Photo of Cecile Hansen by Steve Shay
Pictured, Cecile Hansen, Chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribe, and Boulevard Park resident, kneads dough for fry bread at a recent fest at the Duwamish Longhouse Museum in West Seattle. She is optimistic with a federal judge's new ruling that may finally lead to her tribe's official recognition. Pictured right, Attorney Michael Anderson, was with Pres. Clinton's Administration at the Dept. of the Interior as Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. He signed the documents in Jan., 2001 that gave federal recognition to the Duwamish Tribe. This was nullified a few days later when the Bush administration came in and back-burnered all such tribal recognitions nationwide.

Duwamish Tribe's federal recognition in 2001 wrongly denied says judge; Former Pres. Clinton Indian Affairs deputy sees opportunity

Seattle-base U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour ruled March 22 that the Department of Interior wrongly denied the Duwamish Tribe's petition for federal recognition Jan., 2001, signed as the Clinton administration departed, and denied the day the Bush administration came in. The judge ordered the Dept. of Interior to either consider the tribe's petition using 1994 guidelines, or explain why it declines to do so.

Cecile Hansen, Chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribe

Cecile Hansen, Chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribe, and Boulevard Park resident works with her daughter, Cindy Williams, Secretary/Treasurer of the Duwamish Tribal Council at the Duwamish Longhouse Museum in West Seattle.

In court documents on the case "Hansen v. (Dept. of Interior Chair) Ken Salazar", filed last August, Hansen, representing the Duwamish Tribe writes, "This case, and the government's brief, represents not only a great injustice, but also a great irony. After entering into a government-to-government relationship with the United States upon signing the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, the historic Duwamish tribe survived being pushed or burned out of their homes near Seattle; survived a broken promise to give them a reservation in their historic homeland along the rivers south of Lake Washington;

"survived the Bureau of Indian Affairs' decision, between the mid-1800s and 1916, that the Duwamish women who married pioneer men would be treated as having severed their tribal relations and those of their children and denied eligibility for allocations on reservations (...)

"Having survived all this, the government now claims that as a result of this very adversity, the Duwamish Tribe cannot establish the community and political influence that is the prerequisite for federal acknowledgement of the Duwamish as an Indian tribe."

Hansen spoke to the West Seattle Herald about the judge's new findings.

"My daughter, Cindy, called me on Monday (March 18) and said, 'Our attorney called. The judge through out the 2001 decision. It's moot.' I was really in shock but I was crying when it happened. I say, 'So then, just give us our recognition back. Give us our status back if they threw it out of court.' I've heard about the judge. He is a fair judge. Michael Anderson studied this for years before he signed (the recognition papers that were immediately overturned by the new administration.) They wanted to make him look like a jackass, which he wasn't.

"I do not want to go through another 25 years of this," said Hensen. "Just reinstate our status."

Michael Anderson, former President Clinton appointee

Michael Anderson served eight years in the Clinton Administration at the Department of the Interior as Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. He is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. He now has a law firm in Washington, D.C., Anderson Indian Law.

Anderson spoke to the West Seattle Herald by phone from his office, responding to the judge's findings. He furnished us with his official legislative testimony submitted July 15, 2009. In it he stated: "While I found agreement with many of the factual conclusions detailed by BAR (Branch of Acknowledgement and Research) in its draft for the Duwamish final determination, as a policy matter I could not agree with (…) its position that federal acknowledgement of an American Indian tribe is an 'entitlement.' Federal recognition is a duty of the Federal government, not a gift to Indian tribes…"

"There are clearly new opportunities here for the tribe to become recognized," said Anderson. "It would be defensible legally and, I think, morally, for the Department of Interior to accept my final 2001 conclusion to recognize Duwamish as a tribe."

Anderson helped make the case that the Bureau of Indian Affairs should deal with the Duwamish as a tribe, not as individuals.

"When the chief made ceremonial presentations the chief was representing the nation, not acting in an individual capacity," Anderson explained.

As for opposers of Duwamish Tribal recognition, including the Muckleshoot Tribe in Auburn, who claim the Duwamish lacked continuity, and dispersed over the decades, Anderson said, " I am not familiar with the Muckleshoot position, but with all tribes there is cross-marrying, an amalgamation. There is no pure tribal race in the nature of Indian Nations and communities so it is not surprising there would be some dispersement. As long as the basic community, political structure and other elements were there, even if there were gaps during the Depression, and World War II, fundamentally the tribe existed."

The Muckleshoots and certain other area tribes operate casinos and are granted special fishing rights. Some observers say they fear competition by the Duwamish if they get recognition and desire a casino, which they currently have no plans to build.

Senator Maria Cantwell now chairs the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs, and Sally Jewel of West Seattle was just confirmed as new Interior Secretary. However, Anderson does not think this will directly benefit the Duwamish Tribe.

'I don't think that Chairwoman Cantwell will interject so much because this is really a legislative matter, an internal administration matter," he said. "Secretary Jewel could intervene, but I do not believe she has much experience in recognition matters. So the real action is going to be occurring with Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, and Larry Roberts, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. They have a very deep background in recognition matters. I think that there is an opportunity for the tribe to get a fare shake."

For more on the case, visit the Turtle Talk website here.

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