Tulalip Tribal Members Fight Drugs With Facebook

(Photo by Roy Pablo)

Frustrated with the negative impact of illegal drugs in his community, Tulalip member Roy Pablo is using social media to build a grassroots campaign against drug-trafficking on the reservation.

His Facebook group, “Tulalip Tribal Members Fight against Drugs,” now has hundreds of members. The site provides information on the community effort and helps people schedule in-person meetings for anti-drug action.

“A lot of people were talking about the deaths and the overdoses going on in our community,” Pablo said. “People were getting sick of it, but no one ever said anything.” The idea is “letting them know that we're not taking this anymore, we're standing up for our community, and we're going to fight for it too,” he said. “We can't let them get away with it anymore.”

People wishing to support the mission are encouraged to join the Facebook group for information about upcoming meetings and events
 

Washington State Schools Improve Tribal History Curriculum

Although Washington state has 29 federally recognized Tribes, most public school students learn little of the history and culture of Native communities in their standard curriculum. Some middle school textbooks end their discussion of Native history around 1877. Thanks to an effort that began nearly seven years ago, this situation is now starting to change for the better.

In 2004, Rep. John McCoy, a member of the Tulalip Tribes, introduced a bill in the state legislature that would have required public school districts to teach Tribal history and culture. The bill did not pass, but the next year legislators approved a bill that encouraged districts to do so. For the past two years, Tribes, the state and 14 schools have worked together to create a curriculum module covering Tribal history, culture, and sovereignty, and to establish partnerships between Tribes and school districts. This fall, the ground-breaking curriculum will be available online for any teacher or school to use.

The goal is to increase understanding about Tribes among young people. "We really want to break down a lot of the stereotypes and misconceptions that people have about the Tribes and Tribal people," said Denny Hurtado, state director of Indian education. "People were saying things like, 'Why do these Indians have special rights?' If they really understood the history and the truth, they would understand that we've always had these rights."

When the curriculum becomes available online in the fall, McCoy hopes it will come into wide use in schools, and is working to raise money to open six training centers around the state where teachers can learn how to use it. "This is to get everyone to understand that because these treaties were signed, they are the law of the land," he said. "And consequently, Tribes are sovereign nations. There are so many people that don't understand that."
 

2010 Census Count Improving For Native Americans

Responding to chronic failures to accurately account for Native populations in past years, the Census Bureau has actively sought to improve its outreach for the 2010 Census. The Bureau got an early start and partnered with Tribes throughout the country to connect with Tribal members. The initial results indicate a significant increase in the response rate for Tribal members, which should result in better federal representation for Native communities. The information the Census collects helps to determine the allocation of more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year, for projects such as hospitals, schools, emergency services, and transportation.

The Bureau partnered with groups such as the National Congress of American Indians and took a government-to-government approach, making formal presentations to all 564 federally recognized Tribes and asking permission to conduct operations on Tribal lands.

A prime example of the improved accounting in Native communities is found with the Tulalip Tribes, whose Census return rate by last month had hit 70 percent — even before Census workers started their direct outreach to individual Tribal members. In 2000, the Tulalip final return rate was 54 percent.

The Tulalip Tribes plan a news conference to thank the Bureau for its efforts. "We're deeply appreciative of the Census Bureau for understanding that Indian Country was underrepresented 10 years ago," said Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon. "We do not forget our history, it hasn't always been the best of relationships ... but there's a new era here, and we're looking forward with optimism." 

US Government Studies Tulalip Tribes' Labor Relations Model

This week Assistant Labor Secretary Jane Oates visited with board members and staff of the Tulalip Tribes to learn how the Tribes dealt with labor agreements during the construction of their casino and resort hotel complex in Washington state. Oates offered praise for the way Tulalip handled labor agreements on the reservation and ensured Tribal members have employment opportunities.

“We hear nightmares about how some Tribes are not able to negotiate with labor unions,” Oates said. “The Tulalip Tribes did an amazing job, and we are here to learn from them.”

