Recognizing Native American Heritage Month


Last updated 12/2/2020 at 9:21am

Native American history is engrained in the culture of the Pacific Northwest. Throughout our region, we are reminded of Tribal culture and heritage which greatly influence our way of life. November is Native American Heritage Month, and in Central Washington, we have a rich, storied Tribal history that should be recognized.

The federal government has a unique relationship with Native American tribes as we work in tandem to respect their culture, traditions, and treaty rights.

The Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakama Nation (Yakama Nation), the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Colville Tribes), and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (Umatilla Tribes) all have a significant presence in Central Washington, and since coming to Congress, I have worked to build positive working relationships with Tribal leaders throughout our district.

I have heavily engaged with the Yakama Nation on addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women, as well as the disproportionately high crime rate on and near the Yakama Nation reservation. We recently made significant progress, but there is more work to be done. President Trump signed into law two pieces of legislation I worked on with Yakama Nation leaders that will help law enforcement agencies at all levels work more efficiently with tribes to investigate and solve these cases of violence in Native communities across the country.

The Colville reservation, which spans throughout North Central Washington, serves as a national example of successful land, forest, and species management. From wildfire recovery to gray wolf protection, the Colville Tribes are working to protect our land, wildlife, and natural resources.

This fall, I met with Colville leaders to discuss their approach to wildfire prevention. Through timber harvests, thinning, and controlled burns, they are returning the forests they manage back to a healthier state, mitigating the threat of catastrophic wildfires facing our region each year. The Colville Tribes have also formulated management plans rooted in science for regional wildlife – including the gray wolf – that take into account local ecosystems and food supplies. By instituting sound management practices, the Tribes demonstrate that humans can play a beneficial role in supporting our natural species and environments.

The federal government can – and should – do more to follow the example of our Tribal neighbors’ management successes.

The Umatilla Tribes have also been strong partners in the management of our local lands and river shorelines, including serving as key advocates for our joint efforts to return the Ancient One – or Kennewick Man – to our region’s tribes. The Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC) recently teamed up with the Umatilla Tribes to host a virtual “Treaty Rights 101” workshop for Central Washington community leaders. With more than 60 local elected officials and community members from Tri-Cities counties, ports, and cities in attendance, the workshop was truly an inspiring demonstration of how we can continue to engage with our local tribes to observe and honor their heritage while making progress on priorities for our growing region.

As discussions continue regarding the reconveyance of Columbia River shoreline lands back to local communities, it is dialogues like these that will help form stronger communication between local governments and regional tribes to further develop legislation that best reflects the views and needs of our communities.

Native American Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect on the ways we can collaborate and build stronger relationships with our Tribal neighbors. By honoring our region’s Tribal history, we can ensure that we are respecting the treaty rights of tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest while maintaining strong government to government relationships that benefit all people living and working in Central Washington. Tribes will continue to be crucial partners as I work in Congress to craft legislation, reform federal regulations, and improve of our way of life throughout our district.


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