May 2024

XXVII, No. 3
Muckleshoot indian reservation, wash.
May 2024
From the Front Page

Tribal Council lobbies in Washington, DC

Leeroy Courville, Jessica Garcia-Jones, John Danlels Jr., Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Jaison Elkins and Anita Mitchell

By Jaison Elkins, Tribal Council Chairman

This edition of the paper features detailed reports on many of the issues that the tribe is working on through the U.S. Congress and Washington State Legislature. If it all sounds a bit complicated, that’s because it is. Dealing with the “outside world” is a major part of being a sovereign nation, and your elected leaders all have to be knowledgeable about a wide array of complex issues at the state and federal level. I hope these articles will give you some insight into these important relationships and how we are handling them.

The Tribal Council went to Washington, D.C. in April to press for the Tribe’s federal agenda and strengthen the Tribe’s government- to-government relationship with the United States. The Tribal Council takes that relationship seriously and we strive to be an active partner in it. It is important for our leadership to meet with federal officials to ensure that Muckleshoot voices are heard. When we participate in these meetings we carry your voices, and importantly, the voices of our ancestors with us.

This trip was incredibly productive and we held 16 meetings over the course of two days. We had to be very nimble because while we were in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives transmitted the articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. That was the first time in over a century that the House of Representatives has attempted to impeach and remove a member of the President’s Cabinet. The impeachment ultimately failed but it did cause our schedule on the ground to get shuffled quite a bit.

Despite the chaos on Capitol Hill we were still able to meet with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), the Office of Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Office of Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Office of Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), Representative Dr. Kim Schrier (D-WA), Representative Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS), Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), the Office of Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA), the Office of Representative Marie Gluesenkamp-Perez (D-WA), and the Bureau of Indian Education. These meetings continued to build on the strong relationships the Tribe has created in Washington, D.C.

The meetings began with thanking our friends in Congress for their work on behalf of the Muckleshoot Tribe. The Tribe has a strong track record of success in DC, in part because of the work that the Tribal Council puts in to foster good relationships with the Senate and House of Representatives. Some of the successes that we thanked Congress for during this trip included:

Fiscal Year 2023 Community Funded Project – The Tribe worked with Senator Murray and Representative Schrier to obtain a $3.4 million award to fund the Muckleshoot Water Systems Improvement Act.

Fiscal Year 2024 Community Funded Project – The Tribe worked with Representative Schrier to obtain a $850,000 award to help fund the replacement of a road bridge located on the White River upstream from the Town of Greenwater.

Fishery Disaster Declarations – The Tribe’s fall 2023 advocacy trip help result in the declaration of two fishery disasters: (1) the 2019 Green River Commercial Fishery; and (2) the 2017 Green River/Duwamish River Commercial Fishery. The Tribe was awarded $1.2 million under these declarations and it was important to thank Senator Cantwell and all of our other allies and advocates that helped with the declarations.

After the Tribal Council shared the Tribe’s gratitude for these recent successes we shifted gears to the current issues before us. The Tribe advocated for several bills and topic areas over the two days. What follows is a brief summary of the issues that we advocated for during the trip.

The United States’ traumatic Indian Boarding School Policies still impact our communities today. That is why the Tribe advocated for H.R. 7227, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act. The bill would establish a formal commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s Indian Boarding School Policies; develop recommendations for federal entities to aid in healing the historical and intergenerational trauma passed down in Native families and communities; and provide a culturally appropriate forum for victims to speak about personal experiences tied to these human rights violations. It is an important piece of legislation that Congress should move to pass expeditiously.

The Tribe has been supporting H.R. 4150, the Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act for the past several years. The bill would allow the Tribe to undertake clearing and forest management on U.S. Forest Service lands that surround the Tribe’s land holdings and retain the revenues associated with those activities.

Forest Fires. The Tribe is very concerned that the forest fire season keeps growing in length and intensity, and if the U.S. Forest Service lands that surround our land holdings are not properly managed, they will increase the chances that a fire could impact the Tribe’s holdings such as Tomanamus Forest. We are pushing for this bill to be included in the 2024 Farm Bill.

Cannabis Banking. The Tribe also advocated for S. 2860, the SAFER Banking Act, which would allow tribal and non-tribal cannabis operations to access the banking system. The Tribe was heavily involved in the initial negotiations surrounding this bill and it contains strong language and protection for tribal nations.

Under the bill, a federal banking regulator may not penalize a depository institution for providing banking services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or a tribal-sanctioned cannabis business located in states that have decriminalized cannabis.

The bill would also prohibit a federal banking regulator from requesting or ordering a depository institution to terminate a customer account unless (1) the regulator has determined that the depository institution is engaging in an unsafe or unsound practice or is violating a law or regulation, and (2) that determination is not based primarily on reputation risk.

Proceeds from a transaction involving activities of a state-sanctioned cannabis business or a tribal-sanctioned cannabis business would no longer be considered proceeds from an unlawful activity.

Lastly, a financial institution, insurer, or federal agency would also not be held liable or subject to asset forfeiture under federal law for providing a loan, mortgage, or other financial service to a state-sanctioned or tribal-sanctioned cannabis business.

Ballard Locks. The Tribe also met with Congressional leaders to discuss the many issues occurring at the Ballard Locks. The Tribe explained the illegal take that is happening to ESA-listed species and the Army Corps, FWS, and NOAA’s many failures to remedy the situation. We also discussed operational changes at the Ballard Locks that, if implemented, would help facilitate a great survival rate for migrating fish.

The Tribal Council walked Congressional leaders through the overall inadequacies of the entire lock and canal system and argued for massive investments in both the locks and canal. The conversation also touched on the pinniped issues that remain and the Army Corps general lack of action to prevent seals and sea lions from climbing in the fish ladder itself. This will be a long-term but important advocacy item.

Bureau of Indian Education. Finally, we met with the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) to discuss its recent report on the Muckleshoot Tribal School. The Tribal Council expressed their frustration over how the BIE conducted its surveys and interviews as well as the language used in the report. The BIE and the Tribal Council both agreed that they should be working together to create the best educational environment possible for students. The BIE agreed to reissue the report and remove certain sections that were not accurate or in keeping with that shared mission of creating the best educational environment as possible.

The Tribal Council’s D.C. advocacy trip is an important exercise that ensures the Tribe is taking its responsibility in the government-to-government relationship seriously. It allows us to advance the Tribe’s sovereign agenda while carrying each of your voices with us in our advocacy. The Tribal Council looks forward to continued success in our federal endeavors and always working in the best interest of our tribal members.

More from This Edition

XXVII, No. 3

May 2024

view pdf

About the Muckleshoot Messenger

The Muckleshoot Messenger is a Tribal publication created by the Muckleshoot Office of Media Services. Tribal community members and Tribal employees are welcome to submit items to the newspaper such as news, calendar items, photos, poems, and artwork.