Our treaties are the last line of defense

Tulalip Tribes educates community on Treaty Rights

Indigenous women were at the forefront of Seattle’s Women’s March on January 21, 2017. Photo by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

If you’re an avid Instagram user, and let’s face it most of us are, chances are you’ve stumbled across somebody’s profile that is filled with gorgeous photos of mountain ranges, waterfalls, beaches and tall evergreens. Every day, more and more people are exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest, hiking hidden trails in search of breathtaking views and secret camping grounds. 

A 2016 study, conducted by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, reported that outdoor recreation generated over twenty billion dollars in this state alone. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, outdoor recreation is a three-hundred-billion-dollar industry and is continuing to grow exponentially. And while it’s important to disconnect, inhale fresh air, enjoy scenery and experience the great outdoors, it’s equally important to remember that this land is sacred and has strong spiritual ties to the original caretakers of this region, who have lived off its resources since time immemorial.  

Let’s use the power of imagination to travel back about two-hundred years or so. You’re a young Coast Salish hunter who has been tasked to provide food for your family and village. After many years of cultural teachings, you’re finally ready to head into the woods to get your first elk.

 While you’re trekking up to the mountains, you recall all of the stories about elk roaming about in abundance in an area your family has hunted for generations. But you arrive only to see that there are hundreds of people hanging out, sleeping beneath the stars and enjoying themselves in a not-so-quiet manner. Because of all the people and constant foot traffic, there isn’t an elk in sight. So, you decide to try nearby areas to see if the elk have migrated, but instead you’re met with more people. Now you face the dilemma of providing another source of sustenance for your people, who depend on that meat for the upcoming winter months. 

Although crowded hunting grounds weren’t an issue two hundred years ago, you can see how big of an impact it would’ve had on tribal villages. When the Coast Salish people signed their treaty one hundred and sixty-four years ago, they kept the right to hunt and harvest on the same lands their ancestors had since the beginning of time.

Fast forward to the summer of 2018. A story was released by a popular local radio broadcast, KUOW, with the headline reading, ‘Seattle Hikers: You may be trampling on tribal treaty rights.’ Within the article, Tulalip Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Director, Jason Gobin, shared a similar story but in modern time, claiming that many outdoor adventurers are showing a total disregard to the tribe’s ancestral lands. He expressed that due to over congestion, the areas for tribal members to conduct their spiritual work, whether it be hunting, gathering cedar or harvesting huckleberries, has decreased substantially since the signing of the Point Elliot Treaty of 1855. 

The story spread like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter as people shared the link, voicing both their support and concern. Over the course of a few months, the article inspired several outdoor recreational organizations and non-profit conservation groups to reach out to the tribe in an effort to learn more about tribal sovereignty. Because of the inquires, the Tulalip Natural Resources department hosted a daylong event for local non-governmental organizations to learn about treaty rights and the history of the Tulalip Tribes.

On the morning of January 9, around thirty individuals from recreational and conservation groups gathered at the Hibulb Cultural Center to begin the day with a tour of the museum. While having fun with the interactive displays, the group gained a basic understanding of tribal lifeways.

“It was a very powerful cultural exhibit, I learned so much I didn’t know before,” expressed Erika Lundahl of the outdoors publishing company, Mountaineers Books. “Particularly about the woolly dogs and also to see the special relationship the people share with the salmon in the area, as well as the weaving and the residential schools. It was powerful to hear first person accounts, it’s a lot to take in. There were things I’ve heard before, but getting a chance to hear the full story is something we all need to look at very closely to get an understanding of the impacts of generational trauma.”

The group then journeyed across the reservation and made their way to the Tulalip Administration building. In conference room 162, Natural Resources’ Environmental Liaison, Ryan Miller, spoke passionately about protecting the treaty rights his ancestors fought to keep. 

Ryan Miller, Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Environmental Liaison, speaks on the importance of treaty rights and the need to protect them.

“Treaty rights are an inherent right,” he explained. “Treaty rights were not given to tribes, it’s a common misconception that the government gives Native Peoples special rights. That’s the exact opposite of how it works. Tribes are sovereign nations, they give up rights and they retain rights. Treaty rights are rights that are not given up by tribes and they’re upheld by the federal government as part of their trust relationship with the treaty tribes. The tribes right to self-govern is the supreme law of the land. It’s woven into the U.S. constitution as well as many legal decisions and legislative articles. The constitution says, congress has the power to make treaties with sovereign nations and that treaties are the supreme law of the land. 

“We all love the Pacific Northwest,” he continues. “Other people love it here too and they keep coming back, it’s really getting aggravating. I’m not talking about one person going out and hiking. That’s not the issue. What we’re concerned about, just like the population increasing, is that those people are coming here for what we all love to do, get out into nature. They want to see all those places that you love and I love, that I have a spiritual connection to. We have to figure out a way that we can provide that for people in a way that protects not only the inherent rights of tribes but the resources, so all of us can enjoy it.”

Libby Nelson, Natural Resources Senior Environmental Policy Analyst, gave the group an in depth look at the Point Elliot Treaty. During her presentation, she familiarized the participants with the term, ‘usual and accustomed grounds’. She also touched on the Boldt Decision and spoke of the Tulalip’s current co-stewardship with the U.S. Forestry department, which dedicated an area solely for spiritual use such as berry picking and the annual mountain camp for tribal youth during the summertime. 

Natural Resources Special Projects Manager, Patti Gobin, shared a personal and moving story about her grandma, Celum Young, who was a first generation Tulalip boarding school student. As she shared her grandmother’s painful experiences, she quickly followed with a heartwarming story of Celum, depicting her as a woman full of love who struggled loving herself. Because of years of forced assimilation, Celum endured physical abuse for speaking her language and practicing her traditions while at the boarding school. And as a direct result from the boarding schools, Patti admitted that her grandmother never spoke Lushootseed or taught the language to her children and grandchildren, in fear that they would be punished just as she was. 

Patti Gobin, Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Special Projects Manager, speaks passionately about the boarding school era and asks that attendees honor the tribal treaties.

Native children who were around Celum’s age also experienced these atrocities at the boarding schools. Indigenous languages slowly began to slip away from their respective tribal communities. It wasn’t until recently that the language saw a major revitalization within the Tulalip community. Patti shared all this information, weaving together tales of happiness during dark times, to paint a picture that showcases how the trauma from the boarding schools trickled down generation after generation. 

Patti then asked the group to help honor tribal treaties, now that they are equipped with more knowledge and understanding of treaty rights and the tribal experience. She suggested signage depicting the tribe’s history as well as murals, such as the ones that will be displayed shortly in Skykomish and the San Juan Islands. 

