Tribes seek fresh start with Jewell

Tribal leaders east and west of the Cascades say that while they haven’t worked with Sally Jewell, they like what they see in the nominee for secretary of interior and would look forward to a fresh start at the department.

“I think it is an excellent opportunity; she will definitely bring a fresh perspective,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation.

Jewell would take over the reins at the department at a sensitive time for tribes. Fundamental questions, such as the right relationship with Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, and how to better manage land ownership in Indian Country all are on the burner.

“We are building a transformative agenda,” Sharp said. ” We think she will be a good listener.”

W. Ron Allen, chairman at the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and chairman of the Washington Indian Gaming Commission, said Jewell isn’t as known to tribes as former Gov. Christine Gregoire, who had been rumored for the job. “We have never engaged with her,” Allen said of Jewell.

The one exception is work with Jewell on the University of Washington Board of Regents, where “she was always respectful,” Allen said. “”Outside of that environment, I am not sure what engagement she has had with tribes. But she certainly has strong credentials with regard to protection and interest in natural resources, parks, fish and wildlife, water rights, minerals. She has a very impressive background, and we look forward to working with her and enlightening her.”

At the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Business Council, said he is glad at the prospect of someone from the Northwest leading Interior. “As a Northwest person, I am very excited to have someone from the Northwest nominated,” Sirois said. “They will have a better sense of the issues we face in the Pacific Northwest.”

He said Jewell’s inexperience in Indian Country could be a plus, too. “She is an unknown quantity but that can be a good in some ways, she is not part of the political machine, and can be a new force of energy, and some new ideas.”