Real Rent Duwamish began in 2018 by members of the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites. While the monthly payments act as a form of restitution, the tribe sees it as a valuable way to educate more people about the Duwamish and their battle for federal recognition. Chandra Farlow, a representative for the coalition, said Real Rent is their way of showing solidarity in this fight for federal recognition. The project launched on Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2018 and has since gained over 2,500 renters. “We’re trying to focus on building a movement of people power versus focusing solely on dollar bills,” Farlow said. Seattleites can sign up for Real Rent through an online platform called Network for Good. Renters can choose how much they want to pay. Their donation then gets sent in a check directly to the Duwamish Tribal Services, a nonprofit run by the Duwamish that works to educate the public about the tribe’s history and culture. One hundred percent of the renter money goes to the Duwamish. Operational and promotional costs are paid for by the coalition’s membership donations. “It’s a way for people to look deep inside themselves and think about the ways [Duwamish] families have been harmed from colonialism,” Farlow said.
“Since you've asked, the @Duwamish_Tribe requests using this land acknowledgement:— Real Rent Duwamish (@RRentDuwamish) June 24, 2019
I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional land of the first people of #Seattle, the Duwamish People past & present & honor w/ gratitude the land itself and Duwamish Tribe”
Without formal recognition, the tribe isn’t eligible for benefits like social services, education programs, health assistance, and sovereignty over their own ancestral lands. According to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot, the Duwamish is entitled to recognition. Tribes from across the Puget Sound alongside the Duwamish exchanged 84 square miles of land for hunting and fishing rights and a reservation. The 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot granted federal recognition to the tribe. It also guaranteed the Duwamish their own reservation. Jolene Haas, a Duwamish tribal member and the director of the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, said petitioning for the federal government to recognize this treaty has been an arduous journey. Where there are gaps in documentation about the tribe’s history, it’s been the Duwamish’s responsibility to fill in those gaps with records they may not even have.
Before Real Rent, the Longhouse relied on grant funding, school tours, or individual donations for money. They were operating, but they couldn’t do the kind of outreach they wanted. Now Longhouse organizers can put more money into their advertising budget and hire more staff to work on promotion for Longhouse events. Haas said that while the money has been helpful in expanding their outreach efforts, it’s been particularly empowering to know Seattleites support the Duwamish. “Every once in a while, we need to know what we’re doing here is acknowledged by other people and it helps lift us up,” Haas said. Bean Yogi, a non-Native Seattle resident and Real Rent “renter” since January, said the rent they pay has been a good way to integrate solidarity into their daily lives. “I appreciate that Real Rent is a reminder to make a monthly payment and ask myself more meaningfully what’s next?” Yogi said.
Haas said that while the government has given its final decision on the petition for recognition, the tribe plans to appeal. Haas hopes to find helpful documentation for their appeal through Seattle public records. This documentation could be something like land or baptism records that acknowledge the federal government’s treaty relationship with the Duwamish in 1855. Despite the barriers to treaty rights, Haas remains hopeful the Duwamish will finally get what’s owed. “The Duwamish people are still here,” Haas said. “Justice will outweigh whatever we’ve had to go through thus far.”
Sydney Worth wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Sydney is the solutions reporter for YES! Follow her on Twitter @sydneytworth.
This article appeared on YES! Magazine on September 9, 2019. It is published under a Creative Commons license.