Many tribal members approve of keeping settlement money for programs
Letters to the Editor
I am writing to counter Yvonne Swan’s statements in The Star newspaper and advise that many, many Colville Confederated Tribal Members were quite happy to receive the first 50 percent of the Salazar Settlement funds and want the remaining 50 percent to remain with the Tribal Government.
More than 9,400 Tribal Members received more than $10,000 each in the past three months. Most of these funds were well spent to help improve the conditions of our membership. While another $10,000 would be a boon to our personal incomes, our Tribal Leaders plan to invest in our Tribal Programs. They have the foresight to recognize that the forthcoming fiscal cliff under deficit reduction could prove to be devastating to our membership. They believe that holding some of these funds in reserve and investing in our Tribal infrastructure is critical at this time.
We have a Tribal office that was built in 1972 and a BIA building built in the 1930s. I understand the Department of Interior is proposing to offer $20-plus-million to build a new office if the CCT will consider possibly matching $10 million towards this effort. The replacement of the building would create jobs and consolidate dozens of tribal service buildings into one complex.
Other tribal funds under the Salazar Agreement are going to be used to support community development in each of our reservation districts. And some of the funds will be used to enhance the tribe’s natural resources that have been devastated through earlier mismanagement and over-logging. Each of our Tribal Communities are receiving funds to improve their Senior Citizen programs, to reinforce their educational programs and to address economic development in their community. Funds are being directed towards our native language programs with considerable emphasis on each of our three dialects.
The culture of poverty and the sentiments of “poor me” are splitting our people. These same sentiments were spoken nearly 40 years ago during the termination era when tribal members wanted all the money they could get their hands on to terminate their interests. At that time, we had leaders who wanted to sell the reservation. And we had leaders who stood up and said, “Fight for your rights, don’t let the dollar get the best of you.”
Sadly, some of our members suggest our people are hopeless which is akin to saying we’re worthless and that our tribal programs are a sham. I say it is not and that we have many hard working, progressive people serving in our Tribal Programs and leading our Tribe. All is not perfect, nor am I. However, I want to see our Tribe develop infrastructure and focus on nation-building.
There are many members who want to exercise their own independence, and I say fine. These same members want a per capita for Christmas and want to essentially take away funds needed to protect our people and invest in our future. Many of these members live off the reservation and are gainfully employed just as I am here in Spokane.
I want to see these funds invested in the advancement of our Tribal Head Start programs and our college scholarships so that we can double and triple the educational achievements of our people. However, with individuals fighting to add another $10,000 to their purses, it may not be achieved and we will have nothing to show in the future, but ongoing poverty.
There is no injustice in this payment distribution, as 50 percent was paid to the people and now 50 percent should be invested in the development of our Tribe. We would much rather see the preservation of our language, restoration of land resources, creation of jobs and the advancement of our people, than the lining of pockets once again.
Our family is proud to follow the advice of my grandfather, former Chairman George Friedlander, my grand aunt, Chairwoman Lucy Covington, and my father Andy Joseph, Sr., along with countless others who served in Tribal Government. They would say, “Invest in the future of our great Tribe.” That is what I hope to see with the remaining Salazar Settlement funds.
Yvette K. Joseph,
Member of the Colville Confederated Tribes