Tribal casinos in Wash. state to refuse welfare cards

Associated Press; KOMO News


OLYMPIA, Wash. – Tribal casinos in Washington will no longer cash welfare cards under an agreement with the state Gambling Commission.

The commission said Tuesday that 27 of the 29 federally recognized tribes in the state have agreed to amend gambling agreements to ensure that all cash dispensing and point-of-sale machines refuse electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards.

The state-issued EBT cards, also known as a “Quest Card,” are intended to help the needy purchase food items at grocery stores.

The agreement is one of several the commission is recommending to the Legislature.

Old year ends with newborn baby orca in our Salish Sea

Orcas are an endangered species in inland waters of the Salish Sea, encompassing Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. (VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Orcas are an endangered species in inland waters of the Salish Sea, encompassing Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. (VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)


By Joel Connelly, Seattle PI


The last days of 2014 have brought glad tidings and great joy to those who follow and worry about the southern resident community of orcas (killer whales) that inhabit the Salish Sea, the inland waters of Washington and southern British Columbia.

A newborn orca was discovered Tuesday looking “healthy and energetic” and being snuggled by its mother off South Pender Island, just over the border in B.C.’s Gulf Islands. The discovery was made by Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research.

The baby, christened J50, was born to 42-year-old J16 (Slick), who has produced five offspring, three living, with the oldest 23-year-old J26 (Mike).

“We’re excited!” said Howard Garrett of Orca Network.  “She (J16) sets a new bar, a new record for the oldest to give birth, by a year or two.”

The birth of J50 raises the southern resident community population to 78.

The southern residents were classified in 2005 under the Endangered Species Act at a time when the population of the great marine mammals had fallen to 78.

Orcas are particular about their diet. They feed off chinook salmon, in a region where salmon stocks have declined due to factors ranging from habitat destruction to pollution to bad forest practices to overfishing.

The orcas do not consume any of the millions of sockeye salmon that head for B.C.’s Fraser River each year through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland.  “We wish they would,” joked Garrett.

The region’s inland waters have two major populations of orcas.  The northern resident community spends July through September in waters of Johnstone Strait off northern Vancouver Island.  The orcas are renowned for rubbing against pebbles just offshore from the mouth of the Tsitika River near Alert Bay.

The northern residents head north in the winter, presumably to southeast Alaska waters.  The northern resident community totals about 250 orcas.

The diets of the southern resident and northern resident communities “are the same,” Garrett explained, “but their communication and call system are entirely different.  Their is no overlap, no interaction between the two communities.”

The birth of J50, in a month when the southern residents have been seen in both the San Juans and Gulf Islands, puts the spotlight on a major decision pending in Canada.

The giant Houston-based Kinder Morgan pipeline company wants to triple the capacity of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline, which transports oil from Alberta to a refinery in Burnaby, just east of Vancouver.  The completed pipeline would carry more oil than the controversial Keystone XL pipeline designed to link Alberta oilfields to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The enlarged Trans-Mountain Pipeline would bring oil from Alberta’s vast tar sands project to the coast for export to Asia.

If the Kinder Morgan project goes through, an estimated 30 tankers a month — up from four at the present time — would traverse Haro Strait, a middle point in habitat for the southern resident community and the marine boundary between the U.S. San Juan and Canada’s Gulf Islands.  Both countries have national parks and monuments in the islands.

A major environmental battle over Kinder Morgan is underway north of the border.

The Advocate: Tracy Rector


Photo by Megumi Shauna Arai

Photo by Megumi Shauna Arai


by Amanda Manitach, City Arts


Last summer Tracy Rector spent three and a half weeks traveling 650 miles across the Salish Sea by canoe, recording the evolving relationship between tribal peoples of the Pacific Northwest and the waters they’ve called home for thousands of years. The journey was part of her forthcoming feature documentary, Clearwater, which Rector and co-director Lou Karsen started filming three and a half years ago.

