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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 05:16 GMT
US recognises Chinook tribe
By Ian Gunn in Vancouver

A tribe of Indians in the US has been granted official recognition after more than 20 years of appealing.


A glorious day for us

Chinook tribal chairman Gary Johnson
The Chinook tribe, which lives south of Seattle, in Washington State, is noted for helping some of the first European explorers who arrived in the region, with food and information.

The 2,000 members of the tribe will now be eligible for more government money and the chance to apply for reservation lands near their traditional home.

"It's a historic day and a glorious day for us," said Chinook tribal chairman Gary Johnson at a ceremony at the Interior Department.

"We're just really excited, because our grandmothers and our grandfathers and our families have worked for this day for so long."

When famed explorers Lewis and Clark emerged onto the US' northern Pacific coast almost 200 years ago, they met the Chinook Indians.

The small tribe soon became prolific traders and a version of the Chinook language became the standard trading language throughout the region, well into what is now Canada.

But for all that, the Chinook were never officially recognised by the US government. They signed a treaty in the 1850s but it was never ratified.

A long wait

In 1981 they asked for official modern status as Indians. But after considering the request for 16 years, the US government said no.

The Chinook appealed against that preliminary ruling, claiming a large portion of their paperwork had been quite literally lost in a government desk drawer.

And now, in his final act in office, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Kevin Gover, has admitted the tribe has suffered a long-standing injustice at the hands of the US government.

Mr Gover has officially recognised the Chinook as a tribe and an Indian nation - the 562nd tribe to be recognised in the US.

In a separate announcement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has also admitted accidentally leaving the names of three other tribes in the region off their official list of tribes for many years.

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See also:

26 Sep 00 | Americas
Tribes win ancient bones battle
15 Jan 00 | Americas
Native Americans regain land
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