For centuries, a Squaxin village existed at this site called Schictwoot or “place of the bear.”  Vast mud flats surrounding the peninsula at low tide contained abundant shellfish while numerous streams entering the bay supported thriving salmon populations.  Nearby prairies offered convenient hunting while indigenous plants provided food and medicinal herbs.  Other tribes including the Nisqually, Chehalis, Puyallup, Suquamish and Duwamish shared access to these resources through reciprocal agreements and familial ties with the Squaxin people and some maintained seasonal dwellings along Budd Inlet.

Schictwoot was the northern end of the primary trade route between the Columbia River and Puget Sound, later called the “Cowlitz Trail.”  Here travelers rested and acquired canoes for their journey “down Sound” or horses for their trip south overland.  When American settlers arrived, they took up claims near the Squaxin village in order to trade with the people living there and fellow settlers passing through.

Natives remained a large presence in Olympia well after American settlers arrived, providing an able workforce in agriculture, construction and industries such as sawmilling.   When David “Doc” Maynard arrived at Olympia in 1852, he learned of the new settlement at Elliot Bay from Sealth, an important leader among the Suquamish who resided in Olympia seasonally.  A cluster of dwellings on “Chinook Street” just west of the Olympia’s Main Street [now Capitol Way] remained a part of town until the 1855-56 treaty conflict.  Afterwards, the Squaxin people maintained seasonal dwellings near town and continued working and trading with settlers.  Their participation in local industry, as day laborers, or as purveyors of shellfish and other produce made them an integral part of Olympia’s population.


Denny, Arthur Armstrong, and Alice Harriman. Pioneer Days on Puget Sound. Seattle: Alice Harriman Co, 1908.
Rathbun, John C. History of Thurston Co., Washington. Olympia, Wash: [s.n.], 1895.
Stevenson, Shanna. “Native Olympia” [Unpublished draft, 2012]

View Schictwoot in a larger map