Suquamish government tightens COVID precautions

With COVID-19 rates increasing within our workplace, across the Reservation, and throughout the region, we are updating the Tribal Government’s requirements for staff and guests. The following changes will go into effect beginning Tuesday June 21:

  1. Physical Distancing – A minimum three-foot separation from others is now required inside all Government-owned facilities.
  2. Masks – The use of approved face masks is now required while inside Tribal Government facilities, vehicles, and vessels when in the presence of others.
    1. Employees may remove their mask while at their desk, provided they are not working with clients and guests and are able to maintain a minimum three-foot distance from other employees.
    2. Occupant load restrictions remain at their normal level, but with adherence to the required masking and physical distancing referenced above.
  3. Guests and visitors — Guests are also required to wear a mask and maintain at least three-foot separation when inside Tribal Government facilities. Appointments with clients and guests are strongly encouraged.
  4. Working outside – The use of approved face masks is highly recommended while outdoors, but is not required when a 3-foot minimum distance cannot be maintained.
  5. Remote work – If a Tribal Government employee’s job function allows, they may telecommute if approved by their supervisor; all other employees are expected to report to work as they are normally scheduled.

Please Remember:

  1. Follow all the safe practices that have helped to keep us all safe. i.e., minimize exposure risks, disinfect and sanitize, practice good hygiene, stay home when sick, etc.
  2. Employees who are symptomatic or who become symptomatic during the day should be immediately separated from others and sent home. They should follow-up with a PCR COVID-19 test in accordance with testing protocols.

We will continue to monitor local case rates over the next few weeks and will adjust our safety measures accordingly. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. With your continued commitment, we’ll be able to keep our co-workers safe.

NOTE: Early Learning Center and CKA families, please see special protocols for your students.

Suquamish Tribal Council’s statement on Resumption of Government-to-Government Relations with the City of Poulsbo

Two and a half years ago, the Suquamish Tribe suspended our close relationship with the City of Poulsbo. Our decision came some months after the police shooting death of Stonechild Chiefstick and follow-on events that left our community reeling.

We are pleased to announce we are taking the first steps towards normalizing relations with the City as a result of a series of actions that have helped to alleviate tensions.


Since 2005, representatives of the City’s and Tribe’s councils have met regularly to discuss issues of mutual concern, including the environment, treaty fishing rights, growth management, education, and public safety. The Tribe suspended this relationship some months following the July 3, 2019, fatal shooting of Chiefstick after police responded to a 911 call and confronted him in a crowd gathered along Poulsbo’s waterfront to watch fireworks. Chiefstick, a father of five, was a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and the Suquamish community. His death left the community shaken and angry. As the elected representatives of the Tribe, we had to ask ourselves whether there was sufficient safety for Tribal members who live, work or visit Poulsbo, and whether there was sufficient understanding to resume meeting with city officials.

Later events added salt to the wound. Chiefstick’s makeshift memorial at Poulsbo’s waterfront park was repeatedly desecrated, once by a Port of Poulsbo Commissioner, who was arrested (but not charged) for a drunken tirade against Native Americans.  The officer who shot and killed Chiefstick was not criminally charged by the Kitsap County Prosecutor nor disciplined by the City of Poulsbo, and remains on the force. Tribal community members and others who brought concerns to City leaders felt unheard and dismissed.

Since that time, the City of Poulsbo has taken the following important steps:

  • The City hired new Police Chief Ron Harding, who has taken significant action to reshape community policing culture. His policies now require extra hours of in-depth officer training (funded by the City), emphasizing de-escalation, crisis intervention, implicit bias, cultural awareness, compassion for those struggling with mental health and/or addiction, less lethal tools, and using force only as a last resort. He and the City increased their previous halftime Behavioral Navigator, social worker Jamie Young, to fulltime. She works with officers to understand and respond effectively during encounters with those affected by trauma, poverty, mental illness, and substance addiction; she coordinates closely with the CARES program (below).
  • In partnership with the Poulsbo Fire Department (and others), the City launched CARES, a proactive multi-disciplinary intervention program that responds to individuals struggling with behavioral health issues. It helps them obtain care for medical, mental health, substance abuse disorders, and other needs.  The City’s Housing, Health, and Human Services director, Kim Hendrickson, has been instrumental in coordinating with the Police Department and CARES to enhance first responders’ abilities to prevent their encounters with the public from turning deadly.
  • The City responded positively to calls for the public art at the Highway 305-Johnson Parkway roundabout to include visual acknowledgements of the Suquamish presence in this region with original Native art and language.
  • The City settled a civil lawsuit brought by Chiefstick’s family.
  • The City has issued statements acknowledging the suffering endured by Chiefstick’s family and the community at large.
  • The City has become an active member of the Government Alliance for Racial Equity (GARE), which comprises government leaders nationwide striving to combat racial injustice and to make their governments more diverse and equitable.

