BIA Denies Recognition to Washington Tribe

Although members of the Duwarmish tribe greeted settlers to Washington, and its chief, Seattle, gave his name to the largest city in the state, the federal government last week rejected the tribe’s bid for federal recognition.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has denied federal recognition to the Duwamish tribe of Seattle, Washington.

The BIA issued its decision July 2. Recognition gives a tribe access to federal housing benefits, fishing rights, and the right to have an Indian casino. It ruled that the tribe did not show its continued existence as an entity or show tribal political influence over its members from historical times to the present.

The city of Seattle takes its name from Chief Seattle, the chief of the Duwamish, who greeted white settlers to the area in the 1800s.

In the decision the BIA noted that while some members of the current tribe were descended from the tribe that signed a treaty with the U.S. in 1855, “By the 1880s, the evidence does not show that their descendants maintained a distinct social community.”

In 2001 the Department of the Interior approved of the Duwamish petition, but when the Bush administration took over a few months later it overturned it. The tribe sued in federal court and the federal government was forced to vacate its denial and reconsider the request.