Sullivan reelected to fifth term as Port Gamble S’Klallam chairman

LITTLE BOSTON — Jeromy Sullivan was elected July 10 to a fifth two-year term as chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.

Sullivan was challenged by Roderick (Rick) DeCoteau, who has worked for the Tribe for 24 years in various positions, including health administrator and self-governance director.

Donovan “Doc” Ashworth, a commercial fisherman and geoduck diver, was elected to Council Position II. He outpolled former council member Jeremy Veregge and Faith Anne Williams. Ashworth succeeds Kyle Carpenter, who chose not to seek reelection.

Lena Tunkara was elected to a third two-year term in Council Position III. She outpolled Mariah Ives, and fisherman Matthew Ives.

The election was certified on July 11 and the newly elected officials were sworn in immediately.

During Sullivan’s tenure, the Tribe acquired Heronswood, the renowned botanical garden; participated in the cleanup of Port Gamble Bay; built The Point Hotel and a wastewater treatment facility; and worked to strengthen Tribal treaty rights.

The council also recently voted to legalize the licensing of cannabis-related businesses on Port Gamble S’Klallam land, an economic development move he found unsettling.

“We have passed laws to protect our youth and keep plants out of homes,” Sullivan wrote in his candidate statement. He wrote that the Nookayet Corporation — the economic development arm of the Tribe — and the council “believe this business venture would bring in significant revenue to benefit our Tribe. These funds will help us with preventative care; youth and education opportunities; and elders care. Our elders have shown me how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity this Tribe has and to maximize our sovereignty.”

Ashworth has served as chairman of the Tribe’s Fisheries Committee and served on the board of the Tribe’s Hunting Committee. He supports strong treaty rights for current and future generations.

“While my main focus in serving the Tribe to this point has been in the natural resources area, I am committed to learning all I can about everything that affects the Tribe,” Ashworth wrote in his candidate statement.

“I would like to see our membership become self-sufficient and be given the opportunity to earn a decent living by lowering expenses for fishermen, increasing wages and growth opportunities for Tribal employees, and providing more financial assistance for employment, education, and elders whenever possible.”

Over her last four years in office, Tunkara has supported land acquisition, cultural revitalization programs, and educational and social programs for children, elders, and families. Her goals for the next two years: development of a S’Klallam language immersion program in the early childhood education department; development of transitional housing for Tribal members coming out of substance abuse treatment; establishing a drug court or healing court; establishing a retirement plan for Tribal fishermen and women; and developing a seafood processing plant.

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe — originally known as the Nux Sklai Yem, or Strong People — is a federally recognized indigenous nation.

Leaders of the S’Klallam, Chimakum, Skokomish and the United States signed the Treaty of Point No Point of 1855, which made a large swath of the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas available for non-Native settlement. The S’Klallam Tribe participates in the Point No Point Treaty Council and is a co-manager, with the state, of the state’s salmon population.

In the late 1930s, the Port Gamble S’Klallam reservation, located on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula, was established. The Tribe has about 1,200 members. Tribal government services include children and family services, courts, cultural resources, education, health, housing, land planning, natural resources, public safety, and utilities.

In addition to Heronswood Garden and The Point Casino & Hotel, the Tribe’s other economic ventures include Gliding Eagle Marketplace.