Dwamish tribe tryies to acquire recognition

By Daniel Cagle - Staff Reporter


Seventeen years after its recognition and granting of Native American treaty rights was voided by the George W. Bush Administration, Duwamish leaders are continuing their struggle for full tribal status, their leader told a ML King Jr. Week seminar audience Tuesday. 

Cecile A. Hansen, chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribe and is the great-grandniece of Chief Seattle, for whom Washington's largest city is named, said the Duwamish people are still here and the struggle goes on. 

Hansen was appointed chairwoman of her tribe in 1975, and has made it her mission to regain federal recognition as a sovereign tribe and all the rights that go with that designation. Recognition as a tribe by the federal government would restore benefits that were originally outlined in the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855. 

Those benefits included a reservation along South King County's White and Green rivers. The U.S. government not only reneged on the deal, the proposed reservation was specifically blocked in 1866 under demands of Seattle's early white settlers.

Hansen's efforts seemed to bear fruit in 2001, when the out-going Clinton Administration notified her that the Duwamish would be officially recognized; however, the jubilation was short lived. Later that year, the Department of Indian Affairs withdrew its recognition. 

"It is the most disgusting process to have to continually prove who you are," Hansen said.  

She said support from other local tribes for the Duwamish claims diminished after those tribes received their own recognition from the state and federal governments. 

Fear probably had a lot do with the waning support, she said.

"The larger, more common Washington area Indian tribes that you know of today think that the only reason we want federal recognition is so we can build a casino on any land that is given to us." 

Hansen denied the claim as just not true.  

"In the 40 plus years I've been advocating for the Duwamish Tribe, I have never once said anything about a casino," she said. "Our people just want to lawfully fish the Duwamish River, so they can provide for their families."

The tone of Hansen's voice was both pointed and sharp throughout her speech, but she tried to inject some levity into the situation. 

"Maybe we'll build a casino after we are done fishing," she joked. 

The Duwamish Tribe's petition for recognition remains in appeal status since it was removed in 2001. 

Hansen concluded her seminar by respectfully asking for donations to support her tribe's new Longhouse and Cultural Center. Anyone who wishes to donate may do so by contacting Hansen at 4705 West Marginal Way SW, Seattle, 98106, by calling 206-431-1582, or via email at dts@qwestoffice.net.

Additionally, Hansen invited Highline College students, their friends, and their families to the tribe's open house this Saturday, Jan. 20. The open house will begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at 5.p.m. 

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If you want to join a club at Highline but have questions, visit the Club Fair next Tuesday. The fair will take place in the Mt. Constance room in Building 8. The fair will occur from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, and will have representatives from many of the clubs on campus.

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