Indian Child Welfare Act is needed to protect Native American children from a return to the Dark Ages

Native American children need family, tribe, not forced separation

By Leonard Forsman, published in the Seattle Times Opinion Section, Nov. 25, 2022.

A case argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month threatens to revive a dark period in our history when Native American children were taken away from our families and tribes.

Until 1978, when the Indian Child Welfare Act was signed into law, non-Native officials decided when to remove our children and where to place them. If our families were poor or didn’t have running water, parents could be labeled as inadequate, and our children could be removed from their families. In all, nearly a third of American Indian and Alaska Natives were being taken from their homes, with 85% placed in non-Native homes. Their families and tribes might never see them again.

The problem was so egregious and widespread it took congressional passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to change these practices. The 1978 law created a common-sense framework that protects our children and protects our rights to raise our next generations. This law could be declared unconstitutional by an activist Supreme Court.

ICWA assures that a Native American child’s extended families and other qualified members of their tribe have an opportunity to care for a child whose parents are not able to raise them. If the child is placed with non-Natives, ICWA assures that their tribe can keep them connected to their community and culture, and can check in on their well-being. And this means that their rights as citizens of sovereign Indian nations are also protected.

To implement these policies, tribes have developed child welfare agencies that have been effective and compassionate at overseeing the best interest of the children, winning a “gold star” rating from 31 non-Native child welfare organizations.

All this progress could be reversed as a result of a case first brought in 2017 to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Brackeen v. Zinke. This case was consolidated and renamed Brackeen v. Haaland as it made its way through the courts, and is currently being heard at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those challenging the law say it is race-based discrimination. It is not. The Indian Child Welfare Act is founded in our sovereignty as nations with spiritual and cultural connections that precede the founding of the United States by thousands of years, confirmed by treaties, legal precedents, Congressional action and federal recognition. We have the right to make laws and enforce them, to govern ourselves and to see to the welfare of our families and children.

In my tribe, we know only too well what it means when we don’t have the protection of the Indian Child Welfare Act. On the wall of the Suquamish Museum is a photo of a young girl, taken from an old newspaper clipping. The caption reads, “Marilou, 6 years old, has been free for adoption since she was 2 and a half.” This is a photo of Mary Lou Salter, now a tribal elder, who was taken from her home, her extended family and her tribe when she was just 18 months old. For decades, her extended family and her tribe had no way to reach her or to see if she was all right.

Mary Lou Salter, now a Suquamish Tribal Elder, as a child in the state welfare system.

“I had no idea there were relatives who worried about me — who remembered me,” Salter said.

It turned out she wasn’t all right. Over the course of many years, she was shuffled from foster home to foster home, and many of these homes were abusive. She went deaf as a result of chronic, untreated ear infections, which eventually required surgery and caused deep pain. She was eventually adopted against her will.

It wasn’t until she was nearly 30 years old that she found her way back to her family and tribe, and it was only then that she learned how much her family and community had missed her.

“It would have made a huge difference to have remained in the community and to know my relatives and to have a sense of belonging somewhere,” she said. “When I first came back, the elders would crowd around me and touch me, not saying anything. One of them told me that they were trying to pass their memories to me.”

Mary Lou’s story is like thousands of others of Native American children removed from families and communities, and the abuse and trauma that so often followed.

Opponents of the Indian Child Welfare Act say its protections are no longer needed, and that Native children should be treated like any other children.

But they fail to see the traumatic history that has broken up so many Native families, including the history of forced taking of Indian children to boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their language, and many were subjected to physical, physiological and sexual abuse. This history, which played out in parallel ways in Canada, was declared genocidal in the 2015 report of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And a U.S. Department of Interior report released in May 2022 concluded: “The Federal Indian boarding school policy was intentionally targeted at American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children to assimilate them and, consequently, take their territories.”

Restoring our families is among our highest priorities. Even with ICWA, Native children are removed from their homes at four times the rate of non-Natives — even when the family situation is the same.

Opponents like to focus on the successful placement stories, when Native children land in supportive non-Native homes. But they fail to acknowledge the many foster homes that are abusive, or that deny or demean the children’s Native heritage. When the tribes and extended families can’t contact these children, they are unable to check on their safety and well-being, and to connect them to their culture.

Opponents often speak of the attachment the children form to their foster parents. But they don’t see the deep attachment that exists with the extended family and the tribal community. Nor do they talk about the way our children are often deeply traumatized by being separated from their extended families, tribes, their culture and their identity.

They don’t mention the robust child welfare agencies tribes have developed to assure the well-being of children.

And they fail to see that these children are our citizens and future leaders. They fail to recognize our sovereignty and the fundamental right we have to care for and raise our next generation.

“We’re not asking for special treatment,” Mary Lou Salter said. “We’re asking as a sovereign nation that we be allowed to look after our kids and keep our families intact.”

The Indian Child Welfare Act is needed to protect Native American children from a return to the Dark Ages of shattered families and traumatized children.

