Supreme Court declines petition questioning ownership of Lake Quinault

A petition questioning the ownership of Lake Quinault by the Quinault Indian Nation was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In October 2021, a landowner on the lake originally filed the petition.

According to the original filing, the landowner stated that their property has 75 feet of shoreline. They stated that during the winter the water level of the lake overtakes approximately 20 to 30 feet, making their land unusable, and placing it under the governance of the QIN. 

The lake has, on multiple occasions, been confirmed to be owned by the QIN as part of treaty rights. When the lake was closed to the general public, the landowner claimed that this deprived them of their property rights as a non-tribal member.

The petition raised questions on numerous historic findings that affirmed the QIN rights.

On May 31, 2022, the Supreme Court denied the petition that sought to revoke ownership of Lake Quinault from the QIN. 

In a release, QIN said that this decision by the high court reaffirms their rights. 

“We are optimistic this ruling by the highest court in the land is the end of the road for this misguided challenge to the Quinault Nation’s exclusive and sovereign right to manage natural resources on our reservation,” said Quinault Nation President Guy Capoeman. “Lake Quinault is sacred to our people. We appreciate the support of the majority of our neighbors who live and own land along the lake and share our mission to keep the lake clean and healthy today and for future generations.”

The QIN noted that this is the latest court challenge to the ownership of the lake from property owners surrounding it. They stated that as owners of the lake their goal is to “conserve and protect the clean water, habitat quality and safe access” to the lake. This includes implementing rules that govern it.

They tell KXRO that these rules allow for the protection and restoration of Blueback salmon, manage the spread of aquatic invasive species, and other needs.  

“Stewardship of Lake Quinault is also part of the Nation’s efforts to protect and conserve the ecosystems that support the fish and wildlife, clean waters, and natural beauty of the Olympic Peninsula. 

Acting pursuant to the 1856 Treaty of Olympia which recognized the Quinault Nation as a sovereign Indian tribe, President Grant signed an Executive Order in 1873 setting aside the land that became known as the Quinault Indian Reservation. Lake Quinault lies entirely within the boundaries of the Reservation.”