Rector herself has Seminole roots, but she’s quick to outline the complexity of her identity. “I am French, Hungarian, Scottish, Irish, Choctaw, Seminole and African American. I identify as a Mixed Race Urban Native, more specifically. And I am a single mother of two amazing young men.”

In addition to filmmaking, Rector is co-founder and executive director of Longhouse Media, a nonprofit that documents the contemporary lives of Native people in the Puget Sound area. She’s a Sundance Institute Lab Fellow, a recipient for multiple awards in media and social justice, and serves on the Seattle Arts Commission.

“For me it’s not an option to be quiet,” she says.

Rector came to filmmaking circuitously. After burning out as a domestic violence advocate 14 years ago, she returned to school at Evergreen State College to study traditional medicine in the garden of a Skokomish elder, Gerald Bruce “Subiyay” Miller. While there, local filmmaker Katie Jennings approached Miller about documenting Miller’s life. He agreed— “’but only if a Native student can intern on the film, because our people need to learn the skills to tell our own stories,’” Rector paraphrases. “The door opened for me and I’ve been making films ever since.”

In 2008 she produced the coming-of-age documentary March Point, about three teenagers from the Swinomish reservation in northwest Washington. After running into trouble with the law and landing in drug court, the teens were offered the option to make a documentary, with the help of Longhouse Media, about the impact of oil refineries on their community. (It was the only Seattle documentary to be featured that year on the national PBS series Independent Lens.) Another of Rector’s documentaries, Unreserved: The Work of Louie Gong, about the Seattle artist and activist, screened in 2010 at Cannes.

With major support from PBS, Tribeca, Sundance and Washington Filmworks, Rector and Karsen will wrap up Clearwater this year and they’re planning a multimedia, interactive installation to coincide with the film’s release in January 2016. Rector will continue to program the “Indigenous Showcase,” a film series created in partnership with Northwest Film Forum, and is creating a new initiative with SIFF called 4th World to focus on Native content and to train youth and adult indigenous filmmakers, with additional support for female and LGBTQ indigenous artists.

Yet another one of her passions is Native Lens, a program hosted by Longhouse that provides education and technology to at-risk Native youth in both rural and urban areas. “My dream,” Rector says, “is to be a transformative force for good through art and arts activism.”

Age 42
Hometown Seattle
Current Obsession 
The cosmic egg
Karaoke Song “Bump N’ Grind” by R. Kelly
Least Likely Influence Kwai Chang Caine 
in Kung Fu
Skill You Wish You Had Playing the cello

– See more at:

Native Leaders Appointed to Positions in Education, Environment, Justice in Washington State

 Washington State Governor Jay Inslee

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee


Richard Walker, Indian Country Today


Three prominent Native American Washingtonians have been appointed to key positions in education, environmental protection, and the judiciary.

On December 15, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his appointment of Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Isleta Pueblo/Laguna Pueblo, to the Whatcom County Superior Court. She will be the only Native American Superior Court judge in Washington state when she takes office in January.

That day, Inslee also announced his appointment of Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Vice Chairman Russell Hepfer to the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council. The Partnership is a state agency charged with mobilizing community, regional, and state efforts to restore the health of Puget Sound.

And in November, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction hired Michael Vendiola, communications director of the Swinomish Tribe, as program supervisor for the Office of Native Education.

Montoya-Lewis is chief judge for the Nooksack Tribe and the Upper Skagit Tribe, and is an associate professor at Western Washington University. She is also an appellate court judge for the Nisqually Tribe Court of Appeals and the Northwest Intertribal Court System and previously for the Nooksack Tribal Court of Appeals. She is former chief judge of the Lummi Nation Court.

Montoya-Lewis serves on the federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and was appointed by Inslee’s predecessor to the state’s Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice. She has a J.D. and a master’s in social work from the University of Washington and a B.A. from the University of New Mexico.

“Raquel’s 15 years of experience as a judge will be well appreciated on the Superior Court,” Inslee said in his announcement. “She is wise and has a strong commitment to service and to promoting justice. I know she will serve the community and the court exceptionally well.”

