in the Air Force, retired as a colonel.

She moved back home two years ago, and was elected chairman of the Snohomish Tribal Council last September — the first woman to hold that post.

Five of the seven members of the council live in south Jefferson County, and the tribal office, now in Edmonds, is moving to Port Hadlock in February, McDaniel said.

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