Partnering with Tribal Nations
The United States has a long history of broken promises and chronic underfunding of Tribal communities, a natural continuation of a relationship built upon pain and violence, theft and coercion, disrespect and disregard. Today, our government has an obligation to right the wrongs of the past and ensure Native, Tribal, and Indigenous Nations and communities receive the rights and support they deserve – and are legally entitled to.
There are 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington, and our district includes the lands and waters of the Chehalis, Nisqually, Puyallup, and Squaxin Island Tribes. As an environmentalist and a legislator, I have partnered with a number of tribes including the Nisqually, Quinault, Jamestown S’Kallam, Squaxin, Lummi, Spokane, Yakama, and Cowlitz to fight for a clean environment, salmon recovery, protection of sacred lands, and long term investments in broadband, housing, infrastructure, and economic opportunity.
I am fully committed to ensuring that America’s sacred trust and treaty obligations are the law of the land and uphold the nation-to-nation relationships with Tribal Nations. In the Legislature, I’ve stood up to state agencies for inaction and disregard of tribal sovereignty – in Congress, I will do the same.
I will push to reverse underfunding at the federal level and fight for sustained investments. As we address broad challenges facing our country – including healthcare, climate change, environmental degradation and housing – we must consistently consult with, listen to and engage Native communities to form solutions.
COVID-19 has had devastating effects on Indian Country – the most recent example of how our broken healthcare system is woefully equipped to support Indigenous communities. In addition to fighting for Medicare for All and quality, universal healthcare for everyone, I will advocate for investment in the Indian Health Service, expanded healthcare resources on reservations, and expanded and specialized behavioral and mental health support in urban, suburban, and Tribal settings.
Similarly, Tribal nations face disproportionate impacts from pollution and already feel the effects of climate change. In my climate plan, I have called for significant investment in climate adaptation and resiliency measures for Tribal nations and for updating the Coastal Zone Management Act. Together, we will fight to prevent fossil fuel extraction and transportation across sacred and public lands; work to restore populations of salmon, orca, and other wildlife; and reverse existing pollution so we have clean air and clean water for future generations.
As we build a clean energy future together, we must center climate justice in our efforts, just as I fought to make sure our state’s 100% Clean Energy Law contained equity standards. These were the first policies of their kind in the nation. And, in addressing our housing crisis, we must include dedicated funding for tribal housing and the Indian Housing Block Grant program. I have called for that in my housing plan and again it is a living breathing document.
Every student deserves a complete education – we must build on the ideas of Washington’s Since Time Immemorial curriculum, and include Native educators, so that all students across the nation receive culturally inclusive education. We must fully fund scholastic programs designed to meet the needs of Native American students and close the opportunity gap.
Washington has the second highest number of cases of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) in the country. We must end the scourge of violence against Native women and take real action to end this crisis. I’m committed to passing Savanna’s Act – legislation proposed by Senator Maria Cantwell to improve comprehensive data collection and coordination around MMIW investigations.
Additional priorities include addressing issues of dual taxation, developing infrastructure to meet needs from broadband to roads and bridges, and expanding voting rights in a similar fashion to our work with the Washington Native American Voting Rights Act.
As a state representative for the last four years, I:
- Committed my vote early and never wavered in supporting HB 2638 (sports betting).
- Worked with the Squaxin on siting a hatchery on the Deschutes and while this has been a frustrating process, I have stood up to state agencies calling out their inaction and disregard of tribal sovereignty.
- Joined Tribal Nations in taking on the EPA as they worked to lower fish consumption standards – testifying alongside, calling them out with Department of Ecology Chair Maia Bellon and tribal members from across the region.
- Stood with the Squaxin Tribe in our call to take out the structure at the footsteps of our capital building that dams the Deschutes River unnecessarily and ruins a vital estuary.
- Advocated as the Vice Chair of the Capital budget for investments for broadband, housing, natural resources, infrastructure and hatchery upgrades and preservation.
It is because of my long partnership with Washington’s Tribes and commitment to these issues that I have been endorsed by the Nisqually Indian Nation, National Congress of American Indians and Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp, former Lummi Chairman Jay Julius and Tim Ballew, Squaxin Intergovernmental Affairs/Council Liaison Ray Peters, former Senator John McCoy, and Rep. Debra Lekanoff. I am honored by their support.
For too long, our nation has not lived up to its treaty obligations. It’s past time to reverse that trend. In Congress, I will be steadfast in support of our government meeting the agreements and promises made to Tribal Nations and for justice and equity for the people, communities, tribes, and nations whose land and water we have been borrowing for generations. Let us move forward towards cohesive stewardship.