Oates’ tour included a visit to the Tulalip Tribal Employment Rights Office, which has a mission to protect preferential employment for tribal members and contracting rights on the reservation. The office also works to improve wages, training and career and contracting opportunities.  Unemployment on reservations throughout the nation is a concern in President Barack Obama’s administration, Oates said. “It’s unacceptable that unemployment in Indian Country is five times what it is among non-Natives,” she said.

Tulalip board member Glen Gobin told Oates that myths, stereotypes and misconceptions about the tribal work force were dispelled during construction projects on the reservation. “We know that our Tribal members are our most valuable resource,” Tulalip Chairman Mel Sheldon said.
 

$84 Million Federal Grant To Boost Broadband Access In Tribal Areas

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has announced a $84 million Recovery Act investment to help the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) deliver new and enhanced broadband capabilities to some of the more remote regions of Washington state. The grant will finance the addition of 830 miles of fiber optic cable and eight new microwave sites to NoaNet’s existing high-speed network. Among other benefits, the project plans to directly connect the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Center, library, and clinic, and the Shoalwater Tribal center and clinic, as well as provide connection opportunities for the Makah Tribal center and clinic.

“This critical investment will expand high-speed Internet service access to Washington libraries and hospitals, and eventually homes and businesses, helping to make them full participants in today’s 21st century information economy,” Locke said. “Having access to the Internet’s economic, health and educational benefits will help to improve the quality of life in these communities.”

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), funded by the Recovery Act, provides grants to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure, to enhance and expand public computer centers and to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service.

“This grant will help NoaNet take a major step forward in extending its broadband network to rural and underserved areas in Washington, including tribal centers for the Makah, Jamestown S’Klallam and Shoalwater Bay Tribes on the Olympic Peninsula,” U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks said. “This was the goal of our effort 10 years ago to make available excess BPA fiber capacity for this publicly-operated, non-profit project to drive broadband access beyond the major cities in the Northwest.”

Another Tribal broadband project currently awaiting NTIA funding is the Washington Rural Broadband Cooperative (WA-RBC), a non-profit agency started by the Tulalip Tribes. The WA-RBC project is an extremely high bandwidth initiative which delivers 10 Gb/s service to community anchor points (schools, tribal centers, libraries, and chambers of commerce), and leverages significant investments already made by the Tulalip Tribes in a data center and fiber optic infrastructure that can extend to other tribes and rural communities.
 

Cohesive Tribal Government Is Critical For Economic Development

(Ken Lambert/Seattle Times)

While the appropriateness of government intervention in private business is a hotly-debated topic around the world, a clear truth is emerging closer to home: cohesive and sound governance is a crucial element for economic development in Native American communities. The proof comes both from success stories such as Tulalip and Pechanga, as well as the cautionary tale currently playing out within the Snoqualmie Tribe.

The Snoqualmie Tribe regained federal recognition in 1999 and last November opened a showpiece casino a half-hour from downtown Seattle The casino, financed with $375 million in debt, was conceived as a means of bringing prosperity to the Tribe's approximately 600 members. Instead, political infighting has brought turmoil, reduced revenue, and uncertainty regarding the Tribe’s economic future.

The problems stem from socio-political divisions that divided the Tribe’s governing body and rendered it unable to function effectively. "They were a split council and would not come together for joint meetings off and on since May," said Judy Joseph, superintendent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Puget Sound Agency. "To maintain a government-to-government relationship, they have to be a viable Tribal government," Joseph said. "If there is any question about that, it causes red flags to go up, and they were split, they were not meeting."  In August, the Tribe's administrative offices were padlocked and some of its federal funds frozen. Elders stepped in to dissolve the council and take charge until new elections could be held — but they had no constitutional authority to do that. The Tribe was facing the prospect of the U.S. government assuming administrative control of the Tribal government. The BIA offered mediation this month, which resulted in reinstatement of the council that was in place before the disputed May election.

