Dear Friends, 

What a week it has been! We’re continuing to move forward with vaccinations across Washington State, and together we have done a tremendous job working to curb the spread and impact of COVID-19 over the last several months. 

If you haven’t already been vaccinated against COVID-19, you can find all the information you need at the Department of Health’s website, here.

Getting vaccinated is the best way that we can protect our loved ones and our communities, and it will allow us to remain safe as we continue to open our state back up this month.

We’ve gotten through the COVID-19 pandemic this far together, and that’s exactly how we’ll see it through to the end.

Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday.  

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Nisqually Tribal Sovereignty Summit

It was an honor to speak at the 2nd Annual Protecting Our Sovereignty Tribal Summit held by the Nisqually Tribe! The event featured incredible speakers, including representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice, the FBI, and others.

It was a pleasure to hear from dedicated, passionate individuals on the important issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to share the message that we must all work together, through all levels of government, to address this crisis, and to address the issue of human trafficking.

Thank you so much to the Nisqually Tribe and everyone who joined! It was a pleasure to speak to you all, and it lifts my heart to know how many people feel as passionately and work as hard as I do to help protect our mothers and daughters and sisters.

MMIW Taskforce Update 

Earlier this week, Senator Manka Dhingra from the 45th LD and I joined forces to meet with our Attorney General’s Office to provide guidance for the ongoing development of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous task force.

It was so great to hear from Yasmin Trudeau, the Attorney General’s Government Affairs Director, Asa Washines, the Attorney General’s Tribal Liaison and a member of the Yakama Nation, and Craig Bill, the Washington State Indian Affairs Office Director and a member of the Swinomish Tribe.

It was great to hear their updates on the appointments to the task force, the ongoing outreach to neighboring tribe and states, and how they’re partnering with the Department of the Interior to work in tandem with Secretary Haaland’s new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services.

The goal of our task force is to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, build government-to-government relationship, and to develop policy, programs, and funding solutions. This is not just a crisis for Indian country, and as an elected official I view this as a crisis for our state, for our country, and for North America as a whole.

Saving the Wild Salmon in the San Juans 

It’s so important that we do the work today that will help preserve our beautiful wildlife and natural world for generations to come. I’m always excited to work with dedicated groups that want to preserve our beautiful corner of Washington State, and it’s been my pleasure to collaborate with the San Juan County Land Trust to engage with San Juan County, the Washington Department of Ecology, and the Rosario Resort in sustaining the instream flow for the Cascade Creek to save the last wild bearing salmon river on San Juan Islands. 

Washington State is fighting to protect our salmon and resident orca populations, and to see an ancestral salmon run lost due to a lack of water is not acceptable in the 40th LD. We will work hard with our State family and Lummi Nation to find solutions at the legislative and congressional levels for funding, programs, and policy to save the salmon.

Cascade Creek is located on Orcas Island, near Mount Moran and her state park.  For more information, check out these documents.

Implementation of the Native Mascot Bill 

One thing that all of us in the Legislature should feel a tremendous amount of pride about is the recent passage and current implementation of the bill on Native mascots. I had a tremendous meeting with Chris Reykdal, the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Craig Bill Director of the Washington State Indian Affairs Office where they provided an update on the implementation of the bill.

Superintendent Rekydal’s staff shared that his office will be releasing updated consultation programs and processes that will be provided to School Districts. The law calls for school districts to consult with federally recognized tribes that nearest to their district on the use of Native mascots. Our intent is to honor the government-to-government relationship between the tribes, the state, and school districts as the tribes are the first people of those lands and waters. 

As the only Native American in the state legislature, this bill brought forward the fact that we as a State need must honor the first Washingtonians and respect their way of life and culture. At the end of the day, fi a school believes they are honoring Native Americans by using their imagery as a mascot, it would be appropriate to consult with the federally recognized tribal government nearest to their district.

I want to thank the National Congress of American Indians for helping to provide support to both the state agencies and Washington Tribes, as their priority for over a decade has been to address the matter with every school district that use Native imagery as their mascot across the country.  

Presentation to the Seattle City Club

This week, I had the privilege to be invited to sit on a panel for the Seattle City Club with two esteemed Native leaders – Squamish Chairman Leonard Forsman and Chief Research Officer at the Seattle Indian Health Board Abigail Echo-Hawk.

The Seattle City club held their first Civic Boot Camp Webinar, and it was wonderful to sit down with Chairman Forsman and Abigail to discuss the roles and responsibilities of Native leadership, and how our sovereign Nations can coordinate and work with local, state, and federal governments to address key issues.

Representative Lekanoff, Abigal Echo-Hawk, and Chairman Forsman

Washington State is home to 29 federally recognized tribes and is home to the second largest urban Native population in the country. It’s so important that we continue working to support our tribal governments while doing everything we can to uplift one another and address pressing issue areas around health, safety, our environment, and more.

Thank you so much to the Seattle City Club for having me! I’m already looking forward to the next clinics.

Collaborating Across Levels of Government

As we continue our great work here in Washington State, it’s important that our elected officials at all levels – local, state, and federal – continue working together and supporting each other as we all work to improve this place we call home.

It’s with that in mind that I am thrilled with Representative Rick Larsen’s work spearheading funding for fish passage barrier removal and culvert projects. Representative Larsen is working to find a fix to the culverts issue as legislation progresses through the House and into work with the Senate.

As Washingtonians, we all want what’s best for our families, our communities, and our state. Supporting our great representatives in Washington is the best way to help them move forward with important legislation aimed at addressing key issues in Washington State. Be sure to send some love to Representatives Larson and Delbene, Senators Cantwell and Murray, and more!