Earlier in her career, Montoya-Lewis taught legal research and writing at the University of New Mexico, represented Indian country governments as an attorney at Williams, Janov & Cooney, and served as a law clerk to New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Pamela B. Minzner.

Bellingham City Council member Roxanne Murphy, Nooksack, who is also assistant to the general manager of the Nooksack Tribe, wrote a letter to Inslee encouraging Montoya-Lewis’s appointment.

“She has handled some of our most complex cultural, political and societal issues and managed these cases with the utmost care, intelligence, timeliness and fairness,” Murphy wrote.

Murphy, the first Native American elected to the Bellingham City Council, added that Montoya-Lewis’ appointment would create another important role model.

“I still feel overwhelmed when I think about my campaign experiences and just how many people supported me [for City Council],” Murphy wrote. “This has meant so much to our tribes; to the City Council and our work; to the little girls on and off the [reservation] who tell me that they want to be on the Bellingham City Council; and to the general population that appreciates my ability to understand and work with so many walks of life.”

At the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council, Hepfer brings an indigenous perspective “as well as hands-on experience with the Elwha dam removal project and knowledge of what it takes to rebuild an ecosystem that welcomes salmon home,” Inslee said in his announcement. “His rich knowledge of the complex voices and issues involved in Puget Sound recovery work are a welcome addition to the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council.”

Hepfer’s term on the leadership council continues to June 25, 2018.

Hepfer’s career in natural resources began in 1995 as a water quality technician. He has served on the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for 18 years and on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Council for 16 years, formerly as chairman and now as vice chairman.

Hepfer is the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s delegate to the state Department of Social & Health Services’ Indian Policy Advisory Committee; and to the Coast Salish Gathering, an annual meeting of representatives from Coast Salish nations from the U.S. and Canada.

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, one of three Native Americans in the state legislature, said of the governor’s appointments, “I think these two are great appointments. I know the both of them will do a tremendous job.”

In a farewell column in the December edition of the Swinomish news magazine he edits, Vendiola wrote that in his new position in the state Office of Native Education, “I will get the chance to apply my academic and cultural skills to support Native education.”

Vendiola, Swinomish/Lummi, has been editor of qyuuqs, the Swinomish Tribe’s monthly news magazine, since November 2011. During his editorship, he expanded the magazine’s news coverage, elevated its graphic design and news presentation, and established features designed to improve the reader’s grasp of the Lushootseed language. He helped establish the communications department at the Swinomish Tribe.

In addition to serving as editor of qyuuqs, Vendiola has served as coordinator/activities adviser at Western Washington University since August 1998. He was director of student activities at Northwest Indian College from September 1995 to July 1998. He was recruitment and retention specialist at Skagit Valley College from August 1991 to August 1993. He also founded The Philomath Groove, a project that instills love of learning through the use of mixed media.

Vendiola earned a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies in 2013 from the University of Washington. He earned a master’s degree in adult education administration in 1997 from Western Washington University. He earned a bachelor’s in American cultural studies in 1994 from Western Washington.



Quileute Tribe celebrates discovery of historic rock carving

A fisherman stumbled upon a rock carving that appears to show a legendary battle in Quileute mythology. As historic finds go, it’s “the most important, at least in this modern day” for the tribe.


Mark Harrison / The Seattle TimesAn old petroglyph found by a fisherman in the Calawah River was celebrated with a ceremony by a group of Quileute tribal members before it was moved to the tribal headquarters in La Push. State archaeologists authenticated the carving and think it may date to around or before the mid-1700s.

Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times
An old petroglyph found by a fisherman in the Calawah River was celebrated with a ceremony by a group of Quileute tribal members before it was moved to the tribal headquarters in La Push. State archaeologists authenticated the carving and think it may date to around or before the mid-1700s.


By Joseph O’Sullivan, Seattle Times Olympia bureau

OUTSIDE OF FORKS, Clallam County — There hadn’t been any good fishing on the Calawah River the day last December when Erik Wasankari and his son Reid found the rock.

