Duwamish Tribe receives recognition
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JANUARY 22, 2001

Reversing a finding made over four years ago, the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Friday extended preliminary recognition to the Duwamish Tribe of Washington.

Descendants of Chief Seattle, the 500-member tribe calls western Washington and the city which bears their ancestor's name their aboriginal home. The tribe was among those who signed the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855, which was ratified in 1859.

But according to the negative finding issued in 1996, the present-day tribe failed to meet three of the seven mandatory recognition criteria. The evidence at the time showed the tribe hadn't been identified as an Indian entity since 1900, didn't comprise a distinct community, and failed to show political influence over its members.

However, the BIA now says a review of such evidence as well as new information provided by the tribe and third parties has overcome these deficiencies. Additionally, the tribe had been acknowledged by several acts of Congress from 1860 to 1923.

For the Duwamish, these acts no doubt contributed greatly to the BIA's positive decision. In a similar action, the BIA earlier this month acknowledged the Chinook Tribe of Washington, overturning a 1997 decision made by Ada Deer, Kevin Gover's predecessor.

In the Chinook final determination, the BIA this month wrote: "There is a major consequence flowing from the express statutory recognition. Congress has never enacted a withdrawal of recognition, and the Department is loathe to infer such a withdrawal. . . And while we will not presume continuity of tribal relations, neither should we presume abandonment of tribal relations."

Such previous acknowledgment also contributed to the tribe's satisfaction of not only the original 1978 recognition guidelines but also the 1994 ones. The revised rules take previous acknowledgment into account, requiring a tribe only to demonstrate it satisfies the criteria from prior recognition until the present day.

The Duwamish tribe's federal recognition will become official after 90 days of being published in the Federal Register, although the transition team of President George W. Bush on Saturday placed a 60-day delay on the effective date of all final decisions made during the Clinton administration.

Get the 1996 Duwamish Finding:
Duwamish Tribal Organization, Bureau of Acknowledgment and Research

Get the Chinook Final Determination:

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Gover reverses Chinook decision (Tribal Law 01/04)

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Federal Recognition (Tribal Law 5/17)