Native Americans | KUOW News and Information

Native Americans

You know the name Rosa Parks. But do you know David Sohappy? He was at the center of a 30-year legal battle over Native American rights to fish salmon.

Next week the Yakama will mark the 30th anniversary of what they call the “Fish Wars.”

In Indian Country, a gym membership isn’t a cultural norm. The incidence of heart disease and obesity are high there. So northern Idaho's Coeur D’Alene tribe is incorporating culture into its fitness programs.

It’s not Sweatin’ to the Oldies or High Intensity Interval Training. It’s powwow.

Returning an ancient skeleton known as Kennewick Man to the earth was a private affair. After decades of legal battling, a couple hundred people gathered in the early-morning chill of February for the burial.

Outside the home of her foster sister Renee Davis, Danielle Bargala breaks down in tears while talking about how Davis' young children are living with different families. Davis, who was pregnant, was shot at her Muckleshoot reservation home last October.
Dan DeLong for KUOW

The young mom texted her boyfriend: “Come and get the girls or call 911. I’m about to shoot myself.”


How do you dispose of an old totem pole? Fortunately, this is not a problem we regularly face. But a tall totem gifted by Seattle to its sister city in Japan renewed this question.

Left: Replica of totem pole carved in early 20th century by Kwakwaka'wakw artist Charlie James in Stanley Park, Vancouver B.C. Right: A track suit produced by Adidas, design adapted from Charlie James' totem pole. Click through for more examples.
Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) and Courtesy Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Burke Museum, University of Washington

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 makes it illegal to knowingly sell non-Native made goods as authentic Native American art or craft. More than 600 fraud cases have been filed since the law's enactment.

But the IACA doesn't apply to the more widespread practice of borrowing and adapting Native imagery, themes, or traditional cultural expression on a range of commercial products.


Artist and entrepreneur Louie Gong, inside his Pike Place Market shop
Photo by Ken Yu, courtesy Louie Gong

Traces of Seattle’s Native American heritage are everywhere, from the Seahawks logo to totem poles at the Pike Place Market.

After all, Seattle is the only major American city named for a Native American chief.

Nooksack tribal police stand outside the courthouse during a disenrollment hearing in 2013.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

The sovereignty of the Nooksack tribe is in jeopardy.

This comes after the tribe kicked out about 15 percent of its members — members the tribe says don’t belong.


The state of the salmon population in Idaho’s Snake River was the topic of a passionate discussion during a conference hosted by members of Idaho’s Nez Perce Indian tribe over the weekend.

Members of Idaho’s Nez Perce tribe are concerned about their treaty rights under a new president. That was the topic of the day at a conference that opened Friday in Lewiston, Idaho.

KUOW/John Ryan photo

In a budget marked by deep cuts across most federal agencies, science and environmental programs took some of the biggest hits in President Donald Trump’s proposed spending plan released Thursday.

There are nights when a phone call wakes Elizabeth Sanchey out of a dead sleep. At the other end, a voice alerts her to a snowy wreck with a semi-truck leaking oil or a logging truck that’s crashed on the Yakama Nation Reservation in Washington's Columbia River Basin.

And even through the fog of sleep, she knows this call is important. When gasoline or oil gets spilled, it needs to be cleaned up — and her hazmat crew is the one to do it.

Nisqually tribe biologist Chris Ellings holds up a sample of plankton from Puget Sound.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

The Trump administration has proposed cutting federal funding for restoring Puget Sound by 93 percent.


Artist John Feodorov in his West Seattle home
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

John Feodorov is Native American. And he’s an artist. But don’t call his work “Native American art.”

“Not everything I want to say needs to be adorned with beads and feathers,” he says.

The proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico would run right through Native lands, and tribal leaders in the region say it would desecrate sacred sites.

