In 1855, Chief Sealth signed the Treaty of Point Elliott, turning over 54,000 acres of land in what is now present-day Seattle to the United States, with the expectation that his descendants—the Suquamish and Duwamish—would retain certain rights, including a reservation. Though the Duwamish have lived in what's now called Seattle for millennia, they've never been federally recognized.
When West Seattleite Sally Jewell was first appointed as Secretary of the Interior to the Obama administration in 2013, Duwamish chairwoman Cecile Hansen invited Jewell to the Duwamish Longhouse to discuss the issue, but never received a response. On July 2, the federal government denied the Duwamish federal recognition and, by extension, access to all sorts of rights guaranteed to sovereign tribes—health care, education, and poverty assistance programs among them.
The Duwamish are considering filing an appeal, but this past weekend Hansen tried a more direct approach. Accompanied by local activist groups Rising Tide and the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW), the Duwamish chairwoman went to West Seattle, right up to what she thought was Sally Jewell's front door.
It turns out that the door Hansen and her allies knocked on belonged to Jewell's neighbor. But then they spotted Jewell across the street, unloading her trunk.
Watch what happened below, and apologies for the terrible sound quality (it was really windy!):
"And you do understand the complexity here... that it's about, is, are tribal members able to be recognized as members of a federally recognized tribe or not and that's part of the challenge," Jewell told Hansen. "And of course within the tribal communities within the state of Washington there are differences of opinion. So these are never easy issues and they shouldn't be, you know. So I appreciate that, and I'll review the letters, and I'll talk with [Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior] when I'm with him in Alaska."
Jewell also said that she had met with the Suquamish Tribe regarding the dispute over Duwamish recognition.
Hansen gave Jewell her phone number, a cedar rose, and asked the Secretary of the Interior to look at what was promised in the Treaty of Point Elliott. We'll update if Jewell actually follows through.