Well renowned Tulalip tribal member and now retired U.S. Senator, John McCoy, was named ‘2020 Public Official of the Year’ by Evergreen State College during the college’s virtual commencement on June 12th.
“The motto of our Master of Public Administration program is ‘be the change’,” explained Evergreen’s MPA Director Dr. Michael Craw. “Senator McCoy has personally shaped the education of many of Washington’s leaders as an adjunct faculty member in our program and as the sponsor of numerous internship opportunities for students. In his courses, Senator McCoy has provided the wisdom of experience that can only come from a skilled practitioner of governance and public administration. Senator McCoy truly has been, and continues to be, the change we hope to see in Washington and the world.”
After 17 years of service in the Washington State Legislature, McCoy announced his retirement after submitting a resignation letter to Governor Jay Inslee in April. The longtime Democratic lawmaker leaves behind a legacy of steady leadership and commitment to serving his community. He brought a career in military service and years as a computer technician to his work at the Legislature, culminating in a lawmaker who effectively advanced economic development and equality of opportunity for his district.
His work is characterized by tireless advocacy for Native American communities, expanded access to high-quality education, and environmental sustainability. Before McCoy became one of the longest serving Native American legislators in the state’s history, he led efforts to bring better telecommunication infrastructure to the Tulalip Tribes. He also helped bring to fruition the economic powerhouse that is Quil Ceda Village.
In addition to being named public official of the year, Evergreen’s faculty also voted unanimously to bestow an honorary Master of Public Administration degree upon the Tulalip elder.
“Senator McCoy has provided extraordinary educational leadership for us at Evergreen,” said college president Dr. George Bridges. “He and his tribal nation helped establish the Tribal Governance concentration in our Master of Public Administration program, which Alan Parker (Chippewa Cree) and Linda Moon Stumpff (Apache) co-founded. We look forward to celebrating the graduation of our 10th MPA Tribal Governance cohort this year.”
During his five terms in the Washington State House of Representatives, McCoy fought for students, for the environment, for a healthy economy and for tribal communities. He sponsored policy that expanded support for students struggling with behavioral and emotional health needs, protected water rights and access, and integrated comprehensive tribal history and cultural education into teacher preparation programs.
Most notably, he authored Senate Bill 5433 which was signed into law in May 2015 by Governor Inslee, making it mandatory for schools to educate students about the history and governance of northwest coastal tribes. The State has since worked diligently with Native Nations to develop a first-of-its-kind curriculum, Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State.
“When I first came home and started to work on building the Tribe’s resources, one of those resources was getting our tribal members educated,” reflected McCoy from the comforts of retirement. “Getting them educated was very important so that we could build on our resources and help our people grow.”
Additional plans are underway at Evergreen State College to create a scholarship in the Senator’s name to support future Tribal Governance students.
Over 1,000 community members from the Tulalip/Marysville area came together on Thursday, June 11 to peacefully march against racism. Organized by the Black Student Unions of Marysville School District, the crowd of demonstrators met at Jennings Park where they listened to several inspiring black youth offer a heavy dose of reality.
“We’re here to honor all our fallen sisters and brothers: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery,” said 17-year-old Jenasis Lee, president of the Marysville Getchell’s BSU and one of the co-organizers of the youth-led event. “Racism is taught. Our long-term goal should be to educate all of our friends, family, community members on what being black truly is.
“How many more of our people have to die in order for the world to see how much damage has already been done?” she asked. Her powerful words reaching the many minds now eagerly open and receptive to take in the depth of her message.
Among the student speakers was Tulalip’s own RaeQuan Battle. The former Marysville Pilchuck basketball phenom spoke candidly about his time on the basketball court, where he routinely heard opposing fans call him the N-word. Learning to excel through that kind of adversity ultimately helped him achieve his dream of playing hoops for the University of Washington.
“Being a Native American and an African American, it was heartbreaking to watch that eight-minute video [of George Floyd being murdered by the police],” shared 19-year-old RaeQuan. “My heart really dropped and I just couldn’t imagine being in that position.
“My little brother Tayari saw that video. He comes up to me and asks what’s happening. It sucked to explain to my 10-year-old brother that he could be in that position.”
Acknowledging concepts like systemic racism and police brutality, both of which are impossible to ignore in today’s society, is one thing, but to take action in a common cause to denounce these insidious mechanisms used to oppress people of color in our country is something else entirely. As the student speeches continued to ring out through the loud speakers, so too did their message in the hearts and minds of concerned citizens of all colors uniting under a common goal: to eliminate racism in all its forms.
