Last updated
Flag of the Quileute Tribe.PNG
Total population
Enrolled members: 2,000
Regions with significant populations
United States (Washington)
English, formerly Quileute language
Related ethnic groups
Chimakum (extinct)

The Quileute /ˈkwɪlit/ , [1] also known as the Quillayute /kwɪˈl.t/ , are a Native American people in western Washington state in the United States, currently numbering approximately 2,000. They are a federally recognized tribe: the Quileute Tribe of the Quileute Reservation.


The Quileute people were forced onto the Quileute Indian Reservation ( 47°54′23″N124°37′30″W / 47.90639°N 124.62500°W / 47.90639; -124.62500 ) after signing the Quinault Treaty in 1855. Their reservation is located near the southwest corner of Clallam County, Washington, at the mouth of the Quillayute River on the Pacific coast. The reservation's main population center is the community of La Push, Washington. The 2000 census reported an official resident population of 371 people on the reservation, which has a land area of 4.061 km² (1.5678 sq mi, or 1,003.4 acres).

The Quileute language belongs to the Chimakuan family of languages among Northwest Coast indigenous peoples. The Quileute language is an isolate, as the only related aboriginal people to the Quileute, the Chimakum, were destroyed by Chief Seattle and the Suquamish people during the 1860s. The Quileute language is one of only six known languages lacking nasal sounds (i.e., m and n). [2]

Like many Northwest Coast nations, in precontact times the Quileute relied on fishing from local rivers and the Pacific Ocean for food. They built plank houses (longhouses) to protect themselves from the harsh, wet winters west of the Cascade Mountains. The Quileute, along with the Makah, were once also whalers.


The Quileute tribe is governed by a democratically elected tribal council, who served in staggered, three-year terms. The tribe's current administration is:

Artwork and material culture

Historically the Quileute were talented builders and craftsmen. Like many other tribes in the region, they were excellent boat and canoe makers. They could make canoes for whaling, which could hold tons of cargo and many men. They had cedar canoes ranging in size from small boats that could hold two people to giant vessels up to 58 metres (190 ft) long and capable of holding up to 6,000 pounds. The modern clipper ship's hull uses a design much like the canoes used by the Quileutes. The Quileutes used the resources from the land to make tools and other items. In the region, almost everything was made out of wood. Necessities like utensils, clothing, weapons, and paints were made from the available natural resources. In terms of arts and crafts, the Quileute Tribe is best known for their woven baskets and dog-hair blankets. The tribe would raise specially bred, woolly dogs for their hair, which they would spin and weave into blankets. They would also weave incredibly fine baskets that were so tightly woven that they could hold water. They could boil water in some of them. Using cedar bark, they made waterproof skirts and hats to shield their bodies against the heavy rainfall in the region.


The Quileute have extensive knowledge of the medicinal qualities of their homelands' flora. They use velvetleaf huckleberries, Vaccinium myrtilloides , by eating the uncooked berries, stewing the berries to make a sauce, and canning the berries and using them as food. [4]

Religion and cosmology

The Quileute's belief system holds that every person had an individual guardian. They would pray to the guardian, along with the sun and Tsikáti (the universe). Much of their original religion was lost after the disruption of European encounter, diseases, losses and colonization. [5] James Island, an island visible from First Beach, has played a role in all aspects of Quileute beliefs and culture. Originally called A-Ka-Lat ("Top of the Rock"), it was used as a fortress to keep opposing tribes out and served as a burial ground for chiefs.

As told much in their folklore, the Quileute descended from wolves. Quileute myths proclaim that the two-sided mythical character known as Dokibatt and K’wa’iti was responsible for creating the first human of the Quileute tribe by transforming a wolf. In the beginning there were five tribal societies that represented the elk hunter, the whale hunter, the fisherman, the weather predictor, and the medicine man. The medicine man honored the creator with the wolf dance. Quileute folklore is still very much alive in the area of the Quileute Nation near La Push. [6]


The Quileute tribe speaks a language called Quileute or Quillayute, which is part of the Chimakuan family of languages. The Chimakum, who also spoke a Chimakuan language (called Chemakum, Chimakum, or Chimacum,) were the only other group of people to speak a language from this language family.

