The resolution, which passed unanimously, also urges other public school boards to memorialize their support of treaty rights and benefits for the original people of their area.
Chief Sealth is the namesake for the City of Seattle and one of its high schools, but the U.S. government doesn’t recognize his tribe, the Duwamish Nation, as an existing Indian tribe.
There are about 600 Duwamish descendants, and some have pursued federal recognition for decades, which would make them (and their government) eligible for budget, education and health services.
The Seattle School Board voted Wednesday to support them in their pursuit and increase the emphasis on Native education within the city’s schools. The vote doesn’t have a direct impact on the Duwamish’s fight, but the resolution will be sent to local, state and federal politicians and government bodies, asking them to acknowledge the tribe’s treaty rights and benefits.
“I think that this is the right thing for us as a board to do, to provide that recognition, and to encourage that others take on this kind of action as well,” said School Board member and resolution co-sponsor Scott Pinkham.
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The resolution, which passed unanimously, also urges other school boards to go on the record in support of treaty rights and benefits for the original people of their areas.
“You have planted a seed of righteousness for the city of Seattle,” Duwamish chairwoman Cecile Hansen told the Seattle School Board.
The U.S. Department of Interior issued its final decision on the Duwamish last year, denying the tribe federal recognition. The department said that it didn’t find sufficient evidence that the Duwamish had been identified as an “American Indian entity” on a continuous basis since 1900. Some area local tribes have also opposed the recognition, saying that the Duwamish are eligible to enroll in other tribes.
But Pinkham, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, and other board members noted that the board should recognize the tribe as evidence that the schools are sincere in their race and equity initiative. Board member Sue Peters said that the timing of the vote was perfect, as it was the same week as Indigenous Peoples Day in Seattle.
The district has aimed for a greater emphasis on teaching Native history. Shana Brown, a teacher at Broadview-Thomson K-8, was the principal author of a curriculum about Native American history that all Washington public schools must teach. The curriculum is designed to be used in social studies classes, and students learn about tribal perspectives and current political issues in Indian Country.