Ambassador - K.T. Cox
Location - Willapa Bay - Bruceport Campground
Click here for directions and other accomodations close by.
History – Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe
Ceremony Site - Originally a small Indian village called "Wa-Hoot-San" or "Hwa'hots", today this campground offers tent and RV camping with sites nestled in the trees along the banks of Willapa Bay.
The Shoalwater Bay Indian Reservation was created by executive presidential order on September 22, 1866. A 355 acre piece of land was set aside by the order for “Miscellaneous Indian purposes”
The “Miscellaneous Indians” the order speaks of were the last remaining holdouts of Willapa Chinook, Lower Chehalis, and Willapa Hills People that refused to relocate to other reservations.
The reservation was set aside with the intent that these last holdouts would have their own reserved lands for fishing, shellfish harvesting, and potato farming.
Today the descendants of these people make up the enrolled members of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe.
In the days before European settlement the shores of Shoalwater Bay were a mix of a bountiful natural environment and many native villages. The north end of bay around the present day reservation was populated predominantly by Lower Chehalis speaking peoples. The Southern end of the bay, near present day Bay Center and southward was inhabited by Willapa Chinook peoples. For as long as anyone can remember trade and intermarriage between the two groups has been very frequent. Intermarriage was so strong infact that even today the Shoalwater Bay Tribe has very close family and cultural ties with the Chinook nation. The original territory of the Shoalwater Bay peoples was a vast network of waterways along the coast. For the Lower Chehalis Shoalwater’s the village of Naahps Chaahts (today’s reservation) was the southern tip of the territory. From there it extended northward to “ts- a-lis” the lower Chehalis word for Westport meaning “place of sand.” Early explores pronounced the word “Chehalis” and gave this name to the river and the people living upriver who later became the Chehalis tribe. From Westport the territory went east up the Chehalis river about to present day Satsop Wa. Willapa Chinook territory started around the Raymond, South Bend, and Bay Center half of the bay, and extended down to the mouth of the Columbia river where it met the territory of the lower Chinook peoples. It should be noted however that do to intermarriage and good relations between these peoples the boundaries both physical and culture were not concrete.
Today the people of the Shoalwater Bay no longer freely roam the Chehalis and Columbia rivers. Our territory has shrunk to the present day reservation and a handful of nearby properties purchased by the tribe. Our people still have deep connection to our ancestral homelands however and many of our tribal members are living within those anscetral lands from Ilwaco to Aberdeen and everywhere in between. Today there are just over 300 enrolled members of the tribe. Around 100 of these live on or near the reservation. With many more tribal members living all around the world.
The culture and heritage of our people is strong. Sometimes it may be hard to see since many of our traditions have been blended with modern life, but our culture is alive and well. Children are still told family stories from long ago, gathering of the people such as general council, Saturday parent group, and other ceremonies are still held. Many of our people still hold true too traditional spiritual beliefs and practices, sometimes blending them with Christian traditions.
Today we also seek to ensure a strong future. We have developed many programs to ensure future generations will prosper. From business venture such as the casino and wellness center to education programs and cultural activities for the children, we look forward to the years ahead.
A few words for Visitors,
It is a large part of the culture of our people to be good hosts. We love having visitors and always aim to treat them very well. We are however still deep rooted in many traditions and politely ask that during your visit you please observer the following Do’s and Don’ts.
Please show utmost respect to our people while visiting, especially our Elders and High Ranking tribesmen. It is considered a severe insult to show disrespect of honored elders, council people, and spiritual leaders. Feel free to visit our Tribal Community center, wellness center, and Library. Please respect our lands and stay on marked roads and paths. If you have questions about tribal life, ask them. Just remember to be respectful.
Please do not stray off any unmarked paths or go in areas you are unsure of.
Do not enter the cemetery with out permission or an escort, this is very disrespectful.
Most importantly please do not enter our homelands with a bad attitude, our people love smiles.
For more information please contact the Shoalwater Bay Heritage Department @
On Saturday August, 23rd 2008 the Shoalwater Bay and Chinook Indian Tribes rekindled a fire that has been dormant for many years. Several people representing both tribes gathered to witness a grand event. For the first time in anyone’s memory canoes filled with pullers, made their way from Toke’s point to Bay Center. There were six canoes total representing the Shoalwater Bay, Chinook, & Grande Ronde Tribes. Some 40 or so canoe pullers, made the journey across the bay, when they arrived in bay center they were welcomed by the sounds of drumming and the smells of a salmon bake.
Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is located on Willapa Bay, one of the most pristine estuaries in the United States. Willapa Bay is the second largest estuary on the Pacific coast and includes over 260 square miles of water surface. Many salmon species are found in the watters of Willapa Bay, including chum, chinook, and coho.
The refuge preserves several unique ecosystems, including diverse salt marshes, muddy tideflats, rain-drenched old growth forests, and dynamic coastal dunes and beaches. Freshwater marshes and grasslands are found along the southern shore of the bay.
The bay's shallow water and mud flats support vast beds of eelgrass and shellfish, providing spawning habitat for fish. During spring migration, more than 100,000 shorebirds are present. Isolated sandbars provide pupping grounds for harbor seals and rest sites for migratory birds.
Seabirds, such as brown pelicans, stream into the bay from the ocean in summer and fall. Other coastal habitats include sand dunes, sand beaches, and mud flats to grasslands, saltwater and freshwater marshes, and coniferous forest, including an old-growth stand of western red cedar-western hemlock forest.
Important species include the threatened marbled murrelet, bald eagles, great blue herons, and Brant. Grasslands and neighboring forests are home to bear, elk, bobcat, woodpeckers, flying squirrels, spotted owls, silver-haired bats, and Pacific tree frogs.
Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is over 15,000 acres of tidelands, temperate rainforest, ocean beaches, and small streams. It also includes several rare remnants of old growth coastal cedar forest. The Refuge preserves habitat for spawning wild salmon, hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds, and threatened and endangered species such as the marbled murrelet. The Refuge is a great place to see what the Pacific Northwest looked like 100 years ago.
The Refuge is located in southwestern Washington on Willapa Bay, one of the most pristine estuaries in the United States. Willapa Bay is the second largest estuary on the Pacific Coast and includes over 260 square miles of water surface. The Refuge was established in 1937 to protect migrating and wintering populations of brant, waterfowl, shorebirds, and other migratory birds. The Refuge was established at a time when many estuaries were rapidly being destroyed by diking, draining, dredging, sedimentation, and pollution.
The Refuge preserves a number of unique ecosystems including diverse salt marshes, rich tideflats, rain-drenched old growth forest, and dynamic coastal dunes.
Visitors to the refuge can enjoy viewing a wide variety of wildlife, from spawning salmon in the Refuge's numerous streams, Roosevelt elk on Long Island, and the tens of thousands of migrating shorebirds that crowd the beaches at Leadbetter Point and shores of Willapa Bay.