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Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and Department of Commerce sign agreement establishing government-to-government relations

Milestone memorandum of understanding formalizes areas of partnership; seeks to remove administrative barriers, ensure data sovereignty and more

OLYMPIA, WA —  Chehalis Tribe Chairman Dustin Klatush and Washington State Department of Commerce Director Mike Fong today signed a historic memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing government-to-government relations between the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the department in a ceremony at Talking Cedars in Rochester, WA. The agreement seeks to remove administrative barriers, improve communications, implement culturally appropriate data privacy and security measures, and more.

“As Chairman of the Chehalis Tribe, I am inspired by the words of Sitting Bull, ‘Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!’ These words echo the spirit of our tribal sovereignty – a force that fills us with hope and resilience,” said Chairman Klatush. “Our sovereignty isn’t about just laws; it is about who we are as a people. It’s about our right to govern ourselves, protect our lands, and celebrate our culture. It is what makes us Chehalis.”

Klatush said entering into an MOU with Commerce will have practical benefits like expedited contracting, and also includes areas of partnership integral to the expression of tribal sovereignty.

Photo of Chehalis Tribe Chairman Dustin Klatush from MOU signing ceremony June 6

Chehalis Tribe Chairman Dustin Klatush, center, signed an MOU with Commerce Director Mike today at Talking Cedar in Rochester, WA

“Having the opportunity to voice our preferences around tribal consultation and data sovereignty is a refreshing and greatly appreciated change,” he added, declaring: “Let the power of our sovereignty move us forward; may it guide us to a brighter future for our tribal communities and the next seven generations. Together, let’s embrace it, cherish it, and let it lead us to greatness.”

“I am honored to join Chehalis Tribe Chairman Dustin Klatush in forging this groundbreaking relationship,” said Commerce Director Fong. “Strong, vibrant tribal nations and tribal communities strengthen all Washington communities in many ways. This agreement marks a pivotal moment in how Commerce works in accord with tribal communities in our state.”

Fong said the MOU is the first of more similar agreements with tribes in Washington state anticipated in coming weeks.

“These agreements reflect our values as an agency. We take a holistic approach to working with all communities to access the continuum of resources available through Commerce, from capital funding for affordable housing, community facilities and energy infrastructure to support for community services, public safety, and economic development and job creation.”

Fong, who recently marked his first year leading Commerce, has traveled the state extensively, meeting with tribal leaders and community members, listening to understand how Commerce can improve collaboration on top priority issues. In his short tenure, Commerce created a standalone Office of Tribal Relations led by Michelle Gladstone-Wade, established tribal liaisons across the department for critical programs, added funding for technical assistance around applying for funding, and streamlined clean energy grant opportunities.

Fong has made it a priority to pursue a high-touch, holistic approach that seeks to remove unnecessary bureaucracy in Commerce processes and procedures, and provide more technical assistance to tribes and all communities the agency works with throughout the state. This is especially important to smaller tribes, small towns and rural communities, all of which may lack the administrative and financial resources to navigate complex pathways to access funding available to them through Commerce.

To learn more and follow Commerce’s work with tribal communities in Washington state, visit the Office of Tribal Relations webpage.

Get photos and video from the event (flickr)