Northwest Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Halt Sale of Seattle Federal Archives Building
Senator Cantwell joins Senators Murray, Wyden, Merkley, and Murkowski to introduce the bill, which would stop the facility from being sold before local Tribes are consulted
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in introducing the ARCHIVES Act, which would amend the Federal Assets Sale Transfer Act (FASTA) to add a requirement that properties cannot be sold or transferred unless the relevant agency has consulted with all affected Tribal governments or if the sale would harm access to agency services by a federally recognized Tribe. This targeted legislation would only affect facilities that provide services to Tribal members, such as the federal archives facility in Seattle, and would effectively halt the current process to close the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Federal Archives and Records Center in Seattle.
“This important bill will make sure that Tribes are heard and decisions that impact Seattle’s National Archives facility and its records are not made until Indian Country is able to have meaningful discussions on the future of their historical documents. Tribal consultation is not an option, it’s a must, and this legislation is another tool in our fight to keep these records in the Pacific Northwest,” Senator Cantwell said.
“The generations of history and artifacts stored in the Seattle federal archive facility are critical to telling the story of the Pacific Northwest, especially for our region’s Tribal communities,” Senator Murray said. “This bill would correct a flawed process and ensure that Tribes are a part of any decision regarding the future of this facility, which houses so many critical pieces of their history. As a voice for Washington state’s Tribes in the U.S. Senate I will work to make this bill law, and I will continue working with the Biden-Harris Administration to explore every option available, including the appropriations process, to ensure that the records and artifacts in the facility remain accessible to local stakeholders.”
“The Tribal history of the Pacific Northwest is integral to the fabric of the region. To rush the sale of the Seattle federal archives facility, which houses invaluable records and artifacts from Tribes across the Northwest, would be an egregious and irrevocable mistake. Tribes in the region must be consulted before any further action is taken regarding the Seattle archives,” Senator Wyden said.
“Since the very founding of our country, America has had a long and disturbing record of bad faith deals and broken promises with Tribal nations,” said Senator Merkley. “Closing the archive facilities that shed light on those stories—as well as celebrate the cultures and rich histories of Tribes—would be another big step in the wrong direction. We can’t let that happen, and must commit to working in partnership with Tribal communities to protect access to critical history and artifacts.”
Since the announcement last year that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had accepted a recommendation from the Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) to close the NARA facility in Seattle and relocate its contents, Senator Cantwell and the Pacific Northwest congressional delegations have been vocal in their support of efforts to maintain local and regional access to Seattle’s Federal Archives, and in their opposition to the opaque process to close the facility. Earlier this month, Cantwell led members of the Pacific Northwest congressional delegations in sending a letter to OMB requesting that they take immediate action to reverse their prior approval of the sale of the NARA facility in Seattle. While a judge’s ruling has currently paused the sale of the Archives as lawsuits surrounding the closure continue, the Pacific Northwest congressional delegations, led by members on the Appropriations Committee, also secured important provisions related to maintaining access to records through the federal appropriations process.
The Federal Archives and Records Center in Seattle houses records from Washington state, Alaska, Oregon, and Idaho, as well as tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest, that are vital to agencies, universities, researchers, scientists, tribal members, and students. The facility is also open to the public during the week for archival research.
Read the bill text HERE.
Next Article Previous Article