Stilly Tribe looking to move forward

Shawn Yanity - Sarah Arney
Shawn Yanity
— image credit: Sarah Arney

Shawn Yanity just wants to get back on track.

“We have a lot of healing to do,” said the chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe. “I don’t want to badmouth anyone. I just want to move forward.”

Tribal Chair Yanity is visibly drawn with the stress he’s been through lately, with the sentencing of his fellow tribal members for selling $55 million worth of cigarettes illegally.

“We are not sure yet if we’ll get any of the money back,” Yanity said in an exclusive interview with The Arlington Times.

“We filed a victim’s impact statement.”

Former tribal council member Ed Goodridge Sr. and former executive director of the tribe Ed Goodridge Jr. were sentenced March 16 to 14 months in prison. Also, a former member of the tribal council, Sara L. Milliron Schroedl got eight months in prison and Linda Goodridge was sentenced to two years of supervised release.

“There are so many things we could have done with that money if the tribe had been in compact with the state,” Yanity said March 19.

The first step forward was to renovate the smoke shop. Cigarette customers have been rerouted to a temporary building during the remodel which is due to be finished in early April. The Stillaguamish Tribe’s Economic Board has contracted with the Squaxin Island Tribe to help get the Stilly Smoke Shop in compliance with the state, Yanity said. A new management team is in training.

The Tribe has 205 registered members who live out and around Snohomish County ever since the tribe dismantled its housing community to build the Angel of the Winds Casino five years ago.

“We have a strong need for housing for our members,” Yanity said, adding the decision to dismantle the housing for the casino was one of the hardest decisions he has ever made. The tribe owns 80 acres with plans to build a housing development near Kackman Road between the casino The Tribe also has plans to build a cultural center with four buildings on 188th Street and Smokey Point Boulevard with an administration building, a museum and a tribal services building.

“We want to make that project as green as possible,” said Yanity, who is also head of the tribe’s Natural Resources Department.

“But it’ll be a while before we get going on either of those projects.”

Yanity visualizes all kinds of partnerships with neighboring agencies such as the Arlington police and the regional fire districts, with plans to make rooms available to the community for a variety of uses. A Movement Arts yoga class is offered at the current headquarters, and the state wildlife department is currently teaching gun safety classes there.

“We are taking small steps to rebuild,” Yanity said, describing a wood carving project where members are learning how to carve traditional art forms. His aunts, elders Donna Gladsjo and Gloriana Tatro are helping members learn traditional crafts such as small scale cedar weaving projects.

“I am committed to maintaining good relations with surrounding agencies, the city, county and the state,” Yanity said.

He was off to Washington, D.C., March 23 to pursue natural resource appropriation funds.

“We are acquiring a new fish hatchery on the South Fork, it’s the old Brenner Hatchery.”

Yanity pointed out the Stillaguamish Tribe faces all the challenges that other governments face — providing infrastructure, housing, health care, safety and jobs.

“We’ve had cuts from the state for our social services.”

Yanity wants to preserve historical sites and the archeology of his ancestors.

While the casino and the smoke shop are both doing well even in this troubled economy, Yanity noted that the tribe does not have a tax base, like surrounding jurisdictions.

He also mentioned that the Stillaguamish Festival of the River will be just as good as ever this year.

“We’re doing country western this year,” he said. “We’ve got the same company booking acts and they haven’t told us yet who is on the schedule.”

Yanity is excited about the Welcome Center at the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum, which has received funds from the casino’s charitable program, and looks forward to seeing that completed. And in the most immediate future, he’s planning something special for Fire District 19 in Bryant.

“We have invested $144,000 helping regional fire districts get equipment,” Yanity said.

“And now we are planning a special thank you dinner for the firefighters to let them know how much we appreciate them.”

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