Twilight’s Quileute Tribe Requests Land at Higher Ground to Avoid Flooding

The Quileute Nation sits on one square mile of land on Washington State’s sleepy Olympic Peninsula. Surrounded by the Olympic National Forest and the Pacific Ocean, the landscape is certainly picturesque. But it’s also in the middle of a tsunami zone.

That’s why the Quileute are asking the federal government to give them land on higher ground, something only an act of Congress can achieve. And, luckily, they have considerable support in both houses. In mid-April, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA) introduced legislation that would give the Quileute the land they want. The proposed legislation would also protect thousands of acres of the Olympic National Park from development, and guarantee public access to beaches along the coast.

The Tribe has gotten substantial international press for their effort, due in no small part to their prominent role as a tribe of shapeshifting werewolves in the mega-hit Twilight franchise. But there’s an important aspect of the Quileutes’ request for land at higher ground that isn’t told in the various media reports — the reason the Quileutes’ village is only one square mile in the first place.


For centuries, the Quileutes’ land “stretched along the shores of the Pacific from the glaciers of Mount Olympus to the rivers of rain forests.”  They were masters at boat building, weaving, whaling and sealing. In 1855, they had their first official contact with Europeans, signing a treaty with the then-territory of Washington, where they agreed to move to their first reservation.

It was in 1889 that President Benjamin Harrison mandated that the Quileute Tribe trade their 800,000 acres of land for the 1 square mile reservation that they still call home today.  1889 was also the year that a white settler who wanted their land burned the entire reservation to the ground and with it the all of the pre-contact artifacts that had not been relocated to museums or private collections.

In 2005, after the decades-long decline of the fishing and logging industries, the Tribe had an unemployment rate of 70%. Twilight-related tourism, however, added a much-needed boost to the local economy, with business on the reservation increasing by 30%.

While the Twilight franchise has certainly helped business in the community, the Quileute Tribe still has mixed feelings about their portrayal in the books and films. Tribal member Ann Penn-Charles told the Seattle Times that,
        “A lot of elders are hurt because we were portrayed as werewolves, and        they didn’t want us portrayed as these wild Indians, they want people to 
       know we are not these crazy Indians that change into werewolves when
       we get mad. We settle our differences peacefully.”

Last summer, the Tribe worked with curators on an exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum to set the record straight on their real history and culture. It was the first exhibit of its kind. Indeed, in many ways the Quileute Tribe is benefiting from their turn in the spotlight.


In ancient times, as the tribes’ creation story goes, the Quileutes were transformed from wolves into humans. In the Twilight franchise, some of the fictionalized Quileutes are shapeshifting werewolves. And therein lies the problem — Twilight made the Tribe internationally famous, but it wasn’t on the terms of the Tribal members themselves. Their history and culture are fictionalized and glossed over by their wider culture. While Twilight does give them more of a means to define their history and culture by their terms on a scale they would never have been able to before, the Quileute are still fighting against a far more dominant narrative. Twilight author Stephanie Meyer, as Professor What If writes on her blog,

“… Carries on a long tradition of white authors who know little to nothing of indigenous peoples but nevertheless feel entitled to write about their cultures.

Further, Meyer carries on the tradition of using indigenous characters for “backdrop” and  “color” and raises no real criticisms of the colonial project or current racial inequalities.

Similarly, it’s crucial to recognize the historical and political contexts that led the Quileute Tribe to ask the federal government for land on higher ground. After all, the contemporary size and population of its reservation is not something that happened in a vacuum. It’s not the result of innocuous circumstances; rather, it’s part of a larger pattern of brutal colonization and institutionalized discrimination of Native tribes across the Americas. 

With that in mind, it’s crucial that we support the Quileute Tribe’s request for more land. Sign the petition here!

Related Stories:

Did Oklahoma Ban Native American Rights?

Far From Japan, Tsunami Hits California Coast (Video)

Bring Indigenous Voices into the Conversation About Climate Change


Photo credit: Institute of Museum and Library Services Digital Collections and Content via Flickr


Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez7 years ago

signed thanks

DobieMax Wojcik
DobieMax WoBib7 years ago


Danielle Herie
Danielle Herie7 years ago


Lois Edwards
Lulu L7 years ago

The American Indian Nations have been wrongly treated from the very beginning. They have been made to suffer in more ways and much worse than any other American. It breaks my heart when I read stories like this! I wish there was something we could do to make it alright, but I think that time has passed.

Marie W.
Marie W7 years ago

If they were werewolves,they wouldn't have been forced onto one mile of land.

Christine K.
Christine K7 years ago

The Quileute do not belong to Twilight - the title of this article should be changed to stop implying that they do or were created by Stephanie Meyer.

Petition signed.

Yvonne S.
Yvonne S7 years ago

I should imagine that the land they want to move to was taken off them by white people many years ago, and now is the time to give it back to them.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Is important to give respect to the natives of any land. They have lived there for hundreds of years and know their lands.

Karol R.
Karol R7 years ago

Also, Thank you Maria and Norman, for your fight on behalf of the Quileutes. Your actions are appreciated I am sure. Finally after so long action is being taken to give these great people what they should have has all along. Kuddos to you for doing it.

Karol R.
Karol R7 years ago

Sharleen H., You call it an invasion, give you that. To those of us whose ancestors were driven from our lands, killed and mutilated by the western European oppressors, it looks like a genocide that makes Hitler's look small. There are no official numbers, only guesses as to how many first peoples were killed, how many tribal nations were literally extiguished, gone, extinct.

To those sparked to learn, there are some (note the word) that took a closer look at our cultures, and wrote with honesty and sincerety to the best of their ability and understanding. Stephanie Meyer is not one of those.

I invite all who want to know more of the beautiful, peaceful, diverse, spiritual cultures of the first people to search it out, attend pow wows, and talk to the eldeers there and all others. Learn, for each is as deep and as beautiful as the next.

To writers like Stephanie Meyer, they are a lost cause, becase all they do is invent, not caring that the masses may see it as true when it comes to the tribes shown or used in their books. Want a writer who truly shows the true beauty of the culture, Roseanne Bittner. Even she acknowledges she may have some of it wrong, and appologizes in her opening and closing pages if she has mis inturpeted any of their culture.
May the Great Spirit walk with all.