Duwamish tribal Chair Cecile Hansen paused for one last look down the Duwamish River before the South Park Bridge closed. While plans for a new bridge seem to move forward, plans for Federal recognition for her tribe seem dead in the water.
'Health care bill stalled Duwamish recognition,' says Congressman Jim McDermott
When Congressman Jim McDermott appeared at the Duwamish Longhouse Museum and Cultural Center over a year ago he proudly announced his sponsorship of H.R.2678, the Duwamish Tribal Recognition Act he had just introduced to the House. As we reported in the West Seattle Herald, he told attendees at a dinner fundraiser there, including Tribal Chair Cecile Hansen, that recognition was within reach.
"I think there's a real chance we'll get this through," said McDermott June 14, 2009. "The other day we got six Virginia tribes recognized and the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. I said to the chairman (of the Bureau of Indian Affairs), 'We're on a roll here.' What is important is the spirit of the Duwamish that has kept pushing. One could give up, and say the government of the United States is never going to follow the treaties it signed, or you can keep at it. That's what you've done, and my hats off to you."
Federal recognition seems no closer for the Duwamish Tribe now, a year later. So what happened to H.R.2678?
"The Committee has not moved on a number of tribes," Congressman McDermott told the West Seattle Herald last week. "It's partly because everything was stopped by what went on with health care," he added with a tone of regret. "Now whether it might happen in the next few months, I haven't lost all hope. But I think health care sucked all the air out of the Congress for about nine months and it was very hard to get anything moving, but we're still pushing.
"We had a rededication ceremony of all the graves in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. I recently attended and all these people (those now buried) who came made all these treaties, and how can you deny the existence of the Duwamish with the name of this place being Seattle who was a chief of the Duwamish? I mean, he was also Suquamish, but no question the Duwamish existed. I just think its a matter of justice- it isn't anything else, that they exist."
While Hansen told the West Seattle Herald she will never give up fighting for Federal recognition, she said this has been just one more year of a frustrating ordeal that she has been fighting since 1977.
"He's doing his politician spiel," said Hansen reacting to Congressman McDermott's above statements. "But he's the only one who's stepped forward to introduce the bill. But he cannot get anybody else to support it. I know the Resource Committee is where the bill is sitting. I will agree that, yes, we have had problems because of the health care bill, and now the oil spill and other major problems. I'm trying to find new representation because all of our former lawyers dumped me.
"The people who should be supporting us, they're not from Siberia," she said. "They represent the State of Washington. I think they are bought up by the casino companies. I would hope they'd have an investigation about this. I find it very sad today that we (area tribes) are in a traditional genocide. A long time ago we all sort of came together. And now it's not that way. It's all about money and greed.
"When they created this process to approve who you are I went to Washington, D.C. about six times," Hansen said. "Why does any Indian tribe have to prove who they are? Delay after delay since the mid-70's. When I got involved there were 13 tribes in this area trying to get acknowledged, and since then nine have been. And now I get accused that the only reason I want recognition is that I want a casino. This hasn't been my intent, or the intent of the others.
"I think the world will end before we get recognition," said the always feisty Hansen, a descendant of Chief Seattle.