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News from the Pacific Northwest

American Indian law now on state bar exam

SEATTLE - Aspiring lawyers must now understand federal American Indian law in order to pass the Washington state bar exam.

On July 24, Washington became the second state to include American Indian law on its bar exam; South Dakota was also scheduled to begin bar-testing American Indian law in July.

''The relations between the tribes and the state of Washington have come a long way and this historic change will bring us even closer,'' Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby said in a press release. Cladoosby is also president of the Association of Washington Tribes.

''Because of their training and preparation for the exam, today's lawyers will be better equipped to respond to the increasing integration of tribes into the economic life of Washington state. Their clients will be the real beneficiaries of this big step forward.''

In October 2004, after a two-and-a-half-year campaign by Northwest Native lawyers, the state bar association's Board of Governors unanimously agreed to include American Indian law in the bar exam. New Mexico was the first state to do so, in 2002. Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Wisconsin may follow.

Knowledge of American Indian law is growing in importance as Native communities become more influential economically and politically. American Indian law impacts areas in which those communities are involved: banking and finance, real estate development, retail and wholesale trade, telecommunications and tourism.

Proponents say testing for American Indian law will also increase diversity in the legal profession - Native lawyers comprise only 1,700 of America's 1 million lawyers - and help heal historically strained relations between state and tribal governments.

Northwest Indian College wins early childhood education accreditation

LUMMI, Wash. - Northwest Indian College is now accredited to offer an associate of applied science-transfer degree in early childhood education effective in fall.

It's the second new degree program accredited this year at NWIC; in June, the college won accreditation for its first four-year degree, a Bachelor of Science in Native environmental science.

It's the college's first big step toward becoming a four-year university.

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As part of its ongoing new-campus development, the college has finished construction of student housing and a cafeteria, and began construction of a child care center May 29.

The college was founded in 1973 as the Lummi Indian School of Aquaculture. It was accredited in 1988 as Lummi Community College and became Northwest Indian College in 1989.

The early childhood education degree is designed to prepare students for positions as lead teachers and other positions in Head Start, child care and birth-to-6 programs.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities will conduct an on-site review in 2008.

''This news is truly a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire faculty, staff and board of trustees, who all want to meet the needs of tribal communities across Indian country and beyond,'' NWIC President Cheryl Crazy Bull said in a press release.

Lummi artists visit ancient village site

SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. - Lummi artists capped off a four-day arts festival with a visit to an ancient Lummi village site and cemetery on this Salish Sea island north of Puget Sound.

About 20 artists participated in the Lummi Arts Festival July 20 - 23 on San Juan Island, which the Lummi know as Whelalk. Lummi people left the island beginning in 1855, when the Treaty of Point Elliott created the Lummi reservation near Bellingham, about 42 miles north.

In accordance with the treaty, Lummi maintains resource rights, such as fishing, in San Juan County. In addition, the Lummi Indian Nation owns Madrona Point, a burial and village site on Orcas Island.

Various festival venues showcased basketry, carving, clothing, graphic arts, jewelry, mixed media and photography by noted and emerging Lummi artists.

Poets Shasta Little-Star Cano and Melanie Solomon (Diabol-it'sa) read original works on modern social topics. Artist Ernestine Gensaw taught visitors how to weave with cedar and native grasses. Musician/historian Matthew Warbus played traditional flute music and presented a Lummi history of San Juan Island at the San Juan Historical Museum. Carver Charles Miller led a museum presentation about the cross-country journey of the healing poles that were carved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Artist Clarissa Young added a humorous touch to traditional stories.

The final day, July 23, 10 artists visited the now-privately owned Spirit Cove estate, which the Lummi knew as xwl'e'lqt, the place where the Creator first gave the people fresh water. Artifacts found on the site date back at last 2,500 years. The site was homesteaded under required law by She'kla'malt in the mid-1800s; his descendants lived there until 1983.

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

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