The day’s event received a blessing of radiating sunshine that brought an extra layer of warmth to the 1,000+ people crowd. A torrential downpour had many turning out with raincoats and umbrellas ready, but minutes before the march started the rain came to an abrupt stop. Under a clear spring sky, the march began from Jennings Park to Ebey Waterfront Park. Non-stop chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Say his name. George Floyd!” brought out many onlookers from their residential homes to take in the scene.
Near the march’s core was a cohort of Tulalip tribal members offering their support through rhythmic drum beats and melodic song. Heartfelt messages written in Lushootseed were seen proudly displayed by both tribal and nontribal alike.
The peaceful march against racism concluded at Ebey Waterfront Park with an impassioned speech by Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin.
“We stand with George Floyd’s family and the families of every person who has been a victim of racial inequity and violence,” she stated. “As people of color we understand the oppression and the historical trauma it causes. We have felt this pain. We have endured this hatred. None of our children should have to live like this.
“If we stand together as a community, we can change our future. We can build a world where we can see the value of a person, not the color of their skin. We can all become social justice warriors by challenging ourselves to change the way we treat each other.”
Change the way we treat each other. It really is that simple, and yet remains so challenging for us as a society to do so. However, the hope remains. Every person who showed up and marched against racism with the Tulalip/Marysville community, each handmade sign made, each powerful word shared, all of it and more are positive proof that hope remains.
Like the Idle No More movement in Canada, and the No DAPL movement in Standing Rock, the Black Lives Matter movement was founded by women. In response to the 2012 murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi issued a call to action for the Black community. They wanted to address the anti-Black racism that manifested throughout Zimmerman’s trial, one that seemed more interested in placing Trayvon on trial for his own murder, and that permeates throughout society.
In their own words, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
Black Lives Matter gained international attention following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, where they helped raise the issue of police violence and brutality and its impacts on the Black community both historically and currently.
Also, like the Idle No More movement, the Black Lives Matter message spread globally via savvy use of social media and on-line networking as localized protests and demonstrations under the banner Black Lives Matter began appearing in cities and towns across the nation.
As a Lakota, as an Indigenous person, I fully support the organizing efforts and messaging of Black Lives Matter.
With the wave of attention on the issue of police violence, Native communities were able to draw attention to high rates in which Native peoples are also killed by the police. On a per capita basis, Native peoples are the most likely to be killed by the police.
More broadly, the message that “Black Lives Matter” is one in which resonates within Native communities, in that we understand the pain, anger and frustration that comes with feeling our lives are somehow less than others, especially when coming to being victims of both state sanctioned and white supremacist violence.
In the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre, where over 300 unarmed mostly women, children and elders were murdered, the U.S. government awarded 20 soldiers the Medal of Honor the highest award that can be given to military personal. For decades, Lakota activists have worked to have those Medals of Honor rescinded, but to no avail. To not rescind the Medals of Honor affirms the 500 year colonial narrative that not only is the only good Indian a dead Indian, but that our lives simply do not matter.
During the height of lynchings throughout the South, a time period in which thousands of Black men were murdered, hordes of White people would picnic around the body of a hanged Black man. The concern over the rampant injustice of murder being committed did not matter to the crowds as the life of a Black person did not matter to them.
Since 1492 for Native peoples and since 1619 for peoples of African descent, history is rich with horrific and barbaric acts of sheer brutality at the hands of the European colonizer, settlers, and later US citizens. From mass rapes, torture, lynchings, murder, and enslavement to the restricting of movement, employment and racial classifications, Native peoples and peoples of African descent have endured a constant state of being looked and acted upon as being less than.
The fact that over the course of the past decade thousands of Native women across Turtle Island have gone missing or murdered, and that more Black people are incarcerated today than were enslaved at the height of slavery, and that these issues receive little to no attention let along national outcry, not only suggests, but affirms that neither Native peoples or Black people’s lives matter in the eyes of the colonial settler society.
Reservations and the inner-city have long being the nations dumping grounds and areas designated for the citing of hazardous and toxic waste facilities. In doing so, generations of Native and Black peoples are being born into and living lives crippled by negative health outcomes such as higher rates of repertory illnesses, cancers, and lowered life expectancy. Again, our lives and our children’s lives are affirmed as not mattering when local, state and federal agencies allow for corporations to pollute our communities despite knowing the negative health outcomes in doing so.
