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6th US Native American tribal nation allows same-sex marriage

Washington state’s Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation council has voted to legalize same-sex marriages on their lands, becoming only the 6th US Native American tribal nation to do so
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
Photo by Michael O. Finley

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation has become only the 6th US Native American tribal nation to allow same-sex marriage on their territories.

On 5 September the Colville Business Council, which is the official governing body of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, amended Title 5-1, the Tribe’s Domestic Code, to recognize same-sex marriage.

The Colville Business Council says the change was in keeping with tribal values and recognized the special place that ‘Two-Spirited Peoples’ hold within the Colville tribal community.

‘Two-Spirit Peoples’ are how Native North Americans have viewed LGBT people since before European colonization and the name refers to the traditional belief that LGBT people had both a male and female spirit inside them which allowed them to transcend traditional gender boundaries.

The Business Council’s amendments will ensure that for purposes of tribal law, all marriages will be treated equally.

‘The Colville Tribes want to ensure that all of its members are treated equally and with respect,’ Colville Business Council chairman Michael Finley said.

‘This resolution makes me feel stronger, because it validates my relationship, and the relationships of all same sex couples, and it makes me feel safer because it offers protection and recognition for my family,’ said Lois Trevino, a Colville tribal member.

The Tribe will now begin the process of modifying its codes, plans, and policies, to comport with the amendments.

The Colville Business Council’s decision was widely praised on the tribe’s Facebook page.

‘A step in the right direction!’ posted Colville tribal member Buffy Nicholson.

‘This is by far doing something great for all and demonstrating our ability to exercise our sovereignty. This helps all generations on and off the reservation. Same sex relationships have been going on for decades! I'm glad the Tribe is supporting our rights to be married if we so choose. This is across the board. I'm sure every family has or knows someone that is gay or lesbian so it is beneficial to all on or off the reservation.’

‘This is awesome because in the old times two of the same gender in love was a high calling for our Indian people,’ posted Ashley Bob.

The Colville tribe originally lived around the Colville and Columbus rivers but were resettled on the Colville Reservation in 1872.

The decision affects the close to 10,0000 descendants of the 12 tribal bands who were settled on the reservation – around half of whom still live on the tribe’s 1.4 million acre lands.

Under US law federally recognized Native American tribal nations have the same power to pass their own laws as US states do.

Oregon’s Coquille tribe began marrying same-sex couples in 2009 and Washington state’s Suquamish Tribe began doing so in 2011 while Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians did so in March this year.

Michigan's Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians also began marrying same-sex couples earlier this year.

Pokagon, Coquille and Odawa lands are the only parts of Oregon and Michigan where same-sex couples may wed as the states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

There are reports that the Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueño Mission Indians in California are also allowing same-sex couples to marry but GSN has been unable to confirm the reports.

Same-sex marriage was already legal in the wider state of Washington.

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