“You don’t have to tell the intimate story of the Stu-hubs people,” she stated. “You can simply begin with the most general knowledge, that there are Indian tribes in the area and we will respect their treaty rights.”

At the end of the presentations, Ryan handed out a list of principals to the recreationalists and conservationists, stating that the tribe wants to be included in any project proposals and to build strong relationships with each organization. He urged them to bring the principals back to their team and discuss and modify the list to meet their mission and values. 

“Protection of treaty rights protects endangered species and habitat for all of Washington citizens, not just for tribes,” he said. “All the places that you love, all the species you care about, the orca, the salmon; our treaties are the last line of defense. When our state’s governor was telling the Trump administration that they couldn’t drill for oil off of our coast, he said it would be a violation of tribal treaty rights. We’re the last vanguard, help us protect it. Treaties are the supreme law of the land. They’re living documents and they have as much importance today, to us as Indian People, and they should to you as Washington citizens, as they did the day they were signed.”

The Tulalip Natural Resources Department plans on hosting several more Treaty Rights events like this throughout the year, tailoring their presentations to groups such as environmentalists and governmental entities. For more information, please contact Natural Resources at (360) 716-4480. 

Related Articles: 

The Treaty of Point Elliott: A living document

Tulalip prepares for Treaty Days

Tulalip youth exercise treaty rights, learn hunting safety

New colonizer in chief, same fight to protect our treaty rights

Tulalip educates community on habitat restoration and treaty rights

Point Elliott Treaty, 159 years later

Tulalip Tribes stewardship recognized by the Harvard Project

Pacific Northwest Tribes unite to protect and defend salmon

 

 

The Treaty of Point Elliott: A living document

ON THE TREATY FRONT: A new monthly series on the history and meaning of tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, environmental stewardship and issues that threaten these important rights. This is just the first in a recurring series of articles produced by the Tulalip Tribes Treaty Rights Office to help educate and inform the membership. Our Mission is to “Protect, enhance, restore and ensure access to the natural resources necessary for Tulalip Tribal Members’ long-term exercise of our treaty-reserved rights.” 

Longhouse Chiefs.

 

Submitted by Ryan Miller, Tulalip Tribal Member, Treaty Rights Office

As members of the Tulalip Tribes, we hear the words “treaty rights” and “sovereignty” all the time. There is no doubt that to each of us they mean something different, yet there are some core principles that stem from these phrases. 

Sovereignty is the right to self-determination and self-governance. A sovereign government has the right to govern without outside interference from other groups. Our people were born sovereign as the first nations of this land.

This is of course complex, and so are the tribes’ relationships with other governments. We know that we do not govern without interference from outside forces, especially the federal government. The federal government’s policy regarding tribal rights continues to change and has a significant impact on tribes throughout the country. We’ll discuss more issues around tribal sovereignty in a future article.

The second important thing to define is a treaty. A treaty is a legally binding contract between two or more sovereign nations. It outlines the role each side will play in the future of the relationship and sometimes includes the reasons why they have entered into agreement with one another. Treaty rights are generally considered to be the rights reserved by tribes through treaty and are sometimes called “un-ceded rights” which reflects their existence prior to treaty signing.

There were five treaties made with northwest Washington tribes; the Treaty of Point Elliott, the Treaty of Point-No-Point, the Treaty of Neah Bay, the Medicine Creek Treaty, and the Treaty with the Quinault. Compared generally to treaties signed with many tribes to the east of Washington they are much more favorable (that is not to say that tribes did not bear an unfair burden of sacrifice). Part of the reason for more favorable treaties is that the United States had a comparatively small standing army, just 15,911 enlisted men, which were tasked with covering a huge geographical area. They did not have the resources to fight wars with a number of tribes in a far off corner of the country. As a result, Governor Isaac Stevens was assigned to make peace and enter into treaties with northwest tribes in order to secure land for settlers in the Washington Territories.

When our ancestors signed the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855, the federal government, through its territorial Governor, Isaac I. Stevens, affirmed that the tribes had the inherent right to self-governance and self-determination as outlined in the excerpt from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Worcester V Georgia,

  “The Indian nations had always been considered as distinct, independent political communities, retaining their original natural rights, as the undisputed possessors of the soil, from time immemorial,…The very term “nation,” so generally applied to them, means “a people distinct from others.” The constitution, by declaring treaties already made, as well as those to be made, to be the supreme law of the land, has adopted and sanctioned the previous treaties with the Indian nations, and consequently admits their rank among those powers who are capable of making treaties.” 

Congress itself defines treaties as the “supreme law of the land” and only signs treaties with other “nations” therefore recognizing tribes as nations and affirming that treaties supersede other laws such as those made by state governments. This excerpt also explains that the U.S. government understood that these rights were “natural rights” implying recognition of tribes’ existence as sovereigns before the creation of The United States. 

In the treaty, our ancestors made great sacrifices by ceding millions of acres of land for the promise of medical treatment, education, and permanent access to the resources they had always gathered, including across all of our ancestral lands that lie outside of the reservation.

Tulalip canoe.

Article Five of the treaty addresses the most commonly known and arguably most culturally important right, 

The right of taking fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory, and of erecting temporary houses for the purposes of curing, together with the privilege of hunting and gathering roots and berries on open and unclaimed land.”

Though truthfully this article was never well defined in law until in 1974 when Judge George Boldt gave his decision in the landmark Indian law case US v Washington (commonly known as the Boldt Decision), where he affirmed what treaty tribes had already known: the phrase “in common with” was meant to be an equal sharing of the salmon runs minus the number of fish needed to spawn future generations.. This court decision, along with a series of subsequent decisions recognized tribes as having equal management authority with the State of Washington over natural resources. This has given tribes a significant role in how fisheries are managed as well as managing tribal hunting. Washington tribes have contributed greatly to the process of salmon recovery and restoration of critical habitats and species. Tulalip has also worked to conserve and enhance the plants and wildlife that our people need to continue to practice our traditional ways. 

Tribal and court interpretations of Article Five, secures tribal access to these resources until the end of time and recognizes that any entity whose actions diminish either these resources or our access to them violates the spirit and intent of the treaty. 

We know that the treaty is alive and well. It’s as important to us today is it was to our ancestors at the time of signing. We raise our hands to our ancestors and leaders past and present who fought and continue to fight to protect these rights and our way of life. 

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future subjects please send them to ryanmiller@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Thank you for reading and we’ll see you next month!

