Sunday, May 22, 2005


It is such a personal thing, yet others feel compelled to question and criticize. I joined "The Smokehouse" in 1977.

I graduated from college in September 1977. I didn't want to be like those Indians who thought they were better than other Indians just because they had a white man's education. I was initiated the following December of the same year.

I wanted my life to be spiritual. I didn't know what I was asking. I was told before I left the Smokehouse after my first year, "You are the one that has changed. Everyone else is the same. You will have to fit yourself back into that world you left."

I don't think I ever did completely succeed. I have always been a little out of sync. The rest of the world seems to be dancing to a manic drummer and I still haven't learned any of the steps.

My Dad died about ten years ago. After a year of mourning I joined the Shaker Church. Our teachings say that when you lose a parent your life changes drastically.

I wanted a positive change. I wanted to forgive my Dad for the hell he'd put me through with his drinking and violence. He was responsible and only drank on weekends.

We have a flood story here that says that we tied our canoes to the mountaintops so we wouldn't get lost. There is a cedar rope wrapped around one of the mountain tops. Dad would take us to search for it every spring.

He would take us to drink from a mineral spring and bathe in a pool beneath a waterfall. If you did that you would live a long healthy life. The mineral water was foul and I was the only one that would drink from it. I have always understood ceremony and ritual.

I have recently been questioned on an internet discussion list for being "Christian." Although I am a Shaker, "Christian" still means white.

The United States government banned all our ceremonies and outlawed our religions. The Creator gave us the Shaker Church to help our people. We pull sickness from people.

White people and some Indians think that life on a reservation is coninual sweat lodges and ceremonies. That would be so nice. But it wasn't like that even in the old days. We still had to survive.

That's what we do best. Our people are very spiritual. Once our religions were outlawed most started going to church.

The leaders in the Smokehouse were also Shaker plus a white church. They saw nothing wrong with it. Our people didn't have any problems with the early missionaries.

Whites and newborn Indians have a very narrow view of Indian spirituality. Not everyone is ready to be a Shaker or Smokehouse Dancer. God will meet you whereever you are.

Friday, May 20, 2005


This is the time for endings. Two cousins lost in two weeks. One died from cancer. The other died in an accident at work.

I hate to see men cry at funerals. My cousins friends from work and his union were there. Tough guys, quietly crying or joking so they wouldn't cry.

Mom's nephew loved Elvis. He even had a full size cutout. Had his picture taken with it too. My mom said who is that man with him. It made everyone laugh.

We have big dinners after our funerals. Non-Indians are always surprised. Salmon, clams, crabs, oysters, deer, elk.....tables strain under the weight. It's ceremonial. When we eat together, we become even, our energy combines. Elders who are tired or sick take what they need. Those who grieve are lifted up. Dinners are important, sacred.

I said another kind of goodbye to two good friends. They are going home. She is needed by her own people. She has given a lot of her time and energy. We talked of resurrecting the outlawed women's societies. There was so much other work that needed to be done, we didn't get to the fun stuff.

He helped me get out information about Tzewhitsen. He is more diplomatic that I am. When the Washington State Department of Transportation people stopped talking to me, they talked to him.

I asked him to put a petition on the internet. He knows more about that stuff than me. He spoke to the State. They told him my Tribal Council had signed an agreement stating that they would not sue the State of Washington over the village of Tsewhitzen. They also agreed that no Tribal member nor our descendants would ever sue the State.

My heart sank. The State said the council bartered for our Ancestors. They asked for ten million dollars, but settled for 3.4 million. I have never been so angry in my life. The State said there was nothing we could do. It's legal and binding.

I said we fight anyway. It seems that all our battles have been against all odds. Many good-hearted people from around the world signed our petition. We pulled many 20 hours days and some all-nighters getting out information about Tsewhitzen.

Many people from other Tribes asked me why we didn't have a demonstration in Olympia and at the village site.

I have no illusions about staging a demonstration under the watchful eye of big brother and homeland security. I knew the dangers.

