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Tribe renews plea for land to move kids out of tsunami zone

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Tom Banse
/
Northwest News Network
All of La Push’s lower village is in the tsunami inundation zone.

An Indian tribe on the Washington Coast on Thursday renewed its plea to Congress to expand its tiny reservation onto higher ground. Quileute tribal leaders previously traveled to the nation's capital after the devastating Japanese tsunami in March.

The Quileute Indian Reservation is all of one square mile. It’s surrounded on three sides by the lush rainforest of Olympic National Park and on the fourth side by the Pacific Ocean.

The tribe wants Congress to transfer 785 acres of Olympic National Park to the Quileute Nation. Tribal chairwoman Bonita Cleveland testified that would facilitate the move of the school, tribal offices and homes uphill out of the tsunami zone.

"Our community knows that our schoolchildren and our elders will not get out in time. Our children are really worried," Cleveland said.

Few lawmakers showed up for the hearing. Congressional spokespeople say they share the urgency the tribe voices, but still the legislation to redraw the reservation and national park boundaries is moving at a glacial pace. No one has testified in opposition on Capitol Hill.

One Congressional staffer speculates the holdup is chiefly due to packed agendas.

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Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.