Unemployment in the Black community ranges between 11%-19%, in some inner-cities unemployment for Black youth runs as high as 40%. On reservations unemployment runs between 40% to a staggering 90%. Native peoples living in cities fair little better.
Much attention and policies were enacted to address the impacts of the recent global recession. The attention and policies though rarely, if ever, addressed the crippling unemployment and poverty impacting Native peoples and the Black community. Does unemployment and poverty only “matter” when it impacts peoples of European descent?
Years ago, while presenting at a workshop on undoing racism, a fellow panelist and I were discussing the ways in which internalized racism manifests itself in our communities when she remarked to me that, “Blacks commit homicide, Natives commit suicide.” A blunt and stark, yet true observation that the legacy of genocide, land theft, programs of assimilation, slavery, segregation, and lynchings combined with the current issues of environmental racism, police violence, mass incarceration, and efforts of dehumanization has embedded the belief not only to the boarder settler society, but deeply within ourselves, that our lives do not matter.
Settler society reacts swiftly and often violently whenever our respective communities rise up and confront issues from police violence and violations of treaty rights, to demanding that we are not costumes or mascots to addressing the impacts of environmental racism. We are shouted down with statements like “all lives matter”, or “you should be honored”, or “we are all human”.
For our communities, we must understand and accept that the goals of the colonial settler state today, are the same goals of the colonial settler state of yesterday, which is to remove Indigenous populations to access their lands and resources, bring in low wage to slave labor to work those lands accessing the resources in order to benefit the colonial settler elite. This narrative is a global narrative.
Our struggle is not one to have equal rights with the colonial elite, but rather to (re)live as children of earth who understand that we are connected and related to all of creation with defined roles and responsibilities to that of all creation. Original instruction. We live, so that all may live.
To those of African descent, yes your lives matter, as do your homes, communities, children and children to come. It is upon us to stand together as peoples with a shared history of oppression in this colonial settler state called “America” so that our relatives know, see, feel, and understand that they are loved, that they are beautiful, and that they matter.
Matt Remle (Lakota) is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire and the co-founder of Mazaska Talks.
Last night the Tulalip Reservation was the target of vandalism and looting under the pretense of a protest. Based on the tone of the social media posts that encouraged this incident, it seemed likely that violence, rather than a peaceful demonstration was the goal. With that in mind, Tulalip citizens, community members, and law enforcement mobilized to meet the potential threat and closed down the parameters of Quil Ceda Village, along with the Tulalip Resort Casino and the Quil Ceda Creek Casino.
In addition to the Tulalip Tribal Police, our local law enforcement partners, including Snohomish County Sherriff’s and their SWAT team, Washington State Patrol, Everett Police Department, Stanwood Police Department, and Marysville Police Department assisted in ensuring Tulalip stayed safe.
“Our community came together, and as we always do, shared wisdom, unity, and teachings. We stood in defense of our lands, along with our local law enforcement.
“We stand with George Floyd’s family and the families of every person who has been a victim of racial inequity and violence,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “Our people have lived through oppression; we know this pain. My heart breaks for anyone who has lost a loved one due to racial violence. His death did not need to happen, someone should have stopped it, and they should be held accountable. We raise our voice and drums in solidarity with you.”
We understand that protest is sometimes necessary to create change. But we will not stand for those who come to pillage and perpetrate even more violence on our people.” The people who came to Tulalip last night were not here to change the system. This was an attempt to loot and only targets the innocent.” I do not understand why anyone would want to target Tulalip, a sovereign nation that has suffered generations of historical trauma.
After approximately 40 people converged on Tulalip in an attempt to vandalize and loot businesses within Quil Ceda Village, several suspects were arrested for criminal trespass, while others fled the property. Tulalip and our partners will continue to secure the boundaries of the Reservation. Property damage, rioting, and looting will not be tolerated; those who are responsible will be apprehended and booked into jail.
“This has got to stop. We can’t go on this way, destroying even more lives,” said Gobin. “There are so many good people taking the brunt of this,” she continued. “Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ I believe those words, and that is what I witnessed last night.
Twenty-one months ago, the Tulalip Tribes took a major risk by venturing into the cannabis industry and opening one of the very first recreational dispensaries operated in Indian Country. After a rocky start, including switching up multiple management styles and sputtering for its place in local consumer loyalty, Remedy has course corrected under Quil Ceda Village leadership and a new manager truly in tune with cannabis culture.