Next steps 

We have followed these developments within Poulsbo’s city government, aided by our Tribal Council’s Emissary, retired Judge Robin Hunt; she has acted as a go-between while formal Tribal communications with the City were suspended.  We are now ready to re-engage government-to-government relations.

We hope to re-establish our shared work, and discuss ways that first responders (including law enforcement) and mental health and social work professionals from our respective communities might collaborate to address mental health and substance abuse emergencies. We also want to renew elected leader discussions on growth management, water quality, and marine habitat protection.

We are encouraged that a continued focus on mutual respect, appropriate law enforcement, and accomplishing shared goals will provide a foundation for productive collaboration for years to come.



Suquamish Tribal Council Chairman Leonard Forsman
Vice Chairman Joshua Bagley
Secretary Windy Anderson
Treasurer Denita Holmes
Sammy Mabe
Luther “Jay” Mills Jr.
Rich Purser

Suquamish Tribe hosts Seattle Mayor for discussions

Suquamish Tribe leaders welcomed Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell to the Port Madison Indian Reservation today to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest. This was Harrell’s first visit to an Indian reservation since assuming office in January.

The visit, hosted by Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman, began at the Suquamish Cemetery, where Mayor Harrell paid his respects at the gravesite of Chief Seattle. The cemetery is located on a hilltop overlooking the Salish Sea and the city that bears Seattle’s name.

Chairman Forsman provided an overview of Suquamish history and Chief Seattle’s role in shaping the modern Suquamish Tribe. Chief Seattle was leader of both the Suquamish and Duwamish people, and was the first to sign the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott that, in exchange for vast land holdings, secured the rights — and reserved the sovereignty — of many of the tribes in this area, said Chairman Forsman.

In addition to Chairman Forsman, Vice Chairman Joshua Bagley, Treasurer Denita Holmes, and Tribal government staff joined the mayor.

“I want to thank the Suquamish Tribe for hosting me today,” said Mayor Harrell. “Visiting the gravesite of the namesake of our city, Chief Seattle, was a powerful opportunity to reflect both on our region’s past and on our shared vision for the future. I look forward to working with tribal leadership to advance our common efforts to strengthen our environment, collaborate on solutions for our communities, and build a thriving region for all.”

“We appreciate the opportunity to host Mayor Harrell and to strengthen our government-to-government ties with the city named after our ancestor,” said Chairman Forsman during the visit.

“The Suquamish Tribe’s commitment to the wellbeing of the people and the region spans generations,” Chairman Forsman said. “Collaboration with the city of Seattle can help protect the marine ecosystems we share and support collaboration among the diverse Native and non-Native communities of our region.”

Government to government relationship a priority

A short walk from Chief Seattle’s final resting place, discussions continued over lunch at the Tribal Council Chambers.

Tribal leaders shared their concerns about the plight of homeless Native people in Seattle, and discussed new housing resources now in development.

They also discussed with the mayor the impacts of marine traffic on endangered salmon and orca, and the importance of protecting treaty fishing rights in Elliott Bay and the lower Duwamish River.

Chairman Forsman serves on the Seattle Waterfront Steering Committee, and the Suquamish Tribe and other area tribes are collaborating on public art along the waterfront and envisioning areas for Tribal events.

The wide-ranging discussion underscored the importance of the longstanding government-to-government relationship between the City of Seattle and the Suquamish Tribe.


Duwamish recognition discussed

Mayor Harrell asked the Suquamish leaders for their perspective on the question of the Duwamish Tribal Organization’s (DTO) recent push for federal recognition.

Chairman Forsman explained that the DTO represents a small group of Duwamish descendants; many more Duwamish people are citizens of the Suquamish and other area tribes where they enjoy the full benefits of federal recognition, including treaty rights, educational and health benefits, and the right to elect their leaders and run for office.

Indeed, all seven elected members of the Suquamish Tribal Council are at least partly Duwamish. And more than half of today’s Suquamish Tribal citizenship is made up of Duwamish people.

