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Tuesday, March 20, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Quinaults fail to block Chinooks' recognition

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Interior Secretary Gale Norton has decided not to review the Clinton administration's formal acknowledgment of the Chinook tribe, despite an appeal from the Quinault Indian Nation.

Instead, Norton said earlier this month that she will "express no opinion on the merits of this request." Any appeals regarding the tribe's acknowledgment should go to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, she said.

The Quinault tribe asked Norton to direct her staff to review a Jan. 3 decision from Kevin Gover, former assistant secretary of Indian affairs, to formally recognize the Chinooks.

"In his rush to decide in favor of the Chinook petitioner before leaving office ... Gover issued a decision that is riddled with errors and inconsistencies and fails to apply regulations applicable to the acknowledgment process in a manner consistent with past practice and policy," argued Quinault lawyer Richard Reich in an appeal to Norton.

Specifically, Reich said that Gover used the wrong regulations and improperly relied on the advice of a consultant when he made a finding that "severely prejudiced the Quinault Nation and other interested parties."

Dennis Whittlesey, a lawyer for the Chinooks, said that the Quinaults' claim has nothing to do with the merits of his clients' case, and everything to do with the fact that the Quinaults are trying to protect their reservation.

"They are trying to separate the Chinook Indians from their land," Whittlesey said. But "I'm ready for them. Bring them on. I've been doing battle with these people for 22 years."

After the Chinooks were struck by malaria and smallpox, survivors were pushed onto a reservation with their traditional enemies, the Quinaults. The Chinooks moved 75 miles north of their home at Long Beach on Willapa Bay to Taholah, north of Aberdeen.

The Quinaults adopted the Chinooks, and the Chinooks took ownership of more than half the 200,000 acres of allotments on the Quinault reservation.

Since 1981, Chinook leaders have been arguing for federal recognition but weren't successful until early this year.

With recognition, the Chinooks - the tribe that welcomed Lewis and Clark to the mouth of the Columbia River in 1804 - can seek land for a reservation, as well as money to run a government.

The Quinaults have until April 9 to file an appeal.

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