"Over my dead body will we build a wall," says Verlon Jose, vice chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation. "It's like me going into your home and saying 'You know what? I believe in order to protect your house we need some adjusting.' And you're going to say, 'Wait a minute, who are you to come into my house and tell me how to protect my home?' " he says.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=515165

The website MormonLeaks says Chief Seattle was baptized posthumously in the Mormon church.

Kennewick Man is finally laid to rest

Feb 22, 2017

Bill Radke talks with Anna King about the burial of Kennewick Man. Anna King is a reporter for the Northwest News Network. Her series on Kennewick Man's return to Northwest tribes is called "Back To Earth."

Since its founding in the 1950s, the Indian Health Service has provided medical care for many Native Americans. But the service has been chronically underfunded, so often pays for care only if someone is in immediate danger of losing life or limb.

Inside the Tulalip Casino near Marysville
Flickr Photo/simone.brunozzi (CC BY-SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/54xrxm

Growth is happening in many industries across the region. In Marysville for example the Tulalip Casino is now the center of shopping and housing developments.

It's part of the reason Marysville is the fastest-growing big city in Western Washington. But the role of tribal casinos is larger than that.

Relics collected or created by William Shelton, stored at the Hibulb Cultural Center
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols/Posey Gruener

Wayne Williams struggles to tell the story, because of his health. He speaks in bursts, between coughing fits and gulps of orange juice. 


The Trump administration is pushing forward with plans for two major oil pipelines in the U.S., projects that sparked nationwide demonstrations and legal fights under President Barack Obama.

Clam shells and pebbles crunch underfoot on the shore of the Lummi Nation’s Portage Bay in northwest Washington. At the lowest tides, Lummi fishermen can walk out to harvest clams.

“Usually, it’s during the nighttime,” says 25-year-old Lummi tribal fisherman Lonnie James Jr, who’s been digging clams since he was six. “We go out there with headlights and a rake and a bag and have to dress warm and inch down in the ground, flip flop it over,” he explains. “You’re bent over for five or six hours.”

The Ship Canal isn't so pretty from here

Jan 10, 2017
Courtesy of Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture/Photo by Eliza Ogle

Bill Radke speaks with Elissa Washuta about her time as an artist in resident in the Fremont Bridge during the summer of 2016. Washuta had always thought of Seattle as a beautiful city. But that changed as she spent time in the tower — starting with the water she looked at every day in the ship canal.

Seven years ago, the Navajo tribal council in southeastern Utah started mapping the secret sites where medicine men and women forage for healing plants and Native people source wild foods. They wanted to make a case for protecting the landscape known as Bears Ears, a place sacred not only to their tribe but to many other tribes in the region, going back thousands of years.

A northwest Washington tribe's shellfish beds are a step closer to getting cleaned up after years of contamination.

On Thursday, the Lummi Nation signed an agreement with dairy farmers to keep cow manure out of streams that drain into Portage Bay, where the tribe's shellfish operations have been closed because of contamination by fecal coliform. Over the past two years, Lummi clam diggers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Even though most of the protesters fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota have left, hundreds still remain here atop what is essentially a sheet of ice.

One group of campers say there's a change taking hold at camp, which was once overrun by thousands who felt a sense of excitement about the gathering.

Nooksack tribal police stand outside the courthouse during a disenrollment hearing in 2013.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

"Brother, brother, I need your help." 

That was the first thing Gabe Galanda heard when he picked up his phone four years ago. The women on the other end was a member of the Nooksack 306, a group the Nooksack Tribe has been working to disenroll.

The tribes call Kennewick Man the Ancient One. And Armand Minthorn has been one of the most visible Northwest Native Americans fighting to rebury those bones. Now, a new law will hand the bones over to tribes.

The Northwest tribes feel a sense of completion knowing Kennewick Man’s ancient bones will rest again in the Earth. That’s because President Obama recently signed a law giving them control of the 9,000-year-old remains.

But scientists say they are losing a one-of-a-kind storyteller forever.

The man who watches over the ancient bones of Kennewick Man will soon return them to five Northwest tribes — and he’s happy about that.

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