 

 

New colonizer in chief, same fight to protect our treaty rights

Indigenous women were at the forefront of Seattle’s Women’s March on January 21, 2017.

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Donald Trump is President. For many in the Pacific Northwest and throughout Indian Country that is a gut-wrenching fact that will take some time to fully process. But it is a fact of life and we must adapt to a changing political climate like we have always done.

Local Lakota Activist and Marysville School District educator Matt Remle summed it up best when he released the following statement via Facebook on Inauguration Day. “People keep asking how we’re preparing for Trump. I keep responding ‘same way we prepare for any new colonizer in chief.’ Today is the same as yesterday as we continue to protect our lands, protect our water, protect our treaty rights, and fight for our children and future generations. #NoDAPL #BattleforMotherEarth.”

And that’s just it, we as Native people have always been fighting to protect our lands, water, treaty rights and future generations. There’s never been a pause to our fight, no one has ever said let’s take a break from resisting Western assimilation because of whoever happened to be in a local, state, or federal office. We honor our ancestors for their gifts of teachings to be strong, resilient and compassionate every day with every breath we take, just by being able to say we have endured and we are still here.

Now, Donald Trump is President and seemingly by the hour we are getting updates as to how he plans on weakening our treaty rights and depleting our resources. From signing executive orders to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, to freezing Environmental Protection Agency grants and contracts, to potentially eliminating the Violence Against Women Act, there have been no shortages of offensive and egregious legislative actions being aimed at the tribes by the Trump Administration.

However, none of this should come as any shock or surprise. It’s all been completely in line with who we know him to be and what we know him to stand for. If anything, it’s surprising to see a President follow through on several key promises he made during his campaign as quickly as Trump is.

The moment Trump took office and became the 45th President, the White House website received a digital makeover to reflect the values and missions of the Trump Administration. As a result, White House policies on several high-stake issues were no longer available. One such issue was climate change, an issue that is critically important to the health of the world, but not so important to our President who routinely refers to climate change as “a hoax”.

What took the place of climate change policy is what’s titled An America First Energy Plan. The plan in its entirety is posted at the end of this article. There are some fascinating remarks made within this energy plan, such as “President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.”  Then there is this statement as well, “The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

“Trump’s plan is not a surprise – it’s consistent with what he has said throughout the campaign – a no holds barred approach to development of oil, natural gas, and coal, especially on federal lands and under federal waters,” says Libby Nelson, Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Environmental Policy Analyst. “Climate change policy is seen as ‘harmful’ and there is no mention of ‘renewable energy’ (e.g., wind, solar) in Trump’s energy plan. Lifting environmental regulations, weakening the EPA, and increasing drilling may lead to more jobs and more revenue in the short term, but at what cost? At the cost of healthy, functioning and yes, economically valuable natural ecosystems that we need to sustain us long after the ‘shale oil revolution’. We will need to watch carefully as this new administration begins to translate its energy policy to proposed actions on the ground, and be prepared to act on behalf of the environment and tribal interests.”

So we will continue to watch and listen carefully as Trump continues to follow through on promises he made on his campaign trail because he did make these promises, but many didn’t listen. Now he’s doing exactly what he promised to do and there are a lot of progressives, our so-called allies, who are complicit in the legislation for policies like the pipelines going forward.

“I honestly believe that this monumental loss of faith in DC is a step in the right direction. No matter the President or who was Senator or Congressperson, DC has always been an obstacle, not an aid to our communities,” stated Native activist and renowned speaker Gyasi Ross via Facebook. “Our solutions are at home. Simple. That is shown by the fact that we have a home, a homeland – our communities were supposed to have been wiped out. Physically. Genocide. Extermination. But we weren’t wiped out and because of that we’re still able to improve, evolve and grow. Of course we can point to dysfunction, but that’s normal. That’s growing pains. We’re learning how to love ourselves again, to believe in ourselves again, to trust us and our own brilliance and spirituality. When we learn that fully, the solutions will be self-evident.

“Our solutions are not in DC and they never have been. If the cavalry was coming, they would have come a long time ago. Marshall would have stopped the Trail of Tears; Obama would have stopped DAPL. Neither one did. It was the thousands of organizers on the ground who did. No saviors. The only meaningful transformation or revolution that will really improve life for our communities will come from our communities, not an outside savior or great white father.”

Indeed, there must be a transformation and necessary resistance to defend against the likes of the Trump Administration and all other levels of government and establishment that seek to exploit the Earth and weaken our treaty rights. That resistance has been ongoing for the Tulalip Tribes because, again, organizations of all sorts have sought to lay claim to our lands, waters, and way of life long before Trump.

“The Tulalip Tribes has been legally fighting against any coal, oil, pipeline, or anything else that will ruin our Mother Earth and negatively impact our fresh water, our air quality, and our salt water,” says Theresa Sheldon, Tulalip Board of Director. “We will continue to oppose any policy or legislation that may make it easier for the federal government to exploit our lands and our way of life.

“As we go into a Republican Presidency with a Republican Congress, please do not lose faith. Treaty rights are not party based. The Point Elliott Treaty does not belong in the republican camp or democrat camp. Our issues are independent from party, but based in the fact that treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land as stated in the U.S. Constitution. We will continue to work with this new administration to educate them on our rights and we will fight hard to protect our rights as the Indigenous peoples of this country. May we stand together and support each other. Do not get distracted with the noise and rhetoric of two parties, but find balance in our teachings and in our way of life as our ancestors have always done.”

 

________________________________________________________

 

Within minutes of Donald Trump’s swearing in as 45th president of the Unites States, the pages on climate change, previously found on whitehouse.org, went dark. They were replaced with the following on a page dedicated to an energy plan. 

An America First Energy Plan

Energy is an essential part of American life and a staple of the world economy. The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.

For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well.

The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.

In addition to being good for our economy, boosting domestic energy production is in America’s national security interest. President Trump is committed to achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to our interests. At the same time, we will work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy.

Lastly, our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.

A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health. Under the Trump Administration’s energy policies, that future can become a reality.

 

 

 

Contact Micheal Rios at mrios@tulalipnews-nsn.gov 

“Being Frank” Climate Change is Damaging Treaty Rights

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commissiont

Climate change isn’t happening to some of us. It’s happening to all of us, and it’s going to take all of us to meet its challenges.

A recent report from the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington brings the issue of climate change home. Home to the ocean, beaches, rivers and forests that support our treaty-protected rights and resources.

