Agreement with Suquamish Tribe shelved by Angel, Lent

A memo of understanding between the county and the Suquamish Tribe that would have created a framework for discussions with tribal elders on formal discussions of matters of mutual interest was shelved July 7 by commissioners Jan Angel and Patty Lent.

Commissioner Chris Endresen supported the memorandum and argued the county has these agreements to talk with many other entities, including the county’s cities and the Navy.

Daryl Piercy, of the Department of Community Development, characterized the memorandum as “a way to improve and foster the relationship that already exists between the county and the tribe.”

But a small, vocal group of objectors claimed the memo would be “surrendering to Indian” interests, and would put the county in danger of possible future litigation by tribal attorneys.

Charles H. Turner, of Kingston, said the memorandum would “forever change county government.

“This is a lawyer’s dream and a taxpayer’s nightmare,” Turner said. “I’ve worked in government for 31 years ... decision by committee never works. “The tribe is not a sovereign nation,” he continued. “Tribal autonomy exists only at the sufferance of Congress. Tribes are conquered, dependent nations.”

Vivian Henderson, executive director of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, also opposed the memorandum.

“We, too, are afraid of the memorandum,” she said. “On the surface it seems quite innocuous, but it’s not. KAPO members urge you (commissioners) not to sign any agreements.”

“I’m pretty much disappointed,” Endresen said. “The county and the tribe have some interests that we share. We have some conflicts. The county and the cities (Poulsbo, Port Orchard, Bremerton) have some common interests and some built-in conflicts. This document doesn’t commit the county to anything other than sitting down and talking.”

She also noted a provision in the memorandum allowed either party to leave within 30 days of giving written notice.

But Lent and Angel both claimed a lack of legal knowledge wouldn’t allow them to sign the memorandum. Both said they wanted a third-party legal review of the issue. But neither said they would seek one, and the document was left unsigned.

Lent could not be reached for comment.

“It was skinnied down,” Angel said. “The tribe had signed a memo with Bainbridge Island. But that was as big as another treaty. Patty asked for a third legal opinion. But nothing ever happened. We don’t know who in the county has the tribal expertise. It was still our understanding that we would have an expert look at it. Our attorneys from the civil division of the Prosecutor’s office expressed comfort with their own decision. I asked, ‘How can I get another opinion?’ They said you have to get a resolution to the Superior Court but we won’t support it.

“I guess what we’re going to have to do is sit down at a work study and decide, ‘ Do we need this?’ ” Angel said. “Currently, it is not a simple document, and it is not easy to understand.”

“This was a long, sad day,” Endresen said. “I’m very disappointed.”

The Suquamish tribal council had already approved the memorandum before Monday’s commissioner’s meeting.

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