More than two dozen Sovereign Indian Nations within Washington State will meet with the state government on June 18 at The Evergreen State College for the 25th Annual Centennial Accord. The event is usually held on tribal lands, but in a rare exception, Evergreen received the honor of hosting this year.
The Centennial Accord is a government-to-government meeting between 25 state agencies and tribal governments “to develop procedures by which a government-to-government policy will be implemented,” according to the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs.
“The Centennial Accord, as the name implies, is an outgrowth of the state centennial in 1989,” said David Nicandri, Washington historian and director of the Washington State Historical Society during the Centennial. “Arguably the Accord and the annual tribal canoe journey (the original to Seattle) are the most enduring legacies of that celebration.”
“Part of the genesis of the Centennial Accord was the frustration of the State not recognizing the unique role and relationship of the Tribes in Washington State’s history, but that was only part of it,” said Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam chairman and one of the founders of the original Accord agreement. “Over the course of the State’s history, Tribes had experienced a deteriorating tense relationship and ongoing debate over who was more sovereign. The Tribes and State were not coming to the table as equals.”
Allen, along with leaders of other tribes, asked Governor Booth Gardner to celebrate the centennial by initiating the Accords to set aside differences between the state and the tribes and settle problems on a mutually-respectful government-to-government basis.
“After 25 years of the most progressive government-to-government commitment between the State of Washington and the 29 Sovereign Indian Nations, we have made a difference,” said Allen, noting the profound impact of the Accord. “We have not accomplished all our goals, but this commitment has resulted in a solid progressive foundation to advance improvements in most areas of Tribal concerns, including natural resource management, education, health care, economic development and social/community affairs.”
“A quarter century ago, the Centennial Accord was adopted to foster important relationships between our Native American communities and state government,” said state Senator John McCoy, who will also be participating in the Accord event. “The goals of mutual understanding and collaboration are just as important today as they were 25 years ago. We all know we have to work closely together to solve the complex challenges facing our communities today.”
“This is an outstanding opportunity for the state and the college,” said Evergreen spokesperson Todd Sprague. “We are honored and excited to have this event on campus. Hosting the Accord builds on the relationships and commitment we have and will continue to have to serve and work in partnership with Native American communities and governments in Washington and across the country.”