Sustaining our Traditions and Culture
Sustaining our Traditions and Culture
Tulalip Natural Resources Department image of near Tulalip estuary and uplands with urban development encroachment
Sustaining our Traditions and Culture

Indigenous Rights

Tulalip Natural Resources Treaty Rights Office works from multiple levels. While many problems facing salmon, wildlife, forests, shellfish and other culturally important natural resources are local or regional, other problems and their solutions come from national and international sources.

Climate change, for example, is caused by the cumulative impacts of emissions that are largely outside of tribal control. But the Tulalip Tribes is helping to reduce these emissions both by reducing reservation sources of greenhouse gases, and by policy and activism to reduce them such as by helping to close down the Gateway Pacific Terminal for coal at Cherry Point and opposing the TransMountain Pipeline Project proposed by Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan. The Tulalip Tribes has also participated in establishing core Federal funds to tribes nationally for responding to climate change impacts through adaptation actions, and used these funds for climate change planning for the Tulalip Tribes. Representatives of the Tulalip Tribes also sit on national councils and advisory bodies to advise the President and Cabinet heads, such as the Department of Agriculture, on policies for tribal adaptation to climate change. The Tulalip Tribes has also contributed to the development of guidelines for promoting the respectful use of traditional knowledge for adaptation while protecting tribal rights and cultural resources.

The Tulalip Tribes also participates in international processes, particularly at the United Nations. There are several reasons for this participation. The United Nations works through building agreements among sovereign nations. Most of these work on a voluntary basis, or “soft law,” in which nations agree to work towards meeting high level goals or principles, which occurred with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which recognized a number of collective human rights of indigenous peoples. These kinds of documents create an international climate that influences the behavior of nation states, and over time can lead to the establishment of international norms that can become binding international laws. A more direct route is through the establishment of binding treaties that require nations that endorse (“ratify) them to take certain actions “hard law). Another issue are those problems and solutions that must be solved internationally – such as the mass production of Coast Salish-like baskets in China. Good international laws and policies can help create a climate and bind the United States to actions that support tribal rights to cultural resources. Bad law and policy can interfere with the exercise of treaty rights, such as treaties regulating the protection of whales and migratory species. The Tulalip Tribes also works to influence analyses at the national and international levels to ensure that tribal perspectives and rights are included.

Among some of the places where the Tulalip Tribes works internationally are:

  1. World intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC): This United Nations is negotiating what may become an internationally binding treaty that could either promote tribal rights to culture or undermine them. The Tulalip Tribes has been a leading negotiator, from 2001 to the present, in working to establish recognition tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction over their traditional knowledge and forms of expression, and to protect them against attempts to limit their rights;
  2. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): Signed in 1992, the Convention contains a major commitment to protect traditional knowledge related to natural resources in Article 8(j). The Tulalip Tribes has been an important player in the development of binding requirements for the need to obtain prior informed consent (PIC) before access and using traditional knowledge, and the principle of respecting customary law when access and using natural resources. They have also contributed to guidelines for ethics, the use of sacred areas, the repatriation of traditional knowledge to owners and holders, and for obtaining free, prior and informed consent from indigenous peoples;
  3. Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing: Between 2000 and 2010, the Tulalip Tribes was a leading negotiator with other indigenous leaders from around the world in negotiating a binding treaty that recognizes tribal rights to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, the need to respect customary law, and the need to obtain prior informed consent and share in benefits for any use of their genetic resources and traditional knowledge;
  4. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): The Tulalip Tribes has participated in their climate change assessment process, and in expert working groups and seminars that have contributes tribal perspectives.
Tulalip Natural Resources Department line art image of forest or wetland area