The Snoqualmie Tribe has purchased the Salish Lodge and Spa along with the land surrounding Snoqualmie Falls from the Muckleshoot for $125 million.
The total purchase includes about 45 acres of land in the Snoqualmie's traditional territory, including the lodge, the Snoqualmie Falls gift shop and extending north across state Route 202, according to a press release from both tribes. The transaction was finalized on Thursday.
The Muckleshoot acquired the lodge in 2007. The deal announced Friday stops a planned hotel and housing development for the area proposed by the Muckleshoot and approved last year by the City of Snoqualmie.
The Snoqualmie have spent years trying to curb development around the falls. The tribe says the falls and the surrounding area comprise a sacred site and that the land is central to the tribe's history.
"This puchase represents the Snoqualmie Tribe's ongoing work to reclaim its traditional lands and will allow the Snoqualmie people to appropriately care for our sacred Falls," Snoqualmie Tribal Chairman Robert de los Angeles said in the release.
The land-purchase negotiations started more than two years ago, Snoqualmie Vice Chairman Michael Ross said at a press event Friday. There had been previous attempts that had stalled out before then.
The deal nearly doubles the amount of land owned by the Snoqualmie. Ross says revenue from the Snoqualmie Casino combined with good investments and debt managment put the tribe in a position to make this large purchase.
Muckleshoot Tribal Chairman Jaison Elkins said the sale serves as an example for how tribal nations can conduct business, adding that the tribe will now focus on new facilities and services.
"It is a great feeling when Tribes can come together to further enhance both of their organizations," Elkins said.
Snoqualmie Tribal elder Lois Sweet Dorman said it was significant that this deal came between two tribes. She said the Muckleshoot kept the Salish Lodge in good condition, praising the lodge's 2010 renovation.
"It'll be our chance to be able to welcome folks, and to have that is a very big circle to come back around to us," she said. "We will be praying for them. We will be asking that something opens up for them."
The lodge has been operating in some form since 1916. It will continue to be operated by Columbia Hospitality.
Other Washington tribes have shown solidarity with the Snoqualmie Tribe's efforts to retain stewardship of its ancestral lands, said Snoqualmie Vice Chairman Ross. He mentioned the Yakama, Suquamish, Quinault and Puyallup tribes.
The other major player in the area is Puget Sound Energy, which operates a hydroelectric project on the falls.
The deal between the Snoqualmie and Muckleshoot only include land surrounding the falls, not aquatic land or rights to the waterway itself.
Ross says the tribe has been in communication with PSE.
"We hope that being owners and stakeholders – in the European sense of the word – that we'll have a little more say and be able to go farther with their leadership," Ross said.