Steve Russell: Chris Stevens was heroic ambassador of Chinooks

Chris Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya who was killed in an attack on September 11, 2012, was the great-great-great-great grandchild of Chinook Chief Comcomly.

Steve Russell pays tribute to slain U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, who was a member of the Chinook Nation of Washington:,
Chris Stevens descended from a famous Chinook chief in fact rather than legend, but he could be exclusively a white man if he wished, as I could have from the time I changed my name to match the grandparents who raised me. His decision to enroll was rendered more complicated than my own because the Chinook Nation was terminated in the fifties, when termination of tribal governments and relocation of Indians was the dominant federal policy, as if declaring the fact of assimilation would make it so.

By self-identifying as white, Stevens would ratify the termination of his people.

By choosing to enroll and maintain his Chinook citizenship, Stevens would say to Indian kids, by his example, that they can take degrees from public universities and compete with people from private universities. They can learn Italian, French, and Arabic. They can serve in the Peace Corps and then in the US diplomatic corps even while the US government deals unfairly with Indian nations.

Chris Stevens’s idea of the role of a US ambassador involved being out among the people rather than sequestered in the embassy. Some believe that understanding of his job cost him his life, but his understanding was correct and in the best interests of the United States.

Chris Stevens’s decision to claim his birthright of dual citizenship made him an ambassador for the Chinook Nation to the US, and that decision was in the best interests of the Chinook Nation, just like it’s in the best interests of Indian kids generally to see a citizen of a tribal nation cutting swaths through academia and the professional world.

It would be good if fewer people were distracted by the political nonsense deployed around Ambassador Stevens’s death. To call it a “scandal” is to accord the silliness a dignity it does not deserve.

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: Chris Stevens Was a Heroic Ambassador of the Chinooks (Indian Country Today 7/6)

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