Salish Sea Canoe Journey Underway

Over 100 family canoes are set to land at the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community on July 25th as participants in the annual Tribal Canoe Journey. The journey is hosted by different communities around the Salish Sea, which stretches from the Puget Sound past Canada's Vancouver Island. Some teams have been paddling since June and their efforts will culminate in a weeklong potlatch. The voyage, inaugurated in 1989, has revitalized intertribal hospitality and allowed for dialogue about common concerns. Canoe journeys of this kind were the principle means of trade and cultural exchange which characterized the rich and water dependent Coast Salish economy. Although primarily a regional event, canoes from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand are partcipating.

More information on this year's journey is available from the Swinomish here. Each host operates a different web portal for the Journey (next year's host will be Squaxin Island), but a third party blog hosts general information about the events.

Coastal Tribes Scoring Export Win With Geoducks

Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine is featuring Tribes in the Puget Sound area that have successfully captured export markets in China and elsewhere with a unique product: the massive Geoduck clam. This unusual natural resource has become highly profitable due to growing consumer demand in Asia, and effective management and marketing by coastal Tribes has created a flourishing multi-million dollar industry. 

Foster Pepper Native American Group attorneys Greg Guedel and Ron Whitener are quoted in the article, which discusses the treaties and court decisions that affirmed Tribes' rights to Geoducks and other marine resources in their traditional lands. After solidifying their legal rights, Tribes that harvest Geoducks implemented strong monitoring and environmental protection for key marine areas, helping ensure the vitality and sustainability of this industry. With Geoduck habitat confined to the Northwest coast and a small area in California, Puget Sound Tribes are shaping the growth of this beneficial industry from a dominant market position.

AALS Honors Professor Ron Whitener

Picture of Ron  Whitener

The Association of American Law Schools has selected Professor Ron Whitener as the 2009 recipient of the M. Shanara Gilbert “Emerging Clinician” award for excellence in clinical legal education. Professor Whitener is Assistant Professor of Law and the Director of the Tribal Court Criminal Defense Clinic at University of Washington School of Law, is Of Counsel to the law firm of Foster Pepper PLLC in Seattle, and serves as Chief Judge for the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis.

The AALS award announcement states:

Through the Tribal Court Criminal Defense Clinic, Ron Whitener has made access to justice a reality for countless clients and has helped to train a new generation of advocates for American Indians. For many American Indians, the Tribal Court Criminal Defense Clinic is the only source of representation for those facing criminal charges because tribal courts are not required by law to provide legal representation. Professor Whitener saw this pressing need, started this clinic, and has helped to expand its reach through fundraising. In addition, Professor Whitener has helped to build the clinical program at University of Washington and has been a resource to other clinical programs. Professor Whitener also is an engaged scholar, authoring or co-authoring three journal articles focused on legal and health issues affecting American Indians.


Professor Whitener is actively involved in American Indian legal issues. He began his career as Legal Counsel to the Squaxin Island Tribe, of which he is a member, and he has done lay advocate and other legal training for nearly a dozen other tribes in addition to direct representation of clients. He frequently speaks about treaty rights, tribal jurisdiction, and other legal issues affecting American Indians. He has also promoted international clinical legal education efforts through his collaboration with the Afghan Legal Educators Program, a program of the Asian Law Center at the University of Washington. Afghan law faculty participating in that program visited tribal courts and attended meetings with faculty and students in the Tribal Court Public Defense Clinic.


The M. Shanara Gilbert Award will be presented at the Conference on Clinical Legal Education at a special ceremony on Friday, May 8, at 9:00 a.m., in Cleveland, Ohio. We look forward to seeing you in Cleveland and honoring Professor Whitener for his creativity in addressing a pressing legal need for an underserved community and his outstanding contributions to clinical legal education.