Puyallup Tribe joins lawsuit asking the federal court to stop the sale of Sand Point archives building
Puyallup Tribe of Indians
The Puyallup Tribe has joined a lawsuit against the federal government for illegally proceeding with the sale of the National Archives and Records Administration’s building in Seattle.
Other plaintiffs include the state attorney general’s office, 25 other federally recognized tribes, one Alaska Native Regional Corporation, one intertribal organization comprised of 37 federally recognized Alaska Native Tribes and five additional Alaska Native communities, the State of Oregon, and 10 other groups consisting of community organizations, historical preservation societies, museums, and a tribal organization. The plaintiffs have asked the judge to grant a motion for preliminary injunction, which would halt the sale – planned for early next month – while the court hears the case. The court documents are available at PuyallupTribe-nsn.gov.
The building is commonly called the Sand Point archives. It holds history of 272 federally recognized tribes, including the Puyallup Tribe. Tribal members use the records to establish membership, show fishing rights, trace ancestry and access Native school records. Less than 1 percent of the holdings are digitized and available online.
The federal Public Buildings Reform Board has fast-tracked the sale to generate revenue for the federal government. The records housed there would be moved more than 1,000 miles away to Riverside, California, and Kansas City, Missouri.
“The archives are important not only to our history but to our future,” the Puyallup Tribal Council, the Tribe’s governing body, said. “Our staff use the documents housed there to support litigation that protects our hard-fought treaty rights. Moving the archives to California and Missouri obviously would make it much harder for our Tribe to get these documents when we need them.”
The plaintiffs sued the federal defendants under the Administrative Procedures Act for acting contrary to the requirements of the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (FASTA), which is a law passed by Congress in 2016 for the purpose of selling high value and underused federal properties, for failing to follow the procedural requirements of Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act, and for failure to follow federal tribal consultation policies.
Beyond ongoing efforts to protect treaty rights, moving the archives would exact a heavy emotional toll, Council said. The motion includes 65 pages of declarations from Puyallup Tribal members and Puyallup Tribal employees about the archives’ importance. Extracts show a range of uses and consequences of moving the records away:
“The last time I visited the Seattle National Archives facility I found a record that listed the sale of my ancestors, the Jacksons’ land. … My aunt 4x’s removed, Jennie Jackson, of these ancestors, was murdered for her land because it was a highly sought after location. … There are thousands of similar documents that have personal meaning for those who research here. …”
— Amber Taylor
“Some of these documents contain the handwriting of tribal members and their stories in their voice. Simply making a copy and digitizing it for research will not allow the descendants of these Tribal members access to their personal history and family survival story. The connection to these documents cannot be measured and cannot be felt over a computer screen. Access to these sensitive, one of a kind documents are essential to the historical trauma of the Puyallup people.”
— Brandon Reynon
“Beyond the harm that will be caused against the tribal departments, the stories that are passed down from one generation to the next will be lost over time. Families, such as mine, that have lost family members will not be able to research records and make important discoveries about their families by viewing records at the National Archives.”
— Charlene Matheson
“These unique records contain irreplaceable details memorializing the Tribes’ earliest efforts to protect its’ tribal members from being egregiously detached from their traditional homelands, and struggling to maintain their traditional cultural areas and subsistence lifestyles, and then maintaining their ever-important land-based spiritual duties, cultural identities, stewardship practices, and tribal governments.”
— Jeffrey Thomas
“Important information [about the loss of the Tribe’s land] would never have been discovered if it had not been conserved by the Department of the Interior in Records Group 75 maintained at … the National Archives [at] Seattle.”
— Samuel J. Stiltner
“My husband [Gilbert King George] will be 83 years old, this spring. It is not an exaggeration to say that moving the materials to Riverside, California will effectively end his ability to access these materials. Our students will miss their chance to discover their histories with their trusted elder to guide and interpret the work. Our elders often say, ‘There is no promise for tomorrow.’”
— Tallis King George
The full text of the declarations are on the Tribe’s website, PuyallupTribe-nsn.gov.
“These documents are a significant part of our history,” Tribal Council said. “They are the story of our life as a Tribe. They are our ancestors’ stories. This is a fight worth having.”
About the Puyallup Tribe of Indians
The Puyallup People have lived along the shores of what is now called Puget Sound since time immemorial. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is a sovereign nation of more than 5,000 members and one of the largest employers in Pierce County. It serves its people and neighbors with generosity and is committed to building a sustainable way of life for future generations. Learn more about the Puyallup Tribe.
About the Puyallup Tribal Council
The Puyallup Tribal Council is the elected governing body of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The council consists of Chairman Bill Sterud, Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller, David Z. Bean, Annette Bryan, James Rideout, Anna Bean, and Monica Miller.