The timing couldn’t have come at a more opportune time either. With so many businesses still shutdown nationally because of the coronavirus pandemic, Remedy is thriving. Industry-wide cannabis sales continue to skyrocket as a result of society doing its best to cope with the uncertain times brought on by COVID-19 and the residual aftereffects of seemingly endless quarantines, isolation, and social distancing.
“As a store, we adapted quickly to meet the needs of our customers. Practically the same day the casinos were shut down under coronavirus restrictions we launched our online menu and ordering system,” explained Remedy manager and Tulalip tribal member, Jennifer Ashman-Bontempo.
“People love our online system,” she continued. “You can scroll through our entire menu, view the variety of cannabis products we offer, and order based on your personal preferences. After a few short minutes, our staff fills the order and it’s ready for curbside pickup. With this system in place we’ve seen our average ticket price more than double, from an average sale of $30 to now $60-$70.”
Instituting a safe and effective sales system definitely helped Remedy reach new heights as a business. The fact that so many people are left without their usual forms of recreation and entertainment during COVID-19 crisis hasn’t hurt either. It’s become common place to see a line of individuals spaced out 6-feet apart, in accordance with CDC guidelines, wrapping around the store’s front entrance while patiently waiting to pick up their cannabis essentials.
Remedy has benefited from a huge influx of new customers, too. The Tribe’s flagship cannabis store is averaging 500 customers a day with nearly 60% of them new or first-time patrons. Some customers look to relieve every day ailments associated with aches and pains, some search to simply elevate their mental state, while others hope to calm their nerves and diminish anxiety and tensions brought on by the new normal.
“We are becoming people’s favorite store,” boasted Jennifer about the routine compliments her and fellow staff hear on a daily basis. “The combination of our increasing reputation, COVID and online shopping continues to boost our sales. In fact, April 2020 was our best month ever. We had over $750,000 in total sales, with 4/20 being our #1 sales day on record.
“All of us here at Remedy are so grateful to be deemed essential employees and feel fortunate to come to work every day to a place we love,” added Jennifer while proudly wearing a ‘Plant Manager’ t-shirt. “I have the best staff the Tribe could have hired. Everyone loves what they do and are passionate about our products.”
Remedy has 29 total employees, of which 7 are Tulalip tribal members. Most of the budtenders are self-dubbed “pot nerds”. They take much pride in staying up to date with the latest trends and products in an ever-changing cannabis industry.
Tribal member Carmen Miller has worked at Remedy since the very beginning and worked his way up the ranks to become a Buyer. He’s in a pressure-filled position to influence sales, ensure the store is keeping up with or exceeding the completion, and most importantly keeping his finger on the pulse of the consumers.
“From high-THC flower to CBD capsules, from concentrates to an assortment of edibles, we literally have close to everything available in the industry at our store,” said Carmen. “What most people don’t understand is cannabis really is an ever-changing industry. In Washington alone, there are 70 different vendors who each specialize in different products and intake methods.
“From strictly flower to hydroponics to edibles, there are so many types of strains, flavors, and potency levels that can hit the market and become the next best thing,” continued Carmen. “Whatever’s the newest or most popular thing in cannabis, that’s what the people want to try. The newest product we just got in is a super discrete method of intaking cannabis through a micro-dosing inhaler. They have no visual smoke or any smell, so it’s perfect and easy to use for those wanting to maintain their privacy.”
The Tulalip Tribes’ long-term vision with cannabis is bold. Tribal leaders see the promise of cannabis outside of recreational retail, including therapeutic applications of CBDs for the relief of seizures and PTSD, as well as promising research into the possibility of treating many of the health conditions that most affect Native communities, including addiction and diabetes.
Balancing traditional values with the realities of the 21st century means embracing a changing culture that views marijuana and cannabinoids as natural medicines, especially when compared to prescription pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals with countless side-effects and man-made chemicals that receive FDA approval, only to come out later those same chemicals cause a litany of damaging health concerns with possible fatal consequences.
Longtime cannabis connoisseur and Budtender supervisor for Remedy, Juan Martinez has had lots of experience assisting customers who are looking to alleviate a variety of common ailments, from headaches and insomnia to much more life threatening forms of cancer.
