Tribe Bids Farewell to Mike Lasnier

Retiring Suquamish Police Chief Mike Lasnier made his final radio call on March  21, signing off as Chief of Police for the last time surrounded by Suquamish Police officers and staff, tribal members, and law enforcement leaders from throughout the area.

After some 35 years in Law Enforcement, much of that in Indian Country – including 20 years as Suquamish Chief of Police – Lasnier announced earlier this month that it was time to focus more on family. Lasnier was wrapped in a blanket by Tribal Elder Barbara Lawrence who also gifted him with a traditional necklace.

“It has been my great honor to serve you these past 20 years as your Chief of Police,” said Lasnier in his farewell statement to the Suquamish Community. While is leaving was bittersweet, he said he was confident he was leaving the Suquamish PD in a better place than when he arrived.

“I am also confident that the men and women who remain here are ready to take the department to the next level. I am excited to see what the next steps will be for the Tribe and the Suquamish Police Department.”

Lasnier was also honored by Tribal Council at a retirement celebration March 22 with government staff. Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman, who honored Lasnier with a blanket wrapping, thanked him for his many years of service to the tribe.

Executive Director Catherine Edwards and Human Services Director Jamie Gooby, as well as many staff and fellow SPD officers, also offered words of praise and thanks to Lasnier.


Suquamish Tribe elects Tribal Council Members

Suquamish Tribe Opposes North Kitsap Schools Bond Measure

The Suquamish Tribal Council decided at their Jan. 22, 2024, meeting not to endorse the North Kitsap School District 2024 Capital Bond Measure.

The Tribe has a track record of supporting public education in North Kitsap. Our commitment has taken the form of earlier endorsements of school levies and bonds, as well as frequent gifts from the Suquamish Foundation to individual North Kitsap teachers, schools, programs, and athletic activities.

However, excluding the Suquamish Elementary School from the bond measure is not equitable for children in our community, nor for the hardworking school staff who educate our students.

We are confident the district can return to voters at another time with a bond measure that we can support and that will more equitably and effectively meet the needs of all the district’s students and staff.

Chairman Forsman calls for local action on climate change

To Suquamish Tribal citizens, families, and staff,

Climate change has affected us all in many ways.  Summers are much hotter, and rising water temperatures threaten our ecosystems.  I’m writing to you because of our need to take action here in our homeland as the impacts of climate change inevitably get worse. Federal and state government, local utilities, private foundations, and intertribal organizations have funding available to invest in climate change adaptation and carbon reduction strategies. These opportunities mean our tribal nation could get the resources we need to assure our tribal nation survives, and even thrives, as this crisis unfolds.

To do this, we need your help.

From tribal citizens, we need your input. We will be setting priorities as part of the planning and implementation of climate solutions that will impact our community for years into the future. We need to know what is important to you, how you want to see things change, and where you don’t want to see things change as we respond to this crisis. Your input will help us create a plan that will best serve our tribal families for generations to come. Please respond to requests from the team working on this project on behalf of the Suquamish Tribe.

From tribal staff, we need your active participation in carrying out these priorities. The climate crisis will affect virtually everything we do as a tribal nation. We plan to focus on reducing our own carbon footprint and on building our resilience so we can survive and thrive in spite of the changes in temperature, ocean conditions, economics, well-being, health, and so on.  Solar panels and electric vehicles are familiar opportunities, but there are other actions we can pursue, and we look forward to your suggestions as well.

Our Office of Emergency Management in collaboration with the Treaty Rights Division is taking the lead on this planning, but they will be calling on many others to be part of this process. I ask that you respond when asked and help do the necessary planning and implementation.

Our goals are both to prepare our nation for this unfolding crisis, and to tap the federal resources now available that can help us reduce our climate footprint and prepare to weather the coming storms.


Leonard Forsman

CKA powers up Carving Den with new solar array

Chief Kitsap Academy is showcasing Suquamish Tribe’s traditional values with a modern twist at the school’s new Carving Den. Thanks to a $39,000 grant from Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power program, the academy’s new solar array is now online, illuminating the way towards a greener future while honoring age-old traditions.

