The Oregon and Washington-based Chinook Indian Nation has been fighting for recognition since 1899. They gained recognition briefly, in 2001, but it was stripped away 18 months later. Rachel Cushman, the tribe’s secretary treasurer, tells Teen Vogue that losing recognition was “horrid,” but emphasizes that recognition doesn’t define tribal identity.
“The point of federal acknowledgment is to be able to fully practice our sovereignty. We'll continue to be sovereign and Indian without approval,” she says. “But [the] reality is that we have the ability to do more decolonial work if we have that political power.”