Suquamish chairman attends State of the Union

Leonard Forsman traveled to DC as a guest of Rep. Derek Kilmer to highlight “broken promises” made by the federal government

Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribal Council, traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to attend the President’s State of the Union address as a guest of Rep. Derek Kilmer.

Forsman heads the administrative body of the Suquamish Tribe, an indigenous nation native to the Puget Sound region with roots dating back millennia.

“Suquamish” is a Lushootsee phrase that translates to “people of the clear salt water.” The tribal council seat is located on the Port Madison Indian Reservation, east of Poulsbo.

Kilmer extended an invitation to Mr. Forsman in order to “highlight unmet needs in Indian Country,” his office said. Forsman is also the president of the Executive Board of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

A December report from the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights exposed failures on the part of the federal government to “meet its trust responsibilities” across federal agencies that support Native American programs, Kilmer’s office wrote.

The report, entitled “Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans,” cited lackluster federal programs that “remain chronically underfunded and sometimes inefficiently structured” to meet the needs of Native American groups.

“The U.S. government forced many Native Americans to give up their culture,” the briefing, compiled by the independent Congressional agency established in 1957 states. “Throughout the history of this relationship, [the U.S. government] has not provided adequate assistance to support Native American interconnected infrastructure, self-governance, housing, education, health, and economic development needs.”

In 2015, Kilmer sponsored the Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act, which he said addressed some of the disparities later outlined in the report. In a press release Tuesday, he said he is “committed to working with” Forsman and other tribal leaders “to ensure that the federal government upholds its obligations.”

“Chairman Forsman has long been a champion of the rights of the Suquamish people and Native Americans from across our region,” he said. “Indian Country deserves better than what we have seen from this administration.”

Gabe Stutman is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Contact him at