Guest column: Reflecting on 40 years of federal recognition

Editor’s note: This column was originally printed in the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s February 2021 Tribal Newsletter, and reprinted here with permission. — MD

Greeting Jamestown S’Klallam Citizens!

I trust all is well and everyone made it healthy and safely through the holidays. This COVID-19 pandemic has seriously challenged all of us, but the vaccines are arriving, and we have optimistic expectations with the strong commitment of newly confirmed President Biden to address the crisis and get back to normal. I share the view that in 2021, we overcome the challenge. It has required a lot of patience, trust and confidence.

Meanwhile, this month we have a lot to celebrate and be thankful: 40 years ago, after seven long years of effort, we received our federal recognition on Feb. 10, 1981. Wow! This causes me to stop and reflect that journey and how much has happen as a result of the achievement.

I know when you read this article, we will have a new U.S. President and administration and many of us have hopes of “normal” in many respects, i.e. COVID-19 control and a more stable federal government. Yet, this month is a time of reflection for our own Jamestown community.

More than 40 years ago, the Jamestown leadership embarked on a journey to reestablish its relationship with the federal government. For those of you who have “Thirty Years and Time Immemorial,” a book we produced for the 30th anniversary, it captures the recognition of the countless Tribal leaders who contributed to this Tribal achievement.

There were many who contributed to many versions of Tribe’s petition to the federal government and you can find them on our website, in the exhibit in our online museum (

It is easy to reflect on how far the Tribe has come since Feb. 10, 1981, in our pursuit of self-governance and self-reliance. Our governmental political and legal infrastructure has developed to address our laws, codes, regulations, and policies to stabilize our operations and services in pursuit of our self-reliance vision, our business arm of the Tribe has done well with the 7 Cedars Casino and Resort operations including the longhouse and golf course, and of course, our medical and dental clinics and Northwest Native Expressions Gallery.

Our Economic Development Authority is continuing to grow and stabilize with the Jamestown Excavating, Storage operations, J-Net and providing the seed operations for our Tribal CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) and now the Cedar Greens Cannabis business. Meanwhile, our Jamestown Seafoods continues to grow with expanding oyster farm, Port Whitney Hatchery and fish farming operations, and plans for a seafood retail operation. We keep expanding the diversification our business portfolio.

What we must celebrate is that the spirit of our Jamestown S’Klallam heritage has weathered many challenges since the 1800s (and earlier), and still survived. Here we are today, not just surviving, but thriving, proud of who we are as a unique Indigenous community with all our history, culture, traditions and strong resilient character.

All Tribes have enormous pride in their history and culture and so do we as Jamestown S’Klallam. We are proud of our sister S’Klallam Tribes and mutual relations with so many stories and experiences over the countless generations. Our Tribes over the past 40 years have been consistently building our Tribal foundation for our future generations.

I am proud of how much we have accomplished over the past 40 years, due to the vision and persistence of our past Jamestown warriors, and we have become an influencer in our community. When you think of our over 800 employees, we are the second-largest employer on the northern Olympic Peninsula and given the amazing success of our clinic we are on the front lines of getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control in our community. Jamestown has and is making a difference!

My expectation is that our younger generation leaders who are picking up our past and current effort, e.g. Loni Greninger and Rochelle Blankenship, and others to come, will continue our journey. It does amaze me that no matter how much growth and success we achieve, we are always chasing even higher expectations. As I have said in the past, “We may have disappointments, but we never get discouraged.”

President Biden has made many promises in his campaign including respect for our sovereignty, treaty rights, etc., and we intend on continuing our self-reliance journey leveraging those commitments. Our Tribe has never wanted to be dependent on federal programs, as our vision is to maintain our independent, strong historical S’Klallam character.

Meanwhile, I trust you all are staying safe and healthy in this crazy time we are experiencing due to the pandemic. We are all doing everything we can to get the virus under control, waiting patiently for vaccines to be available so that we can get back to normal lifeways.

I persist with my firm, unwavering faith that we will continue our journey that never ends to a better future for our Jamestown people and the 7 generations to come. Working with new, inclusive leadership in Washington, D.C., is reason for encouragement.

W. Ron Allen is Tribal Council Chair/CEO for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.