Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, left, speaks Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, looks on at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, left, speaks Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, looks on at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Curriculum on state tribes to be renamed after late Tulalip legislator

On Tuesday, John McCoy’s former colleagues in the Senate honored the late lawmaker by passing House Bill 1879.

OLYMPIA — The curriculum teaching students about Pacific Northwest tribes passed another hurdle on its journey to being renamed in honor of late Tulalip lawmaker Sen. John McCoy.

On Tuesday, the state Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1879, officially renaming the “Since Time Immemorial” curriculum to the “The John McCoy (lulilaš) Since Time Immemorial curriculum.” The bill passed the House unanimously earlier this month.

Now, the bill is on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

“The governor really admired the senator’s record of public service,” Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk wrote in an email.

While serving in the Legislature, McCoy spearheaded the effort in 2005 to implement the curriculum educating students across the state on Washington tribal governments, cultures and histories. He served in the state House of Representatives for 10 years, then was elected to the state Senate in 2013 where he served for 7 years until his retirement.

McCoy died last year at the age of 79.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Anacortes, said the renaming would make state history by including McCoy’s traditional Lushootseed name, lulilaš. It would be the first time a Lushootseed word is enshrined in to Washington law, she said.

“I’m really pleased that we are able to put John’s name in statute in English and Lushootseed,” Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, said Tuesday.

Robinson succeeded McCoy both after he moved from the House to the Senate and when he retired from office.

“He was a great friend and mentor,” she said on the Senate floor.

McCoy’s family wasn’t able to make it to Olympia on Tuesday to see the bill pass the Senate, but they are “incredibly honored by this bill,” Robinson said.

“I hope that (McCoy’s wife) is watching on TVW now,” she said, referring to the state’s public affairs broadcasting service.

The bill passed with bipartisan support through a vote of 49-0. Many of the legislators who voted worked alongside McCoy before his retirement in 2020.

“This is a small but meaningful step,” said Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee.

While in the Legislature, McCoy pushed to strengthen tribal sovereignty and education in the state.

In 2015, for example, he led an effort to revise the curriculum to mandate it in schools, rather than just recommend it.

In 2019, McCoy and Lekanoff worked to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act, making it easier for tribal members living on reservations to vote by increasing access to ballot drop boxes.

“It has been the greatest honor to serve the people of Washington alongside you,” McCoy wrote in a letter to his fellow senators upon his retirement. “It has been a gift to advocate for marginalized and disenfranchised Washingtonians, to lift up the voices of our sovereign tribal communities, to expand access to – and quality of – education and health care, and to do so with a team of dedicated public servants.”

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter:@jenelleclar.

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