The DTOs efforts to win federal recognition became a concern when they turned to members of Congress in a bid to win recognition through a political process after efforts via the Department of Interior had failed. The Department of Interior found that DTO had not maintained a continuity of government during the 20th Century and therefore did not meet the basic requirements for federal recognition.

The DTO claim on their website that, “We are the host tribe for Seattle, our area’s only indigenous tribe” is inaccurate and divisive, lacking the inclusiveness that has been the hallmark of the tribes that have welcomed in so many Duwamish people, according to Chairman Forsman.

A series of advertisements by other area tribes and an editorial by the Suquamish Tribal Council dispute this DTO claim.




Media Contacts

Sarah van Gelder
Communications Manager
Suquamish Tribe
Cell: (206) 491 0196

Jon Anderson
Communications Coordinator
Suquamish Tribe
Phone: (206) 910-8989

Suquamish Tribal Council statement on Earth Day 2022, as President Biden Visits Chief Seattle’s land

“Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove … even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.” 

 – Chief Seattle

It’s fitting that President Biden is here on Chief Seattle’s lands on this Earth Day, as we confront the climate crisis and the other ecological emergencies that threaten our ways of life.

The Treaty of Point Elliott, signed by Chief Seattle, secured our peoples’ rights to fish and hunt and gather, and the courts have made clear – that means that marine habitats must be healthy enough to sustain those fisheries.

We applaud President Biden’s commitment to healthy forests. With a hotter climate, forests must be protected for their capacity to sequester carbon and also to shade the waterways that must remain cool if marine life is to survive.

In that spirit, while we celebrate the Biden Administration’s plans for restoring the broken infrastructure of this nation, we call for ecological restoration to be the top priority. Each road, bridge, and energy project must be constructed or rebuilt in a way that protects surrounding ecosystems as well as the climate.

Highways and bridges must include safe storm water filtering that prevent toxics from running off and polluting the Salish Sea, harming salmon and orca. And fish blocking culverts must be replaced.

We are reaching a point where polluted and degraded waterways and landscapes are permanently altering the living planet, and threatening us with extinction and marine dead zones, wildfires, smoke, and much worse for future generations.

The solutions to these crisis that will bring peace are those that are just. Solutions must protect the vulnerable as well as the resilient, the poor as well as the wealthy. Like Chief Seattle, we must never stop thinking about the impacts of these decisions on future generations, who have no voice unless we speak for them.

The planet cannot sustain ways of life that use up the living resources and dump waste at levels beyond the natural world’s capacity to recover. We are faced with a moral decision, brought most urgently to our attention by young people who are asking what sort of world we are leaving to them. We can’t sidestep that question any longer. The tipping point is here and it is now.

So let us celebrate this 2022 Earth Day keeping in mind the guidance offered by Chief Seattle and the sacrifices he and other Tribal elders made to assure the survival of generations to come.

As members of the seventh generation since his time on this Earth, we are grateful to him. Will the people of seven generations from now be equally grateful to us?

Much will depend on decisions made by the Biden administration and how they impact the waters, the land, and the climate.

By Suquamish Tribal Council: Leonard Forsman, chair, Joshua Bagley, vice-chair, Denita Holmes, treasurer, Windy Anderson, secretary, Luther (Jay) Mills III, Sammy Mabe, and Rich Purser.

BIA Secretarial Election Results

Amending the Suquamish Tribe’s Constitution to Remove the Secretary of Interior and BIA Oversight


Posted on April 8, 2022


The Secretarial Election Board, whose members include Puget Sound BIA Superintendent Janine Van Dusen and Suquamish Tribal Members Martha George-Sachava and Charlene Renquist certify that the results of the election are to adopt the proposed Constitutional amendment.

The total vote is 137 in favor of adopting the Constitutional change and 59 opposed. A total of 280 Tribal members registered to vote in this election.



You are entitled to challenge the results of the election pursuant to 25 CFR §81.43 if you are a Registered Voter for this Election. Your written challenge must be received by April 13 at 4pm by Superintendent Janine Van Dusen. Superintendent Van Dusen can be reached via email at or at (425) 622-9158.

The following is the statute that defines this process:

§ 81.43 How are the results of the Election challenged?

