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Native Americans

Children from the Children's Aid Society. The Children's Aid Society was founded to find homes for poor children of big Eastern cities. Its critics say that Catholic children were forcibly removed and sent to perform slave labor on Midwestern farms.
Library of Congress Photo Archives

Un-American: A word being used to describe the separations of children from their parents at the Mexican border.

History, however, suggests this is very American.

A U.S. District Court judge in Tacoma has ruled that seven of eight claims brought by the Chinook Indian Nation will move forward. It’s a victory for the tribe, which has been fighting for recognition for more than a century.

The August 2017 lawsuit stems from the tribe’s ongoing battle to gain federal status. Tribal members packed a federal courthouse last month to hear oral arguments on a motion filed by the U.S. Department of the Interior to dismiss the case.

Colleen Echohawk-Hayashi and Gyasi Ross.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

You know the drainage pipes you sometimes see sticking out from underneath a road? They're called culverts. And they're creating a division between Washington tribes and state attorney general Bob Ferguson. The sovereign nations claim that Ferguson is failing to uphold their treaty rights; in response, he's escalated the lawsuit to the Supreme Court of the United States.


A file photo of a member of Puget Sound's Swinomish tribe participating in a ceremonial salmon blessing. Northwest tribes hold vigils along the Columbia River to pray for the return of salmon.
KCTS9 Photo/Katie Campbell

Tribal leaders on both sides of the border said Canada's purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline would not weaken their opposition to the pipeline's planned expansion.

The project would triple the amount of oil flowing from Alberta tar sands through British Columbia and increase oil tanker traffic through Puget Sound.

On Aug. 24, 1952, the Silook and Oozevaseuk families of Gambell, Alaska, welcomed a baby girl into the world and introduced her to the island that had been their home for centuries. Gambell is at the western edge of St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. When the weather is clear, you can see Siberia in the distance.

Fred Dillon, second from left, and his son, Codi Dillon, right, return the remains of a chinook salmon to the Puyallup River after a first salmon ceremony on Tuesday in Tacoma.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The Puyallup Tribe welcomed the first salmon of the year back to the Puyallup River in Tacoma on Tuesday.

Strangely, perhaps, that chinook's epic journey from mid-Pacific Ocean to a Puyallup fishing net begins with a sloshing tanker truck.






Tribal leaders from Canada are on their way to Texas to warn Kinder Morgan stockholders against expanding its controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline project. The pipeline brings Canadian oil to Washington state.




Deborah Alexander, one of the many people who were tribally disenrolled from the Nooksack tribe, looks out of the window of a safety boat during the first leg of a canoe journey on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Point Roberts.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The Nooksack Tribe in northwestern Washington is on the path to having a legal government again after it held a council election over the weekend.

That election was supposed to happen two years ago, when half of its seats expired.


Washington Supreme Court justices will be in northeastern Washington Tuesday to hear three cases in Nespelem, where the Confederated Tribes of the Colville are headquartered.

Tribes across the West are trying to restore their forests and grasslands to the way they were before white settlers arrived. Their goal is to return traditional foods like roots, huckleberries and big game.

But it’s a complex job.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville are celebrating an expansion of their sovereign rights. The federal government has granted them jurisdiction over water resources on tribal lands in northeastern Washington state.

S.G. Morse / Tacoma Public Library Archives

As the sun rose above Neah Bay one foggy morning three years ago, a boatful of anglers headed out to the Pacific Ocean to fish for halibut — something their Makah ancestors have done for thousands of years. 

Federal officials were in Spokane Wednesday night to talk about the future of the Columbia River Treaty, an agreement between the U.S. and Canada that dates back to 1964. It governs hydropower and flood control measures along the upper reaches of the 1,200 mile Columbia River.

A fish-friendly culvert in Washington state.
Flickr Photo/Washington DNR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/cCuMVy

Kim Malcolm talks with University of Washington law professor Robert Anderson about a U.S. Supreme Court case involving Native American fishing rights in Washington state. At issue is whether Washington state should pay to fix culverts, which block the passage of salmon.

Denise Juneau is the former Montana superintendent of public instruction. She also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2016.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

The Seattle School Board voted unanimously on Wednesday night to hire Denise Juneau as the district’s new superintendent.

