Puyallup Indian Tribe land claim settlement

Puyallup Tribe land claims map. Washington State Archives. Port of Tacoma Records Collection.


On Dec. 26, 1854, over 60 leaders from Indian tribes in western Washington signed the Medicine Creek Treaty, which established boundaries for a number of reservations, including one for the Puyallup Tribe. Over the next century the tribe would lose ownership over much of the land within the reservation.


In the mid-1970s, the tribe began to assert it rights of ownership over land within the historic boundaries of its reservation. After a series of lawsuits that began in the early 1980s, the Puyallup Tribe, the Port of Tacoma, and the cities of Tacoma, Fife, and Puyallup entered into a long negotiation that culminated in the comprehensive settlement of the tribe’s land claims in 1990.


Start with secondary sources 

Use secondary sources to gain basic knowledge of your topic, its significance, and historical context.

Ask a Librarian online at Washington State Library to get expert help in locating useful secondary sources. 


Then use primary sources

Use primary sources to deepen your understanding of the topic, and assemble evidence to support your own analysis and interpretation.

Ask an Archivist online at Washington State Archives to get expert help in locating useful primary sources.


Some key historical research questions:

  • Why did this dispute take a long time to settle?
  • How did the Puyallup Tribe benefit from the settlement?
  • How did the Port of Tacoma, the cities of Tacoma, Fife, and Puyallup, private businesses, and other landowners benefit from the settlement?
  • When did the tribe first start to protest and assert its ownership rights?
  • Who are Frank Wright Jr., Daniel Inouye, Booth Gardner, Jim Waldo, Silas Cross, Henry John, Roleen Hargrove, Manual Lujan Jr., Shirlee Kinney, Debbie Joseph, Leschi, George Boldt, Curtiss Napoeon, Gerhard Gessell, Leo Whitelford and Rod Koon?
  • What role did each play in the process and outcome of the final settlement?
  • What role did the U.S. Department of the Interior play?
  • Why was the Native Claims Act of 1971 important to this process?
  • How did the settlement of the Puyallup Tribe’s land claim reflect the experience of other Indian tribes in the late 20th century?
  • Consider other possibilities for historical questions as you analyze and interpret this topic.


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