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June 3, 2020

1/29/2020 2:51:00 PM
Alana Quintasket, representing change, seeks Tribal Senate
Candidate is 27
Bill Reynolds

It’s often said that youth will be served.

But Alana Quintasket, just 27, wants to turn that notion around. Rather than be served, she wants to be among those who are of service.
As in public service.
Quintasket is seeking election to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Senate seat held by longtime Chair Brian Cladoosby. He was first elected in 1985 and has been chair for the past 23 years, a time frame that has seen him assume several state and national Native American leadership roles.
During that tenure, Cladoosby has overseen a period of unprecedented economic growth and development on Swinomish Reservation.
Yet despite her relative youth, Quintasket has likewise emerged as a leader both on the campuses of the University of Washington and Arizona State University, and back home at Swinomish, where she is now interning with the department of planning and community development.
As an undergrad student, Quintasket was president of First Nations @ UW, the intertribal student group that plans an annual campus spring Pow-Wow among other social and cultural gatherings for the university and Seattle native communities.
While pursuing her master’s at ASU, where indigenous rights and social justice were Quintasket’s academic focus, she taught at a Montessori charter school in greater Phoenix.
Locally, she has taught the Lushootseed language to Tribal day care and pre-school children and in kindergarten and third grade classrooms at La Conner Elementary. In addition, Quintasket has been an advisor to the Swinomish Youth Council.
Each has helped prepare her for life in the public arena, Quintasket said.
“This is a completely new realm and there is an immense amount of knowledge to learn,” she said of serving on the Tribal Senate, “but I have been a ‘student’ for the last 24 years of my life. I think I’m ready.”
So much so that Quintasket is comfortable making light of her lack of political experience.
“I think my background in education and work with children has taught me the patience to understand and work with adults,” she quipped.
Quintasket is running under the moniker “Make SHIFT Happen,” a clever turn of phrase designed to blend some good-natured humor within a serious campaign message.
“I’m not running from a place of anger,” Quintasket insisted. “I have nothing but love and gratitude for our community, our senate, and especially our chairman. He is the only chairman I have ever really known and I wouldn’t be who I am without all the support from him and the rest of our senate over the last decade.”
Quintasket instead is motivated by the opportunity to be an agent for change.
“What led me to enter the senate race,” she said, “was I saw a need for change. I think it’s an important part of growth. You look at the senate and I see my aunties and uncles. Although I see parts of myself that have come from their leadership, I do not see myself or hear my voice represented at that table. I feel that most from my generation and the generation just behind me would say the same. It’s time for the younger generations to be offered more space for growth.”
Quintasket has first-hand knowledge of the sacrifices public service requires. As a child, Quintasket said she saw her grandmother, Dianne Edwards, serve on the Tribal Senate.
“That’s really when I became interested in Tribal politics,” she said.
Quintasket views generational perspectives as essential to community planning, and is a key element addressed in her master’s thesis and Senate bid.
“One key component of this type of planning,” she explained in an interview with the Weekly News, “is the seven generations model. In indigenous planning, this model has you look back three generations before you, at the history and learned experiences of your great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents. And to always be looking forward three generations, for your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
“We need,” said Quintasket, “to be planning for what Swinomish will look like, feel like and be for these next generations and it’s time for more of the younger generations to step up into these roles.”
That message has gained traction. Quintasket has received numerous requests for campaign yard signs along with words of encouragement, shared privately and on social media.
“I like how your educational background – and not just the universities – but school leadership roles you’ve performed are perfectly tailored to move us forward as a people,” commercial fisherman Dave Johnston told Quintasket in one post. “(It is) time for a new beginning, and as a millennial, a new way of thinking.”
Dr. Wil James said Quintasket would provide youth and women a new voice in the Tribal decision-making process.
“Currently there is no one representing Alana’s generation and we need more women in leadership roles,” James told the Weekly News. “We would do well to elevate Alana to our senate to ensure a continued growth into the future.
“Swinomish,” said James, “has been blessed with a long history of strong leaders. Alana represents the next generation of leaders. She is culturally aware, educated and dedicated to the future of Swinomish.”
James noted that Quintasket is about the same age as was Cladoosby, whom he regards as “the greatest leader in recent Swinomish history,” when Cladoosby first gained election to the Tribal Senate.
“Historically,” James said, “the usual time of service on the Swinomish Senate is around 25 years.”
If elected, Quintasket vows to bring a slew of traits – vision, optimism, adaptability, determination, compassion and cultural awareness, among them – to the Tribal Senate table.
“I plan to listen and observe,” she said. “I have to first learn the systems, learn my role and do all I can to make sure we are all working together to build a healthy, sustainable community. Our community is responsible for all people.”
In that regard, her goal is to secure the highest standard of living possible for Swinomish residents.
“We need to ensure,” she said, “that everyone has jobs that pay livable wages, adequate housing and access to healthy foods.”
Quintasket, who previously worked at a clam garden on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, said promoting the holistic health of the Swinomish community is a personal priority, dating to her childhood, when she started paddling on her family’s canoe.
“Being out on the canoe is my favorite place to be,” she said. “It’s where I feel most connected to my ancestors and am able to be who I am supposed to be. I started paddling on the family canoe when I was nine – in 2002 – and it is a way of life that has fostered my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth.”
Quintasket said she drew upon such experiences when deciding to make the Tribal Senate run.
“What has prepared me to serve Swinomish is the community itself,” she said. “Having grown up actively involved in the community has instilled a sense of responsibility to my people, to all living things and to our homelands and waterways.
“I am an indigenous woman and this is my role – to take care of the people and share knowledge and culture,” Quintasket stressed. “Being indigenous means being connected to the land, the water, and our natural capital that has sustained us since the beginning of time.”
Senator Sophie Bailey is running unopposed for reelection for senate seat 1.

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