A Letter to President Obama From the Chinook People

Dear President Obama,
You recently said (in regards to marriage equality) that “Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens.” We humbly ask that you review the journey the Chinook Indian Nation and our citizens have taken since we signed our treaties in 1851.

We attempted our first step forward by signing these treaties, in good faith, at Tansy Point on the Columbia River in 1851. Amazingly, the Senate of the United States chose not to act on them at thattime-another step backwards after the already debilitating disease and displacement we suffered in the decades before. We attempted another step forward in 1855 at the Chehalis River Treaty negotiations. The termsinsisted we would have to move north to the territory of our enemies and away from the bones of ourancestors. We refused to sign - another step backward.

We hired our first lawyers to address the injustices being perpetrated on us in 1899. Despite 100 years of efforts nothing resolved itself to our satisfaction. Our rights continued to be eroded-more steps backwards.

In 2001 we had one of those days where “Slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like athunderbolt.” Our status as a Federally Recognized Tribe was clarified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs during the Clinton Administration. The citizens of the Chinook Nation were jubilant and relieved that justice had finally arrived on our beaches! Then eighteen months later, another giant step back, a step that knocked us to our knees. Our Federal Status was taken away by the incoming Bush Administration.

President Obama, when does our Nation get to step forward to the inheritance that we so clearly deserve? For ten consecutive weeks we have been asking that you use your Executive Powers to write anExecutive Order clarifying our status and assuring the Chinook Indian Nation and our citizens have the justicewe deserve. Will we forever be denied that “thunderbolt?”

uk chinuk-tilixam
“The Chinook People”




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