Tribal leaders condemn Inslee’s veto of consultation, protection provisions in climate bill

Inslee vetoed provisions that would guarantee Tribal consultation and protections for sacred sites.

Gov. Jay Inslee is facing harsh criticism from the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe and the President of the National Congress of American Indians after he vetoed provisions of the Climate Commitment Act that included consultation requirements and protections for Native American sacred sites and burial grounds.

Inslee on May 17 signed the sweeping climate change bill into law, but vetoed these provisions, among others, in the climate package which was supported by a coalition of 19 tribes. In response to the vetos, National Congress of American Indians President and Vice President of the Quinault Indian Nation Fawn Sharp issued a statement.

“This week, Jay Inslee committed the most egregious and shameless betrayal of a deal I have ever witnessed from a politician of any party, at any level,” Sharp said. “After using and exploiting Tribal Nation’s political capital to pass his climate bill, Jay Inslee made the cowardly decision on the day of the bill’s signing to ambush Tribal leaders by suddenly vetoing all Tribal consultation requirements and all protections for Native American sacred sites and burial grounds that his office and the State Legislature had negotiated as a condition of the bill’s passage. Jay Inslee will be mercilessly judged by history long after Indigenous Peoples triumph over his petty veto and continue to lead the world’s fight against climate change.”

Mike Faulk, a spokesperson for Inslee’s office, said in their view, the provision was written too broadly and would have made it possible to challenge “just about any related project anywhere in the state.” Faulk said there were a number of provisions concerning Tribes included in the bill that Inslee did not veto.

But the vetoes still drew heavy criticism from from Snoqualmie Indian Tribe Chairman Robert de los Angeles, who said Inslee “used, exploited and betrayed Tribal Nations in order to pass his climate change bill.

“Tribes across the Pacific Northwest negotiated and came to a deal with the Governor’s Office and the House and Senate leadership to protect our civil rights and our sacred sites, archaeological sites, and burial grounds, and less than a month later the Governor is unilaterally breaking his side of the deal. The fact that this betrayal is occurring regarding protections for something as important as burial grounds and sacred sites is offensive beyond description. This will be a permanent stain on his record,” De los Angeles said in the statement.

Washington state Rep. Mike Chapman (D-24th Leg. Dist.) also criticized Inslee for the decision. Chapman said he was “shocked and embarrassed” by Inslee not inviting Quinault and Snoqualmie leaders to the bill signing where he vetoed the provisions.

Inslee told the Seattle Times he wanted to continue to work on consulting discussions with Tribes. However, in their statement, Sharp said as the president of the National Congress of American Indians, representing more than 500 sovereign Tribal Nations, they would not participate in any process that “validates Inslee’s delusional belief that he has authority over sovereign Tribes.”