This cutting-edge addition to Chief Kitsap Academy’s campus comprises solar panels that harness the power of the sun, providing clean energy totaling 11.8 kilowatts. The array is not only another practical symbol of sustainability, but also serves as a tribute to the tribe’s rich cultural heritage, where respect for the environment has been ingrained for generations.

“The Suquamish Tribe is proud to partner with PSE to illuminate our Carving Den through the power of the sun,” said Brenda Guerrero, Director of the tribe’s Education Division. “This endeavor aligns with our traditional values of environmental stewardship, where we strive to care for our lands and resources as our ancestors did. It’s a testament to our commitment to a sustainable future for our community and the environment.”


The Suquamish Tribe has been at the forefront of adopting solar power in Kitsap County. Last year, the tribe installed its first solar array at the Family & Friends/Fitness Center complex with another PSE grant. Applications are in the works for several additional solar projects across tribal government.


The Carving Den serves as a space where students, staff, and tribal community mentors come together to learn and preserve traditional carving techniques. “The integration of solar power underscores the idea that tradition and innovation can coexist harmoniously, highlighting both our adaptability and resilience,” said Guerrero.

Boarding School Survivor Peg Deam shares her story

Healing requires restoration of culture, language – and land

When Suquamish Elder Peg Deam was approaching junior high school age, she was sent off to the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School in Newkirk, Oklahoma.

“Nothing prepares you for this experience,” she said. “You have no family. You’re just floating out there, trying to survive and get through each day.”

Peg’s life was regimented. Indian languages were forbidden. The food was poor quality. Any sign of Native culture or ceremony was forbidden.

According to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), the school was modeled after the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania, which used “rigorous military discipline and instructions in trades and manual and domestic labor.”

“I thought, this must be what a juvenile delinquency center is like,” said Peg. “Everyone was treated badly.”

Peg’s experience at Chilocco was much like many other Indian children who spent months or years in similar schools, supported by the U.S. government and often run by a church denomination. According to a new report by NABS, there were 523 such schools operating between 1801 and the present.

Children at many of the schools were treated poorly. Like at Chilocco, they were prohibited from speaking their language, and many were physically or sexually abused. Many children attended these schools against their parent’s wishes, brought there when parents were coerced or when children were simply kidnapped.

Many never returned. According to a recent report by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, marked and unmarked burial sites have been identified at 53 federal Indian schools, and many more are expected to be revealed as further research is conducted. Nineteen schools accounted for over 500 deaths of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian child deaths, according to the report.

Many Suquamish Tribal members attended the Tulalip Boarding School. (Photo courtesy of the Suquamish Museum.)

Peg recalled some of what she witnessed at Chilocco. Diné children, many of whom did not speak English, were punished for failing to immediately follow orders they did not understand, she said.

Some of the Sioux boys would pretend to be drunk, knowing they would be handcuffed to the cots in a room together, she said. While there, they were able to secretly speak their language and teach each other traditional songs.

One girl, having learned that her grandfather had died, wanted desperately to conduct the ceremonies necessary when a loved one passes. Her roommates, and girls throughout the dorm, came up with a plan to make that possible. They staged a fist fight on the other side of the building, distracting the matrons long enough to give the girl time to do the necessary rituals for her grandfather.

“We were so proud of each other and especially proud of her,” Peg said. “In an overwhelming situation, she carried on with her culture. I will never forget that.”

Boarding schools and land grabs

It’s long been known in Indian Country that the boarding school policies of the US government were cruel, destructive of Indian ways of life and of families, traumatizing, and did lasting damage to the language and ancestral knowledge of many diverse Native cultures of North America.

The Department of Interior report also demonstrates that the boarding school policy was aimed at taking the land of Indian people so it would be available for white settlers to farm and extract resources.