Any person who was listed on the Eligible Voters List and who submitted a voter registration form may challenge the results of the Secretarial election. The written challenge, with substantiating evidence, must be received by the Chairman of the Secretarial Election Board within 5 days after the Certificate of Results of Election is posted, not including the day the Certificate of Results of Election is posted. Challenges received after the deadline for filing challenges will not be considered. If the third day falls on a weekend or Federal holiday, the challenge must be received by close of business on the next business day.

The Northwest Regional Office Director, Bryan Mercier, will receive the election results and any challenges that the Election Board receives. The Regional Director will rule on the challenges and approve or disapprove the election results on or before June 1, 2022.

Suquamish Tribal Council

Suquamish Tribe Opposes Congress’ Recognition of Duwamish Tribal Organization

Published in the South Seattle Emerald

by Suquamish Tribal Council

Citizens of the Suquamish Tribe, located across Puget Sound from Seattle, have always fished, hunted, and lived in the central Salish Sea, including on lands that now make up the City of Seattle.

More than half of our tribe is made up of Duwamish people. Many of them have expressed their dissatisfaction at the case made by a select group of Seattle and King County residents who claim to represent all Duwamish people in a recent call on Congress for federal recognition of the Duwamish Tribal Organization (DTO). The claim by these residents discounts the identity and contribution of the Duwamish people who are full citizens of the Suquamish Tribe and other area tribes.

We are frustrated that many Seattleites are joining this call knowing little of the history and circumstances that led to today’s impasse. Those who wish to demonstrate respect for Native people should start by learning the full story from area tribes.

Here Is the History That Is Important Context for This Debate: 

Chief Seattle lived much of his life at Old Man House, a winter village on the Agate Pass shoreline across from Seattle now known as Suquamish. Seattle’s father, Schweabe, joined Chief Kitsap in leading the construction of Old Man House, which is well-known for being the largest traditional cedar longhouse in the Pacific Northwest. This is where Seattle, his family, and tribe lived and hosted large, intertribal ceremonies. Today Chief Seattle is buried in the Suquamish Tribal cemetery here on the Port Madison Indian Reservation.

In 1855, Chief Seattle signed the Treaty of Point Elliott on behalf of the Suquamish/Duwamish people. The treaty, and the negotiations with federal officials that followed, made provisions for reservations at Port Madison (Suquamish) and elsewhere in the Puget Sound region. The United States established and later enlarged the Port Madison Indian Reservation to accommodate the Suquamish and Duwamish people. Many Duwamish families joined us here on the Port Madison Reservation while others chose to live on the Tulalip, Muckleshoot, or Lummi reservations to join relatives and support the tribal governments on each reservation. This was not unusual — many tribes are confederations made up of multiple peoples.

Suquamish Citizens Today

Today, the majority of our elected Tribal Council of seven are Duwamish people. All of our Suquamish citizens, including those who are Duwamish, are fully recognized by the federal government and by our own governance, and enjoy treaty fishing and hunting rights, full constitutional rights to vote and run for office, and they receive the services that the tribal government provides to all of our citizens. We have many respected elders who are Duwamish people — including Cecile Hansen, who has carried the title of DTO chairwoman since 1975, while also receiving the full benefits of Suquamish citizenship.

Similar stories play out on other reservations where Duwamish people are citizens.

Our opposition to the DTO’s current campaign for congressional recognition grows out of this history.

We resent that this campaign discounts and ignores the multiple ways the Suquamish Tribe incorporates and acknowledges our Duwamish citizens within our social, cultural, economic, political, and spiritual activities.

This frustration is further sharpened by the lack of transparency in the governance of the DTO. When asked, DTO leaders refused to give us any assurances that they would permit our Duwamish citizens to join their Tribe if they are recognized. We are disappointed that DTO claims to be “the host Tribe for Seattle” and discounts the legal, cultural, and historic presence the Suquamish and other area tribes have always had on the lands and waters of both sides of Puget Sound.

Campaign for Congressional Action

To be clear: The Suquamish Tribe did not take a position when the DTO made their case for recognition before the Interior Department.

The Interior Department process is better equipped to weigh the important legal and historic nuances of such a decision, and we stayed out of the process believing it would be thorough and fair. Indeed, after many years of examining the DTO’s application, and hearing appeals, the Interior Department rejected federal recognition.

Congress, on the other hand, is not the right place for this decision on federal recognition due to the technical nature of DTO’s recognition, especially when neighboring tribes are in opposition. Federal recognition should not be granted based on emotion, charity, or the latest political movements. It must be evaluated through analysis by the federal government’s historic and cultural expertise, with court review as needed. The Interior Department process concluded that the DTO is not an Indian Tribe. The Suquamish Tribe does not support relitigating the question of DTO federal recognition through Congress.

