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2012 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Honoree: Micah McCarty

Micah McCarty
Micah McCarty
Download a hi-res image: right-click here and select "Save As" (Photo by Debbie Ross-Preston, Courtesy of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)

Chairman Micah McCarty of the Makah Tribal Council on the Olympic Peninsula is honored as a finalist for the 2012 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award. As chairman, McCarty has garnered important successes for Makah Nation by serving as a liaison between indigenous communities and the broader political system. His work in Neah Bay, Washington has led to significant headway in strengthening the response to oil spills in coastal waters, has helped to protect tribal whaling rights, and has fostered strong connections between tribal and non-tribal governments. McCarty’s passion, skill, and integrity make him a gifted advocate for tribal rights and environmental protections.

As a child, Micah lived away from Neah Bay with his mother, a descendant of New England colonists, and attended both tribal and non-tribal schools. During the summer, he often returned to Neah Bay to fish with his father, strengthening his knowledge and awareness of long-standing Makah traditions and culture. These experiences helped give McCarty a talent for articulating common goals across communities that takes into account a wide diversity of opinions. His leadership in environmental and natural resource protection, whaling rights advocacy, and artistry demonstrate his ability to defend Makah tribal rights while navigating a complex contemporary political context.

McCarty’s career began to take shape in 1994, shortly after the Makah Tribal Council formed the Makah Whaling Commission, a result of the tribe’s participation in the International Whaling Commission. McCarty began attending meetings as an alternate for his father, and his commitment to developing sound public policy deepened after 18 months of serving in his father’s place. In his autobiography, McCarty describes this experience as “stepping out of the canoe” into a profession that has since become his calling. As an advocate on behalf of the Makah Whaling Commission, Micah has worked tirelessly to support the Makah’s sense of community and self-determination in protecting their treaty rights to harvest whales. In spite of critiques against whaling, he respectfully and enthusiastically works to bridge the native/non-native divide to preserve his tribe’s autonomy in managing natural resources. In 2008, he formed the Office of Marine Affairs in order to develop marine planning policies for the Makah Tribal Organization, a testament to his dedication in this arena.

McCarty has defended tribal interests across several political spectrums, pushing the boundaries of government-to-government consultation. He has encouraged both native and non-native leaders to embrace collaboration and has assisted state agencies to improve their policies and practices to protect native rights and resources. In addition to supporting tribal whaling rights, McCarty’s efforts have led to greater oil spill response protection in Neah Bay. Due to his leadership, Neah Bay now boasts a full-time emergency response tugboat (ERT) that prevents ship groundings in the area. Furthermore, Micah helped train members of Makah Nation to operate the ERT and other spill response equipment in Neah Bay, an effort that helps to ensure tribal autonomy.

These initiatives inform Micah’s role as an advisor to NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee and Olympic Coast Intergovernmental Policy Council, as well as his position as Vice Chairman on the Governance Coordinating Committee for the National Ocean Council. He is a co-founder of the Navy-Tribal Council and a strong supporter of the Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program, working with the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and the Department of Defense on key energy and environmental initiatives. Under McCarty’s leadership, hundreds of tribal leaders and government officials joined together in July 2012 at the First Stewards conference in Washington DC to address climate change in coastal communities.

With a holistic sense of community, environment, and culture, Micah McCarty inspires visionary thinking to protect natural resources and preserve tribal autonomy. Through collaboration with the University of Washington’s School of Marine Affairs, Peninsula College, and a range of university Native Studies programs, McCarty has inspired several theses and dissertations to support the development of curricula for a sustainable future. One member of the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership praised Micah for his “prodigious memory for people and ideas. He brings this remarkable storehouse of knowledge to every endeavor in which he engages.”

With keen insight on how to navigate the overlapping interests of the many communities in which he participates, Chairman McCarty inspires leaders across the Pacific Northwest in their vision to heal and restore our natural world.


2012 Honorees

Brian Cladoosby

Gail Small

Jonathan Andrew Waterhouse

Micah McCarty

Patience Andersen Faulkner



Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
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Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


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