Gover reverses Chinook decision
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JANUARY 4, 2000

On his final day on the job, Kevin Gover on Wednesday reversed a finding made by his predecessor and extended federal recognition to the Chinook Tribe of Washington.

"Today, we have the opportunity to address directly a historical injustice lasting many years," said Assistant Secretary Gover at the Department of Interior in Washington, DC. "The Chinook rejoin the family of tribal nations acknowledged by the United States."

Just a few years ago, though, the Chinook were nearly doomed to legal obscurity. Long described as extinct and having lost their tribal character, the descendants of one of the tribes who welcomed the Lewis and Clark expedition were denied acknowledgment by Ada Deer, Gover's predecessor, in 1997.

That decision stated the tribe failed to meet three of the seven mandatory federal recognition criteria. Although the United States negotiated, but never ratified, treaties with various Chinook bands in the late 1800s, the tribe had failed to provide key evidence for much of the time since then.

The tribe challenged the determination, however, and according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Gover's decision on Wednesday was based on additional information submitted by the tribe and third parties. Reportedly, a drawer full of evidence had also been overlooked.

For the tribe, the new decision has been long in the making. Although the tribe officially petitioned for federal recognition in 1979, they have had dealings with the government for much of the past century.

Various tribal members had received allotted land on the Quinault Nation Reservation in Washington and others had attended BIA schools. In 1970, the Indian Claims Commission awarded the tribe almost $50,000 to settle their land claims, but according to the tribe, it has not been spent and had grown to about $2 million as of 1995.

Additionally, Gover said the tribe was acknowledged by Congress in 1925, although three years later, a court sided with the government and concluded the tribe no longer existed.

Now, the 2,500-member tribe might begin to restore some of their denied legacy. "This is a great day for the Chinook people. Throw out the books that say the Chinook do not exist," said Chairman Gary Johnson.

Ironically, before the tribe was recognized, Johnson noted that Gover had written them and encouraged their participation in the bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark's early 1800s journey. Yesterday, Gover acknowledged what he called the "neglect" of the government towards the tribe.

"[T]he Chinook persevered and refused to abandon their tribal relations or renounce their essential identity as Indian people," said Gover. "This was no small feat, given the systematic efforts of the United States to undo the tribal bond."

Gover's reversal of a negative finding is not the first in Bureau history. In 1994, the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut successfully overturned a decision against their acknowledgment.

Get Gover's remarks on the Chinook recognition:
Remarks ofKevin Gover, Assistant Secretary-Indian AffairsOn the Final Determination for Federal Acknowledgment of the Chinook Indian Tribe/Chinook Nation (BIA 1/3)

Get the 1997 Documents:
Chinook Indian Tribe, Bureau of Acknowledgment and Research