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News from the Pacific Northwest

Legislature boasts five Native members

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Five Native members of the Washington state Legislature took office Jan. 8, giving the state one of the greatest numbers of Native state legislators in the United States.

Oklahoma has 18, Alaska and Montana each have nine, and New Mexico has six, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Claudia Kauffman, Nez Perce, was the first Native woman elected to the state Senate in Washington history on Nov. 7. She is a Democrat representing Kent. She was named to the following committees: Consumer Protection and Housing; Early Learning and K - 12 Education; Economic Development, Trade and Management; and Transportation.

Kauffman has co-sponsored 49 bills, many of them related to education and transportation. One bill would require simple-majority votes to approve school levies and bond measures; another would establish a first peoples' language, culture and history certification program.

Don Barlow, Ottawa, was elected to his first term in the state House in November. He is a Democrat representing Spokane. He was named to the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Audit Review, and Health Care and Wellness.

Jim Dunn, Inuit, was elected to his fifth term in the state House. He is a Republican representing Battle Ground. He was named to the Housing Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

John McCoy, Tulalip, was elected to his third term in the state House. He is a Democrat representing Tulalip. He was named to the following committees: Technology, Energy and Communications; Agriculture and Natural Resources; Human Services; and Rules.

Jeff Morris, Tsimshian, was elected to his sixth term in the state House. A Democrat representing Mount Vernon, he is chairman of the Technology, Energy and Communications Committee, and a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Audit Review.

Morris leads multi-state group

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - State Rep. Jeff Morris, Tsimshian, was elected by lawmakers from across the nation to chair the Council of State Governments - WEST.

Morris, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, was elected to the chairmanship in December 2006.

''Rising energy prices, connecting power grids and dealing with new communication technologies are all challenges the Western states need to address together,'' Morris said. ''[The council] is a great venue to talk about these issues and to share ideas.''

The council provides a platform for non-partisan, regional collaboration among the legislatures of the 13 Western states. It creates opportunities for legislators and staff members to share ideas and experiences with their colleagues.

''The north Puget Sound region is greatly affected by decisions made by other Western states,'' Morris said. ''I look forward to representing our unique community both in Olympia and at [the council].''

The council's membership is composed of the legislatures of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Associate members include the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and the Pacific islands of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.

Delegates meet for Coast Salish Gathering

DUNCAN, British Columbia - Hundreds of Coast Salish leaders from the United States and Canada will gather in the Cowichan Longhouse and Si'em Le Lum Gymnasium for the second Coast Salish Gathering, Jan. 24 - 26.

Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada are expected to join this year's delegates in discussing possible policies to protect the region's rich marine diversity and other diminishing resources. Delegates say these resources - essential to sustaining the cultures, economies and homelands of tribes in western Washington and First Nations in British Columbia - are under significant pressure from population growth, industrial expansion and climate change.

''As leaders and protectors of our shared homeland, we strive to establish a policy dialogue that will generate actions to ensure the protection of our shared ecosystems. We need a vision for the future,'' wrote Lisa Shaver, president of the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group Board of Directors, and Cowichan Chief Harvey Alphonse.

Search intensifies for runaway Colville girl

UNION GAP, Wash. - The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is assisting in the search for a 15-year-old Colville girl believed to have run away from home June 10.

Family members say Kirstie Roxanne Grunlose has not been heard from or seen since she left her aunt's house after a dispute with a cousin. Her aunt, Diane Grunlose, said the family initially believed Kirstie was headed to her mother's house in the Portland, Ore., area, but seven months have now passed since Kirstie was last seen.

The aunt said Kirstie was upset because of her mother's impending move to California. Kirstie was going to live with her grandparents in Nespelem and attend Paschal Sherman Indian School, the aunt said.

A Union Gap police detective said Kirstie had had ''computer contact with a male, possibly a boyfriend.'' The detective said Kirstie does not have a history of running away. A poster issued by the national center stated that Kirstie ''may be with a male companion. They may have traveled to Oregon.''

The national center considers Kirstie an ''endangered runaway.'' She is described as 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 135 pounds, brown hair and green eyes. Her nickname is Kirstie Bear.

Anyone with information about Kirstie should call (800) THE-LOST.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at