It was a damp, cold day when the pair, on their lunch break, saw the rock and walked into the river, which was running shallow, to inspect it.

It was big — about 2 feet in diameter, with a domelike top filled with grooves and small depressions. Reid scraped off some moss so they could see it better.

All Wasankari could make out were “just some triangles and rectangles and shapes,” but he realized they had found something special.

“The symbols that we saw were too unique,” said Wasankari, a 44-year-old contractor who grew up in the area and now lives in Gig Harbor.

The rock they stumbled upon appears to be a carving that depicts a legendary battle in Quileute mythology, according to tribal and state officials.

Chas Woodruff, chairman of the Quileute Nation’s Tribal Council, describes the historic find for the tribe as “ the most important, at least in this modern day.”

Up to 1,000 pounds

When tribal and state officials, including Woodruff and state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark gathered Wednesday for a ceremony to celebrate the rock’s discovery, you couldn’t walk across the Calawah River. The mud-tinted river was square in the middle of a storm that was dumping several inches of rain on the region and sending whitecaps and dead trees hurtling downstream.

The rock — which could weigh up to 1,000 pounds — had been hauled up to the river bank by a power winch.

Standing near it just before the ceremony were Lee Stilson and Eugene Jackson. Stilson retired just last week as state lands archaeologist for the state Department of Natural Resources; Jackson is a Quileute tribal member.

The two talked about what they could see on the rock’s surface. Stilson pointed out the head of what is believed to be K’wati, a transformative figure in Quileute mythology. With his finger, Stilson traced K’wati’s head, beak and distinctive comb, and then K’wati’s tongue, which leads to another figure on the rock, believed to be the Red Lizard.

The tongue is a power symbol and weapon for Northwest tribes, Stilson explained. Jackson, who has done some carving himself, agreed.

“Anything that comes out of the mouth is an offensive design — that animal is showing his power,” Jackson said.

Stilson and Jackson wondered if the rock could have been a trail marker.

“On the 1893 General Land Office map, they show a trail here,” Stilson said.

As state archaeologist, Stilson helped authenticate the rock. Whoever carved it used not a metal tool but stone, he said. That means it’s a “pre-contact” artifact, one made before Europeans moved into the region. Stilson guessed it dates to around or before the mid-1700s.

Stilson described such a significant discovery as a gift to end his 44-year archaeological career.

“It’s a phenomenal work of art,” he said, more than once.

Jackson’s connection is more personal. He said the rock could have been moved downstream over the centuries from land where his ancestors lived. And he brought his 7-year-old son, Frank, to see the carving and show him “who he is, where he comes from.”

“Bad monster”

The Red Lizard, according to Quileute legend, made his home near the narrowest point of land between the Calawah and Sol Duc rivers and stopped people using it as a shortcut from one to the other. K’wati, a figure of good who was known as the “transformer” and turned the Quileutes from wolves into people, eventually killed the Red Lizard, who had a much poorer reputation.

“He was a very bad monster … his urine, actually, if you stepped on it, it would kill you,” Quileute Tribal Councilman Justin “Rio” Jaime told those gathered at the ceremony.

The rock will go on display in La Push, as a welcome addition to help tell the tribe’s history. Of this, the Quileute don’t have much — in the late 1880s, a European settler set La Push afire. Along with homes and fishing equipment, the tribe lost almost all its pre-contact artifacts.

But Marion Jackson, Eugene’ Jackson’s younger sister, who also came to the ceremony, doesn’t think of the rock as just something from the past.

“I’m excited,” said Marion Jackson, as she stood just a few feet from it. “I feel like our ancestors are definitely talking to us.”

Seattle, Portland Could Set Records For Warmth In 2014

Portland's skyline looking northJami Dwyer Wikimedia

Portland’s skyline looking north
Jami Dwyer Wikimedia

By Chris Lehman, NW News Network

2014 could be the warmest year on record for both Seattle and Portland.