“Migraines and cluster headaches are the most common illness our customers want help with, followed by insomnia, those who have trouble sleeping, and pains associated with arthritis,” shared Juan. “There’s even a regular we look forward to seeing every few weeks. He’s an 80-year-old with lung cancer and comes to us for his cannabis treatment plan. According to him, high-dose cannabis intake helps offset his chemo and makes his quality of life much better. Customer stories like this is why I love my job; being able to sell the best products and changing people’s lives for the better.”
There’s a mountain of anecdotal evidence to suggest soothing THC/CBD oils, tinctures, and Indica-based flower can offer tremendous health benefits as an alternative treatments for common physical and neurological disorders. Tulalip’s partnership with the brightest minds at Stanford University resulted in a one-of-kind medical cannabis research project with the ultimate goal being to cure opioid-based addiction. Preliminary results have been encouraging.
So whether it’s to find a Remedy for a pre-existing medical condition or simply to find rest and relaxation through the COVID crisis, the knowledgeable staff of Tulalip’s own dispensary is here to guide novice and experts cannabis users alike through their wide-range of convenient products.
Remedy’s current hours of operation are Monday – Saturday, 9:00am – 9:00pm and Sundays 10:00am – 8:00pm. Products can be viewed and orders placed online at menu.remedytulalip.com Tulalip tribal members receive a 30% discount every Thursday.
Back in mid-March, coronavirus concerns prevented Tulalip from holding its annual general council meeting. However, fast forward nearly two months and the reservation-wide stay-home orders, social isolating, and self-quarantining gave many progressive citizens plenty to think about in terms of the future direction of the tribe and the immediate needs of the people. As a stunning result, being at home with plenty of opportunity to cast an absentee ballot led to an unprecedented rate of voter engagement and ballots casts for this year’s Board of Directors election.
The election results were broadcast on Tulalip TV and streamed live on Tulalip News Facebook as Elections Committee members hand counted ballot after ballot. Starting just after dawn, at 6:00am on May 12, the strenuous process took nearly 11 hours to complete. With hundreds of tribal members viewing in and the excitement mounting, the top three vote getters were announced at 5:00pm by Rosie Topaum.
Chairwoman Teri Gobin retained her position with a staggering 685 votes, longtime leader Marie Zackuse made her return to the board after just a one year absence with 295 votes, and in a nail biter, Hazen Shopbell edged out incumbent Les Parks with 289 votes to 283.
The latest rendition of Tulalip’s Tribal Council was sworn in on the morning of Wednesday, May 13 by Vice-Chair Glen Gobin.
“We are facing some of the hardest times in decision making for our tribe,” explained Glen. “Possibly going back to something of a life style that we grew up in, where there weren’t a lot of things the tribe could provide for us other than community support. We must continue to move forward caring for one other and find ways to work together. This means having our young people stepping up to learn and grow to ensure our future as a nearly 5,000 member tribe.”
A prime example of the youth rising to meet the demands of leadership is now newly elected and first time Board Member, Hazen Shopbell. He steps into his position as the youngest active member of tribal council.
“It was pretty intense watching the election race yesterday with so many deserving candidates,” admitted Hazen. “I’d like to thank all the people who supported me and got me to this point. Politics can be nasty, but we have to come together to support one another as a tribe. I’m humbled to be in this position and look forward to serving my tribe.”
Marie Zackuse served on the Board of Directors from April 1990 to April 2019, earning the distinction of longest serving female in Tulalip history. After a brief 12-month layoff, she brings her extensive knowledge and love for her people back to the forefront.
“I’d like to thank all the tribal members and community who brought be back to the Board. I give all the glory to the Creator,” stated Marie. “I’m dedicated to serving my people and helping each and every one of them. We’ve got to protect our community to carry on together. Words that I carry on from the past are from Big Shot, he always reminded us to stay together and love one another. This is what we need to do in this time.”
After completing her first 3-year term, Chairwoman Teri Gobin’s extraordinary support by the people was clearly evident in the 685 times her names was read aloud.
“I was shocked and so surprised at how well I was supported in this election. I’d like to thank everyone who supported me and gave me the opportunity to follow in my father’s footsteps,” said an impassioned Teri. “I know my dad is smiling down on me today.
“It’s been my pleasure to serve these past three years,” continued Teri. “I’ve learned so much while fighting every day for our sovereignty, treaty rights and future generations. I’m so proud to be here representing our people and will continue to move us ahead in a positive way, while keeping an integrity, passion and respect for everybody.”
