Duwamish, a Northwest tribe, doesn't exist, according to Interior
Secretary Gale Norton.
Since 1978, the tribe has
been seeking federal recognition that would grant them control over
their government and lands, make them eligible for federal funds
for education, health care and social programs, and allow casino
The 560 members of the tribe thought
the matter was settled in January 2001, when a Clinton Interior
Department appointee signed an order granting them tribal status.
But in September 2001, the Bush administration reversed the
Duwamish order because of a technical glitch: The outgoing Bureau
of Indian Affairs director signed two of the three copies of the
official notice after he had already left office. The Duwamish
appealed the negative determination, but in early May, Norton
declined to reconsider the decision.
letter to the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs concludes that
"further review is not likely to change the determination against
acknowledging the Duwamish as an Indian
The tribe says this is unfair. It met all
the criteria required for federal recognition - including proving
its continuous existence from first contact with white settlers all
the way to modern times.
The tribe is now seeking
community and congressional support and plans to pursue legal
recourse, but its future remains
"They've become refugees on their own
land," says Ken Tollefson, an anthropologist who has worked with
the Duwamish since 1986. "The leaders are burning out, the
researchers are dropping out, and the elders are dying out."