By Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
A proposed State Legislature bill encouraging students in our state to learn more about Native history contains 2 words that could spell trouble for the Duwamish Tribe.
The bill SB-5161 (“Teaching Washington’s tribal history, culture, and government”) is scheduled to be reviewed tomorrow (Wednesday, January 27th) in executive session of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education.
At issue, according to Duwamish Longhouse director Jolene Haas (also the daughter of tribal chair Cecile Hansen) is the phrase “federally recognized,” which describes the tribes that are included in the scope of the bill.
However, the Duwamish (along with other tribes such as the Chinook and Snohomish) are not officially recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Haas said, despite decades of fighting for that designation. So, Duwamish leaders are raising awareness in an attempt to get the words “federally recognized” removed from the bill in order to, as Haas puts it, “teach the history of all local tribes.”
The Duwamish tribe recently sent the following message to their mailing list:
Your Help is Needed: Please Contact Your Legislator
There is a bill being considered by the Early Learning and K – 12 Education Committee in the Senate. It is SB 5161.
It states the history of a local tribe is to be taught in the public school. View the Bill Here
It specifies FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED tribes. This would mean children in Seattle schools and surrounding areas that were once occupied by Duwamish Indians would not learn accurate history since the Duwamish Tribe is not federally recognized. This needs to be amended to leave out the words “federally recognized”.
Please contact your senator and representatives and urge them to NOT VOTE FOR THIS BILL UNLESS IT IS AMENDED to LEAVE OUT the words “federally recognized.”
To find how to contact your senator and representative go to: https://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder (red button), click on your district and a block will come up with your senator and representatives’ names.
To find where to send your legislator a message, go to: https://app.leg.wa.gov/MemberEmail/
Let the Duwamish be heard. Demand EQUITY and INCLUSION. Don’t allow more disenfranchisement and inequity to be norm here in this State. Let our people be heard. Allow our students to learn the history of ALL Tribes. Be the force of power to affect positive change.
Thank You. We lift up our hands and our hearts to you all. Let TRUTH sing, Let Equity Rule, Let Love be the way. Thank you for your help. The Duwamish Tribe is still here!
Most recently, the Duwamish Tribe’s bid for federal recognition was rejected in 2015, and local activists and tribal leaders have worked reverse that decision, including a face-to-face gathering with West Seattleite and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Haas noted that in recent weeks, the Chinook tribe (also not federally recognized) received a favorable federal court ruling against a ban preventing their reapplication for federal recognition.
Haas said that the Duwamish generally agree with the intent of the SB-5161 education bill, aside from the 2 words, and said that broadening the language of the bill would be a “win-win” for all Native tribes.
“There’s no downside to teaching the history of all tribes, regardless of what their status is,” Haas said, rather than “pitting tribes against each other” in a way that is “all about politics.”
“Otherwise, you’re actually erasing us from the history books, and we can’t allow that to happen,” Haas said, adding that the city’s namesake, Chief Seattle, was leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes (the latter of which does have federal recognition).