Herman Williams Jr. runs for Tulalip board

TULALIP — As family legacies go, expectations for heirs in American Indian clans can be fairly epic.

Between grandfathers who fought, on pain of arrest, for the treaty rights to fish for salmon, and grandmothers whose bedtime tales tell the story of the Earth’s creation, Tulalip children are taught that their land is special and must be governed by strong leaders.

For nearly two decades, Herman Williams Jr. did his best to live up to that legacy.

He served on the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors, as secretary, treasurer and even board chairman. He abruptly resigned last year, when he told tribal members that he’d taken illegal drugs. Tribal board members weren’t required to submit to drug tests, but Williams said then that he wanted to follow the same code of ethics the tribal government requires of its employees.

A few months passed, and Williams took a job leading the tribes’ housing department. He ran for the tribal board early this year, but lost.

Williams, defeated, said then that he planned to “fade away into the sunset.”

But the yearning to lead his tribe is in his blood. His grandfather, Lawrence Williams, served on the tribal board for about 16 years, he said, when the Tulalip Tribes were poor and the future was uncertain. His father, Herman Williams Sr., was on the board for 33 years, during the days when federal casino laws changed and hope emerged from a thicket of poverty.

Williams announced late last month at a gathering of tribal members that he would run again for the tribal board in March. People cheered, but no one seemed surprised.

It was time, they said. Williams agreed.

His announcement came early in terms of tribal politics. Most races for open seats on the seven-member board don’t really begin until late February, when spray-painted signs and photocopied brochures begin appearing all over the Tulalip Indian Reservation.

But Williams wants this campaign to be different. The old tribal ways of sitting and talking have fallen away, and Williams believes it’s time to bring that back. Nowadays, for political candidates, it’s called “doorbelling and baby-kissing,” he said.

To Williams, who will campaign among Tulalip tribal members, that’s not politics as usual.

That’s family.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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