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Mar 30, 2021

Pacific NW US Senators Introduce Legislation to Stop Sale of Seattle NARA Facility

The following announcement was posted to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies’ Public Records Access Monitoring Committee’s mailing list and is republished here with permission:

The IAJGS Records Access Alert previously reported that the Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) has recommended the closing and sale of Seattle’s national archives facility without any public input. Records include those of Washington State, Orgon, Idaho and Alaska dating back to 1840. Little has been digitized. The records move would be National facilities in Riverside California -over 1,000 miles away. This is a critical loss to the millions of residents in the states that currently are covered by the Seattle facility.

The sale was approved by the Office of Management and Budget. This would severely hamper access for people in the Pacific Northwest: Alaska, Idaho, Orgon and Washington State.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson previously stated he would to try and prevent the sale via lawsuit. Additionally Washington, Oregon and two dozen Native American and Alaska Native tribes and cultural groups are suing the federal government to stop the sale of the National Archives building in Seattle. Earlier this month a bipartisan group of US Senators and members of the House of representatives from Washington, Oregon. Idaho and Alaska sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asking them to stop the sale. All but one federal lawmaker in the four states signed the letter; the lone holdout was Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Central Washington). The sale is opposed by all 8 US Senators and many US Representatives from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State.

The US Senator Patty Murphy (D-WA) has introduced a bill, called “Assuring Regular Consultation to Have Indigenous Voices Effectively Solicited Act’’ – or “ARCHIVES Act” for short – to retroactively amend the original FASTA legislation. FASTA is an Obama-era law that was used by an obscure federal agency to target the Seattle facility, and other valuable federal real estate, for closure and rapid sale. Joining Senator Murphy as cosponsors of the bill to prevent the sale of the Pacific NW NARA office are: Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (both D-OR.)

Murphy’s bill says that for federal properties targeted via FASTA, “if the proposed sale or transfer would affect access to Federal agency services by a federally recognized Indian Tribe, the relevant Federal agency shall consult with all Tribal governments that may be so affected.” The ARCHIVES Act further states that in most cases, “Federal civilian real property may not be sold or transferred under this Act … if the proposed sale or transfer would substantially reduce or eliminate access to Federal agency services by a federally recognized Indian Tribe.” This Tribal consultation did not happen with the Seattle branch of the National Archives – which houses more than 150 years-worth of federal materials related to Tribes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska – until after the intent to sell was first reported by KIRO Radio in early 2020.

A draft of Murphy’s bill may be read at: https://www.murray.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/9284316b-2e3c-406d-a765-5c6610f02e13/archives-act-text.pdf.

At the time of writing this posting the bill number was not posted to the bill.

See news article: https://mynorthwest.com/2714428/senators-archives-act-stop-sale-seattle-facility/

Senator Murray’s press release may be read at: https://www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/newsreleases?ID=3F61E004-1C91-4076-B357-1A798F7B4E7A.

To read the previous postings about the potential closing of the Washington NARA Office, go to the archives of the IAJGS Records Access Alert at: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/private/records-access-alerts/. You must be registered to access the archives. To register go to: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/listinfo/records-access-alerts and follow the instructions to enter your email address, full name and which genealogical organization with whom you are affiliated You will receive an email response that you have to reply to or the subscription will not be finalized.

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Mar 30, 2021

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