In 1999, the last native speaker of the Quileute language died, meaning the language is considered extinct, although three or four users in their 50s retain some knowledge of vocabulary. [7] Up until then, it was spoken only by tribal elders at La Push, and some of the Makah.[ citation needed ]

Quileute is one of the 13 known languages that are recorded to have no nasal consonants. [8] The tribe is now trying to prevent the loss of the language by teaching it in the Quileute Tribal School, using books written for the students by the tribal elders. [9]

The Quileute Nation Culture and Language Committee released a language and culture app in 2021 in an effort to preserve the language and culture of their people. [10] Efforts to introduce Quileute phrases into everyday life was started in 2007 through the Quileute Revitalization Project, by providing tribe members with accessible information on basic vocabulary words and phrases. [11] The Quileute Nation has continued this project through downloadable alphabet sheets and providing audiobooks read in Quileute. [12]


The Quileute relationship with Europeans and Euro-Americans began with encounters between the Quileute and the crews of European ships. Quileute tradition suggests that the earliest encounter was with Spanish sailors who shipwrecked somewhere north of La Push. [13] Another potential the early encounter was with the crew of the he Spanish schooner Sonora, captained by Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra in 1775. The Sonora encountered several Indians in the waters near the mouth of the Quinault River. After some trading, the encounter culminated in bloodshed with several Indians killed, and six Spaniards killed or enslaved. [14] While the encounter is generally considered to have been between the Quinault people and the Spanish, some authors believe the encounter may have involved the Quileute. [15] In 1787, a small boat crew from the Imperial Eagle was killed by Indians near Destruction Island. The Columbia traded for furs with the village of La Push in 1792. [15] The Russian schooner Nikolai ran aground on a beach north of the Quillayute River in 1808. The crew was killed or enslaved. [16]

Quileute tradition has many accounts of un-dated shipwrecks. One is of a French side-wheeled paddle steamer. The shipwrecked crew lived at La Push for many years, and called the mouth of the river "La Bouche." Possibly, this is the source of the village's current name: La Push. [15]

The first official negotiations with the United States government occurred in 1855 when Isaac Stevens and the Quileute signed the Treaty of Olympia. They ceded great amounts of land and agreed to resettle on the Quinault Reservation. [17]

ARTICLE 1. The said tribes and bands hereby cede, relinquish, and convey to the United States all their right, title, and interest in and to the lands and country occupied by them…

Article 11 of the Treaty of Olympia was a single sentence:

ARTICLE 11. The said tribes and bands agree to free all slaves now held by them, and not to purchase or acquire others hereafter.

This article took away an integral part of the culture of the Northwest Coastal tribes, the rights to possess slaves. Their culture had been focused on possessions and they had always owned slaves. Later, in 1882, A.W. Smith came to La Push to teach the native children. He made a school and started to change the names of the people from tribal names to ones from the Bible. In 1889, after years of this not being enforced, President Cleveland gave the Quileute tribe the La Push reservation. 252 residents moved there and in 1894, 71 people from the Hoh River got their own reservation. In 1889, a non-native individual who wanted the land at La Push started a fire that burned down all the houses on the reservation, along with many artifacts from the days before the Europeans came.[ citation needed ]

Quileute Tribal School

The Quileute Tribal School serves K-12 tribal and non-tribal students from La Push, Forks, and the Hoh Reservation. The school has an elected five member school board and a hired superintendent. In 2020-2021 131 students from 14 different tribal heritages were enrolled. [18] The school is currently the focus of the organization 'Move to Higher Ground' which hopes to relocate the school outside of the current tsunami zone. [19] Ground was broken on July 1, 2020 for a new campus. Classes are set to begin in the new campus in fall of 2022. [20]

