Indian Country Today Media Network caught up with U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, (D-WA) member of the Senate Committee Indian Affairs, during Canoe Journey protocol at the Samish Nation’s Fidalgo Bay Resort, August 1.
At Samish, she visited with Swinomish Tribe Chairman Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, and enjoyed some of the songs and dances shared by northwest Indigenous Peoples.
She took a moment to talk with ICTMN about land into trust, federal recognition, the Duwamish Tribe, telecommunications and broadband expansion in rural areas, and the Canoe Journey.
In the next session, what progress do you think we will see on a Carcieri fix?
I think that the Senate is going to be voting, at least in committee, in the next month or so. Don’t know if it’s going to happen before the August recess, but in the fall, probably legislation will be moving through the Senate committee on fixing land into trust.
Any changes in federal recognition procedures that you think could help some tribes like the Duwamish?
Obviously, the Congress is a place of last resort, but I think BIA continues to need to improve the process so that people understand it, but yet also balance it against the interests of the tribal system as it exists today.
Have you looked at the case regarding Duwamish? Do you feel there’s an argument to be made that they should be recognized by the federal government?
Well, we’re looking – obviously, the Congress from time to time considers cases that don’t make it through the BIA process and we review each of those, so we’d be looking at this as well.
In the next session, what progress do you think we will see on improving access to telecommunications and broadband on reservations and in rural areas?
I think the last mile and how we come up with a solution to make sure that broadband is an economic development tool for Indian country is really important. And this isn’t just in Indian country; the same issue exists over the last mile in other parts of the United States, but we have to figure out how to partner through the federal programs that exist today to make sure that the last mile is there so that service can be delivered.
The Universal Service Fund that everyone pitches into to help pay for that last mile – could there be improvements in how that money is invested in expanding telecommunications?
If you’re asking specifically how in Indian country, I’d have to get back to you on that question.
What excites you the most about events like the Canoe Journey?
The discussions that you have with individual people from all over Indian country are always fabulous. But understanding our state and the issues of our state, being able to talk to Brian Cladoosby, president of the NCAI – but right now he’s right in here in Swinomish – he told me 10 things I didn’t know about what was happening in Swinomish. I learned several things about what’s happening here as well, at Samish, the structure and the opportunities. But seeing pictures of people enjoying today, out in the canoes, seeing the events of tonight – it’s really understanding the culture and the priorities, so that’s really important.
(This journey, one of four in the Northwest this year, is called the 2015 Youth Canoe Journey. The youth journey, July 27 – August 7, is sponsored by 15 Native Nations; the final host is the Muckleshoot Tribe.)