Indian Shaker Church

One of the most interesting and well-known aspects of the Squaxin Island Tribe is the motherhood of the Indian Shaker Church. Founded by Squaxin tribal member John Slocum in the late 1880s, the church continues to have an active membership throughout the western United States and Canada.

In November of 1881, at 40 years of age, John Slocum operated a small logging camp on Skookum Inlet. He was killed in an accident in the woods and his two half brothers paddled to Olympia for a casket. But they had been gone only a few hours when the body began to stir. Eventually John sat up and began to speak. He claimed that God had sent him back to life with a message for the Indian people – to believe in the man named Jesus.

John and some of his new followers built a cedar and tule mat church at the site of his resurrection (the place now known as Church Point) and he began to preach. John Slocum had a second close encounter with death several years later when he was struck by a sudden illness. John’s wife, Mary, walked to a nearby stream for private prayer. As she prayed, a tremor came over her and her whole body began to shake. She returned inside and shook over John’s head. Once again he began to stir and, thus, Mary became known as the bearer of “the shake” which is believed to bring healing to those who are physically or spiritually ill.

By the late 1800s, Church Point was taken out of the hands of the Slocum family by an executive order of the President of the United States and deeded to a ship captain under the Oregon Donation Land Act and Indian access to the sacred site was restricted. The tribe bought back Church Point in June of 1995, and the reacquisition was celebrated by members of the Squaxin Island Tribe and the Shaker Church.

After the battle of Wounded Knee, the United States banned all Native American religious practices and gatherings for fear we would unite and fight against the government. Some members of the Squaxin Island Tribe were even put in chains and jailed for practicing their belief in Jesus through the Indian Shaker Church.