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Indigenous Advisory Council Member Profile: Derrick Belgarde (Siletz & Chippewa-Cree)

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Derrick Belgarde smiling, Siletz + Chippewa-Cree, Indigenous Advisory Council Member
Derrick Belgarde, Siletz + Chippewa-Cree, Indigenous Advisory Council Member

I’m an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Chippewa-Cree. I am a father of three and have been married for 20 years. I’ve worked for Chief Seattle Club for over 7 years. I consider it a blessing to be able to serve my community. I have plenty of lived experience being homeless, and utilizing services while I was on the street. I love music, love to bead, and love spending time outdoors camping.  

What inspired you to want to join the Indigenous Advisory Council and what do you hope to achieve? 

Natives make up around 1 percent of the general population, but we tend to be most affected by disparities across the board (not just homelessness). Due to being just 1 percent, I believe we are often overlooked at policy-setting tables where our voice is desperately needed. I am hoping we can come together as a collective, uniting our voices to see positive change and impact within our Native community. 

How does being a member of Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, with ancestry from Rocky Boy Chippewa-Cree Tribe, influence your life in the Salish Sea region? 

One thing I’ve learned while doing trauma work is that shared experience is the best tool to have in achieving outcomes. Although we come from different areas, we have shared experiences and share a common bond. There are over 562 federally recognized tribes in the country – all unique and different – but they all relate to one another due to that shared experience. We all have similar intergenerational and historical trauma, from genocide to boarding schools to government policies that attempt to assimilate us with force. For example, I may not know what it’s like to be a coast Salish tribal member, but I can tell you what it’s like going to a predominantly white public school as the only Native in my class. I can tell you about the humiliating feeling of walking down city streets feeling like I don’t belong when all the land here was once ours.  

What is something that you bring to this role that will help the group work together? 

I believe that teamwork produces the best results and that even when I may not necessarily see or understand somebody’s point of view in the moment, it is still contributing to the best outcome or decision. I’m a big advocate for making space for everyone. 

What do you love most about living in this region? 

I love being near the mountains and plenty of waterways. I also like the fact that the weather rarely goes to extremes (minus last summer).  

What haven’t I asked you about that I should?  

Perhaps, “what do you think are the top ‘X’ concerns for the Native community?” 

I would say education, homelessness, and a HUGE lack of a community center that is needed to hold our community together.