SNOQUALMIE, Wash. -- Above what it deems to be a "Garden of Eden," leaders of the Snoqualmie Tribe held a rally above its treasured falls Wednesday night against a proposed development project led by the Muckleshoot Tribe.
Central to concerns held by the Snoqualmie is the land above the falls, where the city of Snoqualmie is currently building a large, new roundabout designed to facilitate anticipated growth in the next few years.
"Everybody in the region knows the falls are sacred to the Snoqualmie Tribe," said Tribal Chair Carolyn Lubenau, "but it's not just the falls. It's the area surrounding the falls."
The Tokul Roundabout has been at the center of the controversy for years. Recently, a Native American arrowhead was found on the construction site, right in the middle of the traffic pattern. Lubenau said it's an indication of further ancestral and sacred artifacts contained on the grounds, though experts hired by the city refuted those claims.
"I feel that we've done all we can to address the concerns the tribe has had," said Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson. "We have to weigh that with other community needs and values."
While Larson and the city deeply respect and acknowledge the Snoqualmie Tribe's concerns and claims, there is a belief there are other factors at play in the controversy.
"There's a little bit of competition between the economic interests of the two tribes building two competing hotels," commented Larson.
The Snoqualmie Tribe bid to buy the Salish Lodge in 2007, and said Wednesday it would never develop the vacant property across the highway.
In the end, the Muckleshoot Tribe bought the lodge, and according to plans with City Hall, plans to build an expansion of the hotel, a convention center and up to 200 homes. Records show the tribe plans to start work in 2019. Attempts to reach the Muckleshoot Tribe were unsuccessful Wednesday.
"What's been a surprise to us is since the Tokul Roundabout has taken place," said Larson, "we're hearing publicly (from the Snoqualmie Tribe) assertions such as it was a burial ground. We never heard that in two years of deliberations with them or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."
"When we talk to Virginia Cross (Muckleshoot tribal chair), she said there are no development plans," said Lubenau, "but the city on the other hand, things there are."
Lubenau said she told city leaders years ago about the importance of preserving the land around Snoqualmie Falls. She hopes to save it from development.
"We have cousins, we have aunts and uncles at Muckleshoot," she said. "I know they know our grandparents walked here together. These are their ancestral bones as well.
"I think that in the end, they will not desecrate this sacred ground."