With about one week left, Seattle is on track to narrowly break the mark set in 1995 for its warmest year on record. Portland is just shy of breaking its 1992 record, but a warmer than normal final week of the year could push the Rose City over the top.

Cory Newman, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Portland, said a hotter-than-normal summer brought up the average temperature in the region.

“And especially that was most notable with overnight low temperatures this summer and early fall,” he said. “A lot of locations were way, way above normal on levels that we haven’t seen.”

But Newman added that 2014 was a year of contrasts. In February, some lower elevation parts of Oregon received their heaviest snowfall in many years.

Boise is not on track to break a warmth record this year. The National Weather Service says 2014 will probably be the 5th or 6th warmest year on record for Idaho’s capital.

EPA to Develop Federal Clean Water Standards for Washington, if State Won’t

Courtesy Environmental Protection AgencyThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue water quality rules to uphold certain levels of fish consumption.

Courtesy Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue water quality rules to uphold certain levels of fish consumption.

Terri Hansen, Indian Country Today


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has told the State of Washington it intends to step in to develop a federal plan for the state’s human health water quality criteria as the state did not finalize a plan by year’s end, a deadline EPA gave the state last April.

The EPA’s rulemaking process, in part tied to the human fish consumption rate, will overlap the state’s potential timeline but preserves the EPA’s ability to propose a rule in case the state does not act in a timely manner, EPA regional administrator Dennis McLerran wrote to Department of Ecology head Maia Bellon on December 18.

Related: Toxic Waters: Consumption Advisories on Life-Giving Year-Round Fish Threaten Health

Under the federal Clean Water Act, the state must adopt standards that ensure rivers and major bodies of water are clean enough to support fish that are safe for humans to eat. Washington’s current standard assumes people eat just 6.5 grams of fish a day, or about one filet a month.

Tribal leaders with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, which represents 20 western Washington tribes, met with the EPA’s McLerran in September seeking to step in and set new water-quality rules for the state, after sending Washington Gov. Jay Inslee a letter expressing dissatisfaction with his proposed draft rule change last July.

Inslee’s draft rule would raise the fish consumption rate to 175 grams a day to protect people who eat one serving of fish per day, a figure that tribal leaders accept. But it has taken the state two years to work out the new draft rule in a political push-pull between business interests and human health advocates, which have each missed their own deadlines in the process.

Tribal leaders say they are also “deeply concerned” about a proposal privately advanced by Inslee that would allow a tenfold increase in allowable cancer risk under the law. The EPA letter asks Washington to explain why a change in the state’s long-standing cancer risk protection level is necessary.

Related: Inslee Weighs Tenfold Increase in Cancer Risk for Fish Eaters

The state’s draft rule is now expected in January, but since the EPA believes it can complete a proposed federal rule by August 2015, the state is looking at a limited time period in which to finalize its rulemaking process.

If not, the EPA is prepared to move forward with rulemaking that McLerran wrote considers the best science, and includes an assessment of downstream water protection, environmental justice, federal trust responsibility, and tribal treaty rights.



Native American Night Before Christmas: A New Old Tradition [Video]

Jesse T. HummingbirdIllustration by Jesse T. Hummingbird from 'Native American Night Before Christmas'

Jesse T. Hummingbird
Illustration by Jesse T. Hummingbird from ‘Native American Night Before Christmas’


Indian Country Today


The reading of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” a poem by Clement Clarke Moore better known by its first line, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” is a tradition in many households; nearly 200 years after its first appearance, an author and an artist published a version that gave the story an American Indian flair.

Called simply Native American Night Before Christmas, the children’s book featured words by Gary Robinson (Choctaw and Cherokee) and images by Jesse T. Hummingbird (Cherokee). It was published by Clearlight Books, and was the Silver winner of the Moonbeam Children’s Award.

