Urban Poverty Forum explores poverty among Seattle’s Native population
Cecile Hansen, great great-grandniece of Chief Seattle and elected chair of the Duwamish tribe had a question for the audience at the Urban Poverty Forum Feb. 24 at Town Hall:
“Why do we have to prove who we are?”
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs does not recognize the Duwamish tribe, so members of the tribe do not receive the rights and benefits afforded other tribes, despite the fact that, in 1855, Hansen’s ancestor was the first of 82 tribal leaders to sign the Treaty of Port Elliot, a document that gave the United States Federal Government ownership of the land on which Seattle now stands.
Tribal poverty in the Pacific Northwest was the focus of the most recent Urban Poverty Forum, now in its sixth year. More than 62,100 people in the greater Seattle area are either partially or entirely of native ethnicity. Of those, 11 percent are unemployed, and 29 percent live in poverty, which is higher than the national average for native people, at 27 percent.
In the city of Seattle, the poverty rate among native people has increased from 29 percent to 33 percent since 2001, according to speaker Gyasi Ross.
One new movement has sprung up to address tribal poverty. Jay Hollingsworth of the Mohegan tribe and Sweetwater Naanuck of the Tlingit nation discussed Idle No More, a grassroots indigenous movement that grew out of opposition to Canadian legislation seeking to repeal protections under the Indian Act. Rooted in indigenous sovereignty and protection of rights, Idle No More has expanded to encompass environmental protection and women’s safety.
In Seattle, Idle No More held rallies in December and January, one of which was the subject of a short documentary viewable on the “rockpaperjet” YouTube channel.
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