Dear Friends, 

Yesterday I was honored to be recognized as a 2023 Center for Women & Democracy Women at the Capitol Honoree! It was an incredible event, and I was so grateful to be surrounded by other women who do the important work advancing the rights of women and underrepresented communities in Washington State.

The event included a tour of the capitol building, afternoon tea with Washington State Supreme Court Justices, and culminated with an evening reception at the Governor’s Mansion with elected and appointed women leaders in Washington State.

The Center for Women & Democracy’s mission is to empower women to lead where they land. This year, the organization partnered with the Washington State Women’s Commission and the KD Hall Foundation to bring a diverse group of women and girls to Olympia, WA.

The day’s agenda included three events on Capitol campus including a tour, an intimate gathering with the State Supreme Court Justices at the Treasurer’s Office, and the evening ceremony. Women and allies of all ages and backgrounds learned about how the state government is working to preserve and advance the rights of women, LGBTQIA+ people, BIPOC, and other underrepresented groups.

Thank you to the Center for Women & Democracy, and to all the incredible women who came out to make the evening so special! It was wonderful connecting with each of you, and I look forward to collaborating in the future.


Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales

Last week, we discussed an incredibly important bill that we are working on – SB537, which would help to protect our Southern Resident Killer Whales. A week ago, the bill was moving through the people’s house and was on its way to becoming law.

Now, I am excited to say that the bill has passed, and will be heading back to the Senate for concurrence before heading to Governor Inslee’s desk.

This is an important step to take to protect the beautiful creatures who call our shores home. We know from generations of experience living alongside these Killer Whales – and from a 2022 Report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife – that bringing our boats and ships too close to the Southern Residents can have incredibly harmful effects.

The 1,000-yard buffer is the best way we can support their survival. We have observed that these Orca are heavily impacted by noise and disturbance. Female Killer Whales will stop hunting and feeding their babies when there is too much noise in the surrounding water, instead taking the time to move and try to find a quiet place to nurse and hunt.

With 1,000 yards between our ships and these whales, the noise is found to be less impactful on their habits and mannerisms. This is a clear step that we should take in order to protect our seafaring neighbors, and I am proud to support this legislation.

I want to thank all the great and dedicated individuals who worked so hard to make this a reality – it’s so important that we stand up and advocate on behalf of mother nature and her beautiful creatures. I am excited to continue down this line of work to ensure that the natural beauty of Washington State is preserved for the next seven generations to come.

Honoring Billy Frank Jr. 

Those of you who have subscribed to my newsletter for the last few years may remember discussions we’ve had about replacing the statue that Washington has in the Capitol building in Washington D.C.

Now, I’m excited to tell you that my bill has passed off the Senate floor unanimously!

I have worked closely with a number of my colleagues from the legislature and tribes on legislation that would replace Washington State’s statue of Marcus Whitman at the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. with a statue of Billy Frank Jr. 

Billy Frank Jr. embodied the spirit of Washington State in so many ways, working his entire life for the causes of equality, justice, and protecting the environment. Through his fight to protect tribal treaty rights, he also worked to protect the natural resources that so many cultures are based upon.

We all owe Billy Frank Jr. our deep thanks for his work in protecting our salmon and helping their recovery efforts across the state. Billy understood that salmon don’t see political parties, that their health and success are incredibly important to all of Washington State.

Two Pieces of Important Legislation 

Next, I would like to take a moment to update you on two pieces of legislation that are making their way through the halls of the Capitol in Olympia – both are progressing and are incredibly important for Washington State.

First, SB 5280, which mandates “requires members of the clergy to report suspected child abuse or neglect except for when this information is obtained solely as a result of a confession made pursuant to the clergy-penitent privilege,” and “clarifies that the clergy-penitent privilege does not limit a member of the clergy’s duty to report child abuse or neglect when the member of the clergy is acting in some other capacity that would otherwise require them to make a report.”

This is a strong step towards protecting our children in Washington State and would have helped to protect so many of our children throughout our history. I cannot help but wonder what legislation like this may have done while our Native brothers and sisters were held in boarding schools. I am grateful we are working on this now, and I will continue to support this bill until it is signed into law by the Governor.

Second, SB 5352, which clarifies and expands an officer’s ability to engage in a vehicular pursuit, allowing them to do so if the officer has “has reasonable suspicion that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing any criminal offense.”

I was proud the 40th, 42nd, and 10th LDs stood together and with other fellow Democratic and Republican colleagues. We were able to have the bill heard and ultimately passed with majority support. I am prouder still that our excellent team of all the Reps voted together to support this measure to promote public security. 

Our Northern Family will continue to work hard together and all of the help and guidance from local elected and public safety officers is appreciated so much.

Our Sacred Obligation

Last month, we talked about the virtual screening of Our Sacred Obligation, hosted by Children of the Setting Sun. It was a beautiful time – highlighting Our Sacred Obligation, which covers the ongoing movement to restore salmon to abundance.

I am happy to let you know that we had an incredible event with state legislators and Washington’s tribal leaders discussing the need to ensure our salmon population is sustainable.

I was proud to host this event for and with Children of the Setting Sun, and happy to join   Children of the Setting Sun President Darrell Hillaire and Governors Office on Indian affairs with tribal chairs to educate our legislators on the intertwined values of salmon into our traditional laws and decision making in our governance and daily lives. 

The documentary screening included perspectives from Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe Chairwoman Frances Charles, as well as Nisqually Chairman Willie Frank, Squaxin Chairman Kris Peters, and Lummi Nation Chairman Anthony Hillaire. Additional Lummi Nation Council leaders included Lisa Wilson, Jim Washington and former Lummi Nation Chairman Darrell Hillaire. Hillaire went on to found CSSP, a production company focused on telling stories from tribal perspectives. “Our Sacred Obligation” is the latest in a portfolio of films that feature Native and Indigenous perspectives.

Conversations of sovereignty, culture, salmon, and governmental relationships are intertwined together, these matters are meaningful to all of us and allow us to engage in important conversations that fill our hearts and minds and strengthen relationships with our tribal leaders.

If you’d like to check out the screening and speakers at the event, click here.

This is an incredibly important mission we are on, and I am grateful that there are so many other people who are similarly passionate about supporting our salmon population, and taking the necessary steps to help them thrive.

Here is a quick write-up about the film:

Our Sacred Obligation recounts the history of the Yurok Tribe’s struggle against the colonization of the Klamath River, which has sustained them since time immemorial. A land reclamation project and a series of dams have brought the Klamath River salmon populations to the brink of extinction. But the Yurok are fighting back. Supported by their ancestors and the recent success of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe on the Elwha River, the Yurok are using their sovereign treaty rights to fulfill their sacred obligation to bring down the dams and restore the river.

For more information about the Salmon People Project, please visit”