Seattle City Council on Tuesday appointed nine members to the city’s newly formed Indigenous Advisory Council.

Members include local Indigenous organizers as well as leaders of tribal and urban Native communities. The new council will advise the city government on policies and issues impacting American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people living in Seattle.

The creation of the advisory council, approved in 2021, will be a “historic improvement” to how city officials are informed on Indigenous issues, according to Seattle City Council President Debora Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Nation. 

Debora Juarez elected first Indigenous president of Seattle City Council (January 2022)

“The Indigenous Advisory Council is intended to become a permanent platform for Indigenous leaders to address and guide the City of Seattle,” Juarez said in a statement. “Leaders from Seattle’s Native communities and regional Tribes will be empowered to speak to City officials with a unified, collective voice.”

Some members of the Duwamish Tribe criticized the lack of representation of their tribe on the advisory council during public comment at a special city committee meeting last week. 

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The Duwamish Tribe is a federally unrecognized tribe whose members have ties to the city going back generations. The city of Seattle’s name honors Sealth, a Duwamish and Suquamish leader.

‘Real’ Duwamish: Seattle’s first people and the bitter fight over federal recognition (May 2022)

“I want to respect the people who had concerns, because this is a continuing process,” Juarez said after public comments at the special meeting last week. “No one started out with any intentionality, it was always trying to be inclusive.”

The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods received 30 complete applications for the nine spots on the advisory council. Finalists were interviewed and reviewed by a city selection committee. 

One of the newly appointed advisers is Cece Hoffman of the Umatilla, Nimiipuu and Ojibwe tribes. Hoffman said Indigenous philosophies, like those regarding relationships with the land and each other, can inform city officials and policies on pressing issues like environmental crises, education and housing.

“I really want to help make a bridge between the city and the general community and make sure our voices are translated across rather than compartmentalized,” Hoffman said.

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Terms will last two years, except for four seats which will initially last one year, according to the city. Members are paid to serve on the council, and can serve up to four consecutive terms.

In addition to Hoffman, the newly appointed members of the advisory council are Donny Stevenson (Muckleshoot), Luther “Jay” Mills (Suquamish), Jeremy Takala (Yakama), Suzanne Sailto (Snoqualmie), Esther Lucero (Diné), Derrick Belgarde (Siletz & Chippewa-Cree), Asia Tail (Cherokee) and Jaci McCormack (Nez Perce). Biographies of each member are available at st.news/advisorycouncil

City officials are working to schedule the advisory council’s first meeting, according to city spokesperson Sam Read. The advisory council aims to share a 2023 workplan with the City Council by the end of the year, he said.