Commissioners hear Oneida residents' concerns
Chinook Tribe resolution delayed
May 20, 2021
Oneida Road residents are seeing a return of congestion problems on the county road to occur with many recreational fishing seasons.
At the Tuesday meeting of the county board of commissioners, area resident Corbett McMasters asked county officials to enforce traffic laws and also to address a recent rash of burglaries.
Anglers using the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife boat launch lack adequate parking and end up parking along the narrow county road, McMasters said.
"It's one lane; it's crazy," McMasters said.
Area residents have also been the victims of burglaries, he said, and he wondered what the public could do about that.
Residents at the end of Oneida Road are going to erect a gate with a coded lock where the county road right-of-way ends, he said; they'll share the code with utility companies and emergency response personnel.
The best thing the public can do in these instances, said Sheriff Mark Howie, is to report the parking issues, prowlers or other suspicious activity. Officers will respond to those reports, he said, adding that a vigilant, reporting community helped officers control a rash of burglaries in Skamokawa some time ago.
"If we get a call, we can go out there," Howie said. "You have to call it in."
Howie added that officers have identified some suspects in the burglaries and officers are following up with them.
Commissioners put off till May 25 action on a resolution supporting legislation to give formal federal recognition to the Chinook Tribe so that two commissioners could gather more information.
Through a series of events, the federal government hasn't formally recognized the tribe. Recognition came at the end of the Clinton Administration, but the subsequent Bush Administration rescinded it.
The tribe has renewed its efforts to achieve federal recognition and qualify for benefits and rights of recognized tribes. These would include health care, social services, support for natural resource projects, and protection of cultural sites.
The tribe has solicited supporting resolutions from county and municipal governments in the lower Columbia region, and many, including the Town of Cathlamet and Pacific County have approved the resolutions.
"I totally support this," said Commissioner Lee Tischer.
Commissioners Dan Cothren and Gene Strong wanted time to gain more information, and Tischer commented that county Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow hadn't yet reviewed a resolution for commission action.
Cothren said most of his concerns had been addressed, but he had concerns over hunting and fishing issues and that he wanted to consult with tribal representatives before proceeding.
Commissioner Gene Strong also asked to have a meeting on his own with tribal representatives.
Tribal members attending the meeting by Zoom addressed some of the concerns.
"There is no language in the bill about hunting and fishing right now," said tribal Secretary Rachel Cushman.
Another tribal member, Gary Johnson, reviewed the roles members have played in the history in the region. The tribe wants to work closely with the communities in the region, he said. [Mr. Johnson was misidentified in the print edition and an early posting of this story.--ed,]
"Your support would be very helpful to us," he said.