Indigenous tribes in Western Washington are set to recieve $50m as part of the infrastucture bill passed last year to restore and protect their state’s landmark, Puget Sound.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had previously committed to providing the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, which supports some 20 tribes, with $50m over the course of ten years for its restoration work in the Sound.
On Tuesday, however, the EPA announced that it will be providing the commission with this next round of funding over just the next five years.
The funding is recognition that the tribes who have lived on and around the Sound for thousands of years are deeply dependent on its well-being as climate change threatens it and other waterways around the Pacific Northwest and the country as a whole.
“All of the tribes eligible for this funding depend on Puget Sound fish and shellfish for subsistence, ceremony and commerce,” Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman Ed Johnstone said on Tuesday to the Seattle Times. “We are deeply concerned by the threat of climate change to our usual and accustomed areas and treaty-protected rights. Our economic and cultural well-being is directly linked to the health of our homelands.”
The funding will support a range of restoration and protection projects in the area, including on Sequim Bay, Lummi Bay, and the Nooksack and Skokomish rivers.
The Seattle metro area is one of the most Indigenous-populated metro areas in the United States, home to a number of Washington’s 29 federally recognised tribes. The city itself is named for the Suquamish and Duwamish Chief Seattle, who led his people as European settlers began arriving in the region in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Seattle Times reported that the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission will recieve $7.5m as a down payment on the total of $50m, with Casey Sixkiller, Mr Biden’s new EPA regional administrator for the northwest district, responsible for overseeing the payments.
Mr Sixkiller, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation who previously served as Deputy Mayor of the City of Seattle and Chief Operating Officer of King County, said Tuesday that the funding demonstrates the administration’s commitment to Indigenous-led stewardship of the area.
“This funding made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law ensures that this region’s tribes — the original stewards of Puget Sound — will continue to lead our joint efforts to restore and protect these waters for future generations,” he said.