Tribes are closely connected to the natural world and we are seeing the increasing effects of climate change throughout the region: Higher air and water temperatures, disappearing glaciers, decreasing summer streamflows, rising sea levels and stronger winter storms.

Climate change worsens factors that are already affecting our resources, such as the continued loss of salmon habitat faster than it can be restored. When we add projected population growth to the mix, the future looks grim.

Climate change is the most significant environmental event of our lifetime. That’s why we want to focus attention and work together with local, state and federal governments and others to address its effects.

We applaud the state of Washington for leading the nation by using the state Clean Air Act to establish a cap on carbon pollution that is the main cause of climate change.

We think Gov. Inslee’s call for a carbon tax is a good idea. It could provide a big boost to clean energy, forest health and other solutions to address climate change.

The tax would be levied on any company that generates or imports electricity, natural gas or oil, such as power plants and refineries. It would be the first of its kind in the nation, and would encourage other states to follow Washington’s lead.

In the meantime, tribes are conducting vulnerability assessments and implementing adaptation plans to protect tribal communities and resources from the effects of climate change.

Many of the actions needed in salmon recovery also reduce the effects of climate change. Stream buffers, functioning floodplains and adequate instream flows cool waters and protect water supplies. They help create resilience in salmon and other species by helping them adapt to climate change.

Tribes have always lived along the coast and in the watersheds of western Washington. We know these lands and waters better than anyone else.

We are committed to sharing centuries of traditional knowledge combined with today’s science to help others identify, track and adapt to climate change trends across the region and throughout the world.

To learn more about climate change, how it affects tribes, and what the tribes are doing about it, visit us on the web at nwtreatytribes.org/climatechange.

Passing Ancestral Teachings To Our Young Men

Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger are leading the Young Men’s Group and helping to guide youth through life.

Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger are leading the Young Men’s Group and helping to guide youth through life.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A new program that teaches the young men of Tulalip about their treaty, hunting, and fishing rights began this month. The group meets at the Family Haven center located across from the Boys & Girls Club. Led by Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger, the group will meet on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“We are saying ages 12-14 but that is a recommended age. We aren’t going to turn anybody away who wants to participate,” stated Cody.

Young Men’s Group will feature many fun activities such as fishing and drum making. Andy expressed that while he is excited about making pre-cut hand drums, he eventually wants the group to start creating them from scratch. He believes that it is essential to know how to track, hunt, skin, soak and stretch the hide for their drums.

“That’s where it all starts. Our ancestors never received pre-cut drum kits and its important our kids learn the teachings the ancestors passed down generation after generation. Afterwards, they can keep the drum and use it for cultural purposes and ceremonies or they can gift them. What they decide is up to them but the important takeaway is they wanted a drum, they made a drum, and now they know how to [make a drum] in the future.” Andy stated.

Among the cultural activities and important lessons, Young Men’s Group will also cover areas that teen males want advice in, but don’t necessarily know how to ask for. Topics such as conflict resolution, how to deal with anger, and family, social, and romantic relationships will be discussed during group meetings.

Cody expressed, “We will be involved a lot, just helping with anything they don’t get at home or in school.”

“Our intent is not to take the place of the parents but to help these young men progress into life,” Andy added.

By instilling values and culture, Cody and Andy are taking on an incredibly important task of molding the minds of the young men of the Tulalip community. Young Men’s Group participants now have the opportunity to learn the teachings and traditions the Tulalip ancestors practiced and apply those lessons while learning how to survive in today’s society.

To sign up and for more information please contact Andy James at (360) 716-4403 or Cody Monger at (360) 716-4935.

 

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For Tulalips, protecting treaty rights means restoring habitat

From a research boat on Oct. 12, Tulalip Tribes treaty rights commissioner Terry Williams points out a steep hillside near Mission Beach that has been gradually eroding for years. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

From a research boat on Oct. 12, Tulalip Tribes treaty rights commissioner Terry Williams points out a steep hillside near Mission Beach that has been gradually eroding for years. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

 

By Chris Winters, The Herald, Oct 22, 2016

 

TULALIP — From the deck of a 30-foot research boat owned by the Tulalip Tribes, Terry Williams pointed out the remnants of a bulkhead along Mission Beach where not long ago there was a string of beach houses.

In 2013, the leases on the tribal property weren’t renewed and the homes were removed. The main concern was erosion of the beach and the bluffs overhead damaging the fragile marine environment below.

Williams, who is the Tulalips’ treaty rights commissioner, said increased rainfall and stronger windstorms would saturate the sandy bluffs and cause them to slide down onto the houses below.

“It gets to the consistency of a milkshake and tends to fall,” Williams said.

On a bright fall day, several parts of the bluff showed clear evidence of slides. Houses were visible above.

Coastal landslides tend to silt up the nearshore environment, which is considered a critical piece of the salmon ecosystem.

“Those areas are really important for forage fish for threatened and endangered salmon,” said Joshua Meidav, the Tulalip Tribes’ conservation science program manager.

The beaches were created and rejuvenated over millennia by the gradual erosion of the bluffs. Development along the shore, including bulkheads, docks and clifftop homes, interrupted that natural process.

Now when the bluff slides, it tends to come down all at once, Williams said.

“The reality is that this is all changing,” he said.

An issue of rights 

Climate change is a concern to Williams and the Tulalips in ways that go well beyond the usual worries about flooding and slides. It’s an issue of treaty rights.

While treaty rights are most commonly understood in the context of dividing the salmon harvest, their reach extends beyond the fishing grounds to tribal relationships with local, state and federal governments, said Ray Fryberg Sr., the Tulalips’ Executive Director of Natural Resources.

Most commonly that manifests in cooperative work with federal, state and local governments, and even private landowners, on many kinds of projects designed to restore salmon habitat.

On other occasions, the tribes have sought redress in the federal courts when they felt government wasn’t living up to its obligations.

“We’re like the last vanguard,” Fryberg said. “They have policies and procedures but there’s no enforcement.”

Most recently, that manifested in the “culverts case.”

In 2001, 21 tribes argued successfully that Washington state violated their treaty rights because culverts that carried streams under roads harmed salmon runs.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in June, and ordered the state Department of Transportation to replace or fix 818 culverts at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion over the next 17 years.

It was a significant advancement of treaty rights into the realm of habitat restoration.

“The culvert case is the case that says there has to be a restoration so that ongoing harm doesn’t continue,” said Robert Anderson, a law professor and the director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington.

In this case, the state of Washington was found to have damaged habitat for salmon, and was ordered to make repairs.

