"Epic tragedies surrounding the fall of the old Chinook Nation in the face of successive waves of European plagues were the prologue to two centuries of struggle for basic acknowledgement of their continuing existence. The descendents of these once-mighty tribes demonstrate remarkable patience as they deal with a federal bureaucracy that pretends they are invisible.
This institutional indifference — sometimes formerly verging on animosity in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) — is showing signs of thawing. When Chinook Chairman Ray Gardner and Tribal Council members attended a U.S. Senate-sponsored meeting in Washington D.C. a month ago, they were warmly embraced at every turn by elected and Interior Department officials. The Chinook leaders played a starring role in discussions about reforms of the BIA’s process for deciding what tribes on which to confer formal federal recognition.
Such symbolism does not guarantee progress on the Chinook Tribe’s long quest to stand as legal equals to America’s other famous native groups. But it may demonstrate that the Chinook at some point crossed an invisible threshold into credibility in the nation’s capital. Former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird played a pivotal role in bringing about this about, serving as a tireless champion for justice for the Chinook."
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Editorial: Hopeful signs for the Chinook
(The Chinook Observer 5/30)
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