Snoquamie Tribe Lived on Lake Sammamish for Centuries
The story of Lake Sammamish State Park begins a long time before state government bought the first 40 acres back in 1950. This land was farmed for over 70 years and, before that, Native Americans lived and passed through for possibly 12,000 years.
The Snoqualmie Tribe claim that archeological digs in the central Puget Sound area show evidence that their people have lived in this area dating back to the Stone Age. As proximity to water was the most important condition for habitation, the shores of Lake Sammamish provided a logical location for settlement.
When the first white settlers arrived, the Snoqualmie Tribe was one of the largest and most feared tribes in the central Puget Sound region. Members of the tribe have indicated that the lands around Lake Sammamish would have fallen under their domain. Some local histories mention a small group called Sammamish belonging to the Duwamish Tribe that lived on the lake and small clusters of 'lake people' who were members of eastern Washington tribes that gathered food and traded with the Indians near here. Snoqualmie member John Mullen discounts the significance of these other groups.
The largest concentration of the tribe resided in the Snoqualmie River watershed but there were several cedar-shake cabins and longhouses located along the edge of Lake Sammamish. Arthur Denny, leader of the first settlement in Seattle, wrote that he guessed the shores of Lake Sammamish may have had up to 200 residents. There are several stories of a longhouse near the mouth of Issaquah Creek in the now-park and John Mullen recalled that there was also one just south of the current boat launch and another near the entrance of the park.
Inside these longhouses, related families would have lived, up to 25-40 people. Food would have been plentiful here, with berries and roots growing profusely, all kinds of game and waterfowl for hunting and salmon and other fish in the lake and creek. Limited archeological searches in the park have found no sign of these longhouses though the mounds that would have been present may have been destroyed when the land was later farmed.
The Elliott Bay Treaty of 1854 sent many of the Snoqualmie members away from their homeland to the Tulalip reservation. Only the most stubborn members stayed in their homes. John told me that the removal of their ancestral home and the huge numbers of deaths due to illness that was brought by the white settlers, turned what was once a very large tribe to one that now has very few members. In 1999, the Tribe gained federal recognition.
Source: Retired LSSP Manager Richard Benson’s history of the park