1904 ? 1988
Stillaguamish became a party to the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855 under the spelling Stoluckwamish. However, no separate reservation was established for this tribe. As a result many had moved onto the Tulalip Reservation as called for in the treaty.
Born in 1904, Esther Ross spent her childhood in Oakland, California. During the 1920s, Ross?s mother Angelina became involved with a suit against the US Government with other Puget Sound Indians. They claimed that the government failed to fulfill its obligations under the 1855 Point Elliott Treaty.
Ross moved to Washington State after Stillaguamish relatives asked her to help file claims against the federal government. In 1926, Ross called the first official tribal meeting ? with a total of twenty-five attendees. This began her campaign for federal recognition. The Stillaguamish Tribal Council approved a constitution on January 31, 1953.
The fight for federal recognition lasted for about five decades. In 1970, Ross made the Stillaguamish a party in a fishing rights suit against the state government by Washington Indian tribes. During this same time, she worked toward getting a piece of land put into trust status in order to prove that the tribe had a land base (which is necessary for federal recognition). After the Boldt decision granted fishing rights based on treaty guarantees, the tribe petitioned for recognition as an Indian Tribe in 1974. They were approved in 1976. Ross became the official Chairman of the Stillaguamish at the end of that same year.
When she began her campaign for federal recognition, the Stillaguamish numbered at twenty-nine people. At the time of her death it had increased to 160 (however, she believed the actual count to be much higher).
Her biography, Esther Ross, Stillaguamish Champion, is written by Dr. Robert H. Ruby M.D. and John A. Brown – with the introduction by Alan Stay and Jay Miller and a foreword by LaDonna Harris.