Portland/ Politics & Govt
AI Assisted Icon
Published on February 23, 2024
After Century-Long Wait, Chinook Indian Nation Nears Justice with Court-Ordered Settlement FundsSource: Facebook/Chinook Indian Nation

After more than a half-century wait, the Chinook Indian Nation (CIN) is finally seeing a long-delayed compensation for lands taken during the 19th century move forward. This shift comes in the wake of a recent legal ruling pushing for the disbursement of settlement funds awarded to the tribe back in 1970. The funds, which were held in limbo due to a stalemate over their allocation, will now be distributed after a new legal victory. As KGW reported, the CIN held a news conference to discuss the ruling's importance, emphasizing not just the financial aspect, but the critical recognition of their cultural and ancestral heritage.

The Chinook Indian Nation's struggle has spanned well over a century, with initial legal actions for land rights commencing in the 1890s. It wasn't until 1970 that the Indian Claims Commission acknowledged the tribe's entitlement to financial reparation for the loss of their ancestral lands initially taken in 1851. However, due to bureaucratic red tape and, later, a loss of federal recognition, those funds have been withheld. Chairman Tony Johnson voiced the tribe's deep-seated sentiment, "That acknowledgment and what it means for our current realities is priceless," told KGW.

Moreover, this significant legal milestone could pave the way towards the reclamation of the Chinook Indian Nation's federal recognition status—withdrawn in 2001—a critical label that holds the key to numerous government aid and the preservation of their legacy. In 2017, the tribe embarked on a legal battle against the Bureau of Indian Affairs' decision to withhold funds, culminating in the recent decision that reinstated the funding immediately. As detailed by KOIN, Johnson stated, "Our fight for federal recognition has lasted for over 120 years, and our justice is long overdue."

The Chinook Indian Nation encompasses the unification of five tribes with ancestral ties across the Lower Columbia River region. Despite the cultural and historical richness of their lands, no compensation had been received until now for territories seized amid the colonization of what is now Washington State. The settlement from Docket 234 represents not just recompense for land, but symbolic restitution for a lengthy history of disenfranchisement. According to ICT News, the recent court confirmation has stimulated hopes among the Chinook people for a rekindling of their connection to the lands of their forebears and a step towards broader recognition and justice for their community.