Seattle Branch of the National Archives being closed with scant notice

Saturday, January 25, 2020

National Archives Seattle Branch
Photo by Daniel Pensak

In The Seattle Times Saturday, January 25, 2020, the article on the abrupt closure of the Archives has the headline, "Terrible and disgusting: Decision to close National Archives at Seattle a blow to tribes, historians in 4 states".

Genealogists all over the Northwest, including the Seattle Genealogical Society, agree. Tribal members and Alaskans agree. Local historians and researchers agree.

Within the next four years, the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will close the facility, and transfer the records to facilities in Kansas City, Missouri or Riverside, California. The property will be sold.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at Seattle holds 58,000 cubic feet of historic records from the Pacific Northwest for Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska.

When the Alaska regional facility of NARA was closed in 2014 and the records transferred to Seattle, the residents of Alaska were promised that the records would stay in the Pacific Northwest in perpetuity. Tribal members use these files to establish or keep membership in tribes. Proof of tribal citizenship is used to obtain education funds. Tribal records have been used for retaining fishing rights, as in the Boldt Decision. Native school records from Alaska and Oregon are included in the NARA collections.

The National Archives at Seattle has 50,000 case files from the Chinese Exclusion Act from Chinese who entered the U.S. through the ports of Seattle, Sumas, Port Townsend, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Vancouver, B.C. from 1882 to 1943. A dedicated staff of local volunteers is indexing these files. If these records are moved 1,000 miles away, this valuable work will end.

The deadline for public comment is Tuesday, January 28, 2020. If you have something to say, contact all of your elected officials, national and local.

According to The Times, "The move comes despite a letter sent Friday to the OMB by all senators from Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Idaho, and eight of the 10 Washington state representatives to Congress. The letter concluded the recommendation to close the archives 'was flawed' and should be rejected."

Even though our congressional representatives disagreed with the OMB, they still need to hear from constituents.


NW Farm to School January 25, 2020 at 10:54 PM  

This is tragic and would be such a loss for the Pacific Northwest. There are treasured documents that should remain in the Northwest. So sad for future generations. Please contact the constituents listed.

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