Naming of a park on West Bay in Olympia
The City of StehChass - Home of the People of the Water
For more than 12,000 years, this area of Budd Inlet was home to an
extended family, a city of people who lived in longhouses, fished and
collected shellfish on the shores and tidal flats of what is now known
The ancient city was called StehChass (stuchus), and the descendants of
those people are known today as the Squaxin Island Tribe, or People of
the Water. StehChass was a terminus for both land and water routes, and
the canoe was the preferred choice for transportation. In the 1800s,
even as StehChass was being displaced by what is now Olympia, the
annual canoe races on Budd Inlet were still a popular event enjoyed by
both Native Americans and settlers. After the Puget Sound Indian War of
1855 - 56, most local American Indian people were relocated onto tribal
reservations at Nisqually or Squaxin Island, although autonomous bands
remained in Olympia as late as 1879.
The area around the 4th Avenue Bridge has an ongoing place in the rich
history of the Squaxin Island Tribe. Each year, the tribe still
exercises their fishing rights in the waters below the span. Using gill
nets and beach seines, as they have done for centuries, Squaxin people
harvest food for their families reaffirming the important ties to the
land and water which sustain them. The Boldt Decision of 1974
reaffirmed Squaxin Island Tribe's legitimate and ancient claims
Archaeological remnants of seasonal Salish campsites have been found at
Priest Point Park, along the shores of Capitol Lake and along the coves
of Budd Inlet. No trace of a permanent village is known to have
survived the extensive dredging and filling that reshaped Olympia's
waterfront nearly 100 years ago.
I make this suggestion as someone who lives on Budd Inlet, who grew up
on those waters and is raising her children on those waters. In my
heart I pay respect to the ancestors that lived on the land before me
and my family. In my heart I feel that the
mud underneath the mud remembers it was an estuary; that those
estuarine waters nurtured the People of the Water. I think the name and
the story will help locals be connected to that place and share with
visitors our sense of place, here at the very base of the Puget Sound.
I also would like to note that I make this suggestion on my own accord.
There may be others that agree. If you like this name, then it would be
good to approach Squaxin Island Tribe about appropriate protocol.
Submitted by an Olympia citizen