“Beginning with President Washington, the stated policy of the Federal Government was to replace the Indian’s culture with our own. This was considered ‘advisable’ as the cheapest and safest way of subduing the Indians, of providing a safe habitat for the country’s white inhabitants, of helping the whites acquire desirable land, and of changing the Indian’s economy so that he would be content with less land. Education was a weapon by which these goals were to be accomplished.”

The history of land grabs on the Port Madison Indian Reservation shows how the taking of land coincided with the forcible removal of Suquamish children from their families.

According to Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman:

  • In 1886: the approximately 8,000-acre reservation was divided into 51 allotments assigned to family “heads.”
    Beginning in 1900: Suquamish children were forced to attend Tulalip Boarding School.
  • In 1904: The U.S. military seized the Old Man House village site where Suquamish people had built their homes, school, church, after the military ordered the burning of Old Man House, former home of Chief Seattle and Chief Kitsap in 1870. The military seized approximately 70 acres of Suquamish waterfront, all in the name of building fortifications to protect the Bremerton shipyard. The fortifications were never built. Instead, the waterfront land was sold to developers who subdivided it for vacation homes for white people. (The deed to those homes prohibited their sale to anyone who was not Caucasian.)
  • Circa 1905: Federal government passed law allowing tribal allotments to be sold at auction on behalf of the allottee (resulting in checkerboard reservation)

The timing of these events was not a coincidence, according to Forsman. “Healing begins with a reckoning of what took place, and that means full disclosure, acknowledgment and reparations through land restoration,” Forsman said. As a result of action by Suquamish Tribal Government, more than half of the Port Madison Indian Reservation is now owned by the tribe or by tribal members. The tribe is also supporting the establishment of a national Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools.

Restoring culture and art


For Peg Deam, a main focus has been on restoring Suquamish culture and art.


Deam refused to return to Chilocco after her first year there, instead attending the Institute of American Indian Art (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There, the mostly Native American teachers taught students to embrace their cultural heritage and to learn all they could about their ancestral practices, adding their own creativity to bring their art, writing, theater, and crafts into the present. IAIA, in other words, was the opposite of the Indian boarding schools; instead of punishing children for practicing their culture, cultural practices were taught and encouraged.



Deam is just one of many who resisted boarding school efforts at assimilation, instead embracing her culture. And today, Suquamish is among the communities remembering the hardships of boarding schools; Orange T-Shirt Day will be remembered with a Coastal Jam at the Old Tribal Center on Sept. 29, 2023.
By Sarah van Gelder

A picture of Healing House, where Community Health is co-located.

Healing House Primary Care Expands Eligibility

Suquamish Tribe Healing House Primary Care Clinic is now accepting new patients from the following groups:

  • Suquamish Tribal Members and their families
  • American Indian/Alaska Native tribal members/descendants enrolled in other federally recognized tribes
  • Suquamish Tribal Government staff and their families
  • Port Madison Enterprises employees and their families

For these patients Primary Care accepts any insurance. Primary Care is also now accepting anyone with Medicaid.

Primary Care is currently at capacity for all other patients with private insurance and Medicare.

All patients must provide proof of insurance.  For American Indians/Alaska Natives without insurance, please call the clinic for Medicaid enrollment assistance.

For more information regarding eligibility and new patient registration, please contact the Healing House reception desk at (360) 394-1350.

Justice Gorsuch opinion in ICWA ruling is worth reading

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch offers a masterclass on tribal sovereignty in his concurring opinion offered in the court’s recent decision to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act.

“In affirming the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Court safeguards the ability of tribal members to raise their children free from interference by state authorities and other outside parties. In the process, the Court also goes a long way toward restoring the original balance between federal, state, and tribal powers the Constitution envisioned,” he writes in a 43-page opinion.

“I write separately to add some historical context. To appreciate fully the significance of today’s decision requires an understanding of the long line of policies that drove Congress to adopt ICWA. And to appreciate why that law surely comports with the Constitution requires a bird’s-eye view of how our founding document mediates between competing federal, state, and tribal claims of sovereignty.”

Click here to read his analysis in full.