Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
National Congress of American Indians
November 26, 2001

Thank you for that kind introduction. I’m delighted to be here.

Distinguished tribal leaders and leaders of the National Congress of American Indians, members of U.S. Congress and local leaders: Thank you very much for inviting me here to be with you today. I'm delighted to be here and welcome to Spokane! We are honored that you chose this wonderful city as the site for the National Congress of American Indians.

The tragedies of September 11th reshaped America’s political and social landscape and marked a sea change in this country. But it’s a sea change that sharpens our resolve and focuses our spirit.

If we want to make America stronger, we need to make each of our communities stronger -- and that extends to our tribal communities throughout Indian country.

Washington state and the tribes have not always been in accord. But we have tried to devise means to resolve our problems and find common ground on which to work together.

One of the tools we use is our Centennial Accord, which is gaining a higher profile and acceptance in other states. Signed 100 years after Washington state entered the union, this document calls for the state of Washington and the tribes to work on a government-to-government basis to resolve issues. Through the Centennial Accord, the state of Washington recognizes the sovereignty of the tribes. And the tribes, in turn, recognize the sovereignty of the state. This has been a critical foundation for our relationship and allows us to strive for common ground and the common good of our governments.

I want to see “One Washington” not divided by economic differences of the haves and the have-nots. "One Washington" that is not divided by prosperity in the Puget Sound region of Western Washington and poverty in Eastern Washington. One Washington that is not divided by Indian vs. non-Indian. It is my goal to extend this prosperity to Indian country, and I have instructed my Office of Indian Affairs to help create “real jobs" in Indian country. We all know how challenging that task is, but I see this as a place for common ground and for us to come together.

Recently, our state’s Tourism office worked with the Office of Indian Affairs and the tribes to conduct an assessment of tribal tourism in Washington state. While I’m not a big fan of reports, I do appreciate the groundwork this lays for the state and the tribes to work together to further develop culturally rich tourism experiences. I am proud to say this effort led to the tribes receiving a $300,000 grant to create an inter-tribal tourism association.

One of the principal reasons I wanted to be governor was to improve the state’s education system. I know you care deeply about your children and their education as future leaders in Indian country. One of the critical elements of a child’s success in the classroom is parental involvement. I’ve met with leaders of various communities to see how we can better engage parents, including leaders of the Yakama Nation and the Skokomish Tribe. I encourage you all to become involved in your child’s education and to develop parental involvement programs among your tribes back home.

Another area of common ground between the state and tribes is the work to save the salmon. I know that many tribes consider the salmon to be an integral and sacred part of their cultures. And the salmon have a different kind of importance as well. Their fate may well be our own fate. I deeply appreciate the expertise, knowledge and dedication that the tribal natural resources staff and leaders bring to the efforts to allow this specie to thrive.

We are focusing on three key principles for 2002:

  1. Water for fish -- setting and actually achieving instream flows
  2. Water for growing communities
  3. Water for farms.

All interests must be addressed and must be advanced.

Let’s build on the successes we’ve already made together. We’ve worked together to reform welfare in Indian country, protect Indian children and preserve Indian families. We’re also improving access to health care and mental health services.

Washington state is committed to honoring the government-to-government relationship. While it is sometimes difficult to understand how tribal sovereignty fits with other parts of government, I reaffirm my commitment to honoring tribal sovereignty and working with the Indian tribes to find common ground -- ground that is fertile and will allow us all to grow and prosper together. Next week, the annual Centennial Accord meeting will be held near the state capital and I look forward to seeing the tribal leaders there. I urge other tribes and political leaders from other states to look at the Centennial Accord as a model for a more productive relationship based on mutual respect.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to share this time with you. Have a great conference and a wonderful time in Spokane.
Related Links:
- National Congress of American Indians
- Governor's Office of Indian Affairs
- Water 2002
- Centennial Accord
- Washington State Tourism
- Locke announces release of statewide tribal tourism assessment
- Locke addresses National Congress of American Indians
- U.S. Senate
- U.S. House of Representatives

Access Washington