Tribe applauds plans to end finfish aquaculture

Suquamish Tribe applauds Washington Department of Natural Resources plans to end finfish aquaculture

Today, Washington State Commissioner for Public Lands, Hilary Franz announced new agency rules, policies, and procedures to prohibit any future finfish farms in Washington marine waters south of the Canadian border. The move follows an announcement, early this week by Franz that DNR would end leases for the two remaining finfish aquaculture facilities in Puget Sound.

The new policy and the Commissioner’s move to end aquatic leases at Hope Island in Skagit Bay and Rich Passage near Bainbridge Island signal the end of fish farming in Puget Sound by Cooke Aquaculture, five years after the catastrophic collapse of Cooke’s fish farm at Cypress Island and the release of 250,000 non-native Atlantic Salmon into Salish Sea waters. Cooke Aquaculture was fined $332,000 following the incident and cited for inadequate maintenance and poor monitoring of conditions.

Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman speaks at a press conference on Bainbridge Island applauding new plans to end finfish aquaculture in Washington state. (Photo by Sarah van Gelder)

“On behalf of the Suquamish people, I want to thank Commissioner Franz for listening to Tribes and others who place the health of the Salish Sea as their top priority.” said Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe. “Ending commercial finfish farming in our ancestral waters is an important step towards protecting marine water quality, salmon populations, and the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. The impacts of commercial finfish farming put all of that at risk, and threatened treaty rights and ultimately our way of life and culture.”

Before and especially since the Cypress Island disaster, the Suquamish Tribe has consistently advocated for the end of all commercial finfish farming in Puget Sound, whether for native or non-native finfish. In 2018, the Washington State legislature banned the commercial farming of non-native fish, prompting Cooke Aquaculture to seek and receive permits from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington State Department of Ecology to switch to the farming of native steelhead at its Hope Island and Rich Passage facilities. The Suquamish Tribe opposed those permits and has since communicated it strong opposition to all commercial finfish operations in Puget Sound to state leaders, including Commissioner Franz.

“This is a big victory for everyone who values the Puget Sound ecosystem,” Forsman said. “This action eliminates a harmful impact in our ancestral waters. The Rich Passage net pens have long been a threat to our salmon fisheries, both through their threats to our genetic stocks, the pollution associated with their care and feeding, and the physical obstruction to our treaty fishers.  They have blocked and polluted our fishing grounds for too long, and we are relieved to know they will be removed, restoring our waters back to a more natural state.”

Commercial fish farming operations pose numerous environmental risks to the marine waters of Puget Sound. Because their operations are year-round, commercial finfish farming results in the constant release of chemicals, medicines, food and fish waste into the marine environment, resulting in impacts to the seafloor, water quality, and habitat. Releases like the one at Cypress Island, also put at risk the health and genetics of local, native finfish. The move towards commercial finish farming of steelhead posed an especially dangerous risk to the small native steelhead population on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Year-around net pen farming operations also attract species, such as seals and sea lions, in numbers that likely increase predation on local salmon populations as they migrate to and from spawning and rearing habitat in local streams.

King County Unanimously Approves Settlement with Suquamish Tribe over Sewage Spill Dispute

‘The People of the Clear Salt Water’ say Puget Sound community deserves better

The King County Council voted unanimously Sept. 27 in favor of a landmark settlement with the Suquamish Tribe to redress the repeated release of sewage into Puget Sound from the County’s wastewater collection and treatment system.

“The Suquamish Tribe is pleased that King County recognizes the seriousness of this issue and worked with us to protect Puget Sound,” said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman.

The settlement is designed to curtail further wastewater pollution of Puget Sound from King County facilities, including the West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant (WPTP). The settlement also funds ecological restoration projects in Puget Sound that will support the recovery of salmon, orca, and other marine life, and it compensates the Tribe for past releases that continue to impact Tribal fisheries.

Settlement talks began following a July 2020 notice from the Suquamish Tribe that it intended to file a lawsuit for violations of federal clean water law and for infringement on the Tribe’s Treaty rights.

 

Chronic wastewater pollution impacts marine ecosystems and treaty rights

“In 2019, tribal canoe families from all over the Salish Sea landing in Suquamish during the annual Tribal Canoe Journey had to paddle through one of the county’s largest untreated sewage spills. This pollution, created an immediate health hazard for the tribal community and disrupted an important cultural event,” Forsman noted.

“The Tribe took legal action when it became clear that the County was failing to protect the water quality in Puget Sound as required by the Clean Water Act, and the pollution was interfering with our Treaty fishing rights,” Forsman said. “We could no longer stand on the sidelines hoping conditions would improve.”

The 2019 event was just the latest in a series of pollution events. In July 2020, the Tribe notified King County that it was responsible for at least 11 significant illegal discharges of untreated sewage from the WPTP into the Tribe’s treaty-protected fishing areas, with individual discharge events ranging from 50,000 gallons to 2.1 million gallons. The Tribe further notified King County officials of the Tribe’s intent to file a lawsuit for ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act and its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit.

