Leonard Forsman, Chairman, Suquamish Tribe

Leonard Forsman, Chairman
Suquamish Tribe

Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort – Suquamish, WA

CHALLENGES/REWARDS: Our biggest challenge is providing affordable housing for our people, many of whom are gainfully employed but cannot afford the rising cost of housing here on our reservation, which has checkerboard ownership as a result of allotment and other damaging federal policies.

The tribe recently broke ground on a new 20-unit townhome project to house tribal families. We have two tiny house villages and are planning a third for people in transition. We are also providing land and infrastructure for tribal families to build their own homes. These current efforts are in addition to the neighborhoods where the tribe has built and maintains homes for families, and to the assistance we provide for tribal members to purchase houses on the open market.  

PROMOTING LEADERSHIP: We have a separate enterprise charter that established a board of tribal citizens to oversee our business operations. The Port Madison Enterprise Board of Directors are appointed by tribal council and retains one tribal council member as a liaison. This has allowed others in our nation to take leadership roles in growing our tribal economy. To prepare tribal members to assume leadership roles, we have a robust higher education program to provide support to those who want to continue their education past high school. We have our own tribally chartered school, which offers middle school through high school education, with a grounding in Suquamish culture.

FUTURE PROJECTS/INITIATIVES: We are working to combat climate change by de-carbonizing with the assistance of state and federal grants that support solar, electric vehicle charging, and energy conservation.

Culture has always been important to the Suquamish people, but we just recently created a cultural department, led by a tribal member, to coordinate our traditional foods program, language program, oral history project, and cultural events.

We are working hard on the restoration of the health of the Salish Sea, focusing on geoduck enhancement and oyster cultivation, and on habitat restoration throughout our usual and accustomed areas.