We hope that those who support the nonprofit aims of the DTO understand that recognition is not necessary for many of the initiatives the organization seeks to accomplish. Moreover, for those eligible for enrollment, the Duwamish people have opportunities for recognition through their enrollment in other area tribes.

In addition to DTO, those who want to provide meaningful support for Native people might consider supporting the Chief Seattle Club, American Indian College Fund, Native American Rights Fund, and our own Suquamish Foundation.

Blind support for congressional recognition of the DTO has serious consequences for the Suquamish and the other neighboring tribes who are the original inhabitants of Seattle and the surrounding area.  Perceived justice for a few, at the expense of the region’s sovereign tribes, is not justice for all.

Signed, Suquamish Tribal Council

Chairman Leonard Forsman
Vice Chairman Joshua Bagley
Secretary Windy Anderson
Treasurer Denita Holmes
Sammy Mabe
Luther “Jay” Mills Jr.
Rich Purser

Suquamish Tribe Elects Leaders to Tribal Council

SUQUAMISH, WA –Suquamish Tribal citizens voted to fill two Tribal Council positions up for election this year at the Tribe’s annual General Council gathering, which took place March 19 and 20, 2022.

Josh Bagley was elected Tribal Council vice chair and Denita Holmes was elected treasurer. Josh Bagley, a former geoduck diver, is president of the Suquamish Seafoods Board and vice chair of the Suquamish Tribal Gaming Commission. Denita Holmes is a teacher at Chief Kitsap Academy, a former member of the Suquamish Museum Board and an artist.

Outgoing vice chair Wayne George and treasurer, Robin LW Sigo, were thanked by fellow Council members, and their services acknowledged by Tribal members.

Tribal Council is now comprised of Chairman Leonard Forsman, Vice Chair Josh Bagley, Secretary Windy Anderson, Treasurer Denita Holmes, and three at-large members, Sammy Mabe, Luther (Jay) Mills III, and Rich Purser.

The Suquamish Tribal Council is the governing body of the Suquamish Tribe, elected by Tribal citizens during their annual General Council meeting. Candidates elected to Tribal Council serve in three-year staggered terms.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 and 2022 General Council meetings took place via Zoom, with drive-thru voting for both a primary and general election. Like last year, hundreds of Tribal members participated in a full weekend of reports, resolutions, and discussions via Zoom.

Also during the virtual gathering, family members who died during the previous year were honored. New babies born to the community were celebrated, and adults who had reached Elder status were recognized.

Tribal enterprises reported on their progress during another year challenged by COVID restrictions, with news of Suquamish Seafoods, Casino Resort operations, the Tribe’s marijuana enterprise (which recently opened a second retail outlet), and the construction enterprises.

Tribal members also heard from government departments, including those focused on finance, housing, emergency operations, fisheries and environmental restoration, and human services.

Voting was conducted in-person via drive-thru balloting on March 20. There was also an option for walk-up voting.

With approximately 1,200 citizens, Suquamish Tribe is a federally recognized sovereign nation. The village of Suquamish and seat of the Suquamish Tribal Government are located on the Port Madison Indian Reservation, along the shores of the Puget Sound near Seattle. The election of Tribal Council members is one of the many ways Tribal citizens exercise their sovereignty as Tribal citizens.

Final List of Registered Voters for BIA Election

Pursuant to 25 CFR 81.31 the Suquamish Tribe posts this Registered Voters List for the Secretarial Election to amend the Suquamish Tribe’s Constitution.

See Voter List Here

Registered Voters List for the Secretarial Election to amend the Suquamish Tribe’s Constitution

Pursuant to 25 CFR 81.31 the Suquamish Tribe posts this Registered Voters List for the Secretarial Election to amend the Suquamish Tribe’s Constitution.


See voter list here.


You are entitled to challenge the Registered Voters List in accordance 25 CFR 81.32.

(a) It is possible to challenge in writing the inclusion or exclusion or omission of a name on the Registered Voters List. The written challenge must be received by the Secretarial Election Board by the established deadline and include the following:

(1) The name of the affected individual or individuals;

(2) The reason why the individual’s name should be added to or removed from the Registered Voters List; and

(3) Supporting documentation.

(b) If an individual failed to submit his or her registration form on time, that individual is precluded from challenging the omission of his/her name from the list.