Stories in Washington

Washington Statement of Commitment to Indigenous Peoples

A dense flock of birds flies over a body of water at sunset.
Taking Flight Birds take flight off the marshes of The Nature Conservancy's 4,122-acre Port Susan Bay Preserve in Washington. © Bridget Besaw

Honoring tribal sovereignty and elevating Indigenous Peoples’ voices, choices and actions is an essential part of creating equitable and lasting outcomes for people and nature.

As staff and trustees of the Washington Business Unit of The Nature Conservancy, we commit to practicing respect for people, communities and cultures as we work to live our organization’s values and make progress toward our mission. We especially acknowledge and appreciate the deeply rooted relationships Indigenous Peoples have had with the natural world since time immemorial and continue to sustain for future generations.

Our work as the Washington Business Unit of The Nature Conservancy has historically protected nature for nature’s sake. We now recognize the well-being of nature and people should not be separated, and our work is centered on repairing the relationship between the natural world and people. The staff and trustees of the Washington Business Unit of The Nature Conservancy are committed to building and fostering partnerships with Indigenous communities that promote reconciliation and healing that is grounded in listening and understanding. ​


Creating a more equitable future requires acknowledging and addressing past and present harms. Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples have fostered a connection to land, air, water and all living things. Colonization has constrained or severed Indigenous Peoples’ relationship with, and access and use of, lands and waters. Western colonial contact imposed new systems that governed relationships between people, community and the natural world. Colonization set in motion a vicious cycle of generational trauma that has led to a deterioration of cultural health, traditional governance, stewardship practices and ability to meet basic social needs. This has resulted in degraded natural systems and harmful impacts to Indigenous communities. Similar to other parts of North America, colonization and broken treaties in Washington forced Indigenous Peoples out of their ancestral lands, exposed them to disease and subjected them to systematic racism that continues to disproportionately impact Indigenous Peoples to this day.

Washington State is home to many and diverse Indigenous communities, including 29 federally recognized Indian Tribes and a large population of Native American descendants. Indigenous Peoples play a vital role in stewardship and restoration of lands and waters, economic enterprises and cultural revitalization efforts, to name just a few. The Washington Business Unit of The Nature Conservancy recognizes and honors Tribal sovereignty, self-determination and Tribal rights—including treaty and inherent rights—and we stand with Indigenous Peoples as they protect and exercise their rights.


​Indigenous Peoples’ cultural heritage, knowledge, goals, experiences, decision-making structures and visions for the future are many and diverse. The staff and trustees of the Washington Business Unit of The Nature Conservancy are committed to respecting, promoting and adhering to TNC’s Human Rights Guide. This includes, but is not limited to, applying the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adhering to the requirements of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and aligning with TNC values.

The following practices will guide staff and trustees as we build relationships, learn and engage with Indigenous Peoples:

  • We honor Tribal sovereignty and commit to collaborating with sovereign Tribal governments.
  • We commit to ensuring that conservation and community outcomes will be defined collectively and with deference and respect for the goals and objectives of Indigenous Peoples.
  • We recognize and honor that Indigenous People speak for themselves. Working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, we will elevate their messages and advance our shared goals.
  • Trust-building and trustworthiness form the foundation of our work with Indigenous Peoples.
  • We approach this work with persistence and patience, acknowledging the timelines required.
  • The Washington Business Unit’s strategies and major bodies of work aim to restore our shared reciprocal relationship with nature.


By 2030, The Washington Chapter of The Nature Conservancy is ethically and effectively supporting and partnering with Indigenous Peoples to create a shared future of healthy lands, waters and communities through the following actions:

  1. Investing in Washington staff and trustee’s competency and capacity to effectively partner with Indigenous Peoples.
  2. Collaborating with Indigenous Peoples to support their voices, choices and actions by honoring and lifting up their rights and leadership to improve natural resource policies.
  3. Working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples on public lands and stewardship of TNC lands and, when invited, furthering their interests and rights to lands and waters.
  4. Supporting the co-creation of new, more inclusive conservation, intergenerational learning and conservation practices that honor Indigenous knowledge and worldviews.

As part of the Washington’s Business Unit Strategic Framework (2023), there are multiple intersectional opportunities to operationalize the above actions. We have identified as a cross-cutting priority Foster Right Relations with Indigenous Peoples to ensure all our conservation strategies incorporate the above actions. The Supporting Indigenous Rights and Connections to Land and Water strategy is a top priority to fulfilling our mission in the state and a key strategy to implement the above actions. In addition, several Organizational Excellence strategies identify how we can build an organizational culture that promotes ongoing collaboration and learning inclusive of partnering with Indigenous Peoples.