At a recent Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce forum and luncheon, Hanford McCloud, tribal council member for Nisqually Indian Tribe, said he has been working on the conceptual plan to increase tourism for the tribe during the last couple years.
“I’ve been working on it for two years now. It’s going to take us probably another year to get this up and running,” he said.
A large portion of the plan involves the building up of Nisqually State Park, which is off of State Highway 7, just slightly southwest of Eatonville.
“One of the big things that is happening is we are building what we call a Nisqually State Park,” McCloud said. “And on that state park, the state here and this tribe have been in collaboration now for, I think it’s five years.”
Part of the plan includes interpretation centers at strategic locations through the region, where a person will interpret what the land and culture of each area has meant to the Nisqually Indian Tribe for a group of visitors.
McCloud has done that interpretation work in schools already, and would like to see it reach more people.
“My goal is to open the interpretation center of who we are,” McCloud said. “I’ve heard conversation about how this is the gateway to Mount Rainier. It’s probably one of the only roads if you think about the path that we take, but my story is going to encompass the prairie of Yelm and what Yelm meant, and how Yelm is connected to the Nisqually people.”
The prairie that Yelm resides in is where Chief Leschi and his people used to roam with their horses, he said. There were 25 villages from the mouth of the Nisqually River to the base of Mount Rainier. Of these villages, one of the larger ones was outside of Eatonville.
It is at or near locations like this that McCould said he wants to set up interpretation centers to further open the vein of communication between the tribe and others.
“What we are working on is what I call an artisan program,” McCloud said, branching off of the Creative Arts District in the state of Washington. “It’s a program that has been up and running for the last year…My concept of a plan behind that is that the tribe work with the cities, all the way out to Tenino.”
The cities that McCloud wants to work with include Rainier, Lacey, Yelm, DuPont and Lakewood.
He said this plan to work creatively with these cities comes back to the tourism plan. He wants to identify where Nisqually villages were with art installations as welcome figures.
“That’s my plan, but I like to call it a goal, because the mission is to perpetuate our ancestral ways,” McCloud said. “…Our goal is to put, not only these welcome figures, but these interpretation centers along these (ancestral) village sites.”
Some of the feedback McCloud has received includes people asking him why he wants to sell his culture, but he said he isn’t trying to sell his culture — he’s trying to sell an experience with his culture.
“I’ve been doing a lot of this work of interpretation for quite some time and it’s almost like second hand, but what I realize is I cannot keep all this information to myself,” he said.