Habitat protection and restoration were key elements in the second phase of a landmark decision by U.S. District Court Judge George Boldt.

In 1974, the first phase of the Boldt decision provided the basis for the co-management system, in which tribal and non-tribal fishermen divide the salmon harvest each year. The second phase, decided in 1984, focused on the habitat for the salmon.

“Phase II said that there’s not going to be a treaty resource of the salmon unless the environment is protected,” Fryberg said. “We get a certain amount of say-so in that.”

The part of the Phase II Boldt decision that obligated the federal government to restore habitat was overturned on appeal. However, the federal appeals court still said that the state of Washington and the tribes needed to take steps to protect and enhance the fisheries.

What those steps should be was left unstated.

“It’s difficult to argue that the federal government has an obligation to restore the ecosystem to, say, pre-treaty conditions, or treaty-time conditions,” Anderson said.

Some of the damage to habitat had already been done by that time, he said. Also, it’s a lot harder to assess the damage done by small changes, such as a single tide gate on private land, compared with the cumulative effects of the state’s culvert construction.

Momentum for restoration work can be created, however, when treaty rights are considered in tandem with the Endangered Species Act’s listing of various populations of salmon and steelhead.

“I think there’s a strong argument with the federal government to take steps to restore habitat,” Anderson said. “Maybe not a legal argument, but a treaty trust obligation to do it, and that they should do it.”

A seat at the table 

In practical terms, that means that the tribes have been aggressive in forming partnerships to pursue environmental projects.

Representatives from the Tulalips and the Suquamish Tribes were included in last week’s announcement of a new governmental task force to identify goals to protect Puget Sound.

Tribes also have broad leeway to take on projects of their own that help restore habitat, or at least halt the progress of degradation.

It’s not a blanket authority to do anything anywhere, but it means tribes have a seat at the table whenever a treaty trust resource is affected.

As a coordinating body among the 20 treaty tribes of Western Washington, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission has a role supporting restoration programs to have a greater impact.

A lot of the commission’s work focuses on the marine nearshore environment, said Fran Wilshusen, the NWIFC’s habitat services director. That also means studying how the marine environment interacts with estuaries, river systems and the upland watersheds.

“We’re trying to pull the lens back and look at how the whole system is connected,” Wilshusen said.

That includes small projects, such as the Tulalips’ 2013 pilot study to release beavers in the western Cascades, where their activity of building dams is expected to help return the upper reaches of streams to their natural state, which happens to be better spawning territory for salmon.

Larger efforts include the Tulalips’ restoration of the 400-acre Qwuloolt Estuary in Marysville. A similar project was restoration of the 762-acre estuary in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge outside Tacoma by the Nisqually Tribe.

The ongoing Nearshore Restoration Project focuses on restoring beaches and marine environments damaged by beach erosion. It’s a Snohomish County project, and local tribes have a place at the table, serving on the boards of several organizations that provided money for the project, including the county’s Marine Resource Committee and the Northwest Straits Commission.

One project under way is an agreement between the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service to maintain a 1,280-acre tract in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as a source of wild huckleberries.

There aren’t that many places left in the mountains that are accessible by road that still provide habitat for the berries, which are important to tribal culture, said Libby Halpin Nelson, a senior environmental policy analyst with the Tulalips.

“They are healthy and they are a traditional food that is always looked for in ceremonies,” Nelson said.

The project includes removing small conifers that could “shade-out” the berries. In essence, the tribe is mimicking the effect forest fires used to have before fire suppression became standard response, she said.

Rights at risk 

For all the work that’s been done to protect and restore salmon habitat, the fish runs continue to decline.

In spring, projections of low numbers of returning salmon, especially coho, led to a breakdown of negotiations between the tribes and the state. Tempers flared and fishermen protested when tribes were given permission to catch a small number of spring Chinook while the non-native sportsmen had to wait.

July report from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s “Treaty Rights at Risk” initiative pointed out just how dire the situation was for many watersheds, including the Snohomish and Stillaguamish rivers: Habitat was being lost faster than it could be replaced and nearly every single indicator of the health of salmon populations was trending downward.

The challenges looming on the horizon are even more formidable.

A poster on Fryberg’s office wall has a picture of the late Nisqually leader Billy Frank Jr. and his warning to all Native American tribes: “As the salmon disappear, so do our tribal cultures and treaty rights. We are at a crossroads, and we are running out of time.”

With each new study, it becomes clearer that changes are elapsing at an increasing speed.

“Ten, 15 years ago, what we said would happen in 50 years is already happening,” Fryberg said.

The Tulalip Tribes hosted two summits this year, one in April concerning rising sea levels, and another in September that looked at adapting to climate change in general. Fryberg said the tribe is planning a third focused on the state of salmon recovery.

“Collectively, we have to be making some effort,” Fryberg said. “We have a responsibility to the future to try and do something.”

The quote from Billy Frank was from an essay he wrote in 2012, and it’s the next sentence that points to what needs to be done: “That’s why we are asking the federal government to come to align its agencies and programs, and lead a more coordinated recovery effort.”

Williams’ entire career has been focused on building bridges between tribal, state and federal governments.

Shortly after the Boldt decision, he was involved in setting up the co-management regime in the state, and then negotiating the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada and its First Nations, backed by research developed by Tulalip staff scientists.

In the 1990s he was tapped to open the Indian Office in the Environmental Protection Agency. But many efforts to restore salmon runs were coming up short.

“We were putting tremendous amount of money into restoration and we were losing ground,” Williams said.

He realized that many federal and state agencies operated in their own silos, and often they might set regulations that aren’t in line with each other or broader goals.

“It’s the authority of each individual agency, federal, state or local, that gives them the ability to create rules and standards,” Williams said. “Eleven agencies have independent programs and authorities in Puget Sound. Most are not geared toward Puget Sound recovery goals.”

At the climate change summit in September, Williams noted the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to temporarily halt work on the Dakota Access Pipeline after months of protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. He said that was recognition that regulators were out of alignment with the Obama Administration’s agenda.

While a court has allowed some of that work to start up again, the government’s order came with an announcement that the federal government would consult with tribes on major infrastructure projects in the future.

The consultation process already existed since President Obama created a cabinet-level position to coordinate government-tribal relations, Anderson said.

“Here the Obama Administration seems to be signaling that, ‘Hey, maybe we ought to be doing more,’” he said.

That may lead simply to more federal agencies talking to each other and more often with tribal governments, which is still a step forward.

