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Northwest tribal convention discusses important issues

By Shelly Fyant, Arlee District Representative

CSKT Tribal Council representative Shelly Fyant of Arlee District joined tribal leaders throughout the Northwest to discuss and prioritize important issues facing tribal people, sovereignty and resources. (Courtesy photo) CSKT Tribal Council representative Shelly Fyant of Arlee District joined tribal leaders throughout the Northwest to discuss and prioritize important issues facing tribal people, sovereignty and resources. (Courtesy photo)

I attended the ATNI Mid-Winter Convention in Portland January 21-25. I am the second alternate for this intertribal organization and was asked by Chairman Ron Trahan and Vice-Chairman Leonard Gray to attend on their behalf.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) is dedicated to promoting tribal self-determination and sovereignty. In 1953 farsighted tribal leaders in the Northwest formed the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and dedicated it to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Today, ATNI is a nonprofit organization representing over 50 Northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, California and Montana. ATNI is an organization whose foundation is composed of the people it is meant to serve the Indian peoples.

Some of the topics covered in the general sessions included:

• Get Out the Vote strategies from Washington and Oregon were presented. Montana’s Western Native Voice Director Marci McLean-Pollock and Field Director Alyssa Snow, attended the Native American Voting Rights Coalition Hearing sponsored by NARF (Native American Rights Fund) and the ATNI Native Vote Committee. An important issue coming up for Montanans, before the November election, is the mail-in ballot. All tribes were encouraged to examine their current GOTV strategy and effectiveness and weigh in on this issue. Flathead Reservation Western Native Voice Representative is Patrick Yawakie-Peltier. He can be contacted for more information on this issue at

• “We Are Still In” climate change initiative. This was brought forward in response to the United States President’s declaration on June 1, 2017, to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. The United States is the only country on the planet that is not a part of the world’s effort to do their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. is the second largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, behind China. Several Northwest tribes signed on to continue efforts of the Paris Accord, including Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes. (See “We Are Still In” declaration below) Tribal government officials will discuss specific recommendations with the CSKT Climate Change Oversight Committee.

• Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Latest attacks by opponents of ICWA, including the Goldwater Institute and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, continue to file lawsuits in federal court. At this time, six different federal lawsuits have been filed with two being cert. petitions asking the United States Supreme Court to review their complaints. One of the lawsuits was filed by Texas with the original complaint amended to include a total of three states, a first since the passage of ICWA. The three states are Texas, Louisiana and Indiana. Only one of the lawsuits was filed by a tribe asking for relief from due process and ICWA violations in a district court in South Dakota. All of the lawsuits filed by opponents of ICWA are alleging violations of the United States Constitution, which is different than allegations related to implementation of the ICWA statute. The constitutional claims are varied, but include allegations that ICWA is a race-based law and deprives Native children of constitutional protections while in state child welfare court proceedings. A number of these constitutional claims have very serious implications for tribal sovereign authority and federal precedent with regards to acknowledgement of tribes as governments. All of the lawsuits started as state ICWA cases, so if you know of an ICWA case that is being appealed in your state, please let NICWA know.

• Bureau of Indian Affairs. Bodie Shaw, Deputy Regional Director, Trust Services, Portland Area Office, provided information on a Department of Interior reorganization proposed by Secretary Ryan Zinke. A Washington Post article dated January 10, 2018, describes Zinke’s proposed 13 region reorganization and combination of Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service and National Park Service offices, based on watersheds and geographic basins, in comparison to the current state-based regions.

Mr. Shaw also informed the attendees that 40 applications were received for the BIA Regional Director position vacated by Stanley Speaks. A committee will vet the applications and make recommendations to the Tribes in the region, who then have the opportunity to comment.

• Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. The 2018 Farm Bill and it’s 12 titles were discussed as well as the Native Farm Bill Coalition. CSKT belongs to this coalition and Anita Matt is our delegate. The Farm Bill titles include Commodities, Conservation, Trade, Nutrition, Credit, Rural Development, Research, Forestry, Energy, Horticulture, Crop Insurance and Miscellaneous. “As the first farmers, ranchers, irrigators, food producers and stewards of this land, each of these important policy areas have significant impacts and meanings for Indian Country. We must be engaged in the improvement and development of federal food policy because it directly impacts our lands, our foods, our waters, our natural resources, and our economic development opportunities.” Excerpt from Regaining our Future - An Assessment of Risks & Opportunities for Native Communities in the 2018 Farm Bill is available on this website. Visit for more information.