Meanwhile, the new casino has only been producing one-fourth of the revenue originally budgeted, and its operations are mired in administrative and regulatory problems. Unresolved federal audit findings could expose the Tribe to significant liability, and until recently federal funds allocations to Snoqualmie were frozen by the U.S. government. To address these significant issues, the Tribe's general membership will meet this month to consider election procedures and set a date for a new council election.

While dissension and differences of opinion are common for any political entity, the need for Tribes to maintain a solid, functioning government structure is of paramount importance for both political and economic purposes. Both the federal government and private investors are wary of contributing capital in places where leadership is in doubt, making it crucial for Tribes to demonstrate that their decision making bodies and procedures are stable.

Tulalip Elder Court Members Honored With Local Heroes Award

 

The seven Tribal members who make up the Tulalip Elder Court have been honored by the Washington State Bar Association with its Local Hero Award. The award recognizes the Court’s effective work in reducing recidivism in young offenders, and its focus on cultural and spiritual integration in the legal system.

First-time offenders between the ages of 18 and the mid-20s who face misdemeanor charges in Tulalip Tribal Court can elect to appear before the Elder Court instead. There, the young offenders are required to fulfill a series of requirements that often more resemble tribal traditions than standard punishments. A young adult in Elder Court could be asked to create a family tree by interviewing older family members, or to attend a traditional event in the tribal longhouse. It’s not unusual for young adults who create family trees to discover that they are related in some way to Court members. Such realizations foster the understanding that an entire community is relying on them to be a productive member of society.

Each youth is required to meet regularly with the Elder Court as he or she moves through the process of turning away from crime. Court statistics reflect that fewer than 10 percent of the youth who proceed through Elder Court are returned for subsequent offenses.
 

Major Tribal Economic Development Conference At Tulalip, 1-2 June 2009

Tribal leaders and business experts from across the nation will gather at the Tulalip Resort June 1-2 for the Northwest Native American Economic Development Conference.  Speakers include:

    • Mel Sheldon, Chairman, Tulalip Tribes of Washington

    • Chief J. Allan, Chairman, Coeur d'Alene Tribe

    • Cedric BlackEagle, Chairman, Crow Nation

    • Bob Garcia, Chairman, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Indians

    • Ralph Sampson Jr., Chairman, Yakama Indian Nation

    • Edward K. Thomas, President Emeritus, Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska & Board of Directors - Sealaska Corporation

    • Jerry Lamb, Director of Economic Development, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

    • Kary Nichols, Director of Business Development, Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation

    • Professor Ron Whitener, University of Washington Native American Law Center

The conference will cover a vast array of topics relating to the development of economic enterprises in Native lands, including:

    • Tribal Leaders Roundtable: Defining Economic Development

    • Tribal Economic Development Bonds: Strategic Financing for Business Ventures

    • Tribal Gaming Outlook: Planning for the Future

    • Reinventing your Casino & Resort Facilities

    • Housing & Infrastructure Projects on the Reservation

    • Renewable Energy Projects

    • Taking Care of Your Own: Community Member Wealth

For anyone interested in the development of Tribal economies, this seminar is not to be missed. 

The Law As A Weapon Against Alcoholism

 

In an effort to combat the ravages of alcoholism, the Tulalip Grassroots Committee, an organization of members of the Tulalip Tribes, will soon present an initiative to the Tribe’s General Council calling for a ban on the sale of beer, wine, and other alcohol anywhere outside the Quil Ceda Village shopping area on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. The new legal policy would also prohibit restaurants and businesses within the reservation from advertising alcohol on signs. If the initiative is approved, the state-run liquor store near the Tulalip Casino would be forced to remove alcohol advertising signs from its window, and two stores near the reservation's western edge would no longer be allowed to sell beer and other alcohol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 12 percent of all Native American deaths are linked to alcohol, roughly twice the rate of alcohol-related deaths for the rest of the U.S. population. "Indians have a lifelong battle with alcohol," said Les Parks, who leads the Tulalip Grassroots Committee.

