White House task force to address treaty issues in Washington

The Blackhawk Dancers from the Lummi Nation of Washington. Photo by Northwest Treaty Tribes

The White House announced a new task force on Tuesday to address salmon recovery and protect tribal treaty rights in Puget Sound in Washington.

The Federal Puget Sound Task Force will coordinate efforts among federal, tribal and state agencies. An announcement invoked the late treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr., a member of the Nisqually Tribe who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2015.

"The task force recognizes the importance of the Sound to the culture of the region’s Native Americans, and strives to build on Billy Frank Jr.’s legacy by formally incorporating tribal treaty rights into the development of the federal action plan," Christy Goldfuss of the White House Council on Environmental Quality wrote in a blog post.

Mel Sheldon, the chairman of the Tulalip Tribes, spoke at a press conference in Seattle regarding the new effort. He stressed importance of salmon to his people, KNKX reported.

"I was afraid to tell my people that there are no more salmon. Our way of life is gone. What you remember is memories now. But what I feel today, what has been shared today, that I can go back to my reservation; I can go back to Tulalip and say, there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Sheldon said, KNKX reported.

Leonard Forsman, the chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, also spoke at the announcement. He underscored the need for cooperation among all governments in the region.

“In order for us to reverse the tide of damage that’s been going on in Puget Sound, we’re going to need everybody,” Forsman said, the Associated Press reported.

The Puget Sound region is home to Washington's largest metropolitan area and a number of tribes with treaty rights.

Read More on the Story:
New Federal Action Plan For Puget Sound Restoration Leverages Tribal Treaty Rights (KNKX 10/19)
Feds step up efforts to protect Puget Sound ecosystem (AP 10/18)
Puget Sound recovery effort gets ‘historic' $600M boost (KING 5 News 10/18)

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