• Department of Justice. A position paper was developed regarding pending consultation on tribal justice priorities and ways that the DOJ’s program and grant offices can more effectively respond to the public safety needs of our tribal communities, as well as the seven percent set-aside funding. The Department’s seven percent set-aside funding, as authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (Public Law 115-31), and other funds appropriated for tribal assistance currently is being distributed to tribes on a competitive grant basis. ATNI supported the “Northwest Tribes Public Safety Strategy” meeting held in November in preparation for the Department’s consultation. The following is a summary of recommendations to the Department’s methodology of funding.

• Allocate funding based on each Tribe’s identified priorities.

• Distribute funding on a non-competitive, reoccurring basis.

• Dispense funding through a negotiated block formula methodology.

• Allot funding for federally recognized tribes only.

• Permit use of full negotiated tribal Indirect Cost Rate.

• Increase tribal personnel support in the Department of Justice.

• Allow all tribes eligible for annual funding to be spent down in three years.

In conclusion, the Department of Justice’s CTAS (Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation) methodology for distributing funding is ineffective in meeting shifting safety issues in Indian Country. It is the position of the Northwest tribes that their tribal government systems are sophisticated in identifying their own priorities and can best allocate their funding to address their own public safety needs.

• Combatting Opioids in Native Communities. Brian Cladoosby, former President of NCAI, spoke about the holistic Swinomish Heroin Treatment Center they have developed with 100 percent tribal funding. He gave an open invitation to everyone to visit their treatment center to see what they’ve developed. Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, spoke on the national opioid crisis litigation in Indian country. Paulette Jordan is the only Native American lawmaker currently serving in the Idaho legislature. Representative Jordan announced in December she will run for governor rather than seek a third term as a state representative. A fundraising luncheon was held in her honor on Wednesday.

• Being Trauma Informed. Jillene Joseph, Gros Ventre, Executive Director of the Native Wellness Institute, presented on the impacts of historical and intergenerational trauma and how those impacts have contributed to present day trauma-addictions, abuse, poverty, violence, negativity and more. These behaviors and conditions continue to plague tribal communities today. The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community of Washington State offered the two-day training to over 250 tribal employees to assist them in their individual and collective healing journeys.

I attended the Natural Resources Committee meetings in the afternoons. We heard presentations on the Columbia River Treaty, Fish Passage/Salmon-Orca Recovery, Columbia River System Operations, Intertribal Bison Council, BPA Fish & Wildlife Program, We Are Still In, Farm Bill, Tribal Fire Impacts, and Atlantic Salmon Farming. This committee passed resolutions Opposing Offshore Drilling, Supporting “We Are Still In” Committing to the Paris Climate Agreement, Opposing the Siting and Continued Construction of the Tacoma Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Plant without the Required Permits and in Violation of Permit Conditions, Native Farm Bill Coalition, Opposing HiTest Smelter in Pend d’Oreille County, Washington, Ensuring Farm Bill Conservation Programs, and Review of Washington Fish and Wildlife Enforcement. Several of these resolutions were forwarded on to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and will be considered at their winter convention in February.


The undersigning Indian Tribes understand that among the most significant challenges facing Native people and indeed all of mankind and risking the future of our children and grandchildren is Climate Change. All across Indian Country we have already experienced the dramatic impact of Climate Change and tribal nations have taken steps to address its cause as well as adapt and mitigate its effects. Tribal leadership is aware that we cannot address Climate Change alone. We recognize that we must bind with like-minded individuals and other stakeholders and in this unity, we will find solutions.

For our Tribal Nations, sound stewardship of the land and it’s bounty are among our core values. While we recognize accordingly that our ways may have not caused Climate Change, tribal communities will continue to endure a disproportionate impact of Climate Change.

We stand with those who recognize the absolute necessity for robust collective action action and the need for it immediately. We stand with the scientists who have conclusively demonstrated that human activity including carbon emissions is undeniably among the principal causes of climate change. We stand with those who understand we must act to address the causes of climate change while also adapting and mitigating its impact.

We, the undersigning Tribal Nations recognize that the Paris Accord represented an important step forward in collective action with support from Nations across the globe. We are disheartened that the present Administration has denied the conclusive scientific evidence and has announced its unwillingness to live up to the relatively modest commitments of the Paris Accord.

One of our responses to this unfortunate position is to declare that we join others who intend to do our part to live up to the principles and goals of the Paris Accord.

In this manner and for these reasons, we the undersigning Tribal Nations join with states, municipalities, cities, counties, corporations, foundations, non-governmental organizations, to declare that We Are Still In. By voluntarily joining others, we stand arm-in-arm with other Americans in dedicating our support for the Paris Accord. Specifically, we are committed to two over-arching goals of We Are Still In (WASI):

1. Pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions; and

2. Remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2 degrees C.

As part of WASI, we intend to contribute to work collaboratively with other stakeholders to develop a forward-looking action-oriented platform. We are committed to doing our part, taking steps necessary to protect the world we will bequeath to the next generations.

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