Legal Authority

Honoring humanity creates an equitable and just society.

Often, in the United States, the guarantee of human rights starts with recognition in the law. The Washington State Office of Equity champions equity and justice for everyone in the state, working to ensure that the civil rights of American Indian/Alaska Native people are protected based on the law. We are committed to promoting policies and laws in Washington state that protect the human rights of American Indian/Alaska Native based on principles of humanity, justice, and belonging.

Below are treaties and laws that protect the human and civil rights of American Indian/Alaska Native people. Please visit Policy for more information on federal and state laws that protect human rights and outlaw discrimination.


Quinault - The Quinault Treaty was one of the last of several signed during Washington Territory's first decade. The Quinault Treaty continued Isaac Stevens’ policy of consolidating tribes, often requiring tribes to move far from their homeland to a reservation to be occupied by several unrelated tribes.

Medicine Creek - Medicine Creek Treaty allowed for the “purchase” of tribal lands for pennies on the dollar. Unlike the majority, Medicine Creek guaranteed nine nations, including the Nisqually, Puyallup and Squaxin Island nations of the Puget Sound area in western Washington the rights to continue to hunt and fish in their “usual and accustomed grounds and stations.”

Neah Bay - On Jan. 31, 1855, the select Makah tribe representatives signed the Treaty of Neah Bay with the U.S. federal government, ceding much of their traditional lands. The treaty required the Makah lands to be restricted to the Makah Reservation and preserved the Makah people's rights to hunt whales and seals in the region.

Point No Point - Under the terms of the treaty, the original inhabitants of northern Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Peninsula were to cede ownership of their land in exchange for small reservations along Hood Canal and a payment of $60,000 from the federal government. The treaty required the natives to trade only with the United States, to free all their slaves, and it abjured them not to acquire any new slaves.

Walla Walla - The Walla Walla Council (1855) was a meeting in the Pacific Northwest between the United States and sovereign tribal nations of the Cayuse, Nez Perce, Umatilla, Walla Walla and Yakama. The council occurred May 29 – June 11, 1855. The treaties signed at this council on June 9 were ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1859. These treaties codified the constitutional relationship between the people living on the Nez Perce, Umatilla and Yakama reservations. This treaty was one of the earliest treaties obtained in the Pacific Northwest. Washington's first governor, Isaac I. Stevens, secured this treaty, allowing larger portions of the land to be given to the two largest and most powerful tribes the Yakimas and Nez Perces. These reservations encompassed most of their traditional hunting grounds. The smaller tribes moved to the smaller of the three reservations. Stevens was able to acquire 45,000 square miles of land.

Yakama - Articles of agreement and convention made and concluded at the treaty ground, Camp Stevens, Walla-Walla Valley, on June 9, 1855, by and between Isaac I. Stevens, governor and superintendent of Indian affairs for the Territory of Washington, on the part of the United States, and the undersigned head chiefs, chiefs, head-men and delegates of the Yakama, Palouse, Pisquouse, Wenatshapam, Klikatat, Klinquit, Kow-was-say-ee, Li-ay-was, Skin-pah, Wish-ham, Shyiks, Ochechotes, Kah-milt-pay and Se-ap-cat, confederated tribes and bands of Indians, occupying lands hereinafter bounded and described and lying in Washington Territory, who for the purposes of this treaty are to be considered as one nation, under the name "Yakama," with Kamaiakun as its head chief, on behalf of and acting for said tribes and bands, and being duly authorized thereto by them.

Presidential Executive Order 13175 – Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Governments - in order to establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of federal policies that have tribal implications, to strengthen the United States government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes, and to reduce the imposition of unfunded mandates upon Indian tribes.

Governor’s Proclamation – Native American Heritage MonthGovernor Inslee acknowledging November as Native American Heritage Month and Friday following Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day.

RCW - Chapter 43, Section 376 Government to Government Relationship with Tribes

DSHS American Indian Policy 7.01 - The Department of Social and Health Services follows a government-to-government approach to seek consultation and participation by representatives of tribal governments in policy development and service program activities. This is in compliance with chapter 43.376 RCW, 1989 Centennial Accord, Executive Order #13175, Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation, the Washington state and current federal Indian policy as outlined by Executive Order #13175, and the signed by President Obama in November 2009, which promotes government-to-government relationships with American Indian tribes.

Centennial Accord between the Federally Recognized Indian Tribes in Washington state and the State of Washington, Aug. 4, 1989, is executed between the federally recognized Indian tribes of Washington signatory to this Accord and the State of Washington, through its governor, in order to better achieve mutual goals through an improved relationship between their sovereign governments. This Accord provides a framework for that government-to-government relationship and implementation procedures to assure execution of that relationship.

Supremacy Clause, Article 6, Section 2 and 3 - This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

When talking about Tribal Rights it is important that you remember you are talking about ’Rights retained by us … not given to us.’ Yakama Nation
We also recommit to supporting tribal self-determination, security and prosperity for all Native Americans. While we cannot erase the scourges or broken promises of our past, we will move ahead together in writing a new, brighter chapter in our joint history. Barack Obama