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Tulalip and Seattle reach agreement

SEATTLE, Wash. - Mutual respect for sovereignty, culture and values prompted the city of Seattle and the Tulalip Tribes to enter into an agreement that promotes government to government relationships and conflict resolution.

An intergovernmental committee will form the catalyst for the good-faith working relationship that will take both governments toward mutually established goals. The City Council passed an ordinance that establishes the new relationship. It is expected to be signed by Mayor Paul Schell. The ordinance will take effect 30-day after signing.

"We are excited about the possibilities the agreement will bring," said John McCoy, executive director of the Tulalip Tribes.

"This government to government relationship is a positive step between the Tulalips and the city of Seattle."

Resolution of issues that affect each government entity will be dealt with in the committee before or as conflicts arise. Many issues affect the tribes of the Northwest: Water, fishing, wildlife and other natural resources many times become tense political conflicts between the tribes and non-Indian communities that affect the entire region.

Likewise, the city of Seattle, as the largest city in the region, deals with governmental issues that affect not only the region, but tribal governments and reservations as well.

The contributions both parties make to the region are recognized in the agreement and form the moral and ethical foundation they will abide by in meeting the goals each has for the future, the agreement states.

Stated goals of the committee are to promote a respect for the different cultures, promote community pride, encourage civility, develop a sense of place and offer hope for the future and recognize the sovereignty of each of the governments.

The intergovernmental committee will be composed of elected officials or their designated representatives from the two governments. Committee members were given the authority by ordinance to draft agreements on which the two governments can take action.

The committee also will take on the responsibility to resolve issues. The first meeting will take place within 60 days after the agreement is signed and the committee will meet annually after that. It has the option of ordering more meetings as circumstances dictate.

Three representatives from each party will make up the committee. Any representative can be removed at any time. The committee was given latitude on how it will handle matters that come before it. The intent is to achieve a consensus on any matter that requires attention.

Matters brought before the committee will include, but are not limited to environmental protection, cultural events, fisheries and habitat restoration, the agreement states. The committee must agree to address any issue.

To facilitate an equitable outcome to solutions, will be a delegate from Seattle and another from the tribe. At least two members from each of the governments must be present at any meeting to take formal action.

A major element will be dispute resolution. Should a misunderstanding occur between the two governments, good faith efforts to resolve the disputes will be undertaken. Either party may request mediation if there is no resolution.

Richard Conlin, Seattle councilman, said tribes through the country look to the Northwest tribes as models for "achieving significant results in ensuring Native American rights are honored. He attributed that statement to Wilma Mankiller, former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

"The agreement being created is a good example of that success."