Makah tribal chair honored by Oregon environmental nonprofit

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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NEAH BAY — The chairman of the Makah Tribal Council is one of five indigenous tribal leaders from across the Western U.S. recognized by a Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit for their work to improve the lives and economic situations of their homelands and people.

Portland-based Ecotrust has named Micah McCarty, Makah Tribal Council chairman, as one of four honorees for the 11th annual Indigenous Leadership Awards, which will be presented at a ceremony and traditional feast at the Portland Art Museum on Nov. 13.

McCarty joins three other honorees from outside Washington state and Swinomish tribe Chairman Brian Cladoosby, who won the 2012 Indigenous Leadership Award.

Ecotrust will give the four honorees each $5,000 and Cladoosby $25,000 for their work in their communities.

Ecotrust recognized McCarty for his efforts acting as liaison between the Makah tribe and state and federal agencies and for strengthening oil spill response measures in the tribal waters off Neah Bay.

McCarty said he is honored to be in the company of other tribal leaders pursuing what’s best for their unique communities.

“Being included among the honorees feels like a lifetime achievement,” McCarty said.

McCarty, who was elected as Makah tribal chairman three years ago but has been on the council for almost nine, said one of his proudest achievements was establishing the tribe’s Office of Marine Affairs, which has given the tribe a stronger voice in their own marine interests on a state and federal level.

The tribe has secured a full-time tugboat to help prevent ship groundings in the area and provide around-the-clock response to oil spills in tribal waters.

McCarty said the tribe’s ability to respond to emergencies in their own waters brings a greater sense of autonomy for his people as a whole.

“We do have sovereignty, but it’s only as good as you’re able to exercise it,” McCarty said.

Chad Bowechop, manager of the tribe’s Office of Marine Affairs, said he has known McCarty all his life and is proud to work beside him in giving the tribe a stronger voice in broader issues.

Bowechop and McCarty most recently have been working as part of the national Ocean Policy Task Force, an effort sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to collect input on how global climate change could affect the territories of sovereign tribes along U.S. coasts.

“[This work] has the potential to represent the backbone and develop the infrastructure of coordination on ocean use for many years to come,” Bowechop said.

Both Bowechop and McCarty agree the Makah tribe’s work with the task force is significant because it allows the tribe to prepare for the potential effects of global climate change in ways that are most sensitive to the traditional uses of the waters off Neah Bay.

“One of the biggest motivating factors in the work that I do is preserving the relationship with the ocean that we’ve had since the beginning of time,” McCarty said.

For more information on Ecotrust’s Indigenous Leadership Awards, visit the nonprofit’s website at

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at

Last modified: October 15. 2012 5:52PM
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