From the Tulalip research boat, Williams pointed out a section of Hermosa Point where he’s lived since the 1970s. Here too, the bluffs have slid, and some of the houses are perched on the edge, hanging over the lip.

“When I bought my house we were looking at getting closer to the bluff, but decided that wasn’t a good idea,” he said.

If stronger regulations are enacted, it would prevent some houses from being built, and that would translate into lower insurance costs for government. That would also help protect fragile ecosystems.

“The more we can understand it, the better we can prepare,” Williams said.

“What we’re seeing in climate impacts right now is just the beginning.”

 

An eroding hillside near Hermosa Point on the Tulalip Reservation. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

An eroding hillside near Hermosa Point on the Tulalip Reservation. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Evidence of a recent slide along a hillside near Arcadia Road on the Tulalip Reservation on Oct. 12. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Evidence of a recent slide along a hillside near Arcadia Road on the Tulalip Reservation on Oct. 12. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Fishermen in Tulalip Bay with the Olympic Mountains looming in the background. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Fishermen in Tulalip Bay with the Olympic Mountains looming in the background. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Tribes prevail, kill proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sided with Northwest tribes Monday in a decision to block the largest proposed bulk-shipping terminal in North America at Cherry Point.

 

Lummi hereditary chief Bill James, on the beach at Cherry Point, says saving it is to preserve "the tribe's very way of life." It's the site of an ancient Lummi village. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Lummi hereditary chief Bill James, on the beach at Cherry Point, says saving it is to preserve “the tribe’s very way of life.” It’s the site of an ancient Lummi village. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

 

By Linda V. Mapes, Seattle Times 

The Lummi Nation has prevailed in its fight to block the largest coal port ever proposed in North America, at Cherry Point.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency reviewing permits for the deep water port project, agreed with the tribe Monday that it could not grant a permit for a project that would infringe on the Lummi Nation’s treaty-protected fishing rights.

The 34-page decision was celebrated by community groups and tribes all over the Northwest that opposed the coal port.

The developer, SSA Marine of Seattle, declared the decision “inconceivable” and political, rather than fact-based. Bob Watters, SSA senior vice president and director of business development, said the company was “considering all action alternatives.”

But legal experts said far from outlandish, the decisionfollowed federal obligation to protect tribal treaty rights and the habitat that makes those reserved rights meaningful.

“This is based on a long line of precedent,” said Robert Anderson, director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington School of Law. “You can’t have a right to fish without a decent environment.”

Lummi fishing rights and the associated habitat are property rights protected against interference by states, the federal government and private parties, Anderson noted.

Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council called the decision “a big win for Lummi and for treaty rights and for Indian Country.” The tribe argued the project was a killer for its crab fishery and would thwart rebuilding the herring run that was once the prize of Puget Sound.

The terminal would have brought some of the largest ships afloat into the usual and accustomed fishing waters of the Lummi up to 487 times a year to load and unload bulk commodities, principally coal, bound for Asian ports.

The project touched a nerve on both sides of the border among communities fighting coal and oil transport projects — none larger than the port proposed for Cherry Point, the last undeveloped bit of shore on a deep-water cove, between a smelter and two oil refineries.

The Lummi fought the project from the start. The tribe was opposed not only to increased vessel traffic and risk of pollution from the project, but any disturbance of the site of one of its oldest and largest villages and burial grounds, upland from the proposed shipping terminal.

Promises by the developer to minimize and scale back the landside footprint of the project did not interest the Lummi, who argued the project could not be mitigated.

While SSA voiced shock at the decision, some industry analysts said it merely put a project that was never going to be economically viable out of its misery.

“This is like cutting the head off a zombie; it stopped making economic sense years ago, and now it’s officially dead,” said Clark Williams-Derry, director of energy finance at the Sightline Institute in Seattle. With coal prices in a long slide and no recovery in sight, the project had no financial future, Williams-Derry said.

“They have no market for the coal,” agreed Tom Sanzillow, based in New York as the director of finance for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a nonprofit think tank. Coal-export projects are “wasting a lot of investor capital and people’s time,” he said.

The campaign against the project was hard-fought and its foes implacable. Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in La Conner, called coal “black death,” and vowed tribes would fight the project to the end.

Cladoosby said Monday, “Today was a victory not only for tribes but for everyone in the Salish Sea. I hope we are reversing a 100-year trend of a pollution-based economy, one victory at a time.”

Tribal opposition to the project from around the region was good news for citizens from Seattle to Bellingham and beyond, noted Cesia Kearns, based in Portland as deputy regional director of the Beyond Coal campaign for the Sierra Club. “Protecting treaty rights also protects everyone who calls the Salish Sea home. I feel just an incredible amount of gratitude,” she said.

Mel Sheldon, chairman of the board of directors for the Tulalip Tribes, which also have treaty-reserved fishing rights at Cherry Point, said the port would have taken away a way of life not only for those who fish, but for tribal and nontribal residents who treasure the environment. “This is a journey we are all on.”

The decision was made by the Seattle District commander, Cmdr. Col. John Buck. If in the future the Lummi withdrew their opposition, SSA Marine can restart the permitting process, the corps noted.

But Ballew made it clear that is not on the table.

“We have always made our treaty rights and protection of the Ancient Ones our first priority,” Ballew said. “And we always will.”

 

 

 

U.S. Should Honor Billy Frank’s Dream

Being Frank”

 


By Lorraine Loomis, Chair Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

Billy Frank Jr., longtime chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, received many awards during his life and continues to be honored since his passing in 2014.

His life was celebrated last month when President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Medal of Freedom. It is the nation’s highest civilian award.

Billy would have been delighted to receive the medal, but even more delighted by the attention that such an award can bring to the issues he fought for every day: protection of tribal cultures, treaty rights and natural resources.

We hope the United States will honor not only Billy’s life, but also his dream, by taking action on the Treaty Rights at Risk initiative that was the focus of his efforts for the final four years of his life.

Salmon recovery efforts cross many federal, state and local jurisdictions, but leadership is lacking to implement recovery consistently across those lines. Billy believed that the federal government has a duty to step in and lead a more coordinated and effective salmon recovery effort. The federal government has both the legal and trust responsibility to honor our treaties and recover the salmon resource.

That’s why he called on tribal leadership to bring the Treaty Rights at Risk initiative to the White House in 2011. It is a call to action for the federal government to ensure that the promises made in the treaties are honored and that our treaty-reserved resources remain available for harvest.

Tribal cultures and economies in western Washington depend on salmon. But salmon are in a spiral to extinction because their habitat is being lost faster than it can be restored.