Here’s a short video of the poem, in which Old Red Shirt (Santa Claus) rides a sleigh pulled by bison and distributes frybread. It’s read by former Native America Calling radio host Harlan McKosato, with music by recent NAMA lifetime Achievement Award winner Jim Boyd. Gather round…




Conservation Group Collects Christmas Trees For Salmon Habitat

Members of the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited toss used Christmas trees into a side channel of the Necanicum River on the Oregon Coast. | credit: Michael Ellis

Members of the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited toss used Christmas trees into a side channel of the Necanicum River on the Oregon Coast. | credit: Michael Ellis


By Cassandra Profita, OPB


Most Christmas trees get kicked to the curb and ground up into mulch after the holidays. But a Portland-area conservation group is trying to change that.

The Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited has found used Christmas trees make great salmon habitat when placed in coastal waterways.

Next month, they’re launching the third year of a program they call Christmas for Coho. They’ll collect used Christmas trees on three Saturdays in January and place them in the Necanicum River, coastal stream in northwest Oregon.

There, once submerged in water, the dying trees will take on a whole new life.

Michael Ellis, the group’s conservation director, said the trees provide valuable woody debris that salmon can use to hide from predators.

“It’s pretty incredible. We’ll be putting trees into the Necanicum River and you can actually observe fish flocking to these trees,” he said. “They’re just looking for this kind of cover.”

The trees also feed microorganisms that attract other critters for baby salmon to eat before they head out to sea.

Coho Sanctuary is one of the wetlands where the group has placed trees. Its owner captured underwater videos of young coho salmon swimming through the habitat.

Ellis said the group has found lamprey and other wildlife using the habitat, too.

“We’ve seen salamander egg masses being laid on the Christmas trees,” he said. “So we believe it’s really enriching the environment quite a bit for just about everything that uses the wetland. It’s pretty neat, really.”

Ellis’ group will be collecting used Christmas trees on January 3, 10 and 17 from 9 am to 4 p.m. at two fly-fishing shops: Northwest Fly Fishing Outfitters in Portland and Joel La Follette’s Royal Treatment in West Linn.

The group requests a $10 donation to cover the cost of transporting the trees.

Wash. state carbon emissions dropping slightly



By PHUONG LE, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) – Greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state dropped by about 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2011, led by reductions in emissions from the electricity sector, a new state report shows.

The latest data shows that about 91.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or its equivalent was released in 2011, compared to about 96.1 million metric tons the year before.

Emissions are on a downward trend, but still about 4 percent higher than in 1990.

The report comes as Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing sweeping policies to combat climate change, including a cap-and-trade program that would charge large industrial polluters for each metric ton of emissions they release.

Republican lawmakers say the cap-and-trade program would raise gas prices and hurt businesses and consumers. They say the state is already a low-carbon producing state because of its extensive hydropower, and that there are other, cheaper ways to reduce carbon pollution.

The state’s emissions have fluctuated each year, but overall have decreased since 2007, according to the inventory, which the Department of Ecology posted on its website last week. The agency is required to complete the report every two years.

The decline between 2007 and 2011 is due to actions the state has taken to reduce emissions, including requiring major utilities get a portion of their energy from renewable sources, said Hedia Adelsman, special assistant to Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

She noted that the state’s carbon emissions have grown from 1990 levels, when the state released about 88.4 million metric tons of carbon.

A state law requires Washington to reduce overall emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, make a 25 percent cut in 1990 levels by 2035, and make greater reductions by 2050.

“We still need to take action. We are making a lot of progress but there’s still work to do,” Adelsman said. “We need comprehensive policies to make sure we not only get to 2020 but 2035.”

Some leading Republicans have challenged that statute, calling them “non-binding goals.”

According to the report, yearly fluctuation is due in large part to changes in the state’s production of hydroelectricity.

A drought in 2010, for example, led to lower hydropower output that year, requiring utilities to buy more coal and natural gas power that release more carbon emissions than hydropower. In 2010, hydropower was running 60 percent, compared to about 73 percent in 2011.

Transportation made up the largest chunk of emissions with about 46 percent of the state’s emission, or roughly 42 million metric tons in 2011. On a per person basis, the state produces slightly less emission from on-road gasoline than the national average.