Quileute tribe in fiction

In Susan Sharpe's 1991 novel Spirit Quest, eleven-year-old Aaron Singer spends part of his summer vacation on the Quileute Indian Reservation in Washington. There he becomes friends with Robert, a Quileute boy. At the encouragement of his family, who no longer incorporate many of their traditions into daily life, Robert attends tribal school to learn Quileute language and culture. At Aaron's urging, the boys go together on their version of a "spirit quest", where Aaron finds and saves a trapped eagle. Though he admires and respects Robert's culture, Aaron realizes that he can never be a part of it the way Robert is. Aaron's initially romantic view is replaced by deeper understanding. [21]

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series features Jacob Black and other werewolf characters, all fictional members of the Quileute tribe and residents of La Push.

Historian Daniel Immerwahr posits that the Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune are based off of Herbert's interactions with Henry Martin, or Han-daa-sho, a fisherman who lived on the Quileute reservation in La Push, Washington. [22]

Related Research Articles

Moclips, Washington Census-designated place in Washington, United States

Moclips is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Grays Harbor County, Washington, United States. The population was 207 at the 2010 census. It is located near the mouth of the Moclips River.

Makah Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast

The Makah are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast living in Washington, in the northwestern part of the continental United States. They are enrolled in the federally recognized Makah Indian Tribe of the Makah Indian Reservation.

Quinault people Native American peoples

The Quinault are a group of Native American peoples from western Washington in the United States. They are a Southwestern Coast Salish people and are enrolled in the federally recognized Quinault Tribe of the Quinault Reservation.

Chemakum is an extinct Chimakuan language once spoken by the Chemakum, a Native American group that once lived on western Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. It was very similar to the Quileute language, the only surviving Chimakuan language. In the 1860s, Chief Seattle and the Suquamish people killed many of the Chimakum people. In 1890, Franz Boas found only three speakers, and they spoke it imperfectly. A few semi-speakers continued until the 1940s on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula, between Port Townsend and Hood Canal.

Hoh Indian Tribe of the Hoh Indian Reservation

The Hoh or Chalá·at are a Native American tribe in western Washington state in the United States. The tribe lives on the Pacific Coast of Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. The Hoh moved onto the Hoh Indian Reservation, 47°44′31″N124°25′17″W at the mouth of the Hoh River, on the Pacific Coast of Jefferson County, after the signing of the Quinault Treaty on July 1, 1855. The reservation has a land area of 1.929 square kilometres and a 2000 census resident population of 102 persons, 81 of whom were Native Americans. It lies about halfway between its nearest outside communities of Forks, to its north, and Queets, to its south. The river is central to their culture. The main resources they used included cedar trees, salmon, and the nearby vegetation. They also traded and bartered with other tribes closer to Eastern Washington, near the Plateaus and Great Plains.

Quillayute River River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington

The Quillayute River is a river situated on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It empties to the Pacific Ocean at La Push, Washington. The Quillayute River is formed by the confluence of the Bogachiel River, Calawah River and the Sol Duc River. The Dickey River joins the Quillayute just above the river's mouth on the Pacific Ocean.

Chimakuan languages Native American language family

The Chimakuan languages are a group of extinct languages that were spoken in northwestern Washington state, United States, on the Olympic Peninsula. They are part of the Mosan sprachbund, and one of its languages is famous for having no nasal consonants. The two languages were about as close as English and German.

Chimakum Near-extinct ethnic group of Washington state, US

The Chimakum, also spelled Chemakum and Chimacum are a near extinct Native American people, who lived in the northeastern portion of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, between Hood Canal and Discovery Bay until their virtual extinction in 1902. Their primary settlements were on Port Townsend Bay, on the Quimper Peninsula, and Port Ludlow Bay to the south.

