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Native Americans

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.

Museum curators in the Northwest are now working to update exhibits that focus on the region’s indigenous people. They are trying to do that in a way that both modernizes stories of indigenous people and tells them more truthfully. 

Courtesy of Lloyd Montgomery

As we begin another new year in these United States of America, it’s an opportune time to listen in to the creative voices of descendants of the original inhabitants of these lands.

The Seattle skyline, seen across the water.
Flickr Photo/Shelly Provost (CC BY 2.0)/flic.kr/p/VEhbc2

Essayist Elissa Washuta spent last summer in the Fremont Bridge. The old control room was turned into an office, which allowed her to sit over the water and write. Elissa is descended from the Cowlitz and Cascade people. The longer she looked at the shipping canal, the less she could separate it from the displacement of the Duwamish people in service of progress and growth.

Seattle is in a new wave of growth, with similar implications for those who were here before, including the Coast Salish peoples. On a visit back to Seattle from Columbus, Ohio, Elissa joined Bill Radke for a conversation on the flow of water – and people – in and out of this city.

Activist group Backbone Campaign hung this banner in September 2015. Chief Seattle is often quoted by environmental groups.
Flickr Photo/Backbone Campaign (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/yJnSzW

“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.”

These words are from an 1854 speech that made Chief Seattle famous, inspiring environmental movements in the city that bears his name and beyond.

Except, he never really said that.


The life expectancy of Native Americans in some states is 20 years shorter than the national average.

There are many reasons why.

Julia Yesler, pictured, is the offspring of a Duwamish woman and white settler Henry Yesler.
Courtesy of Kathie Zetterberg

Chief Seattle was the leader of the Duwamish tribe in the days when white settlers were entering the region that would eventually bear his name.

The chief had an unusual way of brokering peace: encouraging his family members to marry the settlers.


Members of the 'Emma canoe' arrive on the shore of the Tsawwassen Indian Reserve after the first leg of their multi-day canoe journey on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Tsawwassen, British Columbia.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Some are claiming voter fraud in a controversial tribal council election in northwest Washington.

Nooksack tribal membership, tens of millions of federal dollars and a casino are on the line.

A group of eastern Washington tribes is joining a nationwide movement to reclaim indigenous identities and re-tell native stories. In this case, it’s all about a name change.

"Do Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?"

I am asked this question at least once every fall. Which, by the way, is too many times.

The answer is that my family (though I can't speak for the other 5 million Indigenous people in America) doesn't. Not the "brave-pilgrims-and-friendly-savages" version of the holiday, anyway. Twenty or 30 of us might gather under the same roof to share a meal. We'll thank the creator for our blessings.

But that could be true of any Thursday night in a Wampanoag house.

Turning to face the water behind her, Roxanne White recalled her ancestors’ memories of the Columbia River.

“At one point, if you can imagine, they would say you could walk off the backs of the salmon across the river,” said White, a Yakama Nation descendant. “Now they’re so minimal, and they’re sick. Just like our mother earth; just like our water.” 

The rare but ever-present risk of a tsunami has worried people along the Pacific Northwest coast for years. Different communities are working on moving critical facilities to higher ground.

Jill Davenport

Nearly half the anchor lines on an Atlantic salmon farm snapped one evening in July, a month before an even worse accident caused the aging pens to collapse completely.


The list of racist place names in Washington is long, but the state is slowly getting rid of them.

The latest is a “Squaw Creek” southwest of the town of Methow in Eastern Washington.

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