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Gregoire, tribal leaders celebrate great strides
SUQUAMISH — The date of this year’s Centennial Accord meeting between state and tribal officials was June 7, the anniversary of the death of Chief Seattle in 1866.
Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Tribe, asked the audience to remember the honest spirit of the chief. Cladoosby spoke of how, in recent years, state and tribal governments have been able to improve their relationship.
History of past "atrocities," Gov. Chris Gregoire said, should not be swept under the rug, but shared “day after day, year after year” with today’s state residents. Native culture is in a resurgence, and many spoke of the upcoming Canoe Journey, which has revived a tradition and is also in its 23rd year.
Cladoosby, Gregoire and several state and tribal officials spoke at the 23rd Centennial Accord meeting Thursday, an annual conference to address the ongoing achievements and hurdles between the Accord’s signers. The meeting was held at the House of Awakened Culture.
The Centennial Accord was signed Aug. 4, 1989 by then-Gov. Booth Gardner, state officials and leaders of federally recognized tribes. It creates a framework for a positive government-to-government partnership, according to the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs. There are 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington.
Among the accomplishments during Gregoire’s administration:
- House Bill 2232, which provides a framework for return of tribes from state to federal jurisdiction.
- Senate Bill 6175, which solidifies the goals and intent of the Centennial Accord into state law.
- Rules allowing tribal law enforcement officers to be certified by the State Academy.
- Obtaining a commitment from schools to teach all Washington students about Washington’s Native American culture and history.
- Restoring ancient lands to the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe with the removal of the Elwha River dams.
- Developing new processes to ensure that state capital construction projects avoid and minimize impacts to tribal cultural resources.
“We have made great strides, Chris, with your help,” Cladoosby said. “The accord recognizes that governments need to work together for the good of our people.”
Still, officials said there is always more work to be done. Another change, in the Department of Corrections, protects prisoners’ rights to engage in traditional religious practices. In addition, pow wows are now allowed in prisons, including attendance by family members and children.
The Office of the Attorney General thanked the Suquamish Tribe for its efforts on behalf of the Violence Against Women Act. While still being discussed in Congress, Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said his administration contacted the U.S. Justice Department and attorney general to get the tribal provisions recognized and retained if the bill is passed.
The Senate version includes the authority of tribal law and justice departments over non-Indian perpetrators when the crime is against a tribal member on tribal land.
There was also discussion about the responsibility for natural resources by the Ecology-Tribal Environmental Council. Forsman said his main concern is about continuation of natural resource recovery efforts.
“We’re still looking for more positive outcomes, we haven’t seen the payoff,” he said. “We’ve got some hard decisions to make in order to improve water quality and habitat.”
Gregoire agreed, and said she wished she had more time to participate with tribes in improving Puget Sound for all Washington residents. Her favorite actions when working with the tribes, she said, was all the “firsts” she was a part of.
“We were the first to really, truly implement an Indian Child Welfare Act ... we were the first to put the Centennial Accord together, we were the first to put it in statute,” she said. “I’ve prayed with you, I’ve celebrated with you ... we have celebrated together, we have gotten through natural disasters. That’s not a government to government [relationship], that’s friendship, and that’s what a real accord is all about.”