I made the decision. We would demonstrate in Olympia first, then in Port Angeles. Racism was very ugly at the time. Our chairwoman was receiving death threats. Someone called and said they could pick us off from the top of the hill. Our reservation is in a valley.

Our chairwoman Frances Charles finally told the State they had to stop construction and leave. The racism and threats got worse.

My friend called me one day and told me the amount of money the State had put into the graving yard and the amount the city of Port Angeles thought they were losing. It was several millions. I said that the money making potential of waterfront property is probably higher. He said people have been killed for that amount. We thought about that then went back to work.

When they told me that they were leaving I reminded them of what we had done together over the years. The work we still had to do. I said we will never make the history books, but I thanked them for their work to save my ancestors.

So Ann....we may be elders by the time we get the societies going again, but we will do it. And Keith...I am so glad you got to taste huckleberries.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005


During the 60's and 70's sovereignty was our cry, vision and goal. We dreamed it.

Treaties are made between sovereign nations. That was our evidence. Fish-ins were staged on the Puyallup and Nisqually rivers. It was illegal for Indians to fish in Washington state until the Boldt Decision. Yet it was a right retained in our Treaties.

The Trail of Broken Treaties, the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1972, the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, the subsequent "Trails" were demands for recognition.

When I was growing up my dad fished at night when no one could see him. The smokehouse was covered by a big maple tree. We were ordered to tell no one we had fish.

The Frank's Landing family on the Nisqually river near Olympia forced the State of Washington into court. They staged fish-ins and were arrested. Their defense was the Treaty of Medicine Creek.

Those that fought for sovereignty were labeled militants, troublemakers or agitators. They are sometimes excluded from the benefits of sovereignty by those in Tribal power.

Corrupt Tribal officials will hide behind sovereign immunity. They cannot be held accountable for their actions. Tribal members and staff have no avenue for complaint.

Sovereignty to me means the right to feed our people. It is as simple as that. We need to provide jobs, health care, housing, enough to give them a dignified life.

Sovereignty needs to have the words courage and honesty and honor added back to it's meaning. We must see to the needs of ALL the people, not just the families who can provide the politicians with the most votes.

Chiefs were trained. The first law of a chief is to feed the people. That is a simple law that says it all. You see to the needs of the people before yourself.

Politicians are not trained. An elder once told me that everyone starts out good, but most people sell out for money. She was talking about a chairman I was fighting.

Politicians usually start out good. They promise to serve the people. They sell themselves with noble goals. They wind up selling themselves for money. Or they give up when they find out they can't change things for the better.

A friend of mine wanted to do a healing ceremony for the Tribe over the graving yard issue and the desecration of our ancestors. I had told her of the sorrow our people were carrying for our ancestors. Our elders were physically ill for a year. Some had strokes.

I called the Tribe's business manager to reserve a room for the ceremony. He would not approve it. He said he only talks with the Shaker minister about Spiritual things.

I reminded him that I was a Tribal member and he worked for me. He said he works for the Tribal council. I said yes, and they work for me.

We didn't get the room. Our chairwoman stole my friends idea of a healing ceremony and my idea of a demonstration at the site.

She staged a farce that she called a healing ceremony. There was no healing or ceremony. It was just a chance for her to get before the cameras. For that she stopped real healing.

I have asked the Washington State Department of Transportation to come and talk with the Tribal community members. We want to know what happened. Why do we have 300+ ancestors in storage with no place to rebury them?

The DOT needs to know how we feel. They have been talking with Tribal officials. They are concerned with money.

The DOT needs to know the trauma they put our people through. They must do something about the racism they stirred up against us. They did it, they are accountable.

They are hiding behind the Tribe's sovereignty. They will only talk with elected officials. Yet our constitution and bylaws states that the voting members are the Tribal Council and governing body. The elected officials are the Business Committee. They take care of Tribal affairs at our direction.

White Tribal employees and state officials hide behind the word sovereignty. They use it to not talk with us. That's not what it means. It certainly isn't what I fought for.

