Let’s Awaken The Sleeping Lady

It has been a little over a year since Governor Gary Locke met with the tribes at the Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth, where three November days of detailed discussion culminated with the signing of the “New Millennium Agreement.”

I remember thinking how appropriate it was for all of this to take place at this beautiful location, at the foot of the namesake mountain. Here, the “Sleeping Lady” has borne witness to all that has transpired between the Indian and non-Indian people for centuries. I imagined at the time that a Millennium Agreement might just awaken the lady, who could bear witness to long-awaited better times for our people. It seems the Sleeping Lady may have stirred and stretched for a moment, but then returned to her ageless slumber.

The Millennium Agreement was intended to be an agreement to “institutionalize” the state/tribal government-to-government relationship in preparation for the new millennium. To achieve this, the Governor and other state officials swore to make the principles of the 1989 Centennial Accord come alive in our day-to-day relations. Tribal officials concurred. The principles ranged from high level collaboration in economic, social/cultural and natural resources-related issues to improved communication, cooperative education, and the development of a consensus-based, lasting and respectful relationship between the state and the tribes. That may seem like a tall order. But these are the things that are needed if we’re ever going to make real progress in state/tribal relations.

The words sounded great, but in the year since there has been very little follow up and virtually no progress in state/tribal collaboration.

In salmon management, for example, the Governor’s “Extinction Is Not An Option” plan continues to be inadequate by any measure. There is no meaningful provision for state/tribal collaboration in this plan. The “voluntary compliance” it advocates may sound good to business and agricultural interests, but it fails to provide for any meaningful protection of salmon habitat or other treaty-protected natural resource management rights.

We hope the Governor’s recent re-election will breathe new life into his commitment, and that he will work with us to develop a positive, collaborative relationship. We hope he will work with us to fully awaken the Sleeping Lady.