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News from the Pacific Northwest

Tribes help celebrate environmental advocacy

SHAW ISLAND, Wash. - Canoes from Lummi, Samish and Swinomish will return to this island, known historically by the Coast Salish people as Somemana, on Sept. 15 to participate in Friends of the San Juans' annual picnic.

Friends of the San Juans is an environmental advocacy group that has worked with Lummi, Samish and Swinomish on environmental issues. The San Juans are the ancestral home of the Lummi, Samish and Swinomish and all operate habitat restoration, marine cleanup or resource protection programs here.

Visitors to the picnic will be given the opportunity to pull in a Coast Salish canoe. The event also includes a beach walk, lunch and guest speakers including Coast Salish elders.

The event is 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Shaw Island County Park. Call (360) 378-2319 or visit

Puyallup building 'healthy' home for elders

PUYALLUP, Wash. - Ground will be blessed and construction will begin Sept. 20 on an ''Elder Healthy Home,'' the first of 20 using healthy design and sustainable materials. The homes are being built for Puyallup's seniors.

The single-family, two-bedroom home will be built on 32nd Street in Tacoma. It is believed to be the first of its kind on tribal land in the Northwest and Puyallup hopes the project will demonstrate an approach to green and affordable housing for tribes in the region.

Unique features of the home include accessible design and assistive technology, such as smooth ground surfaces of entranceways, without stairs; wide interior doors and hallways; lever handles for opening doors, rather than twisting knobs; light switches with large flat panels, rather than small toggle switches; clear lines of sight to reduce dependence on sound; and bright lighting.

The home will be built using salvaged and locally produced materials; certified sustainably harvested wood; recycled-content roofing, concrete and insulation; and low- or non-toxic materials, paints and finishes. It will have low-flow plumbing fixtures, appliances and toilets; solar cooling and heating; rainwater collection for landscape irrigation; native plants and drought-tolerant landscaping; and pervious pavement for on-site stormwater infiltration.

Elders and their caregivers participated in the design. The home will be built by Martin Luther King Housing Development Association. Ten corporations are sponsoring or endorsing the project, including the National American Indian Housing Council and the Builders Association of Pierce County.

Longhouse Media wins Seattle mayor's Arts Award

SEATTLE - Longhouse Media received the Mayor's Arts Award for its Native Lens program. Mayor Greg Nickels made the presentation Aug. 31 at Seattle Center.

Native Lens teaches American Indian and Alaska Native youth not only how to make films but how to tell stories that challenge stereotypes about Native people while bridging a gap between Native youth and digital media.

In addition to providing life skills, alternative education and career development in the media field, the program offers young people an opportunity to express the stories they want to tell while giving back to their communities.

Native Lens was launched in 2005 by executive director Tracy Rector, Seminole, and artistic director Annie Silverstein with the support of the Swinomish Tribal Community. Since its inception, Longhouse Media has introduced hundreds of students - many from low income and at-risk backgrounds - to the art of writing and filmmaking.

Two films produced by Swinomish participants were shown at the Native American Film and Video Festival in New York on Nov. 30 to Dec. 3; a documentary about the effects of pollution caused by an oil refinery located in traditional Swinomish territory was sent to Gov. Christine Gregoire in early 2006.

Pole erected to honor Haida carver Saaduuts

SEATTLE - Native dancers and a traditional salmon dinner commemorated the installation of a traditionally carved 24-foot honor pole at The Center for Wooden Boats on Aug. 25.

The pole is a gift from the Tlingit people and the town of Klawock, Alaska, to Saaduuts and the center in appreciation for a 36-foot canoe - the ''Spirit of Peace'' - that Saaduuts made as a gift for Klawock in 2005. Saaduuts is the center's artist in residence.

The pole was raised as a permanent feature of The Center for Wooden Boats and the new Lake Union Park.

For two years, Klawock carver Jon Rowen worked with youth in Klawock to carve the honor pole. The pole is 24 feet tall and tells the story of the connection between Saaduuts, the center and Klawock.

For more than eight years through the program ''Carving Cultural Connections,'' Saaduuts and the center have been carving traditional dugout canoes with school children of all backgrounds from the Seattle area and beyond. Four of the canoes have been given to Native communities to help them reconnect to their canoe culture.

Lummi Nation first in hazard mitigation

LUMMI, Wash. - The Lummi Indian Nation was first in the United States to have its updated multi-hazard mitigation plan submitted to and approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Plan approval make the Lummi eligible to apply for grants related to fire management assistance, hazard mitigation, pre-disaster mitigation and flood mitigation through May 30, 2010. Funding for these grants is made available through the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

FEMA Region 10 Administrator Susan Reinertson presented a formal approval letter to the Lummi Indian Business Council and Lummi's multi-hazard mitigation team on Aug. 6 in the Council Chambers.

''The Lummi Nation is committed to maintaining a comprehensive and current multi-hazard mitigation plan for the welfare of our community,'' Lummi Chairman Evelyn Jefferson said in a press release before the presentation.

''By ensuring that our hazard mitigation plan addresses the ever-changing hazards that might occur within our community, we're actively developing and managing a living blueprint for reducing the impact of future natural disasters.''

Funds available for energy assistance

SEATTLE - Some $21.9 million in funds are available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help rural residents and businesses - including those in Indian country - upgrade energy infrastructure and make other energy efficiency improvements.

Grant applications must be postmarked by Oct 1. An application guide is available at and at under ''Code of Domestic Federal Assistance (CDFA)'' No. 10.859.

Funds may be used to acquire, construct, extend, upgrade or otherwise improve energy generation, transmission or distribution facilities serving communities in which the average residential cost for home energy exceeds 275 percent of the national average.

Grants are available to individuals, businesses, nonprofit entities, states, local governments and federally recognized tribes.

Grants may not be used to pay utility bills or to purchase fuel and may not be used for the sole benefit of the applicant, according to USDA.

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