Interview and Project By Miguel Douglas; blog post written by Erika Wigren
“It’s been a long journey. We are kind of like catching our breath and moving forward.” — Bill Sterud, Chairman of the Puyallup Tribal Council.
Bill Sterud has served on the Puyallup Tribal council for over forty years. During those years, Sterud aided in the 1976 takeover of the Cascadia Juvenile Reception and Diagnostic Center, formerly Tacoma’s Cushman Hospital and most notably, represented the Tribe in negotiations that led to the Puyallup Land Claims Settlement.
The Puyallup Land Claims Settlement of 1990 established much of what comprises the land that the Puyallup Tribe owns today.
Sterud and other tribal members fought for retaining the legal boundaries of their Tribal reservation and surrounding land, water, and various other resource rights. The negotiations however, received mixed reviews from tribal members.
“Some thought that the negotiations shouldn’t take place, that we just go get what we own, and start removing people from our properties that we had won along the riverbed. So the word ‘sellout’ was thrown at the council for negotiating,” Sterud said.
After years of negotiation, a settlement package of approximately $162 million in land, fisheries, economic and social development, and the construction of the Blair Navigation Project was introduced. At the time, it was the second-largest land claims settlement in U.S. history.
“I’m actually feeling pretty good about the direction, my fingers are crossed, I don’t take anything for granted because I’ve seen it go. They’ve stolen everything from us before. That’s a whole other story on that…So to this day, it’s been a long journey. We are kind of like catching our breath and moving forward.”
- View the complete oral history project: “The Puyallup Land Claims Settlement: A Lesson in Struggle” by Miguel Douglas