When Víctor Caal Tzuy from ACODET came to the U.S. last year on NISGUA’s “Rivers for Life” tour, he met with Ken Workman, Duwamish Tribal Council Member and direct descendent of Chief Si’ahl. Both men shared common experiences as indigenous people, fighting for their communities and the health of their rivers in the face of displacement. While Víctor described the devastating effects the proposed Xalalá Dam would have on his community, Ken reflected on the ongoing injustices committed against the Duwamish Tribe as they struggle to obtain the rights and recognition due to them under the Point Elliot Treaty.
On July 2, 2015, the Bureau of Indian Affairs denied Federal Tribal Recognition to the Duwamish Tribe.
ACODET and NISGUA condemn this decision, and call on President Obama and other related authorities to immediate restore recognition to the Duwamish people. We are grateful for the warm welcome the Duwamish Tribal Council and the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center gave to ACODET and NISGUA during our 2014 tour, and we continue to stand with them in their struggle for recognition and self-determination.
Please read the full letter below and considering adding your name. Send to bridget[at]nisgua.org and we will ensure its delivery to the appropriate authorities and Duwamish Longhouse.
To Whom It May Concern:
On behalf of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), we write to express our support to the Duwamish Tribe in their ongoing struggle to obtain the rights and recognition due to them under the Point Elliott Treaty, signed by Chief Si’ahl. NISGUA is a grassroots organization that builds ties between North America and Guatemala, supporting human rights advocates, survivors of genocide, and indigenous communities defending their rights to life and territory. As such, we feel driven to condemn the July, 2, 2015 decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to deny Federal Tribal Recognition to the Duwamish Tribe.
In August of last year, we had the immense privilege to be received by tribal representatives at the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center in Seattle, along with Víctor Caal Tzuy, a Maya Q’eqchi’ leader of the Association of Communities for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources (ACODET). On his U.S. tour, entitled “Rivers for Life: Cultural Resistance to the Xalalá” dam, Víctor spoke about the threats posed to his community by a proposed hydroelectric project, which the Guatemalan government has attempted to impose without prior, informed consent from local indigenous communities.
At the Duwamish Longhouse, Víctor met Ken Workman, Duwamish Tribal Council Member and direct descendent of Chief Si’ahl. Víctor and Ken found common ground as indigenous people with shared legacies of river stewardship and common experiences of displacement from colonization. “Ken and I have much in common–we both live on the shores of rivers, and we will defend our rivers,” reflected Víctor. Ken drew connections between past suffering of the Duwamish people and the current situation facing Q’eqchi’ communities opposing the Xalalá Dam. “The potential effects on culture and environment that Victor describes are exactly what occurred here in Seattle 100 years ago.”
In his conversation with Víctor Caal Tuzy, Tribal Council Member Workman described the historical injustices perpetrated against the Duwamish people, including the draining of the Black River, the channeling of the Duwamish River, the burning of Duwamish Longhouses by settlers, city ordinances banning indigenous people from living within Seattle city limits, and many others. At the time, we hoped that the Duwamish Tribe might soon win a small measure of reparation by finally achieving Federal Tribal Recognition. Instead, the Obama Administration and its representatives in the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are perpetuating the long legacy of colonial injustice faced by the Duwamish.
We call on President Obama, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Kevin Washburn, and the U.S. Congress to immediately act to restore Federal Tribal Recognition to the Duwamish.
We thank the Duwamish Tribal Council and the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center for welcoming Víctor Caal Tzuy of ACODET and members of NISGUA on their territory.
In heartfelt solidarity with the Duwamish Tribe in their struggle for justice,