Sovereignty means we have the right and responsibility to feed our own people.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Truth and Reconciliation

The weekend of May 5-6-7 2005 was a landmark for the city of Port Angeles and the Elwha Klallam Tribe. Naomi Tutu spent those 3 days touring the Tse- Whitzen village site and speaking with local people.

Naomi, Reverend Charlie Mays, Mike Dougherty, and John Brewer as well as a select few friends from town attended our Traditional Foods Dinner. They ate the familiar salmon, clams and oysters.

Mike came to my table and asked me to show him how to eat the chitons that we call in english Chinese Slippers. They grow on the big rocks in the salt water. They look like the shoes that the Chinese wore when they first came here.

The chitons have little shells along their back that make me think of dinosaurs. You remove the shells and run your thumb along the body and remove the innards. Then you can eat the meat. I cleaned it for everyone.

I thought how different this must be for people who don't hunt or gather their own food. They don't have to bloody their hands with death. Everyone was respectful and ate what was put in front of them. It must have been a totally new experience for everyone.

I told how we started these dinners. Our ceremonies had been outlawed by Washington State and the US Government. In the 70's and 80's I tried to start the First Salmon Ceremonies. People weren't ready at that time.

Most of our people are Christian now. They still have that instinctive fear of being jailed for practicing our ceremonies. I softened my approach and had a "dinner" instead of a ceremony. We thank the Creator for all the foods provided.

The Center for World Indigenous Studies has found that Pacific Northwest Indians have evolved along with their environment. We get the most calcium from the chitons I mentioned.

We ask the elders if there is anything they would like us to get for them. One asked for seal. We had it at the next dinner. It was the first time that many of us had eaten it. It was delicious.

I told our Creation Story, the flood story and how we came to develop a symbiotic relationship with our environment.

Naomi had to leave early to fascilitate a meeting with Tribal members and three members of the city council and members of the Multicultural Taskforce. The hour was spent with each person stating what they wanted the other side to hear.

Naomi's speech that night for the whole community centered on the development of the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission in South Africa. She mentioned that morning's tour of Tsewhitzen. She was told that pipes had been laid by the mill. During excavation human skulls were found below, alongside and on top of pipes. There was no way that the mill could not have known they were there.

This atrocity reminded Naomi of one with her people. Many people were "disappeared" during apartheid. After it was over they found mass graves of people who had been tortured and killed.

She said one mother wanted to identify her son herself. He was 15 years old. She had just bought him a new pair of tennis shoes. He had disappeared a few days later.

When a new mass grave had been found the young mother went to the site looking for her son. Bodies were stacked on top of each other. She recognized her son by his new tennis shoes. I was crying and could hear sobs behind me.

She told stories of the men who had participated in the torture and murders. After apartheid the Truth and Reconcilliation commission was formed. Men who were charged with committing atrocities were brought before the commission. If the told the truth of what they did, they would be pardoned.

It seemed that most could not own up to what they had done. Many held offices in their churches and had families and were considered pillars of their community. They did not want their families and community to know of that horrible part of their life. I cannot think of a word to describe the ghastly things they had done to other people.

Naomi said that the people who won their case over missing relatives were given the choice to set the compensation. They asked for schools and clinics for their village. Naomi's stories told of how low humanity could fall and the nobility we can reach.

The gift she left with me is hope. She said that the city of Port Angeles and the Elwha Klallam Reservation is one community. She said we are ahead of the curve because we are talking with each other.

The next step is to get the Washington State Department of Transportation to come out to the Reservation and talk with community members. They are hiding behind the government to government farce that they have abused. They said they are meeting with the Tribe's Business Committee.

The members of the Tribe are the governing body, not the Business Committee. The government to government relationship is between the Tribes and the federal government. It is being misused and misinterpreted here.

Dialogue between the people of Port Angeles and members of the Elwha Klallam Tribe has begun. Coverups and abuses will be harder to contain.