La Push, Washington Unincorporated community in Washington, United States

La Push is a small unincorporated community situated at the mouth of the Quillayute River in Clallam County, Washington, United States. La Push is the largest community within the Quileute Indian Reservation, which is home to the federally recognized Quileute tribe. La Push is known for its whale-watching and natural environment. The community has historically been located on the coast, however sea level rise led the community to begin managed retreat to higher grounds in 2017.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is one of 15 marine sanctuaries administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Declared in 1994, the sanctuary encompasses 3,189 square miles (8,260 km2) of the Pacific Ocean along the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, from Cape Flattery in the north, to the mouth of the Copalis River, a distance of about 162.5 miles (261.5 km). Extending 25 to 40 miles from the shore, it includes most of the continental shelf, as well as parts of three important submarine canyons, the Nitinat Canyon, the Quinault Canyon and the Juan de Fuca Canyon. For 64 miles (103 km) along the coast, the sanctuary shares stewardship with the Olympic National Park. Sanctuary stewardship is also shared with the Hoh, Quileute, and Makah Tribes, as well as the Quinault Indian Nation. The sanctuary overlays the Flattery Rocks, Quillayute Needles, and Copalis Rock National Wildlife Refuges.

Tribal Canoe Journeys

Tribal Canoe Journeys is a celebrated event for the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Founded in 1989, this event has been held annually to bring together members of Indigenous nations from the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon and Washington. Members of some nations have used this event to revive traditional techniques of timber harvesting, making large, ocean-going canoes, and teaching canoe skills to new generations. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Canoe Journeys for 2020 and 2021 were postponed.

Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast

The Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast are composed of many nations and tribal affiliations, each with distinctive cultural and political identities. They share certain beliefs, traditions and practices, such as the centrality of salmon as a resource and spiritual symbol, and many cultivation and subsistence practices. The term Northwest Coast or North West Coast is used in anthropology to refer to the groups of Indigenous people residing along the coast of what is now called British Columbia, Washington State, parts of Alaska, Oregon, and Northern California. The term Pacific Northwest is largely used in the American context.

James Island (La Push, Washington)

James Island is at the mouth of the Quillayute River near La Push, Washington. Local historians say it is named for Francis Wilcox James, a lighthouse keeper and friend of the Quileute Indians there, though the Origin of Washington Geographic Names attributes the name to Jimmie Howeshatta, a Quileute chief.

Quileute, sometimes alternatively anglicized as Quillayute, is an extinct language, and was the last Chimakuan language, spoken natively until the end of the 20th century by Quileute and Makah elders on the western coast of the Olympic peninsula south of Cape Flattery at La Push and the lower Hoh River in Washington state, United States. The name Quileute comes from kʷoʔlí·yot’[kʷoʔléːjotʼ], the name of a village at La Push.

Quileute Tribal School K-12 school in La Push, Washington

Quileute Tribal School (QTS) is a Quileute, Native American school located in La Push, Washington. It is a K-12 school, serving students in grades kindergarten – 12. QTS is affiliated with the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). It has a compact with the state of Washington and receives a grant from the BIE.

The Quinault Treaty was a treaty agreement between the United States and the Native American Quinault and Quileute tribes located in the western Olympic Peninsula north of Grays Harbor, in the recently formed Washington Territory. The treaty was signed on 1 July 1855, at the Quinault River, and on 25 January 1856 at Olympia, the territorial capital. It was ratified by Congress on 8 March 1859, and proclaimed law on April 11, 1859.

Quillayute may refer to:

Quileute Indian Reservation Indian reservation in United States, Quileute

The Quileute Indian Reservation is an Indian reservation for the Quileute people located on the southwestern Olympic Peninsula in Clallam County, Washington, United States. The reservation is at the mouth of the Quillayute River on the Pacific coast.

Quinault Indian Nation Ethnic group

The Quinault Indian Nation, formerly known as the Quinault Tribe of the Quinault Reservation, is a federally recognized tribe of Quinault, Queets, Quileute, Hoh, Chehalis, Chinook, and Cowlitz peoples. They are a Southwestern Coast Salish people of indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Their tribe is located in Washington state on the Pacific coast of the Olympic Peninsula. These peoples are also represented in other tribes in Washington and Oregon.

Quileute Canyon is a submarine canyon, off of Washington state, United States.


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