As previewed here last night, Seattle Congressmember Jim McDermott‘s bill proposing federal recognition for the Duwamish Tribe had a hearing today in the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. We watched much of the half-day hearing via live webcast and spoke later in the day with McDermott spokesperson Mike DeCesare. Our question for him, after the committee listened to testimony from supporters (including Duwamish Tribe chair Cecile Hansen, whose written testimony can be read here) and opponents — while also considering similar bids from other tribes including the Southwest Washington-based Chinook — was: Now what? DeCesare confirms that there’s no guarantee the committee will vote on the bill, but he emphasized – repeatedly – during our short phone conversation that it was a “huge” step simply for a hearing to be held; McDermott himself had said during the hearing that it was “a long time coming.” (The Duwamish were briefly recognized in the waning days of the Clinton Administration; then, as was recapped during today’s hearing, that was canceled early in the Bush Administration, with a procedural error cited – missing signatures on paperwork. The Duwamish are fighting that decision in court.) We haven’t yet found anyplace with a detailed report on today’s hearing, and the video is not yet archived on the committee website; here’s a list of the witnesses who were originally scheduled — we know from the portion we saw that there were others, such as one of McDermott’s fellow Washington Congressmembers, Jay Inslee, who provided one of two West Seattle references heard in the early going, when noting that his father had taught at Chief Sealth High School, named after the Duwamish’s legendary chief, chair Cecile Hansen’s great-great-grand-uncle and our city’s namesake. The other reference came from McDermott, who quoted a letter from Holy Family School students saying they were shocked to learn the Duwamish had to fight for recognition. A good portion of the hearing was spent discussing the federal requirements and procedures involved in gaining recognition, and a contention that the process was admittedly “broken” and would soon itself be the subject of legislation. Meantime, if you want to watch what happens to the Duwamish recognition bill, it is HR 2678.
West Seattle, Washington