Quileute chairwoman testifies to congressional subcommittee
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Jackie Jacobs
Standing outside the hearing room Thursday in Washington, D.C., are, from left, Pete Modaff of Rep. Norm Dicks' office, Quileute Tribal Council member Carol Hatch, Matthew Schneider of the Garvey Schubert Barer law firm, Quileute Chairwoman Bonita Cleveland, Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, Tribal Council member Deanna Hobson and Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Quileute Chairwoman Bonita Cleveland told a congressional subcommittee Thursday that the tribe living in LaPush must move its central infrastructure to a higher elevation away from the tsunami zone.

“I think our message was embraced, that they were moved by our video presentation,” Cleveland said Thursday after the hearing.

“It was a productive day, and I'm really optimistic,” Cleveland said.

Quileute Tribal Council members Deanna Hobson and Carol Hatch accompanied Cleveland to present the tribe's case and ask the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands to recommend H.R.1162 for approval.

Tsunami, flooding

“Although the Japanese tsunami is a very recent reminder of the destruction that happens after an earthquake in the ocean, our people have been living for decades with the fear of tsunami and flooding,” Cleveland told the subcomm­ittee.

“Because our village is located on one square mile between the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic National Park, we simply have nowhere to go,” she said.

For the past 40 years, tribal leaders have attempted to gain higher ground so they can move tribal members into safer areas.

Recently renewed negotiations with the park resulted in an agreement and two bills to implement that agreement, they said.

The subcommittee now must consider if it will recommend passage of the bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks.

Dicks, D-Belfair, represents the North Olympic Peninsula as part of the 6th Congressional District.

He introduced the bill in conjunction with an identical U.S. Senate bill introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace.

The Senate bill was passed by the committee July 28 and awaits a vote by the full Senate.

Transfer land

The legislation would transfer 785 acres of national park land to the tribe, including 510 acres along the Quillayute River, and designate a 275-acre parcel owned privately by the tribe as part of the reservation.

Portions of the new reservation lands would be removed from wilderness designation, and tribal living areas would then be moved to the new, safer upland areas.

The bill also would designate 4,100 acres, mostly near Lake Crescent, as wilderness, a higher protection for federal lands now designated “low use.”

Cleveland presented a video and artwork by Quileute children to the subcommittee members.

Subcommittee members also received letters of support from Gov. Chris Gregoire, Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon, the National Congress of the American Indians and Clallam County commissioners.

“We would like to express our deepest appreciation to park Superintendent Karen Gustin for her hard work and her understanding of the dangers our tribe faces,” Cleveland said.

“We would also like to express our thanks to Norm Dicks and his staff for getting this turned around so fast,” she said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 16. 2011 1:55AM
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