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Indigenous leadership honored

S'Klallam Chairman W. Ron Allen receives 2005 Buffett Award

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe Chairman W. Ron Allen received
the 2005 Buffett Award for his indigenous leadership work in an Ecotrust
ceremony in late November. "We must never neglect our rights to
self-government, culture, and our spiritual values," Allen noted. "We are
the people of this land, and we stand ready to protect it in every way."

The Buffett Award, supported by the Portland families of Howard and Peter
Buffett, recognizes indigenous leadership that improves the social,
economic, political or environmental conditions of tribes. The honor comes
with $25,000, a check intended to provide resources for the development and
transfer of knowledge in Indian country. Four finalists are also chosen
annually, each of whom receives $2,500.

Beginning in 1975, when Allen first got on the council, and again in 1977
when he was elected chairman of the Jamestown S'Kallam Tribe, he has
advanced tribal integrity and treaty rights at the local and regional
levels as well as national and international arenas. "I just sort of fell
into my role and grabbed it," said Allen. "I've never looked back and I've
enjoyed every minute of the journey. My enthusiasm is always there, and my
love for Indian country and my community is unwavering."

For more than 15 years, Allen has served the National Congress of American
Indians in a number of leadership positions including president. He has
also served as a long-term representative on numerous tribal governance
organizations such as the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians,
Washington Indian Gaming Association, Point No Point Treaty Council,
Pacific Salmon Commission and the Washington Coalition for Tribal
Self-Reliance.

"Nation-building, exemplified by leaders like Chairman Ron Allen, is
crucial for indigenous people," said Spencer Beebe, president of Ecotrust.
"Chairman Allen is a formidable negotiator, diplomat and unwavering
champion of tribal sovereignty."

Commenting on Beebe's statement, Allen said, "Over many, many years of
being a tribal chairman in the whole array of political agendas that our
tribe and the tribes in the Northwest and tribes nationally have been
advancing, I often get in the middle of things as either a participant or
chair of the negotiating team. So I've had a lot of experience negotiating
at the local and national levels. Also, my work on the U.S.-Canada Pacific
Salmon Treaty in 1985 and beyond in 1999 for the renegotiations took me
into the international realm where I was able to help protect our treaty
rights and the fisheries interests of our respective tribes in the
Northwest.

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"What I am delighted and very pleased about is that over the past 30 years
the tribes have become much stronger and more influential in the American
political system. Tribes now act like governments; they don't act like
wards of the federal government," Allen said.

He pointed to the Indian Self-Determination Act of the mid-1970s and beyond
for this development, a process in which he was involved at the national
level. "I was part of the team that negotiated the regulations with the
Department of the Interior for the 1988 amendments to the
Self-Determination Act. I was also part of the group that negotiated a new
set of regulations for the 1994 Self-Government Act, a process that took
quite a few years."

Allen noted that Indian country's coming into its own has been a complex
process. "The tribes have worked hard over the last 30 years to strengthen
their governments -- their political infrastructure -- so that every aspect
from the executive, judicial, legislative and all the codes and regulations
in those branches has become very sophisticated and codified similar to
local, state and federal structures. Now tribes conduct themselves with the
same professional excellence and that sends a message that they are here to
stay."

Independence and true sovereignty have been the prizes of this work and of
leadership like Allen's. Yet, costs associated with what the chairman terms
a "huge shift emerging out of the 20th century and into the 21st" are not
small.

"The speed of the success has been phenomenal, especially when you compare
what's going on today with trends in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. Particularly, the changes of the 1980s and 1990s are almost like
winning the lottery. Now the question is, do the tribes have the capacity
to manage the new resources at their command -- gaming money primarily, but
not entirely."

If Indian country continues to benefit from the kind of leadership Allen
has fostered, the answer will be a positive one. That said, Allen was
careful to point out that leaders are only as effective as their
associates. "Many of these issues are very, very complicated and unless you
have top-quality staff support, you can't analyze and review the myriad of
information you need to deal with. In my case, Geoff Stromer and Cindi
Holmes did the yeoman work and answered the questions. So I would like to
recognize their invaluable support along with that of my family."

Allen's plans for at least part the money include an embassy representing
Indian country in Washington, D.C. "I've always been a staunch supporter of
the National Congress of American Indians and have been a leader since
1989. I've held different offices, including president, but currently I am
treasurer. "So I feel my mission now is to help the organization strengthen
the financial foundation and get the resources to purchase an embassy -- a
physical building that belongs to the tribes."

It would seem that this year's Buffett Award funds are in good hands, and
that the individual honored operates not as a politician, but as a true
statesman.