Edmonds 1st in Washington to read indigenous land acknowledgement

By Brian Soergel | Sep 06, 2019

"We acknowledge the original inhabitants of this place, the Sdohobsh (Snohomish) people and their successors the Tulalip Tribes, who since time immemorial have hunted, fished, gathered, and taken care of these lands. We respect their sovereignty, their right to self-determination, and we honor their sacred spiritual connection with the land and water.” – Edmonds City Council land acknowledgment

All Edmonds City Council meetings will now include a statement acknowledging tribal lands and the indigenous people who have lived – and continue to live – in the area.

Edmonds is the first municipality in the state to include the statement before council meetings.

The unanimous approval from City Council members comes after the Edmonds School District began acknowledgement statements a year ago before its board meetings: “We respectfully acknowledge that this meeting is being held on the traditional lands of Duwamish, Skokomish, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, and Suquamish and other Coast Salish Tribes.”

The Edmonds Center for the Arts also reads a statement recognizing indigenous peoples. ECA is a nonprofit organization hired by the City of Edmonds Public Facilities District to manage the facility.

“ECA humbly and proudly includes the statement in our welcoming remarks prior to every performance and public event,” said ECA Executive Director Joe McIalwain.

The statement: “Edmonds Center for the Arts is grateful to host our performances and programs on the culture-rich indigenous lands of the Coast Salish people. On behalf of our staff, boards, and volunteers, we are committed to working with local tribes to acknowledge and honor their ancestral lands.”

In April, Edmonds School District board President Diana White, who lives in Edmonds, proposed that the Edmonds City Council to adopt its own statement as a way to honor the original inhabitants of the area.

White is an enrolled member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, and her ancestors are from the Cherokee Nation. She is running for a seat on the Edmonds City Council.

“It is also important to acknowledge that many local tribes are sovereign nations with their own governments who are also committed to improving outcomes for our environment, salmon restoration, and community health services,” White said this week.

“This statement is a reminder to honor the past, but engage in the work that will impact our future in partnership with our local tribes.”

The Tulalip Tribes wrote the statement; councilmembers have asked other City boards and commissions to consider reading the same statement.

The recent decision comes two years after Councilmember Mike Nelson amended a resolution from the Diversity Commission that read that the City could still acknowledge the federal holiday of Columbus Day as recognized by the state, but Edmonds would specifically recognize it as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Councilmembers voted 5-2 to support Nelson’s amendment, with Dave Teitzel and Kristiana Johnson voting no.

Before reaching the decision on the statement, City of Edmonds staff researched what other cities do to acknowledge indigenous peoples, conferring with the Tulalip Tribes. According to Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, the Tulalip Tribes recommended a statement developed by tribal elder leaders and honed through a careful process by tribal elder leaders.

According to Shane Hope, Edmonds’ director of Development Services, the City currently recognizes the interests of the Native tribes in the following ways:

  • Notification of City projects and programs under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA); @Adoption of regulations that protect fish and wildlife habit;
  • Outreach to tribal representatives on major studies (for example, regarding the Edmonds Marsh);
  • Consideration of comments from tribal representatives; and
  • Participation with tribal representatives on various regional boards and committees.


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