Here is the story from the NK Herald.
I listened to Billy speaking at a tribal summit just twelve days ago. The cutline I chose for my article, "Don’t put us in these processes that take years and years. We can’t wait.”
Billy Frank Jr. was a true leader, a hero for our generation. He was a natural proponent of non-violent conflict. Maybe my cousin, Jack DuVall, will include Billy Frank in his next volume of "A Force More Powerful."
Interior Secretary Jewell attends tribal summit hosted by Rep. Kilmer
by Melinda Weer
North Kitsap Herald correspondent
A summit of tribal leaders discussing sovereignty, economic development and natural resources was hosted by 6th Congressional District Representative Derek Kilmer at the Suquamish Tribe’s House of Awakened Culture on April 24. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined the summit later in the day to discuss the federal government’s response to issues raised by the tribes. Afterwards, Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman took Jewell on a short walking tour, visiting fishermen on a Suquamish Seafood boat and paying respects at Chief Seattle’s grave.
Participating in the summit were representatives from the Hoh, Lower Elwha, Makah, Quinault, Quileute, Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam, and Skokomish tribes. Also present were Billy Frank Jr., President of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Brian Cladoosby, Swinomish Tribe chairman and President of the National Congress of American Indians, Larry Roberts, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, and Stanley Speaks, Northwest Regional Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Cladoosby started off the summit with a panel discussion of tribal sovereignty and self-determination, saying, “Tribes govern themselves and their country. You don’t need to tell us what is good for us.” But, tribal sovereignty is not so well-understood by people outside of the tribes. Jamestown S’Klallam Vice Chairwoman Liz Mueller explained that she spends a majority of her time educating Congress and Washington state lawmakers on the topic.
According to Skokomish Vice Chairman Joe Pavel, “We have a unique relationship with the United States. We would still be sovereign without that relationship. We are not artifacts. We are alive and we are still growing.”
Native Americans governed themselves and their affairs long before the Europeans even came to North America. Tribal leaders today don’t see any reason for this to change. “We are here to serve our community,” says Pavel. “The community lets us know what their wants and needs are to address and to promote the health of our community. D.C. needs to recognize and respect the huge commitment of tribal officials. We can’t pick and choose which of our community we represent. We hear all of them. We are the best people to implement [policy] on behalf of our people.”
Makah Chairman T.J. Greene explained that treaties are the highest law of the land according to the US Constitution. But court cases over the years have slowly chipped away at sovereignty. He said that people have a misconception that Native Americans get a lot of free stuff. This misunderstanding most likely stems from a lack of adequate education on the subject. “When the tribes ceded their land, the benefits that we now receive were paid for. The land was ceded so the US could have clear title in order to divide the country into states.” Now, he wishes to be treated on equal footing as any other government entity.
Mueller agrees that the education system in America “has not properly taught about our sovereignty.” Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman recommends a curriculum available for Washington teachers called "Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State" (http://tribalsov.ospi.k12.wa.us/).
One of the greatest concerns for tribes right now is funding. Frances Charles, Chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe said, “Native tribes have been underfunded for generations. We have limited resources to protect our elders, education, culture and resources. We know what the issues are, what we lack are the dollars.” Charles is frustrated by the layers of government agencies that she has to work with, affecting her ability to get anything done.
According to Mueller, part of the problem is that there are a lot of small tribes in Washington, making it harder to raise money. She states that, “The amount of people needing assistance is close to 45-50%, compared to 35% in the general population, but we have a great difficulty accessing these funds.”
Pavel explains how the concern about funding relates back to tribal sovereignty, “Somebody else [outside the tribe] has already decided what our priorities are and that’s where the money goes. One priority has been jails, but we need to get out ahead of that so our people don’t need those. Our priorities are our spiritual and cultural values, our physical and emotional health, our resources.”
Tribal sovereignty also relates to the ability of tribal governments to respond to climate change and manage their natural resources. Quinault Chairwoman Fawn Sharp opened the panel on climate change and natural resource management by saying, “Tribes are not at the table to determine policies regarding climate change nor treaty-based resources.”
Yet, Quinault natural resources adviser Gary Morishima points out, “Tribal communities are among the most vulnerable to climate change because of their place-based nature and connection to the environment. Tribes are in the best position to detect changes and determine in their own community how to remedy those changes.”
