Councilmember Juarez Takes Oath of Office, First Enrolled Native American to Serve on Seattle City Council
SEATTLE – Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle) took her ceremonial oath of office today, becoming the first enrolled Native American to serve on the Seattle City Council. Councilmember Juarez is a member of the Blackfeet Nation. The following are her remarks delivered at the Seattle City Council inauguration ceremony on January 4, 2016:
“As you know, my name is Debora Juarez. I am an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation. The Blackfeet name is ‘Nah Too Yii Mis’Stuckie,’ which means ‘Holy Mountain Woman.’
“I am proud to represent the City of Seattle and am equally proud to represent District 5.
“Before I begin I want to honor and thank special people – they know who they are. Because, as we know, and as we learned in Indian Country, you don’t get here by yourself. This took me 45 years to get here, and there are good people out there – they know who they are; I can’t say every one of their names – but I couldn’t have done it without them. I want to give a special thanks to my daughters, Raven and Memphis. Of all people, they’ve scarified the most. They’ve watched their mom run out the door many times to a meeting, to court, to special session in Olympia, to litigation in another state, mediation in California, New York – somehow they understood what mom was doing. They were always there when I came home, and they were always there for support, and now they’re grown. I’m glad they’re out of the house
“Today is historic. It is not historic because I’m Native American, or because I’m Latina. It’s historic because I am America. This is democracy. I am a product of 1970s War on Poverty programs, I am a product of affirmative action, I am a product of growing up poor, but knowing that education was the equalizer.
“I’m also the product of having mentors, like Uncle Billy Frank, Ramona Bennett – I could go on and on. Indian women, Indian leaders that have brought me here, and include Roberto Maestas AND Bernie Whitebear and, of course, Larry Gossett. Larry has known me for 25 years.
“Today is also historic because in 2013, the voters spoke very loudly – a mandate, 66 percent, I believe -for the district system. I get to work with 8 esteemed Councilmembers, 6 of which will represent their neighborhoods, their districts, their communities. This is an opportunity to bring all of us closer together, to talk, and to move away from a lighted screen or voicemail. We will be engaged, we will be successful, and I’m proud to be a part of that.
“When we started a district system, many wondered ‘what will that mean?’ Well Indian Country knows what that means – you should live with the people you represent. You should see and be accessible, you should know where the schools are, where the lights are, whether there’s potholes, whether there needs to be gutters – that’s what we’re supposed to do – that’s democracy – is representing our people.
“We represent the great city of Seattle, and I hear we have a good football team. And we honor the legacy and needs of our communities. I’m honored to hold such an important place in history. I want to thank Seattle, I want to thank my supporters, and I want to thank District 5. I believe a sustainable city must be a fair city, a city that brings prompt and humane solutions that address the weakness of the non-empowered and disenfranchised. And I’m proud to work with these people, moving forward, that that’s our mandate.
“In conclusion I want to share a story, some insight from another one of my Inspirations. I had the honor of meeting her once, very briefly many years ago.
“Wilma ManKiller, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation – First woman Chief of the Cherokee Nation, elected in 1985, 31 years ago.
“In 1992 Chief Wilma ManKiller was approached by an Elder of the Onieda Nation. And, he shared with her one of the prophecies he had heard: That this was the time of the Woman – a time for women to take on a more important role in society. This anonymous Onieda Man shared it was the “time of the Butterfly.”
“She smiled and thought of the recent appointment of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then Hillary Rodham Clinton’s work on health care, and other recent high profile women. She smiled. She thought it about it all day, and kept smiling.
“That is how I feel today. Like Wilma ManKiller, smiling and remembering how her friends described her: a woman who likes to dance along the edge of the roof, like a butterfly.
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