Chehalis, Skokomish Honored for Historic Preservation and Infrastructure Improvements

The Chehalis Tribe, the Skokomish Tribe and a Yakama elder are recipients of honors for cultural, environmental and historical preservation.
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The Chehalis Tribe, the Skokomish Tribe and a Yakama elder are recipients of honors for cultural, environmental and historical preservation.

In October, the Skokomish Tribe was honored for “Outstanding Achievement in Community Infrastructure” by the Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council.

“Keeping the waters in and around Hood Canal pristine has been an interest of the Skokomish Tribe of Indians for thousands of years,” the coordinating council reported. “The western inlet of Puget Sound has been a favorite place for people to recreate for many generations. Over the years, many of the recreation cabins on Hood Canal have been taxed to their limits as more and more people choose to live in the area fulltime. This has placed a burden on hundreds of septic systems that were already marginal in their operation, thus diminishing the quality of the surrounding water.”

The Skokomish Tribe worked for 16 years to bring a wastewater treatment facility to its reservation to help clean up the marine environment. Skokomish, with limited resources and staff, raised $9.3 million for the design and construction of the facility and, in an effort to encourage off-reservation landowners to participate, offered hook-ups to the system free of charge. All commercial and public entities and many homeowners in the vicinity have connected to the system, according to the council, “helping to control the amount of damaging nitrates that enter into the area waterways.”

The coordinating council is a nonprofit organization that helps tribal governments and communities identify and obtain resources they need to develop, improve, and maintain infrastructure. Coordinating council members include staff from state, federal and tribal agencies, local government associations, and nonprofit technical assistance organizations.

The Chehalis Tribe received the Cemetery Preservation Achievement Award from the state Historic Preservation Office for an effort that began in the 1980s to bring Chehalis youth together with elders to maintain their four tribal cemeteries. “The elders use the time not only to improve the sacred grounds, but the activities serve as a teaching tool for the youth to learn about their heritage, [customs] and ancestry,” the preservation office reported.

Johnson Meninick, cultural resource program manager for the Yakama Nation for many years, was honored for “Outstanding Career Achievement in Historic Preservation,” also by the state Historic Preservation Office.

Meninick is the great-grandson of Chief Meninick, one of the 14 signers of the Yakama Treaty of 1855. He has served as Yakama Nation’s chairman and vice chairman and as an associate judge, among other positions. He is a recognized ceremonial leader and is an inductee into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame.

“Johnson’s life and career exemplify his commitment to the Yakama Nation’s cultural heritage, Washington’s deep archaeological and cultural heritage, and Native American rights,” the historic preservation officer wrote.

“Johnson has been instrumental in the creation and articulation of tribal cultural perspectives along the Columbia and Snake rivers as part of the federal Columbia River Power System Cultural Resources Program that has been working with multiple federal agencies and tribal governments since the early 1960s. He has played a key role in the formation of the essential federal laws protecting archaeological sites, Native American burials, religious freedom, and Native American treaty rights along with environmental and endangered species protection.”

Past recipients of state historical preservation honors include the Lummi Nation Historic Preservation Office, 2005; Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, 2003; Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, 1994; Delbert McBride, Nisqually Tribe, 1994; Swinomish Tribe, 1992; Yakama Nation, 1991.

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