Quinault Chairman Jeremy Sullivan echoed Charles’ earlier comment about the number of government agencies impeding progress, stating that a consolidation of all the government agencies that the tribes have to deal with is needed. Frank agrees, reminding the audience that they took their treaty rights at risk to DC three years ago and still have not gotten any answer (http://treatyrightsatrisk.org/). He passionately relayed, “We ceded land to the US under treaties. The US needs to recognize those treaties. Our people depend on the natural resources. We need to restore the habitat that has been destroyed. Don’t put us in these processes that take years and years. We can’t wait!”
Morishima said that the major obstacle in climate change initiatives is fragmentation of responsibility in the government agencies. “In order to maintain functional ecologic conditions across the landscape, someone needs to be in charge. Instead, we are tied to communications composed of tweets, bullets and teaspoons. Tribes need the ability to sort truth from fiction. The information needs to be relevant to decisions they are making. Tribes need to be involved in national and international policy decisions regarding climate change.”
The tribes have a holistic approach to dealing with issues as they all relate to each other. For example, climate change can have a negative impact on tribal economies. Greene says of the Makah Tribe, “We are an ocean-going nation. We are spiritually connected to the ocean. Seventy percent of our economy, our songs, dance and culture connects us.
Billy Frank Jr. laments that they are not able to celebrate the First Fish Ceremonies because of the lack of salmon, which are so important to their culture and way of life. “Our hatcheries are under attack by lawsuits by NOAA. Our hatcheries are there because the habitat is gone. Big business is saying it costs too much to have clean water. Our salmon, animals, eagles need clean water. We cannot allow that poison to take over our country!”
Another major concern of tribal leaders is the lack of reliable, high-speed internet. Much of Indian Country is remote, where there is no broadband available. Not only does this affect their ability to do business and get information, their students are at a disadvantage. Rep. Kilmer has responded to this issue by introducing the Promoting Rural Broadband Act of 2014 (HR3916). This legislation directs the FCC to promote the expansion of broadband to unserved and underserved locations.
Secretary Jewell reassured tribal leaders that she understands their concerns and supports them. “The President and his Administration are firmly committed to our trust and treaty responsibilities and to upholding a strong government-to-government relationship with tribal nations,” she said. “As chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, what we heard today will help us in our comprehensive efforts to enable agencies across the federal family to work more collaboratively and productively with tribal leaders to advance tribal economic, social and environmental priorities.”
Jewell understands the funding is a major concern for the tribes, but makes no promises because of constrained resources at the federal level. She is encouraged that the federal FY 2015 budget for Indian programs includes a modest 2.5% increase over FY 2014 enacted levels, and that recommendations involved consultation with the tribes about their priorities.
Jewell is especially excited about President Obama’s commitment to restore tribal homelands. Over 240,000 acres have been restored since 2009 through the fee-to-trust application process. Jewell said, “My goal is to take 500,000 acres of fee lands into trust and I encourage the Tribes to continue to submit their applications and emphasize this administration's commitment to processing these applications.”
The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 gave the Secretary of the Interior the authority to hold land in trust for Indian tribes in order to remedy the incredible loss of Indian lands to the US government. Earlier in the day, Cladoosby mentioned that trying to get land out of trust is a lengthy process that needs to be simplified.
Rep. Kilmer said that DC understands this problem. In response, Assistant Secretary Washburn issued a memorandum in November, 2013, to put parcels over 200 acres on high priority, under his responsibility, in order to speed up the process. Washburn said, "Restoring tribal homelands is critical to promoting tribal self-determination and self-governance and remedying the negative effects of repudiated policies of allotment and assimilation."
At the end of Jewell’s presentation, Greene and Charles invited her to visit their homelands. Jewell thanked them, but reminded them that she is just one person responsible for 566 tribes. She recently told Senator Kerry that his job is easy compared to hers as he only is only responsible for 196 nations.
Later, Greene commented that “treaties were negotiated on our own lands.” He would like to see more visits from DC noting that what hasn’t changed is the responsibility of the US to honor the arrangements of the treaty. Greene added that he applauds Jewell’s visit to Port Madison Reservation, saying he’s “excited that she’s willing to listen. I’m very optimistic that she is working on the issues important to us.”