Why Unions Are Demanding Federal Re-Recognition of the Duwamish Tribe

August 25, 2021

At the June MLK Labor Meeting, delegates took a historic vote to stand with the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish Tribe, by supporting their right to self-determination, self-governance, and the other powers entitled to federally recognized tribes. The resolution called on the Labor Council to take an active role in lobbying for federal re-recognition of the tribe and to spread the word within the labor community about how people can provide support.

For more than 130 years, MLK Labor has worked out of the unceded ancestral lands of the Duwamish people. We take great pride in our mission to lead Martin Luther King County’s labor movement, but we believe that economic justice must involve justice for the people native to the land which we occupy.

The struggle of the Duwamish people has been long and grueling. More than a century of racist policies from all levels of government has deprived them of their land, wealth, and right to self-governance. When European settlers arrived in Seattle in the mid-19th century the Duwamish land was taken and their homes were burned.

In 1855, Chief Si’ahl (Seattle) of the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes signed the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855. The treaty granted the Duwamish a reservation as well as hunting and fishing rights in exchange for 54,000 acres of land. To this day, the promises made in this treaty have never been honored.

We must correct this injustice.

After decades of pushing for justice, the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Clinton Administration found sufficient evidence to re-recognize the Duwamish Tribe, only to have it reversed by the Bush Administration. Without federal recognition, the Duwamish not only lacks basic rights awarded to tribes, but they miss out on essential federal resources such as those provided under the COVID emergency.

There are three pathways to federal recognition. This injustice can be addressed by the Biden Administration, through Congress, or through the courts. We are calling on working-class people of all types to show solidarity with the Duwamish people and put pressure on our elected representatives to take action.

Here are four ways you can help:

Support Request Form

Need help? Whether you need technical assistance using the site or require language support to apply for jobs, you can use this form to submit a support request and someone from our team will follow up.

Please note that you may be asked to provide additional information to assess your eligibility for job application assistance and other support.