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‘Our history is contained there’: loss of archive threatens Native American tribes

The building in Seattle is slated for sale, a move that could deprive Indigenous people in the Pacific north-west of access to critical documents

In 1969, a clerical error resulted in the Samish Indian Nation in Washington State suddenly being dropped from the federal government’s list of recognized tribes. It took almost three decades of wading through piles of historical documents and painstaking litigation before its members were able to regain that recognition, along with the federal benefits and protections that come with it today.

Their success hinged on unearthing a wealth of documents – court cases, family histories, tribal correspondence with the federal government – much of which was found at the National Archives facility in Seattle, according to Tom Wooten, the Samish Indian Nation tribal chairman.

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