The safety and health of the community remains an utmost concern. Until we’ve reached a point where it is deemed socially responsible to hold a general council, the Board of Directors officer positions will remain the same. Teri is Chairwoman, Glen is Vice-Chair, Treasurer is Misty Napeahi, and is Mel Sheldon is Acting Secretary.
In the heart of Washington D.C. is the world’s largest museum complex, known as the Smithsonian Institution. Among the many museums, libraries and research centers that make up this diverse information paradise is the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).
According to the museum’s website, NMAI cares for one of the world’s most expansive collections of Native artifacts, including culturally significant objects, photographs, treaties, and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere. From its indigenous landscaping to its wide-ranging exhibitions, everything is designed in collaboration with tribes and tribal communities, giving visitors from around the world the sense and spirit of Native America.
“I feel a profound and increasing gratitude to the founders of this museum,” said museum director Kevin Gover (Pawnee). “We are here as a result of the farsighted and tireless efforts of Native culture warriors who demanded that the nation respect and celebrate the contributions that Native people have made to this country and to the world.”
The Tulalip Tribes and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation in Washington state, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in Maine, three Alaska Tribes, and other Plaintiff Tribes from across the country filed suit on April 16, 2020, after the Secretary of Treasury indicated that he would use monies intended for Tribal governments to fund Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs). In a joint press release, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt today announced that $4.8 billion in funds from the COVID-19 Relief Fund will be made available to Tribal governments beginning today, exclusive of ANCs.
On April 27, 2020, in Chehahis v. Mnuchin, District Judge Amit Mehta granted the Plaintiff Tribes’ motion for injunctive relief and prohibited the Department from distributing funds Congress intended for Tribal governments to for-profit Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs). The Court held that “presently, no ANC satisfies the definition of ‘Tribal government’ under the CARES Act and therefore no ANC is eligible for any share of the $8B billion allocated by Congress for Tribal Governments.”
Plaintiff Tribes and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, filed a Joint Status Report Friday May 1, 2020, as required by the Court. The Court had ordered Treasury to “update the court on any developments in the disbursement of Title V funds to federally recognized Indian tribes, as well as any funds withheld from ANCs pursuant to the court’s preliminary injunction order.” The Plaintiff Tribes continued to demand that Treasury distribute coronavirus relief funding to federally recognized Indian tribes without further delay. The Tribes told the Court last Friday that they will take additional legal action if the payments were not immediately forthcoming this week.
“We are pleased that Treasury will begin to release relief funds to tribal governments starting today, consistent with the Court Order,” Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin says. “Federally recognized Indian tribes from every corner of the United States have been in critical need of the CARES Act funds that Treasury has been inexplicably withholding,” stated Gobin. “Without these funds, Tribal governments cannot provide essential government services necessary to protect their communities from the virus. Every day wasted jeopardizes the health and economies of the communities Tribal governments serve.”
Chehalis Chairman Harry Pickernell Sr. adds, “The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation is pleased that the Secretary of the Treasury has finally begun disbursement of CARES Act funds to federally recognized Indian tribes. However, the need in Indian Country is great, and Tribal governments need all of the $8 billion Congress set aside for them now. The Secretary should immediately reverse his decision to withhold CARES Act funds for for-profit ANCs.
The three Alaska co-plaintiffs are the Akiak Native Community, the Asa’carsarmiut Tribe, and the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island. The Plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint to add the Navajo Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, Pueblo of Picuris, Elk Valley Rancheria, and San Carlos Apache Tribe. Two other lawsuits followed and have been consolidated with the original case.
Treasury cannot distribute coronavirus relief funds meant for Indian tribal governments to for-profit Alaska Native Corporations because they are not Indian Tribes and do not have recognized governing bodies under federal law.
Lead Plaintiffs the Tulalip Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation in Washington state, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in Maine and three federally recognized Indian tribes in the state of Alaska, won a major victory for all tribes today at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. District Judge Amit Mehta granted the Plaintiffs’ request and enjoined the Department of the Treasury from distributing funds Congress intended for Tribal governments to for-profit Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs).