Unlawful discharges of sewage foul the water and habitat for aquatic species, result in closure of beaches where Suquamish tribal members harvest shellfish, prompt recalls of commercially sold shellfish, interfere with tribal member harvest and sale of salmon, and disturb important cultural activities such as the annual Canoe Journey. Fecal coliform bacteria pollution is a persistent threat to human health, and the safe harvest and consumption of fish.

The discharges also foul beaches and waterways enjoyed by non-Native residents of King County, Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County and throughout the Puget Sound.

One of the purposes of the Clean Water Act is to eliminate untreated sewage discharges such as those that have been occurring regularly in Puget Sound and to protect the health of all citizens.

Sewage pollution from King County’s outdated wastewater treatment processes are not new. In 2013, King County entered a consent decree with the State of Washington and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address serious and ongoing sewage discharges from the County’s wastewater treatment facilities and combined sewer outfalls. In spite of the consent decree and a series of enforcement actions against King County, Clean Water Act violations continued, including major releases from WPTP that repeatedly impacted the Tribe’s treaty-reserved fishing rights and cultural activities.

 

Settlement terms designed to protect Puget Sound’s fragile ecosystems

The County acknowledges in the settlement that sewage spill events from its wastewater collection and treatment system into the Tribe’s treaty-protected fishing area have impacted the Tribe’s right to take fish and tribal cultural events, and that this pollution has the potential to impact the Tribe’s treaty rights in the future. However, the County does not admit to liability for any alleged violations.

The settlement agreement requires the County to upgrade infrastructure to eliminate or reduce further untreated discharges from King County wastewater and sewage facilities into Puget Sound. The agreement also requires compensation to the Suquamish Tribe to cover legal and technical costs associated with the discharges, and to compensate for damages. And, importantly, the settlement requires the County to invest in environmental projects that will make up for the damage to marine habitats caused by the spills.

To address tribal impacts, the County agrees to pay the Suquamish Tribe $2.5 million to compensate for impacts to the Tribe associated with the last five years of discharges and future tribal impacts from any additional spills that might occur through the end of 2024.  After January 1, 2025, if any sewage is discharged from WPTP’s emergency bypass, the County will will pay a penalty to the tribal mitigation fund for each spill event.

To reduce or eliminate future untreated sewage spills, particularly at WPTP’s emergency bypass, King County agrees to substantial infrastructure upgrades at WPTP. The upgrades include replacing faulty uninterruptible power supply, addressing voltage sag, and creating redundant capacity to deal with peak flows.  A strict and enforceable penalty framework is tied to the infrastructure upgrade deadlines, and if missed, the County is required to pay $40,000 for a missed deadline and $10,000 for each additional month of delay

“This framework holds the County accountable for protecting the water quality in Puget Sound,” said Chairman Forsman.

The County will complete supplemental environmental projects tied to nearshore habitat restoration or other mutually agreed environmental protection projects in the amount of $2.4 million within five years.

“The Tribe is pleased that the County negotiated in good faith to protect our shared waters. This settlement will result in significant steps towards protecting the marine life of Puget Sound,” Forsman said

“The entire Puget Sound community deserves clean water. The shellfish, orca, salmon, crab, geoduck and shrimp all rely on a healthy marine environment, and all of our children – and children’s children – deserve clean water,” said Chairman Forsman.

Partial burn ban begins Aug. 5

Due to rising fire danger, the Suquamish Tribe, in cooperation with the Kitsap fire Marshal office, is imposing a Phase I Partial ban on most outdoor burning starting at midnight Aug 5, 2022, until further notice.

Under the Phase I – Partial Burn Ban, all outdoor burning is prohibited except for small recreational fires, cooking, or ceremonial fires within approved devices and safe locations.

Approved devices for open fires include fire pits made with non-combustible material, placed on a fire-resistant surface, and not to exceed 36 inches in diameter. Barbecue grills fueled with charcoal are also permitted.

Open recreational fires must be located at least 25 feet from any structures and contained within a designated fire pit. Fires shall not exceed 2 feet and may not be used as a substitute for burning yard debris.

Local fire districts have seen recent increases in fire responses with an early start to the wildfire season throughout Western Washington. Higher than normal temperatures are likely to continue and lower than normal amounts of rain are predicted over the next few weeks, worsening fire risk in a landscape that’s already dry. Escaped outdoor fires are the leading cause of wildfires, sparking nearly 85% of all blazes.

We’re asking the community to be aware of the sharp increase in fire danger with fireworks and other sources and work with us to prevent dangerous vegetation fires by ensuring open burning is only in a clear area with a water source and/or fire extinguisher(s) readily available.

For further information regarding the burn ban please contact Eric Quitslund, Office of Emergency Management Operations officer at equitslund@suquamish.nsn.us.

 

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.

Background 

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.

 

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 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.

 

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Media Contacts

Sarah van Gelder
Communications Manager
Suquamish Tribe
Cell: (206) 491 0196
Email:  svangelder@suquamish.nsn.us

Jon Anderson
Communications Coordinator
Suquamish Tribe
Phone: (206) 910-8989
Email:  jonanderson@suquamish.nsn.us

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

RESULTS

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.

 

CHALLENGES

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 Janine.vandusen@bia.gov 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