The Swinomish Tribe is sharing part of its traditional tribal lands with the public, thanks to an innovative partnership.

The tribe and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission have purchased Kiket Island and will manage it together as part of Deception Pass State Park.

The 100-acre island in Similk Bay always has been part of Swinomish tribal lands. For thousands of years before the treaties were signed, the Swinomish people used the island and its tidelands to hunt, fish, gather shellfish and hold cultural ceremonies.

In the late 1800s, Kiket Island was allotted to an individual tribal member. In the 1950s, it was sold out of tribal ownership, but remained within the boundaries of the tribe’s reservation.

About 50 years ago, Seattle City Light and Snohomish County Public Utility District planned to build a nuclear power plant on Kiket Island. Lucky for us, folks had enough sense to throw out that idea after considering what the effects would be on the environment.

It’s rare to find a place like Kiket Island in Puget Sound. To be honest, these small private islands are usually lined with bulkheads and dotted with million-dollar homes. The state and tribe will make sure the island’s old-growth forest, undeveloped shoreline and rich tidelands will be protected and preserved for future generations. Tribal members will continue to be able to exercise their treaty shellfish harvest rights.

Working together to protect habitat that is so important to fish, shellfish and wildlife – that’s exactly the kind of cooperation we need to recover wild salmon, clean up Puget Sound, and tackle the many other challenges facing our environment.

It’s why the Kiket Island partnership is such good news. The more cooperative solutions like this that we can find to help heal Puget Sound, the closer we are to getting it done.

Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually, is chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission in Olympia, Wash., and recipient of the Indian Country Today 2004 American Indian Visionary Award.

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