31st Annual Centennial Accord draws on wisdom and experience to meet our common challenges

​By Commerce Tribal Liaison Ernie Rasmussen

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The government-to-government relationship between the State of Washington and the 29 sovereign Tribes of Washington state, along with two Tribes from Oregon, is not wholly unique.  Most state governments that have Tribes within their boundaries work to honor the inherent Tribal sovereignty as defined by Supreme Court Justice John Marshall in the early 1800s.  What is unique here is Washington State Law (RCW 43.376) defining a level of duty and care to establish and maintain our valued G2G relationship with Tribes.

The 31st Annual Centennial Accord provided another such opportunity to strengthen our efforts to collaborate and coordinate work with 31 different Tribal governments.  It was an honor to sit alongside Governor Inslee, Director Brown and her fellow cabinet  agency leaders to listen and learn from our Tribal partners about their priorities. It was humbling, to say the least, to present updates on the good work of our Commerce teams to meet our mission in alignment with Tribes’ priorities.

Every division within Commerce somehow touches on Tribal priorities. Energy division leader Michael Furze and his team are focused on climate change mitigation strategies, including transportation electrification and building energy efficiency. The local government division, led by Mark Barkley, supports land use planning to address Washington’s growing population and impacts on natural resources, along with working to address infrastructure development. Diane Klontz’s team in the community services and housing division continues to demonstrate effective working relationships with Tribes throughout the state, especially related to emergency shelter needs during the pandemic. Commerce’s Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness, led by Chris Green, works in partnership with a number of Tribes to develop stronger, more resilient rural economies.

Of course, the Centennial Accord reiterated the importance of broadband as a strategy for preserving public health in the face of COVID-19.  This is a clear priority at Commerce, demonstrated through commitments by the Community Economic Revitalization Board, support for key Tribal broadband construction projects from the Public Works Board, and Russ Elliott’s policy leadership at the state Broadband Office working to bridge the digital divide in Indian Country.

Coming away from the 2020 Centennial Accord, we still have much work to do to preserve public health and to lead a post-pandemic economic recovery. I’m confident that working together with this team and the Tribes of Washington State, we will succeed and meet the next big challenge ahead.


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