Duwamish tribe feels left out
SEATTLE - A July 24 intergovernmental agreement was signed between the city
of Seattle and four Washington state tribes to set up working committees
regarding tribal treaty rights. A fifth tribe is claiming to have been
ignored in the process.
The intergovernmental agreements were signed amid much fanfare and included
the presence of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and included representatives
from the Suquamish, Snoqualmie, Tulalip and Swinomish tribes. Feeling left
out in the cold was the Duwamish tribe, who historically had called the
land under what is now the modern city Seattle home.
In fact, the namesake of the Pacific Northwest's largest city, Chief
Seattle, or Sealth, was of Duwamish and Suquamish parentage, and that fact
is not lost on modern day Duwamish who feel snubbed by the
"We signed the original treaty and it irritates me that [the city of Seattle] is ignoring us now," said Duwamish Chairwoman Cecile Hansen.
Though the Duwamish were among the original signatories of the 1855 Port
Elliot treaty, which ceded more than 54,000 acres, (much of it now the city
of Seattle) the tribe currently lacks federal recognition.
While the Port Elliot treaty provided land for the tribe it was ultimately
never provided and because of this lack of land, the tribe was stripped of
federal recognition in the 1960s.
The tribe's fortunes seemed to change when the outgoing Clinton
administration granted recognition to the tribe in its final day in office
in January 2001. Seven months later, however, they lost federal recognition
under the Bush administration.
Hansen questioned why her tribe was left out of the agreement and pointed
out three of the other four tribes who signed the agreement are not
situated in King County, the county that contains Seattle. Snoqualmie is
the only King County tribe and are located some 30 miles east of the city.
Swinomish and Tulalip are located well to the north of Seattle and the
Suquamish are situated on the far side of the Puget Sound from Seattle with
their reservation straddling Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula.
Hansen wonders why the city would sign agreements with tribes who are not
in the immediate geographical sphere of the city.
Scott Sufficool, member of the Quinault Nation and the city of Seattle's
tribal liaison, pointed out that these geographical disparities do not tell
the entire story. He said though the bases of these tribes might not be in
the immediate vicinity of Seattle, their interests are tied to the city in
a number of ways.
Tulalip, for instance, has fishing rights on the Puget Sound that come
within shouting distance of Seattle. The Snoqualmie are located in the
watershed that ultimately provides the city with drinking water and the
Swinomish are in proximity to the Upper Skagit utility system that powers
the city of almost 600,000.
Sufficool maintains that because of these interests, it is important for
the city to provide some kind of forum to address tribal and municipal
In what Sufficool describes as a "pilot program," the agreements provide
for committees to address concerns as they come up. Ultimately, the
committees will consist of the Seattle mayor and president of the city
council or their designees and the chairperson and a council member, or
their designees of the signatory tribe who has a current issue.
Despite earlier local press reports to the contrary, Sufficool dismissed
claims that the Duwamish were not included because of their non-federally
recognized status, but rather because the interests of the tribes that
signed the intergovernmental agreement.
"Only tribes that have potential impacts by [municipal decisions] because
of their treaty rights were included," Sufficool said.
Hansen disagrees that these are the only tribes affected and believes the
Port Elliot treaty guarantees them the same rights and maintained that the
tribe will just have to keep trying. She places blame on the neighboring
tribes such as Tulalip for opposing their recognition.
Though the Tulalips have denied it in previous reports, Hansen said that
the presence of another tribe in the Seattle metropolitan area stokes fears
among the Tulalip who have fishing rights near the city and a casino. Calls
to Tulalip were not returned by press time.
When the Bush administration reversed recognition to the tribe it was
claimed that there was a discrepancy between the names of a census taken of
the tribe in 1915 and another in 1926. However, historians have said this
was common as many during that era tried to hide their Indian ancestry in
the face of discrimination.
The BIA maintains the tribe did not meet all seven criteria needed to
obtain recognition and claims the Clinton administration acted too hastily
in their determination. Hansen refutes this and said that all criteria were
met and explained.
Hansen is determined to one day win recognition for the Duwamish but said
it is not possible under the current presidential administration.
"We'll try again once we have a new administration in Washington."