Later this month, the option agreement on Pope Resources’ land central to the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project expires. Good progress has been made toward conserving at least a portion of almost 7,000 acres in North Kitsap and two miles of Port Gamble Bay shoreline. The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has been a principal partner in this effort since it began in 2011.
This is just one of several recent, ongoing projects that my Tribe has been involved with that help accomplish the goal of securing a bright and productive future for our community. Here are a few highlights:
— In spring 2012, PGST Child & Family Services became the first Tribal department in the country to run its own adoption and foster care program. Our staff worked for years on this program, making it possible for children faced with difficult situations to find loving homes within our community. — Also last spring, our community youth group, SWAG (S’Klallams Working and Giving), won the “Be the Change” competition from The Sheckler Foundation to build a skate park on the reservation. SWAG and Tribal staff are now working with the foundation to begin construction this summer.
— The expansion of The Point Casino opened last summer, bringing with it dozens of new jobs. In addition, we’ve been able to showcase the talents of local artists throughout the casino, while offering dining and entertainment options not previously available in the area.
— In July, we became the owners of Heronswood, an internationally renowned botanical garden close to our reservation. Our staff has been working with the original owners and passionate supporters on restoring the garden to its former glory, in preparation for Heronswood being opened for weddings and other events. In addition, the S’Klallam Foundation is working on a slate on community enrichment projects and events, including a membership program, open houses, classes, lectures and more.
— On Aug. 11, our Tribe welcomed back the Return of the Salmon ceremony. Not practiced by the Port Gamble S’Klallams for more than a generation, this traditional celebration gives thanks to the salmon for everything they do for our people while providing goodwill for our fishermen.
— For the past five years, Tribal staff, elders and historians have been working on a book about the culture and heritage of the Port Gamble S’Klallams. Titled “The Strong People: A History of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe,” the book features historical essays and personal accounts written by S’Klallam elders, community leaders and historians.
I’m in awe of this project. Not only does it cover the significant milestones in our thousands of years of history, it also manages to capture the spirit, heart and determination of the S’Klallam people. As you read this, “The Strong People” will have just been made available for purchase. Visit www.pgst.nsn.us/strongpeople.
The past year has been a successful one for the Port Gamble S’Klallams, but we can always do better, be better. It’s important that we continue to look for ways to improve our community, including creating job opportunities and encouraging healthy lifestyles. We are focused on projects that are focused on economic and environmental sustainability: diversifying our economic interests, managing growth on the reservation, acting as an environmental steward, and protecting treaty rights and our Tribal sovereignty.
I’m excited to see what 2013 will bring. We’re off to a great start, but there’s much more to do!
— Jeromy Sullivan is chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.