Protesters dressed as construction workers and a mini-longhouse they erected to block Puget Sound Energy's doors
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Protesters erected a miniature longhouse — just five feet tall and 12 feet long — in front of Puget Sound Energy's front doors and blocked the entrance to the company's headquarters in Bellevue for about three hours Monday morning.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law Thursday a bill aimed at shedding light on the cases of missing or murdered Native American women. 
 At the bill signing ceremony, Native women in traditional regalia performed a women’s honor song.

From left: Tracy Rector and Sara Marie Ortiz
Courtesy Tracy Rector and Sara Marie Ortiz

Can you predict the social media cycle of #metoo? First, the allegations. Then the apology, lackluster or seemingly heartfelt. Then the backlash: shows canceled, jobs lost, formerly prominent men stricken from the public domain. It's happened in film, in television, in comedy. And now it's happening to author Sherman Alexie.

The FBI is recognizing Coeur D’Alene tribal member Bernie LaSarte for her efforts to combat domestic violence in the Idaho Panhandle.



If you were a teenage girl in 1997 you'd probably recognize the song "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys. But if you heard it in the Salish language, would you still be able to sing along?

Keegan Heron can. He translated the song into Salish and performed it this week for the annual Salish Karaoke contest in Spokane, Wash. He's only been studying the indigenous language for about nine months.

"There's a lot of words that I didn't know two weeks ago," he says.

Heron teaches preschool on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana.

What’s the best way to learn a language? Salish teachers are using music and song to introduce their Native American language to new speakers. It’s a language spoken by many tribes across the Northwest.

Every year, a conference that celebrates Salish culminates in an annual karaoke contest in Spokane. Contestants have to translate a song and perform it in front of judges.

This week, nearly 500 teachers and students of Salish are in Spokane to celebrate the indigenous language. It’s considered ‘critically endangered,’ but tribal elders are optimistic that younger generations aren’t going to let the language disappear. 

KUOW Photo/Casey Martin

Students from the Yakama Nation are re-connecting with their tribal roots.

At the Burke Museum on Tuesday, Yakama artists held a workshop where students learned how to weave hats from hemp and corn husks. 

Native speakers from across the Northwest and Canada are in Spokane this week to speak Salish and learn from those who teach it.

In the opening scenes of the documentary film United by Water, writer Sherman Alexie reads his poem ‘Powwow At The End Of The World.’

     I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall

     after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam

     and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive

     and so I shall …

The Trump administration unleashed a flood of outrage earlier this month after unveiling a proposal to overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps. The plan would replace half the benefits people receive with boxed, nonperishable — i.e. not fresh — foods chosen by the government and not by the people eating them.

Oral arguments in a federal lawsuit filed against 30 private companies and government entities for cleanup costs associated with pollution at the Portland Harbor Superfund site are expected to start in April.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2017, asks for a reimbursement of $283,471 in cleanup response costs incurred by the Washington-based tribe as of Sept. 30, 2016. Defendants include Calbag Metals Co., ExxonMobil Corp., Union Pacific Railroad Co., the Port of Portland and the city of Portland.

Terese Marie Mailhot started her new memoir, Heart Berries, while she was in a mental institution, where she had committed herself after a breakdown. The pages bleed with the pain of mental illness, lost love and her family history on an Indian reservation in British Columbia.

It's a collection of essays filled with what she called "heavy material": experiences of poverty, addiction and abuse. But she also says she's finding joy in cultivating art. She spoke with me about her work and her life from Spokane, Wash.

It looks like the Confederated Tribes of the Colville will be keeping their name, for now. Tribal members have rejected a referendum that would have kicked off a name-changing process.

Deborah Alexander, one of the many people who were tribally disenrolled from the Nooksack tribe, looks out of the window of a safety boat during the first leg of a canoe journey on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Point Roberts.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The #stopdisenrollment campaign is re-launching today, aimed at getting Native American tribes to stop kicking out members.

Roughly 80 federally recognized tribes in the US have disenrolled members, usually citing reasons such as criminal activity, an error in enrollment, or not having enough native blood.

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