Proclamation for Black History Month
Suquamish Tribal Council
The Suquamish Tribe joins President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, other government leaders, and millions of others across the United States in celebrating Black History Month 2022.
We acknowledge the African heritage that exists in our Tribe and recognize Julia Jacobs, a tribal matriarch born in 1874 at Port Madison Mill and adopted as an infant by Treaty Signer Chief Jacob Wahelchu and his wife Mary Jacob. Raised in the Suquamish culture, Julia was a fluent speaker of Lushootseed and expert basket maker who passed along her knowledge and skills to the next generations, who are today among our most important cultural practitioners, leaders, and teachers.
We celebrate the arrival of thousands of African Americans who came to this region during the Great Migration to escape the racist violence of the South and to contribute to the nation’s war effort by working at the Bremerton Shipyards.
We are grateful for the support of African American activists who supported us during the “fish wars,” including the comedian and civil rights leader Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory, who was arrested for aiding in “illegal” net fishing on the Nisqually River in support of treaty fishing rights, and went on a hunger strike while serving a jail sentence.
We honor today’s contributions from our region’s Black neighbors and leaders in education, public service, government, and enterprises, and in their ongoing stance for justice and equity. And we celebrate our ongoing partnership with the Marvin Williams Center in Bremerton, a locus of recreation and culture in Bremerton that centers the city’s African American community.
We are proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Kitsap’s Black community in proclaiming that Black Lives Matter, and Native Lives Matter, in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, Stonechild Chiefstick, Manuel Ellis, and many others, and in celebrating Juneteenth and other occasions of importance to the African American community.
We celebrate our joint work, including the campaign that resulted in the passage of landmark Climate Change legislation in the Washington Legislature.
We recognize that Black people, in common with Indigenous people, suffer from health challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, and that our communities are the hardest hit by the pandemic and by the associated impacts on our wellbeing of interruptions in education and employment opportunities, and by social isolation.
Indian people suffered from the legacy of colonialism, the seizing of our lands, the massacres and diseases, the devastating attempts at assimilation — a legacy that occurred in parallel with the enslavement and the mistreatment of peoples of African descent. We are grateful for the support we receive from the region’s African American leaders who stand with us in respecting Tribal rights and we pledge to likewise stand with the Black community as you continue to seek your rights.
Therefore, we proclaim February 2022 Black History Month on the Port Madison Indian Reservation, and celebrate the theme of this year’s commemoration: Black Health and Wellness. We look forward to working with the African American community to create a just, healthy, and equitable future for all Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
Leonard Forsman, Chairman
Suquamish Tribal Council
February 9, 2022