Now is the time for an honest accounting of the history of our people and the real harm that would result from reversing half a century of legal rulings that unambiguously reject the claims of a small group seeking recognition as the Duwamish Tribe.
The press, well-meaning individuals, and some politicians seem to ignore the facts and our objections to the legal and cultural appropriation inherent in granting recognition to this group.
Their uninformed support overlooks our rights, the criteria for federal recognition, and the true history of the Native people of this region.
In 1855, Chief Seattle signed the Treaty of Point Elliott.
In exchange for thousands of acres of land, the Duwamish People left their ancestral villages in the watersheds around Seattle and moved to reservations expressly established for them at Port Madison and the Muckleshoot Prairie, as well as other reservations.
Though it came at terrible cost in hardship and suffering, our ancestors persevered to preserve their heritage, sovereignty and treaty rights.
Today, more than 95 percent of Muckleshoot Tribal members are descendants of the Duwamish People including Chief Seattle, as are many members of the Suquamish, Puyallup, Tulalip and Lummi Tribes.
Together, we continue the sacred endeavor of our ancestors. But a small group calling itself the Duwamish Tribal Organization is deceptively using the name of our ancestors in an effort to appropriate everything we have fought so hard to preserve.
They continue to do so despite multiple federal court and Interior Department rulings that the group is not a Tribe, and not a legal successor to the Duwamish Tribe that signed the Treaty of Point Elliott.*
The group, headquartered in a longhouse built on our traditional territory, has even convinced many well-intentioned people in Seattle to call for their recognition.
This kind of uncritical support by individuals with little knowledge of local Native history undermines our sovereignty and devalues the Tribal identity we have given so much to protect and preserve.
*For details about the U.S. Interior Department's most recent determination about the Duwamish Tribal Organization's request for recognition visit: bia.gov/as-ia/ofa/025-duwami-wa
For more than 164 years, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe has fought to uphold our sovereignty and heritage. Our identity, our legacy, and our treaty rights are unique to our name and Tribe.