News from the Pacific Northwest

Suquamish reinter ancestors' remains

SUQUAMISH, Wash. - Suquamish welcomed home the remains of 11 ancestors and funerary objects Sept. 21 with a reburial ceremony at the Suquamish Cemetery, near the historic Old Man House village site.

The remains and objects were returned by the Burke Museum of Natural History and the state Parks and Recreation Commission under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Archaeologists had removed the remains and funerary objects from Old Man House in 1950 and turned them over to the Burke Museum.

''We are happy and relieved that the ancestors from Old Man House are coming home,'' Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said in a press release. ''This is an important part of the transfer of Old Man House back to the tribe and a big part of the healing process for our community. It is very important that the spirits of our ancestors are cared for the proper way.''

Old Man House, on the eastern edge of the Suquamish Reservation, was the mother village of the Suquamish and the home of Si'ahl, also known as Chief Seattle, for whom the city was named.

The U.S. War Department acquired the Old Man House village site in 1905 for a military installation, but it remained undeveloped and was sold to a private company in 1937. In 1950, the state Parks and Recreation Commission purchased a small parcel of the village site and created Old Man House State Park. In 2005, Suquamish received the title for what is now known as Old Man House Park.

Burke Museum director Julie Stein said the repatriation represents ''years of collaboration between the tribe, the Burke Museum and Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.''

Samish bids to regain fishing rights

ANACORTES, Wash. - A decision is pending in federal court whether to restore the Samish Indian Nation's right to fish commercially in its traditional and accustomed area.

Samish officials and their attorney presented 160 pages of evidence to U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez Oct. 10 to show how the nation should have been included in a 1974 federal decision that affirmed the right of treaty tribes to one half of the catch in their traditional waters.

The judge issuing the 1974 decision, George Boldt, omitted the Samish, apparently relying on an erroneous 1969 BIA memo that did not list the Samish as a federally recognized tribe even though they had had a government-to-government relationship with the United States since signing the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott.

Samish leaders say restoration of fishing rights will enable them to be partners in the restoration of salmon habitat and populations, and to harvest salmon for subsistence and ceremonial purposes.

''We are not asking for anything extraordinary, just what has been rightfully ours all along,'' Samish Chairman Tom Wooten said in a statement issued by the tribal office. ''We want to partner equally in the harvest and protection of our shared natural resources.''

Samish General Manager Leslie Eastwood added, ''Samish is known for being environmentally conscientious. We were the first tribe in the nation to purchase green power and we are working with the [state] Department of Ecology and the Nisqually Tribe on a feasibility project to improve Fidalgo Bay water flow. Our concern is always about being good stewards of the resources, and taking our rightful place among the other treaty tribes as conservationists in a good way.''

New NW Indian Bar Assoc. president elected

TAHOLAH, Wash. - Naomi Stacy, Umatilla, was elected president of the Northwest Indian Bar Association Oct. 15.

Stacy, lead attorney for the Quinault Nation, is secretary of the Oregon State Bar Indian Law Section and a graduate of the 2006 Washington State Bar Association Leadership Institute.

''This year, we'll be seeking expanded participation from our members in Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, Washington, Oregon and Idaho,'' she said in a press release. She asked members to ''invest your time or resources into supporting the NIBA mission. In return, you can expect more leaders and empowered communities.''

In 2004, the American Bar Association honored NIBA and the state bar association's Indian Law Section for their work raising money for scholarships for aspiring Native lawyers from throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition, NIBA led the 2 1/2-year campaign to make Washington the second state to test new lawyers' understanding of federal American Indian law on the bar exam.

John McCoy named Elder of the Year

TULALIP, Wash. - State Rep. John McCoy of the Tulalip Tribes has been named Elder of the Year by the National Indian Education Association in recognition of his ''lifelong service to promoting quality education through active community service.''

McCoy has long devoted himself to issues of statewide importance - agriculture, economic development, education, health, labor and trade. But he has also worked to make sure that the first peoples of his state have equal opportunities in all aspects of Washington life.

He led the effort to have American Indian culture and history included in public school curricula. He is chairman of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators and led the formation of a caucus to promote legislation on the state and federal levels to improve health care access.

While McCoy was applauded by the association for his promotion and support of American Indian education, he said, ''I believe very strongly that it is our duty to educate all youngsters,'' in a release.

McCoy said the education package adopted this legislative session provides for ''early learning, full basic-education funding, equal opportunity for every student, professional development for all school staff and quality work-force training.

''Children need to get their education off to a good start. We must provide children and parents with a strong foundation for our youngsters to launch their school careers. Kids who start school behind tend to stay behind. Every child has a constitutional right to begin school ready to learn.''

Mascots subject of first lecture in series

SEATTLE - Cornel Pewewardy, Comanche/Kiowa educator and the American Indian Education Association's 1991 Educator of the Year, kicked off the Bush School's 2007 - '08 Diversity Speaker Series Oct. 18 with a presentation about the controversy over American Indian mascots, logos and nicknames.

Pewewardy's presentation explored the stereotypes and prejudices that sporting mascots convey and perpetuate, as well as the reasons for their persistence in the 21st century.

Pewewardy has degrees in elementary education, guidance and counseling, educational management and development, as well as a doctorate in educational administration. He designed the American Indian Magnet School in St. Paul, Minn.

Pewewardy is a frequent speaker on the issue of Native identity and stereotypes and wrote the article, ''I'm Not Your Indian Mascot Anymore: Countering the Assault of Indian Mascots in Schools'' for the spring 2001 edition of Red Ink magazine.

The Bush School Diversity Speaker Series, now in its second year, explores issues related to race, class and privilege. The presentations are free and open to the public. Aside from their presentations, the speakers spend a day on campus to interact and work with students, families, faculty and staff.

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