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News from the Pacific Northwest

Tribes applaud federal funding for natural resources

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Western Washington treaty tribes are applauding the efforts of the state;s congressional delegation in obtaining renewed funding for ongoing natural resource preservation work.

A funding bill signed by President Bush Dec. 20 includes $1.8 million for tribal participation in the Pacific Salmon Treaty. With funds from other sources, funding for tribal participation totals $4.1 million. The funding is shared by tribes in western Washington and along the Columbia River, as well as the Metlakatla Indian community in Southeast Alaska.

In addition, $1.7 million is budgeted for tribal participation in the Timber Fish Wildlife agreement. With $2.5 million in state funding, the tribes will have near-status quo funding of $4.2 million in 2008.

The Pacific Salmon Treaty was negotiated by the United States and Canada in 1985 to address trans-boundary salmon management issues. Treaty tribes are partners in protecting, sharing and restoring salmon populations.

The Timber Fish Wildlife agreement dates to 1987. Treaty tribes, state and federal agencies, environmental groups and forest landowners work together to manage natural resources in a way that ensures protection for salmon and wildlife while providing for the economic health of the timber industry.

''Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks came through for us Indian people, but really, everyone benefits from the work we do to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources,'' Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually, said in a statement. ''They realize the need for the tribes to be active participants in the management of Washington's natural resources.''

Yakama, state reach proposed treaty-based cigarette tax agreement

TOPPENISH, Wash. - The Legislature is expected to vote this session on a revised cigarette tax agreement between the Yakama Nation and the state of Washington.

In the agreement, reached in December, Yakama would incrementally increase its cigarette sales tax over eight years - from $16.20 to $17.75 per carton - to narrow the gap between the tax charged by tribal and non-tribal retailers. The state charges $20.25 in tax per carton.

The agreement would replace a 2004 agreement that required a closing of the tax gap within a shorter time period. The state Department of Revenue terminated that agreement after finding that cigarettes continued to be sold on the reservation without valid Yakama Nation tax stamps, in violation of the agreement.

The cigarette tax increase would mean more revenue for Yakama; with the exception of a federal tax of 39 cents per pack, all tax revenues are used for tribal services such as burials and energy assistance programs. ''This treaty-based agreement will bring much-needed tribal tax dollars to the nation for us to provide essential governmental services to our members,'' Yakama Chairman Ralph Sampson said in a press release.

How the state benefits: Yakama's cigarette products would carry a tax stamp, and Yakama would provide the state with information about the transport of cigarettes and sales to off-reservation customers within Washington state. Yakama would also allow the state access to on-reservation tobacco retailers for monitoring of pricing and stamps.

The tax stamps and sharing of information will help the state enforce laws against the transport of unstamped cigarettes in Washington without violating Yakama's treaty right to ''transport goods to market without restriction.''

Nez Perce, Umatilla Yakama photos go on exhibit at Burke Museum

SEATTLE - Historical photos and rarely seen objects from Nez Perce, Umatilla and Yakama go on exhibit Jan. 26 at the Burke Museum, located on the University of Washington campus.

''Peoples of the Plateau: The Indian Photographs of Lee Moorhouse, 1898 - 1915'' and ''This Place Called Home,'' featuring selections from the Burke's Plateau arts collection, are the first Burke exhibits to celebrate Columbia Plateau culture in more than 20 years.

The exhibits spotlight the vibrant culture and artistry of the Native peoples of the Columbia Plateau, which covers eastern Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

The historic photographs on view in ''Peoples of the Plateau'' come from the Lee Moorhouse Collection at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma.

''This Place Called Home'' includes beadwork, cradle boards, cornhusk bags, baskets, blankets and other items. Recent video interviews with tribal elders, recorded by Burke staff members, provide contemporary comment on objects in the exhibit, with elders discussing the photographs and objects and, in some cases, their own family heirlooms and ancestors. Some pieces date to the 1800s.

The day includes a panel discussion, ''Tribal Perspectives: Columbia River Plateau History, Culture and Arts.'' Panelists include University of Washington faculty member Scott Pinkham, Nez Perce; environmentalist Russell Jim, Yakama; cultural specialist Geraldine Jim, Warm Springs; Tamastslikt Cultural Institute Director Roberta Conner, Umatilla; and Michael Holloman, Colville, director of the Center for Plateau Cultural Studies at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture.

Flood relief funds available to stricken areas of Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Residents of rural areas, including Native communities, hit by the severe winter storm in December can get low-interest federal loans and grants to help offset the cost of repairs to their homes.

''Very low-, low-, and moderate-income households in rural areas whose homes - owned or rented - were damaged or destroyed by the flooding are eligible for this program,'' U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Jon DeVaney said in a press release. ''If you contact the closest Rural Development office, we can help you determine whether you qualify.''

Loan funds can be used to repair flood damage, including structural damage, septic systems, wells, utilities and weatherization. For displaced renters who qualify, a loan may be made to build or purchase an existing home.

Applicants must be located in rural areas and have losses that were not completely covered by flood insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or Small Business Administration. Loans cannot pay for the loss of personal items such as household goods, furniture, clothing and appliances.

Visit www.rurdev.usda.gov or call (360) 704-7760 (Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pierce and Thurston counties); (360) 883-1987 (Clark, Cowlitz, Pacific and Wahkiakum counties); (360) 428-4322, ext. 4 (Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties); or (360) 452-8994, ext. 4 (Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties).

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