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caption: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, left, playfully interrupts Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez as Juarez spoke about the renovation of KeyArena, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Seattle.
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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, left, playfully interrupts Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez as Juarez spoke about the renovation of KeyArena, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Seattle.
Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Seattle City Council names its first Indigenous Advisory Council

Nine Indigenous Seattle residents will serve on the city's first Indigenous Advisory Council.

On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved the nominees, who will advise city officials on issues and policies that directly affect Indigenous peoples.

The new council includes an Indigenous youth, an elder and representatives of some tribes and urban Indian organizations.

Council President Debora Juarez , who is a member of the Blackfeet Nation, says the IAC is a historic move for the city.

"I can't tell you how nice it is to have all these brown people looking back at me in Indian Country," Juarez said during a committee hearing to approve the nine nominees. "It just — you have no idea what this feels like. This is historic. I've never had this feeling in this job, so thank you."

However, members of the Duwamish Tribe protested what they see as a lack of representation on the new council. It does not include a representative of the tribe, whose members reside within Seattle and have for generations; the city is notably named after Duwamish leader Chief Seattle.

Duwamish Tribal Council member Ken Workman was selected as his Tribe's delegate to apply for a position on the IAC.

Workman told KUOW the formation of the IAC is a "great thing" and a happy moment for Indigenous people in Seattle. Still, he cannot help but feel the Duwamish have been made "invisible" without a seat on the council.

"It feels like nothing has changed, except the clock," he said.

Several members and supporters of the Duwamish Tribe spoke out about the apparent exclusion during a committee hearing last week announcing the members.

Juarez and a representative of the IAC were not available for comment following Tuesday's final vote to approve the IAC.

During last week's hearing, Juarez said the city received 48 applications for the nine available positions on the council.

"I want to respect the people that called in that had concerns, because this is a continuing process," she said. "It was always trying to be inclusive."

These are the nine members of Seattle's first Indigenous Advisory Council (with bios provided by the city):

Donny Stevenson, Muckleshoot

Donny Stevenson serves as the vice-chairman of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe as an elected member of the Muckleshoot Tribal Council. He attended the Evergreen State College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts focused on Native American studies. He has worked as an executive-level leader in Indian Country over the course of a 25-year career serving his tribe and Native people.

Jay Mills, Suquamish

Luther “Jay” Mills is a Suquamish tribal member who has served more than 25 years as an elected tribal council member and brings experience in overseeing government operations and government relations. He has been employed in several capacities by the tribe’s economic agency, Port Madison Enterprises, for more than 45 years. He currently serves as the Port Madison Enterprises Ambassador. Jay also serves on the Kitsap Economic Development Board, Washington Economic Development Association, Bremerton Chamber Board, Visit Kitsap Peninsula Board, Suquamish Foundation, Chief Kitsap Academy School Board, and is a former Leadership Kitsap Board Member.

Jeremy Takala, Yakama

Jeremy Takala, known as Pax’una’shut in the Yakama Nation, is of the Kahmiltpah Band (Rock Creek) located on the Columbia River and a proud descendant of Hopi. He was nominated in 2020 to serve as a Tribal Councilman for Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. He currently chairs the Fish and Wildlife, Law and Order Committees, serves as Secretary of the Legislative Committee, and is a member of the Heath, Employment and Welfare Committee. Prior to his time in office, he worked 12 years for the Yakima Klickitat Fisheries Project (YKFP) as a fisheries technician. He currently serves on the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission (CRITFC). Jeremy was raised in Goldendale, WA and is a proud member of the Rock Creek Longhouse.

Cece Hoffman, Umatilla

Cece Hoffman is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), with ancestry also amongst the Nimiipuu and Ojibwe peoples. They graduated from the University of Washington in 2020 with a degree in Education, Communities and Organizations. Since moving to Coast Salish lands from the Umatilla Indian Reservation, they have been involved with the ISTEAM (Indigenous Science Technologies Engineering Arts and Mathematics) summer camp for Native youth, First Nations at the University of Washington (UW), wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ UW intellectual House, Got Green, and the sləp̓iləbəxʷ (Rising Tides) Indigenous Planning Group. Cece currently works for Na’ah Illahee Fund as the Environmental Justice Coordinator.

Suzanne Sailto, Snoqualmie

Suzanne Sailto is a Snoqualmie Tribal member and current Councilmember. She has had the opportunity to live and travel the world with her father who served 20+ years in the military, and through her current capacity as a leader and member of the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe. Suzanne graduated from Lakes High School and Ever-Increasing Word Ministries. She participates in the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and National Congress of American Indians to stay apprised on tribal legislation across Indian Country. She volunteers her time on boards including the Snoqualmie Ridge YMCA, Encompass in Snoqualmie, Elder Council for Chief Seattle Club, and Seaboard member of Snoqualmie Casino.

Esther Lucero, Diné

Esther Lucero is Diné and Latina and a third-generation urban Indian from Colorado Springs, CO. She received a Master of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in Native American studies from Mills College. Esther joined the Seattle Indian Health Board in 2015 as President and CEO and currently serves on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Advisory Committee for Women’s Services, SAMHSA Region X Opioid Taskforce, Governor’s Behavioral Health Taskforce, American Indian Health Commission, The Governor’s Indian Health Advisory Council, and co-chair of Healthier Here’s governing board.

Derrick Belgarde, Siletz & Chippewa-Cree

Derrick Belgarde is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon and Chippewa-Cree from Rocky Boy, MT. Derrick is the Executive Director of Chief Seattle Club and has worked and served in the field of housing affordability, fighting for the rights of those suffering from housing insecurity for many years. He currently serves on the board of Community Roots Housing, Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC), Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH), and the Housing Development Consortium. Derrick completed his undergraduate in Public Affairs magna cum laude and went on to obtain a Master’s in Public Administration, both at Seattle University.

Asia Tail, Cherokee

Asia Tail is an artist and community organizer based in Tukwila, Washington. Asia is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, born and raised on Coast Salish territories. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cooper Union School of Art in New York. In 2018, she co-founded yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective, an urban Native women-led arts nonprofit based in Seattle. She has served as a freelance consultant for local organizations including Washington State Convention Center, Nia Tero, Chief Seattle Club, City of Tacoma, City of Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, Potlatch Fund, and ArtsWA, among others. She currently works as a Program Officer at Seattle Foundation.

Jaci McCormack, Nez Perce

Jaci McCormack grew up on the Nez Perce Reservation outside of Lewiston, Idaho. She earned a degree in Sociology from Illinois State University. After her college career, she served as the Deputy Executive Director for the Nez Perce Tribe, as well as the Youth Prevention Director, building deep relationships with tribal and community partners. In 2015, Jaci founded Rise Above, a non-profit organization that gives Native youth the skills and resilience to overcome their circumstances and write their own futures.