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Huy: Washington State Non-Profit to Improve Indian Prisoner Ceremonies

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In the Coast Salish language it means “See you again/we never say goodbye,” and today Huy (pronounced “Hoyt”) is a boost for moral and a connection to community for American Indians imprisoned in Washington State.

Tribal community leaders, advocates and state Department of Correction leaders have created non-profit organization, an offshoot of a two-year effort through charitable fundraising and gifting, to reform state policy in regard to Native prisoners’ Indian religious freedoms and cultural expression according to a press release from the new non-profit.

Incarcerated American Indians saw their ceremonial procedures blocked by budget cuts in 2010 by the Department of Corrections. The cuts banned tribal tobacco as “contraband,” restricting the use of sacred herbs and medicines; while stopping sweatlodge ceremonies and other religious activities according to the press release. In the summer of 2011 the Department restored the prisoners’ rights and in May, the state allowed children to return to prison pow wows for the first time in years.

“Our imprisoned relatives are virtually forgotten, even by tribal communities,” said initial Chairman of the Huy Board Advisors, Gabriel Galanda, Round Valley, a tribal lawyer with Galanda Broadman, PLLC in Seattle. “Huy intends to keep them in our hearts and minds, and to improve their tribal ways of life behind bars.”

Huy intends to work closely with the Native prisoners service program run by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. The program looks to raise funds that will help improve American Indian religious and cultural programs in the 12 prisons within Washington State. According to its release Huy will be help United Indians recruit volunteers to participate in fellowship with incarcerated Natives.

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“The need for tribal volunteers and support is paramount in the development of a comprehensive service model to combat recidivism," said United Indians program director Minty LongEarth, Santee/Creek/Choctaw, in the release. "The key to lowering the number of incarcerated Indians is first understanding that we are no different than our relatives in the iron houses, in terms of needing recovery, forgiveness and repair. Then we must act on that understanding.”

Herbert “Chief” Rice, Spokane, a “lifer” who leads one of the Indian circles at the Washington State Penitentiary, agrees that volunteers are what prison tribal circles need the most: “In order to get any type of culture based program going we need volunteers and that is very difficult to do.”

Huy, a registered non-profit corporation with the Washington Secretary of State and Department of Revenue, and is in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. The Huy logo was designed by Seattle artist, Louie Gong, Nooksack/Squamish, and is titled “perpetual helping hand.”

Huy’s other initial Board of Advisors are:

  • Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby, who also chairs the Association of Washington Tribes;
  • Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles;
  • Francis Cullooyah, a Kalispel Elder and former Department of Corrections statewide “tribal chaplain”;
  • Claudia Kauffman, Nez Perce, a former Washington State Senator who is now the Inter-Governmental Affairs Liaison for the Muckleshoot Tribe;
  • Winona Stevens, Ho Chunk, an intermittent Department of Corrections employee whojust received her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Washington; and
  • Eldon Vail, the immediate past Department of Corrections Secretary.