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Twenty-three acres of ancestral homeland in Southeastern Washington that used to house a juvenile detention center will soon be returned to the Chinook Indian Nation.

That’s based on the April 25 vote from a Washington State Office of Financial Management task force convened in July to decide what to do with the land. The Naselle Youth Camp was closed in 2022 and has been vacant ever since. The task force selected Chinook’s proposal among 30 others.

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In their proposal, the Chinook Indian Nation said they’d utilize the land for government office space, archival storage, and space for cultural classes, according to Underscore News + ICT reporting from a task force meeting in March.

The Chinook Indian Nation is made up of the five western-most Chinookan-speaking tribes at the mouth of the Columbia River. The tribe was federally recognized by the Clinton Administration in 2001. However, 18 months later, the federal government rescinded the decision after another Washington Tribe protested that recognition.

“[The vote] does feel like something for the history books and something that our descendants will look back on as an awfully important moment,” Chinook Indian Nation Chairman Tony Johnson told Underscore News + ICT

The land transfer came from a bill introduced in 2023 January by state senator Jeff Wilson that would have required the transfer of the property to the Chinook Indian Nation. But the bill was never heard, and instead Wilson added a budget provision to this year’s legislative budget proposal for a task force to make recommendations about the future of the Naselle property and facilities. 

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