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A Native American Tribe Gets Rent as Reparations in Seattle

The Duwamish Tribe says the United States never made good on an 1855 treaty covering land that is now Seattle. So, some people are voluntarily paying them rent.
Canoeing on the Duwamish Waterway in Seattle
Canoeing on the Duwamish Waterway in SeattleCourtesy of the Duwamish Tribe

Since 2017, the Duwamish Tribe in Seattle has received thousands of letters. Some have been a simple “thanks” or “we’re with you.” Others have been a bit more profound, mentioning restorative justice and payback for stolen land. “I’m a visiting student, living temporarily in Seattle. This is one small way of giving back to the Duwamish, whose land I live on,” said one note. But every one of the messages have given this Native American community two very important gifts—“rent” and proof that they are not alone.

The correspondence is part of Real Rent Duwamish, a program started two years ago to help people who live or work in Seattle give back to the area’s early inhabitants by sending them money every month. Today, there are more than 2,200 people who send the tribe “rent” each month through a simple online payment system, and many more who send them one-time donations, according to Jolene Haas, director of the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, and daughter of Duwamish Tribal Chairwoman Cecile Hansen. The average payment is between $50 and $100 dollars. The tribe has received a total of over $300,000 through Real Rent.