Some tribes have lost even their most basic ceremonial and subsistence fisheries – the cornerstone of tribal life. Four species of salmon in western Washington are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, some of them for more than a decade.

“As the salmon disappear, so do our tribal cultures and treaty rights. We are at a crossroads, and we are running out of time,” Billy wrote not long before his passing.

Over the past four years under the Treaty Rights at Risk initiative, we have met often with federal agency officials and others to work toward a coordinated set of salmon recovery goals and objectives. Progress has been slow, and at times discouraging, but we remain optimistic.

An important goal is to institutionalize the Treaty Rights at Risk initiative in the federal government through the White House Council on Native American Affairs, created by President Obama in 2013.

Economic development, health care, tribal justice systems, education and tribal natural resources are the five pillars of the council. With one exception – natural resources – subgroups have been created for each pillar to help frame the issues and begin work.

That needs to change. A natural resources subgroup is absolutely essential to address the needs of Indian people and the natural resources on which we depend. A natural resources subgroup would provide an avenue for tribes nationally to address the protection and management of the natural resources critical to their rights, cultures and economies.

We are running out of time to recover salmon and we are running out of time for the Obama Administration to provide lasting and meaningful protection of tribal rights and resources. Recent meetings with federal officials have been encouraging. We are hopeful that the natural resources subgroup will be created in the coming year.

The creation of a natural resources subgroup for the White House Council on Native American Affairs would truly be a high honor that the United States could bestow on Billy’s legacy.

Mountain Camp 2015: Walking in the footsteps of our ancestors

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By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Libby Nelson, Tulalip Environmental Policy Analyst

Wilderness. The wild. Whether intentional or not, using the world “wild” to designate landscape and environment sets the land apart from us. Americans are civilized, Natives are savages, and the land is wild. Sound familiar? Because of American formal education and informal borrowing of traits from other cultures, Americans believe they can visit the wild, but can never live in it. Americans are trained to think that those who do choose to live in the wilderness are either Natives (read savages) or half-crazed tree huggers.

But the concept of wilderness was obsolete the minute it was born. We, as a Native society and Tulalip people, know every inch of this land used to be Indian Country. Every inch. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a “wild” or a “wilderness” on this continent. All things are related. This notion of connectedness to all things was so central to our ancestors, to the very essence of Native culture, but has dissipated as generation after generation of Native peoples have found themselves urbanized; slowly transformed by the contemporary world of independence, big cities, and a relentless dependence on technology.

So then how can we reasonably begin to understand our ancestors, their actions, thoughts, and values? If we live in a modern time that is inherently different in nearly every respect than the time of our ancestors, how can we truly grasp the culture we stem from? The culture we fight to hold onto, both externally and internally, every single day, while the world around us constantly tells us to give it up, get with modern times, and stop looking backward, look forward.

There is no simple solution, yet as we look around we can clearly see a persistence and resurgence of Tulalip culture that we refuse to let die. There is the plan for Lushootseed immersion classrooms, the stead-fast work of our Rediscovery Program, the restoration of the Qwuloolt Estuary, and, most recently, the reintroduction of our ancestral mountainous areas to a new wave of Tulalip citizens, known as Mountain Camp 2015.

 

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The idea behind Mountain Camp helps us begin to answer the critical questions about how we keep in touch with our ancestors in modern times. Instead of bringing traditional teachings to an untraditional space, we learn our ancestral teachings in an ancestral space, to walk as they walked. The pristine swədaʔx̌ali co-stewardship area, located 5,000 feet up in the Skykomish Watershed, was a space where our ancestors once resided. It was a place where they hunted, gathered, and lived only off the sustenance the land offered them. Most importantly, after all these years, the swədaʔx̌ali remains a land our ancestors would recognize today, unhampered by urban cities and deconstruction.

“I think for our youth to be up in the mountains it is critical for them to get a strong, firm understanding of who they really are as Tulalip people,” says Patti Gobin, Tulalip Foundation Board of Trustee. “It’s been a long time since our people, our children in particular, have been allowed into these areas. After the signing of the treaty, we were confined to the reservation at Tulalip, and many of us grew up thinking that’s all we were, Tulalips from a reservation. But we are far more than that. From white cap to white cap, as Coast Salish people, this was our ancestral land and it means everything to have our children up here to allow the spirits of our ancestors to commune with them and talk to them, and for them to experience what it is to be out in the wilderness, the way we have always lived.

“If they are given the gifts of what the woods have to offer them and they have ears to listen, then those gifts will strengthen them as young men and women. They’ll never forget this experience and they’ll always come back here and they’ll always fight for the right to come back here, which is critical for future generations.”

 

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For the inaugural Mountain Camp 2015 (held in mid-August), three camp leaders led eight Tulalip tribal members, all 7th and 8th graders, in the experience of a lifetime. They spent five days and four nights in the swədaʔx̌ali and surrounding areas living as our ancestors lived; setting up and taking down camp as they moved locations, singing, storytelling, making traditional cedar baskets, foraging, berry picking, preparing meals, building fires, using the crystal clear lake to cleanse their bodies and spirits, learning traditional values in the sacred land, and coming together as a supportive family.

In order to give the Tulalip youth the most impactful experience possible, the Natural Resources Department teamed with Cultural Resources and Youth Services to develop two main themes for the camp: reconnecting to the mountains and x̌əʔaʔxʷaʔšəd (stepping lightly).  Both themes aspire to reunite the children with teachings and values central to our ancestors; recognizing the connectedness of all things while respecting the Earth.

“Mountain Camp is all about having a space for kids to come up and just enjoy the outdoors, connect with their mountain culture, learn how to camp, learn how to be out here and be safe,” says camp leader Kelly Finley, Natural Resources Outreach and Education Coordinator. “I grew up in the mountains hunting, fishing, and playing in the trees. It was a vital part of my youth and to this day I love being out there. It is an honor to provide an opportunity for young people to love the outdoors as I do. I hope through this experience there will be a better understanding of our natural world and how we all connect to our environment. I look forward to continue this work next year with new and returning students.”

In keeping with their traditional teachings the youth introduced themselves to the mountains and forest that make up the swədaʔx̌ali region. They took turns stating their names, their parents’ names, and the names of their grandparents. The mountains took notice and later that night swədaʔx̌ali formally introduced itself to the kids in the form of a glorious show of thunder and lightning.