Plaintiffs filed suit on April 16, 2020 after the Secretary of Treasury indicated that he would use monies intended for Tribal governments to fund ANCs. The three Alaska co-plaintiffs are the Akiak Native Community, the Asa’carsarmiut Tribe, and the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island. The Plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint to add the Navajo Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, Pueblo of Picuris, Elk Valley Rancheria, and San Carlos Apache Tribe.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) became law on March 27, 2020, and provides $150 billion in direct payments specifically to states, Tribal governments, territories, and local governments for COVID-19 related expenses incurred through December 30, 2020. Of the $150 billion, Congress allocated $8 billion for direct payments to Tribal governments. In setting aside the funds for Tribal governments, numerous members of Congress noted the tremendous hardships that COVID-19 has caused for Tribal governments.
In a 34 page opinion, Judge Mehta concluded that the Plaintiffs satisfied the four factors required to obtain equitable relief and noted that the Plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction because, among other reasons, the $8 billion of the COVID-19 Relief Funds Congress set aside for Tribal governments in the CARES will not be recoverable once they are disbursed. Turning to the Plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits, Judge Mehta held that “presently, no ANC satisfies the definition of ‘Tribal government’ under the CARES Act and therefore no ANC is eligible for any share of the $8 billion allocated by Congress for Tribal governments.”
Plaintiffs maintained that the only eligible recipients are the approximately 574 federally recognized Tribal governments that are recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians. Disbursement of funds to ANCs would have significantly diminished the funding available for Tribal governments, which are providing critical services across the country to tribal members and their communities in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Such diminishment would have occurred at a time when other programs under the CARES Act are either unavailable to Tribal governments or have exhausted available funds.
Many Indian tribes, intertribal organizations, and members of Congress expressed written opposition to Treasury’s inclusion of ANCs because ANCs are state-chartered and state-regulated private business corporations, not Tribal governments as contemplated in the CARES Act. Other tribes later filed two similar lawsuits, and the Court consolidated these cases with the main case, Chehalis v. Mnuchin.
“The Chehalis tribe is pleased that the court saw what was obvious to many of us. Corporations have no place taking dollars that were allocated for tribal governments, period!”, said Harry Pickernell, Sr., Chairman of the Chehalis Tribe. “This ruling will ensure that tribes and tribal members will reap the intended benefits that Congress envisioned in the CARES Act. This ruling will help tribal governments to lead in the aid and recovery of their people.”
“We are pleased that the Court found in our favor. There was no question for us that the intent of Congress was to distribute these funds to Indian tribal governments. ANCs are neither Indian tribes, nor do they have recognized governing bodies that are responsible for providing essential governmental services to a tribal community,” said Teri Gobin, Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes. “It is extremely unfortunate that some are promoting ANCs to be something they are not, at the expenses of tribes, and it is disappointing that the administration is promoting a position that equates these for-profit corporations with Indian Tribal governments,” Gobin added.
Treasury represented to the Court that they would not be distributing these CARES Act funds until April 28, 2020, at the earliest, due to reasons unrelated to Plaintiffs’ lawsuit. Congress had intended and required Treasury to distribute this funding to Tribal governments no later than April 26, 2020. Plaintiffs urge Treasury to follow the law and to disburse the desperately needed funds in full to tribal governments without further delay.
Two quick stats. First, at least 124,000 public and private schools in the United States have closed due to coronavirus concerns. Second, approximately 55 million students are impacted by these widespread school closures. The stark reality for many families is they are left struggling to cope with an unprecedented global pandemic while being responsible for their now home-bound children’s education.
Tulalip tribal member Angela Davis understands the complexities involved with homeschooling children. Her three children 15-year-old Samara, 14-year-old Samuel and 12-year-old Abigail have been homeschooled their entire life. Together with her spouse, Angela and John Davis III have a system that is proven to be effective and successful.
While residing on the Tulalip Reservation, their children attend school from the comforts of home. In fact, inside the Davis residence is a dedicated education room with three desks, a white board, projector, and a book shelf full of textbooks and miscellaneous reading material.
Angela was gracious enough to do an interview with Tulalip News. What follows is a condensed transcription of that interview in which the veteran homeschooler offers a number of tips and insights for parents new to the homeschool scene.
SYS: Your three children have only been homeschooled. What prompted you and your husband to opt for this?
Angela: Our number one priority is the safety of our children. The world has changed from when we were kids. We might have had our bullies at school, but for the most part we weren’t exposed to too much. Today, students are exposed to so many different situations that take away from enjoying life and learning. Unfortunately, when it comes to bullying at school (whether it is from another student or a teacher/staff) it seems like it is getting more and more difficult for the school to take action and rectify the situation. From many aspects, it is unfortunate our tribal kids have to deal with that.
