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News from the Pacific Northwest

Rights were retained, not given by 1855 Treaty

SWINOMISH, Wash. - Washington's First Peoples were not given rights by the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855; those rights were upheld. And that's an important distinction, because rights that existed since time immemorial cannot be taken away.

That was the message of several speakers at the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community longhouse ceremony Jan. 20 commemorating the 152nd anniversary of the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty.

''People thought they gave us those rights. We retained those rights,'' Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby said. ''They are rights we had for centuries.''

Sovereign rights - from fishing to gaming - are frequently targeted on the political front. ''We need to go back to our leaders and say, 'Our rights are not for sale,''' Cladoosby said.

In a letter read by Cladoosby, Gov. Christine Gregoire called the annual Swinomish celebration - the only one in Washington open to non-Native people - ''an important opportunity to learn about the importance of the treaty.''

On the Lummi reservation, Northwest Indian College marked the anniversary of the treaty signing by hosting a series of speakers: Holocaust survivor No'emi Ban, Lummi historian Bill James, Tlingit actor Gene Tagaban and Lummi actor/musician Swil Kanim.

The Hungarian-born Ban told of surviving the Nazi invasion and life in a concentration camp. Her message to those who heard her speak: ''Don't ever think that you are dead. Don't ever give up. Live life to the fullest and don't take anything for granted.''

Three elected to Lummi Tribal Council

LUMMI, Wash. - The Lummi Indian Business Council has three new members, who succeed a former chairman as well as the current vice chairman and treasurer.

Thomas Jefferson Sr., Cheryl Sanders and Nadine Wilbur were elected to three-year terms on the 11-member council on Jan. 27. Some 578 voters cast ballots in the election.

Jefferson received 330 votes to Clifford Cultee's 241 to win the Position E seat; the position is being vacated by Perry Adams, who served as vice chairman.

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Sanders received 292 to Elden Hillaire's 281 to win the Position F seat; Hillaire was the incumbent and had served as treasurer.

Wilbur received 316 votes to Kristin Kinley's 261 to win the Position G seat; the position is being vacated by Darrell Hillaire, a former chairman.

The election results were expected to be certified Feb. 5, with the council then choosing its officers, who are full-time and salaried. The current chairman is Evelyn Jefferson.

Tulalip Council member resigns, apologizes

TULALIP, Wash. - Tulalip Tribes Councilman Herman Williams Jr. has resigned, two months before the end of his term.

In a letter that topped the front page of the Jan. 24 edition of See-Yaht-Sub, Tulalip's weekly newspaper, Williams wrote that he ''made a very bad choice'' in his personal behavior in the midst of ''some personal family issues.''

''As a consequence for my stupid choice, I made another decision to resign my position ... I have taken complete and full responsibility for my poor choice in dealing with my grief.''

Williams did not disclose what he did; he has been unavailable for comment and he had not, as of Jan. 31, responded to an interview request from See-Yaht-Sub. Chairman Stan Jones said Williams ''has done a good job'' for Tulalip and hoped his former colleague would run for another term in March.

In the letter, Williams said family and friends thought his resignation was ''too harsh a punishment,'' but that he disagreed because ''it is very important that each and every board member be a role model for our young ones, to set the example. How could I, as a director, set and enforce policies regarding behavior and performances for tribal staff without following the same rules? To do so would be a mockery of the true meaning of integrity.''

Williams, who served 18 years on the council, including a term as chairman, called this chapter of his life ''an opportunity to learn and grow and be a better human being, an opportunity to be wiser.''

As a council member, Williams counted among his accomplishments negotiation for the first casino, acquiring bus service on the reservation, development of Quil Ceda Village, and serving as chairman of the new casino construction. He also served as vice chairman of the Association of Washington Tribes.

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