“Thunder is medicine to our people, it was the mountain’s way of welcoming our people back to the place we’ve been absent far too long,” says Inez Bill, Rediscovery Program Coordinator. “The children were in an area where the spirits of our ancestors could see them. We, the elders who volunteered and visited the youth on their camp, did our best to impart the meaning and importance of what they were doing. They were experiencing a place, a spirit of our ancestors that most people will never be able to experience. We hope that experience helps lead those youth to live a good life. As younger people they are in their most formative years. We used to have rites of passage, and for these youth,  Mountain Camp represented a rite of passage for them.”

Indeed, the Tulalip elders and volunteers added to the overall experience of the youth; helping to explain how their ancestors were one with their environment and lived a fulfilled and spiritual life, all without the uses of cellphones, computers, T.V., and the internet. A true highlight was the elders teaching the youngsters how to make their very own cedar baskets so that they could go huckleberry picking during their brief stay in the mountains. The messages of finding strength and beauty in all experiences with nature were taken in by the youth and each did his and her best to internalize those values.

“The elders have been telling us stories about what they used to do when they used to go berry picking, and how it was tradition that they make it look like they weren’t even there. They just picked a little bit and moved along,” explains camp participant Jacynta Myles. “They made cedar bark baskets and used them for berry picking baskets. You can go from blackberries to huckleberries and store practically anything in it.

“I love the area. How we woke up to thunder this morning, I’ve never heard it that loud. I think every area in the woods is pretty special, but being here in this area, all together, makes it even more special. And we’re having fun.”

 

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“It’s all about going into the wilderness, no electronics or nothing like that,” says youth participant Sunny Killebrew. “We’re just like on our own, no parents, just depending on ourselves and making new friends. We’ve been learning that this is the land where are ancestors were raised, grew up, and lived. They hunted, they ate, they slept, they did everything on this land right here. It feels good, like I’m doing something they would want me to do.”

For the tribal elders and everyone involved who contributed to making Mountain Camp a reality, it was a dream come true to witness the camp youth as they one-by-one grasped the importance of walking in their ancestor’s footsteps. The entire project had been in the works over the last few years, allowing Natural Resources the necessary time to find funding and the resources to build a Mountain Camp program for our youth.

“This, as the first year, was a big learning experience for all of us. While there are things we might tweak for next year, overall we believe this first year was a big success and deeply worthwhile, as measured by the experience these eight kids received and all that we, as program leaders, learned as it unfolded,” said Libby Nelson, Tulalip Environmental Policy Analyst. “Success this year can be attributed to the collaboration with our Cultural Resources, Language and Youth Services staff; and a very successful and helpful partnership with the YMCA Outdoor Leadership Program in Seattle, the US Forest Service, and our own Rediscovery Program in Tulalip’s Cultural Resources division.

“This Mountain Camp experience presented an opportunity to reconnect tribal youth to these inland, mountain ancestral territories where their ancestors lived, while also explicitly reserving rights to continue using these areas for hunting, fishing and gathering.”

 

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From practically being inside a thunder and lightning storm at an elevation of 5,000 feet, to storytelling in their Lushootseed language as they witnessed a meteor shower, to creating their own cedar bark baskets for huckleberry picking, the Tulalip youth created many memories that will last a lifetime. As they grow and mature into adults, their sense of appreciation for what they were able to be a part of and experience will undoubtedly grow immensely. It’s a difficult task for anyone to be expected to live as their ancestors lived, let alone asking that of a 7th or 8th grade student. In honor of their efforts and achievements while participating in Mountain Camp 2015 the youth were honored with a blanket ceremony when they got back home to Tulalip.

“The ceremony was to acknowledge what the kids went through. It was an accomplishment for them to go through everything that they did while up in the mountains, living in nature,” continues Inez Bill. “They didn’t have their cell phones or any of the other electronic gadgets they would have back home. They experienced something together, they grew together, and they had a rite of passage together. I covered the kids with blankets as a remembrance of what they went through. The ceremony recognized that rite of passage, of how we want them to be as young people.

“In our ancestral way, they were brought out to nature to find their spiritual strength. I think later in their lives, that spiritual strength will give them direction and confidence when they need it most. And for the parents and grandparents who were at the ceremony, I think they were happy and truly touched.”

Following the ceremony the camp participants mingled a while longer, still wrapped in their blankets, and talking about their favorite moments from Mountain Camp. Going to their ancestral lands, being immersed in their cultural teachings, a rite of passage, experiencing nature as it was meant to be experienced. There are so many possible takeaways, but none bigger than that of camp participant Kaiser Moses who says, “I feel empowered. I feel I can do anything!”

 

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Plans are already underway for Mountain Camp 2016. Stay on the lookout for more details and registration information in future syəcəb and online on our Tulalip News Facebook page.

Quinault Nation Wins Ocean Fishing Area Case

Source: water4fish

TAHOLAH, WA (7/9/15)—Federal District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez handed down a decision today favoring the Quinault Indian Nation, as well as the Quileute Tribe, confirming the tribes’ right to fish in the ocean. The case, which was first filed in 2009, pitted the two tribes against the Makah Tribe in a territorial battle for fishing rights.

 “We make every effort to avoid intertribal conflicts such as this, and that was certainly the case here, but the Makah Tribe, joined by the State of Washington, brought this lawsuit to limit the Quinault Nation’s treaty ocean fishing so Quinault was forced to defend its treaty rights. We are very fortunate to have federal court to resort to in those rare instances when we need it.”

Judge Martinez ruled that Quinault Nation’s Usual and Accustomed fishing area extends 30 miles out to sea from the Tribe’s reservation on the Olympic Peninsula. 

 “We are obviously very pleased with this decision,” said President Sharp. “We had no doubt whatsoever that our fishing heritage includes the ocean, and that was confirmed by the judge” she said.

The decision confirms that Quinault fishers will be able to continue fishing in the ocean for generations to come.

Judge Martinez accepted the Quinault Nation’s evidence regarding its heritage and reserved treaty rights.  This lawsuit was part of the 1974 U.S. v. Washington (Boldt) case which confirmed tribal treaty fishing rights. That case was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978.

 “Winning this case will not only help secure our long held ocean fishing heritage for our fishermen; it will also help us continue to manage ocean fish stocks properly. We will work with the Makah Nation, as well as other tribes and other governments to help assure that there are healthy stocks of salmon and other species in the ocean environment for many generations to come,” said President Sharp.

The Quinault Nation was represented in the trial by Eric Nielsen of Nielsen, Broman & Coch of Seattle. Quinault attorney Ray Dodge also contributed significantly to the case, which resulted in an 83 page decision by Judge Martinez, much of which documents the extensive long term relationship of the Quinault people with the ocean.