Suquamish Tribe Says Yes to Marriage Equality

The Suquamish tribal council has unanimously voted to allow marriage between consenting adults so long as one is a member of the tribe. The decision extends marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Kitsap Sun reports that tribal member and Seattle resident Heather Purser brought the issue to the general council in June, requested a vote, and met with almost unanimous community support. The tribal council finalized and enacted the ordinance on Monday.

The tribe's decision will only be recognized in the states and tribal areas that have enacted similar statutes (as well as the District of Columbia), and comes just on the heels of New York's high profile move to also allow same-sex marriage.

Survey Launched For New Native American Law Journal

The Center for Indian Law and Policy at Seattle University School of Law is in the process of starting an online American Indian Law Journal. This project is designed to enhance students' legal education by providing them with an opportunity to develop and perfect their research, writing and analysis skills. The journal will consist of a mixture of professors’, practitioners’ and students' legal analysis and commentary on current issues and policy within the American Indian legal practice. The online journal will serve as a great resource for students and professionals who have an interest in contemporary American Indian legal issues.

In order to gauge interest in the online journal, the Center has compiled 7 questions which are listed HERE.  Please take a moment to click on the link and respond to the survey, as your answers will have a big impact in the development of this much-needed legal resource.

Seattle University Publishes Landmark Legal Treatise On Tribal Trust Land

Eric Eberhard, Distinguished Indian Law Practitioner in Residence at the Seattle University Center for Indian Law and Policy, has published an 862-page treatise on the principles and issues involved in Tribal trust lands. The treatise was produced in conjunction with the University’s law conference entitled “Perspectives on Tribal Land Acquisitions in 2010: A Call to Action”, and provides in-depth discussions of the legal background and current developments of Tribes’ quest to preserve and protect their traditional lands.

The treatise can be downloaded HERE, and CD copies can be obtained by contacting the Seattle University Center for Indian Law and Policy.

Professor Eberhard also serves as Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Native American Concerns Committee, and is leading the organizational effort to create a new academic law journal focused exclusively on legal issues affecting Native Americans.

Treaty Of Point Elliott Gathering Promotes Reconciliation

"There are not enough words to say that you're sorry"

"We're hoping that this is a day of healing"

"We must heal with friendship because we are all Americans. It is important that we work together as a people"

These sentiments were heard among those gathered in Seattle recently to mark the signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott 155 years ago, wherein numerous Native American Tribes ceded land to the federal government in exchange for reservations and fishing rights.

The event was held in the same location as the original treaty signing, and the more than 200 people who gathered included a fourth-generation descendant of Chief Sealth. During the ceremony, representatives from eight Tribes performed songs and chants and dressed in period clothing. The treaty deprived generations of Native Americans of their historic rights and assets, many attendees said.  "Treaties are supposed to be the law of the land, but we owned all the land before this," said emcee Larry Campbell, a historian for the Swinomish Tribe.

Nevertheless, the attendees at the ceremony offered peace. The Rev. James Kearny, a descendant of Thomas Phelps, the commodore of the ship who enforced the treaty against Native Americans, came to offer his apologies. "When you do any reconciliation, you expect anger," Kearny said. "But we are dealing with this directly, saying, 'Teach me. Let's start again.' " 

Duwamish Federal Recognition Hearings Underway

Duwamish Tribal Dancers

Duwamish Tribal leaders and Rep. Jim McDermott will testify before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources this week, seeking federal recognition for the Tribe. The Duwamish Tribe’s ancestral homeland is located in present-day Seattle, which takes its name from the Tribe’s legendary Chief Si’ahl.

The Duwamish were signatories to the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855, which guaranteed fishing rights and reservations for all Tribes who were party to the agreement.  However, in 1916 the construction of the ship canal connecting Lake Washington to Puget Sound ultimately forced the Duwamish to leave their traditional territory and move to places like the Muckleshoot and Tulalip reservations.

In the closing hours of President Bill Clinton's administration the Duwamish were granted federal recognition but that decision was reversed by President George Bush's administration. A Bush appointee decided that that the Tribal members no longer exist as a distinct political and social unit, primarily because of what administration officials characterized as a lapse in Tribal government and social cohesion from 1916 to 1925. The Duwamish's approximately 600 members have since sued the U.S. Department of Interior to reverse its ruling and restore federal recognition.

The website for the House Committee on Natural Resources will have a link to video footage of the hearings after their completion.