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Tribe takes possession of homes to help members

DARRINGTON Home Sweet Home; all eight of them.
For the small Sauk-Suiattle Tribe the purchase of eight historical homes here is a huge start for efforts to bring Tribal members back to their stomping grounds.
Tribal leaders celebrated the transfer of almost six acres of land and the houses that used to host U.S. Forest Service workers. Some of the houses date back to 1922; most of the others were built after World War II. They will now house Sauk-Suiattle Indians who are trying to bring more of their family home. Currently about 60 of the 200 enrolled tribal members live on or near the 25-acre reservation, according to chairman Janice Mabee.
Were trying to get them back together to learn our traditions, and this will help, explained a beaming Mabee, who had her two granddaughters help cut a bright red ribbon on one of the houses during transfer ceremonies Nov. 19. It means more people can come home.
The tract of houses is located in the center of Darrington, just off of SR 530, and the Tribe celebrated the occasion with a traditional salmon feast in their longhouse on their reservation a few miles up the road. Officials from the U.S. Forest Service, including Darrington District Ranger Peter Forbes and Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest supervisor Robert Iwamoto were on hand to share in the festivities, where they exchanged blankets with Tribal leaders to cement their new relationship.
The Tribes paid $1.5 million for the eight houses and five vacant lots that used to be part of the Darrington Ranger Station compound. The Forest Service used to provide housing for workers, but had reduced the number of personnel on staff; the government has been trying to finish the deal with the tribe for the last year.
Were just so pleased that were able to finally sign all the documents, said Iwamoto during the ceremonies. You truly will be our neighbors.
The Tribe celebrated with a traditional salmon feast at their longhouse at the reservation, and staff from the offices of U.S. senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen were on hand. There were several leaders from Skagit County were on hand, including Sharon Dillon, chairwoman of the Skagit County Board of Commissioners. They all received blankets from Tribal leaders for their help with the transfer, and Iwamoto gave Mabee a beautiful blanket in exchange. Dillon praised the Tribes for thinking ahead and acquiring homes off of the flood plain.

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