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Where Were You When Chinook Lost Our Federal Acknowledgement?

support tribal recognition

By Rachel L. Cushman

It was 19 years ago, today when Neal McCaleb, the Assistant Director of Indian Affairs, reversed our federal recognition. I remember it like it only happened a couple days ago. The pain of something like that never really dulls, especially when the injustice remains.

I was fifteen years old and an apprentice to the Northwest Region’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) fisheries biologist. As I was getting ready for work, I heard my mom gasp. I ran out of my room to see what was wrong. I saw her trembling, holding the Oregonian. Her eyes flashed from pain to rage and back. She cursed. I had no idea why she was swearing.

I was hesitant to ask her about what she had read in the paper. She covered her face with her hand and began to sob. I crept over, put my hand on her shoulder, and asked what had happened. She turned and looked at me. What came out of her mouth next was a punch in the gut. “The fucking Bush Administration stripped us of our rights. We are no longer a recognized tribe.”

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