SYS: From your experience, what are some of the best benefits to having your children learn from home?
Angela: A big benefit is allowing your children to learn more than what the public school curriculum provides. As we have seen, there is a lot of misinformation about history and so many other things being taught. By homeschooling we get to choose how information is given to our children, meaning there is just not one perspective given, but many. Our children take in multiple perspectives and then can make an educated decision on what they choose to believe.
SYS: Do you find this kind of learning flexible to more out of the classroom teaching?
Angela: Yes, we do. Flexibility is another added benefit. For example, if we wanted to go on a field trip to learn about a particular subject we can go at any time. If we have appointments during the day, we can just catch up later or the following day. If we wanted to or needed to travel we could take homeschooling with us. Balancing life and learning for each family’s situation is doable once you find a comfortable structure.
SYS: Structure and adhering to a consistent schedule have to be critical to long-term success, right?
Angela: Absolutely. Although the structure of a schedule is dependent on each family’s situation and what works best for them. We tend to believe getting up early and starting school at a regular time is most effective for consistency. Sticking to this kind of daily structure prepares children to become productive adults who enter the workforce or start their own business.
SYS: For parents with multiple children, like yourself, there might be a tendency to feel like you have to divide up your time unequally. How do you deal with that?
Angela: We focus on the fact that our children at home receive more one-on-one attention than they would in a public school setting. If you have a class of 25 students versus a class of 3 students, the attention of the teacher is not divided nearly as much. Plus, we are able to spend more time with a child that is struggling, while the other two continue to do their work.
If a family has children that are more separated in age, they may need to get a little more creative on who gets the “teachers” attention and when. Also, the older children can help their siblings with subjects as needed, so it can become a family effort to educate each other.
SYS: How do you decide which curriculum to teach? Is there a guide you follow day by day or week by week?
Angela: The good news is that it is up to the parents to choose. There are many options to choose from. I have learned that you have to consider two things: 1.) The parents’ teaching style and 2.) The child’s learning style.
I suggest parents do some research to figure out what style works best for them and how they learn the best. Parents also need to go in with the understanding that what they first choose might not work the best for them or only certain parts of it might work and certain parts don’t. They can change to a different curriculum at any time.
We’ve alternated between textbooks, online programs, using the school district’s K-12 program, and even mixing multiple sources. It really is up to the parent as long as they are teaching the core subjects.
SYS: When you get stuck or need assistance with a certain subject, either learning it yourself or teaching it, what do you do?
SYS: Besides the book schooling, do you make learning other skills like art, craft making or instruments part of the typical routine?
Angela: Yes, we do. It is important to balance book work with hands-on skills and activities to help keep the kids engaged. This way they are exposed to new skills that may turn into their passion. Our family stresses the need to learn hands-on skills so that they will always have something to fall back on if they are having difficulties in the workforce. We also explain that with these skills, they may be able to start their own businesses and be self-sufficient.
SYS: What activities or skills have you found your kids most engage in?
Angela: All types really. We’ve had them dabble in piano lessons, singing, computer programming, and making clothes with a sewing machine. All three have developed their own personal style when it comes to traditional arts and crafts. They’ve made beaded hoop earrings, traditional hand drums, and look forward to submitting their creations in various categories at the Tribe’s annual art festival.
SYS: What resources do you look to or recommend for families who are struggling with homeschooling?
Angela: There are so many resources available, but my first go to is researching online at the Washington Homeschool Organization (WHO). They provide a lot of information in one place, such as the laws for the state, training for the parents, and many other resources. https://washhomeschool.org/homeschooling/the-law/
Some other websites to help with determining what system works best for your family would be curriculum reviews and teaching methods:
SYS: Last question. Has the current Coronavirus crisis affected your kids’ ability to be educated in any way? And have you added the global impacts of COVID-19 into their curriculum?
Angela: The Coronavirus crisis has not affected my kids’ ability to be educated in any way. Our curriculum is mostly textbook based so we have all the items we need at home, and if we were completely online, that would not have affected us either.
Our normal teachings include real world and current events in which my children are very aware of what is going on in our Tulalip community, state, country and even globally. This information is incorporated as part of our curriculum on a daily basis.
The biggest impact that this crisis has had on my children is not being able to go out freely as before, whether if it was to a field trip or a community event, or simply visiting their grandparents and family. Fortunately, we have technology that still allows for us to connect and continue to learn.