Leader of Duwamish Tribe calls denial of recognition 'devastating'

Cecile Hansen. Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikipedia

The Duwamish Tribe of Washington hit another roadblock in its long quest for federal recognition.

The tribe asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs for recognition in 1977, a year before the formal establishment of the federal acknowledgment process. Despite decades of work on the effort, three different administrations have denied status to a group of people whose ancestors include Chief Si’ahl, the namesake of Seattle.

"It's devastating," Chairwoman Cecile Hansen told KUOW. "Our tribe was the one that welcomed everyone."

According to a notice that will be published in the Federal Register on July 8, the tribe did not satisfy all seven mandatory criteria. The BIA concluded that the present-day group led by Hansen does not represent "any earlier Duwamish entity."

Hansen's group was established in 1925 and the BIA said it has not "exercised political influence or authority over its members." About 600 people belong to the modern-day tribe.

Duwamish ancestors signed the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott and the BIA said they moved to reservations of other federally-recognized tribes in Washington. The ancestors of Hansen's group did not move to the reservations, according to the forthcoming notice.

"There is no evidence that their descendants, who are the DTO’s ancestors, maintained tribal relations with the 'D’Wamish and other allied tribes' on the reservations or that they were a part of a community of similarly situated Duwamish descendants," the BIA said, referring to the tribe as the Duwamish Tribal Organization, as the group was known when it was created in 1925.

The BIA issued a proposed finding against recognition for the tribe in 1996. But acting former assistant secretary Michael Anderson reversed course in the last days of the Clinton administration in January 2001 and issued a final determination in the tribe's favor.

The new Bush administration quickly put a hold on the decision. In September of that year, former assistant secretary Neal McCaleb denied the tribe federal status. He also determined that Anderson never fully completed the process to finalize the earlier decision.

Get the Story:
Seattle's Duwamish Tribe Denied Federal Status, Benefits (KUOW 7/2)

Forthcoming Federal Register Notice:
Final Decision on Remand Against Federal Acknowledgment of the Duwamish Tribal Organization (To Be Published July 8, 2015)

Relevant Documents:
BIA Press Release | Letter to Chairwoman Hansen | Final Determination

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