Tribes across the country have previously attempted to utilize legal measures to reduce alcohol consumption by Tribal members, with mixed results. In 2000 the Yakama Nation banned alcohol sales on Tribal lands and unilaterally imposed a tax on alcohol sales on private land within the reservation, drawing fury from non-Native business owners and the State of Washington, which holds a monopoly on the sale of bottled liquor. The history of Prohibition within the United States reflects the difficulty of using the law alone to battle socio-medical problems on a broad scale. While legal measures may heighten awareness of issues and raise obstacles to obtaining alcohol, the complexity of alcoholism in Native communities will undoubtedly require the concerted effort of legal scholars, social scientists, and traditional healers to resolve.
 

A Tax On The Checkerboard

Fractionation of Pine Ridge Reservation (Villageearth.org)

The exterior boundaries of Tribal reservations are usually fairly well defined, and provide a delineation for when one is leaving state land and entering “Indian Country”. However, the ownership and control of land within the bounds of the reservation is often far less clear. Through previous federal policies such as allotment and termination, much Native land was alienated from Tribal ownership. As a result, ownership maps of present-day reservations often resemble a “checkerboard”, with plots of non-Native-owned land interspersed with Tribal trust lands.

For many Tribes, reacquiring the land within reservation boundaries is both an economic and cultural imperative, and Tribal leaders seek creative legal and business methods of eliminating the checkerboard. The Tulalip Tribes in Washington are presently considering a unique economic tool in this regard: imposing a tax on sales of land by Tribal members to non-Natives. The Tulalip Grassroots Committee, an organization of Tribal members, has proposed a 17 percent tax on the land value on real estate transactions to discourage Tribal members from selling land to non-Native buyers. "We believe the reservation is sacred and we wanted to make sure that not as much land goes out of trust status," states Tulalip Chairman Mel Sheldon.

With real estate prices plummeting nationwide in the tumult of the current economic crisis, Tribes with cash are positioned to more quickly eliminate checkerboard spaces within reservations. While a tax such as that proposed by Tulalip may help reduce alienation of Tribal lands, there is also risk of alienating the surrounding business community by raising a new barrier to transactions on reservations. Balancing the interests of internal cohesiveness and positive external relations will become increasingly important as Tribes navigate through the current nationwide economic crisis.
 

Obama Put To Early Test By Tribes

The new Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently told Tribal leaders in Washington D.C. that "First Americans will have their place at the table in the Obama administration."  Less than 24 hours after President Obama took office, Tribes throughout America have put that policy to the test.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, which represents 20 Tribes in the Pacific Northwest including the Tulalip, Stillaguamish, and Sauk Suiattle, submitted a 16-page request to President Obama for additional funding and the adoption of a formal policy supporting Tribal management of natural resources. The Commission's request also seeks:

1. The issuance of an Executive Order reaffirming the government-to-government relationship between Tribes and the US government.

2. An additional $12 million per year in funding for the Commission and an extra $4.5 million per year for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

3. Restoration of expansive water rights to Tribes; and

4. Enhanced legal protections for Tribal resources such as salmon and shellfish.

The Commission’s requests were followed closely by a letter to the President from a group of US Senators representing Native constituencies throughout the country, seeking significant new funding for infrastructure and social/educational programs in Native communities. The Senators’ requests included:

• $1.2 billion for Tribal health facilities construction and support;

• $360 million for construction of Tribal justice infrastructure and support;

• $568 million for construction of road and bridge projects on reservations;

• $658 million for construction of Tribal schools and colleges;

• $50 million for housing construction, weatherization, and heating in Native Communities;

• $80 million for Native job training and business development;

• $600 million for water infrastructure development in Tribal lands;

• $4.4 million for energy development on reservations; and

• $50 million to address Tribal land fractionation.

The proposal was submitted by Senators Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

During his campaign, President Obama stated:

The American Indians I have met across this country will be on my mind each day that I am in the White House. You deserve a president who is committed to being a full partner with you; to respecting you, honoring you and working with you every day. That is the commitment I will make to you as President of the United States.”

On the strength of such pledges, Obama received the endorsement of over 100 Tribal leaders throughout America. The coming weeks and months will reveal the true strength behind these promises, and provide a realistic view of the future for Native communities.