Julie Johnson, Lummi, was named Committee Member of the Year at the Washington State Democratic Party’s 23rd annual Warren G. Magnuson Awards Banquet, September 17 in Yakima.
The awards are named for the late Warren G. Magnuson (1905-1989), who represented Washington in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1937-1944 and in the Senate from 1944-1981. Guest speakers at this year’s banquet were Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Bremerton; state Sen. Cyrus Habib, candidate for lieutenant governor; and Tina Podlodowski, candidate for secretary of state.
Johnson is chairwoman of the state party’s Native American Caucus. She has 30 years of experience working for Native governments and organizations at the regional and national level. She served two terms as a governor-appointed member of the Peninsula College Board of Trustees, including a term as chair, and also served on the Northwest Indian College Board of Trustees.
She received the Pearl Capoeman-Baller Civic Participation Award in 2012 from The Potlatch Fund. She has undergraduate degrees in education counseling and in social and health administration.
Her biggest accomplishment for the Democratic Party: “Political organizing in Indian country and getting the vote out,” said state Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip.
This is a significant time for the Native voice in Washington and the Pacific Northwest. Debora Juarez, Blackfeet, took office in January as a Seattle City Council member, the first enrolled citizen of a Native Nation to do so. Scott Pinkham, Nez Perce, is the first Native American member of the Seattle School Board. Other Native Americans in elective office outside of Tribal government include Bellingham City Council member Roxanne Murphy, Nooksack; Whatcom County Treasurer Steve Oliver, Lummi; Shoreline Mayor Chris Roberts, Choctaw; Ferndale City Council member Teresa Taylor, Lummi; and McCoy.
Native Americans serving on school boards include Sally Brown, Squaxin, Shelton School Board; Greg Colfax, Makah, Cape Flattery School District; Tyson Johnston, Quinault, Taholah School District; Ed Johnstone, Quinault, Taholah School District; and Cindy Webster-Martinson, Suquamish, North Kitsap School District; Tracey (Markishstum) Rascon, Makah, Cape Flattery School District; and Bessie Simpson, Colville, Inchelium School District.
On the November 8 general election ballot: Sharlaine LaClair, Lummi, candidate for 42nd District state House of Representatives; Sauk-Suiattle Tribe general manager Ronda Metcalf, candidate for 39th District state House of Representatives; state Rep. Jeff Morris, Tsimshian, candidate for reelection to 40th District state House of Representatives; and former Colville Tribes chairman Joe Pakootas, 5th District U.S. House of Representatives.
(The lone Republican among Native Americans in the legislature is state Rep. Jay Rodne, who identifies as being of Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa ancestry).
According to Johnson, the growing number of Native Americans being elected to positions outside of tribal government reflects the barriers being brought down by Native Nations’ regional economic development influence and strong voice on issues of common interest to all peoples, such as education, the environment, health and social justice.
“When you look at employment in Washington state, the 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington are, combined, the fourth-largest employer in the state,” Johnson said in an earlier interview. “We’ve been donating to non-Indians for years. We need to support our own people for public office too. I want our people to be in those chairs.”
Johnson received high praise from Deborah Parker, former Tulalip Tribes vice chairwoman who worked to expand protections for Native women in the Violence Against Women Act.
“Julie has been tireless in her efforts to bring forward the voice of all people, especially our Native American men and women,” Parker said. “Her focus on ensuring Native Americans have a voice at all levels of government has been immeasurable. Julie has especially inspired our young Native women to run for office.
“When I was a young person, she taught me that it was our traditional role and responsibility to help lead the village. Native women would prepare the village for gatherings and would invite neighboring tribes. We would ensure every detail of protocol was covered. She reminded us that Native women were not second-class citizens – we worked diligently and didn't give up.
“Through her teachings, Julie has motivated so many to run for office. We owe her a great deal of gratitude for her inspiration. To this day, she continues to remind us that Native Americans are important to this world. We have a voice and should exercise our rights through voting, speaking, running for public office, writing legislation and participating in tribal, local, state and national politics.
“We raise our hands to Julie Johnson and her many years of dedication to ensuring Native Americans are at the table and are heard on critical issues. She is a hero to so many and we love her dearly.”