July 4, 2008
Amerikan Freedom – Amerikan Oppression
The day started out well enough. I was happy. I picked wild rose petals at the beach. The day was hot. I am making an incense for Mom’s memorial giveaway. I am making wild rose petal jelly for our next Traditional Foods Dinner. I need the rose petals for both.
I thought I would go to the reservation across the river to see what was there. I found no wild roses but noted the huckleberries should be ripe next month.
I drove into town to get freezer bags. I went to a grocery store I like. They have the best prices on fruits, vegetables and meats. Sometimes they carry elk. They also carry VHS movies for $4.95. I found my favorite movie “Camelot” there.
This time I found Chuck Owens outside the store thumping watermelons. I stopped and watched him. He and his wife Margaret founded The Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales.
Anti-Treaty racists always use the word citizens to differentiate between Whites and Indians. They are the citizens and we are still the savages. They do it to generate hate and anger against us.
Chuck had just declared that the sentencing of Wayne Johnson and Andy Noel to prison for whaling “was the nail in the coffin.” Was the coffin for whaling, our Treaties, or us?
Chuck and Margaret call themselves anti-whaling protestors. I have never seen them work to clean up the oceans or do anything positive to protect whales. Their claim to fame is their racism against the Makah and other Indians. Chuck claims to have coined the phrase “Save a Whale, Harpoon a Makah.” He had tshirts and bumper stickers made up with that slogan.
The internet anti-racism group CERTAIN, The Coalition to End Racial Targeting of American Indian Nations, confronted the use of that phrase. Chuck said it was a joke. Later he denied the racist epithet ever existed. I saw white haired women carrying placards with that ugly statement in Sequim.
Chuck used to be a commercial fisherman. He captained a boat for High Tides. It is a company that hires Indians. He and his wife partied with those Indians. He once told me that the saddest thing was when Indians stopped talking to him because of his anti-Indian statements. He said that they stopped talking to him because he protected whales.
During the first Environmental Impact Study meetings papers ran photos of Chuck Owens ranting against the Makah. His mouth was wide open. He wore an Indian knit cap. Its design was whales.
I told Mom to come look at this crazy white man yelling his hate about Indians. She watched him on TV in his Indian hat screaming his hate of Indians. She laughed every time it came on.
Mom was always afraid that the antiwhalers would do me harm. They tried. They rammed my car in the Safeway plaza parking lot so hard the license plate came off. I could never get it to stay on after that. They monkey wrenched the road to my house.
I had come home from a day in town. I stopped to check my mail. My mailbox was tied up. A rope stretched from the hook on the door and was pegged to the ground. I thought if it was a projectile it would hit me in the side of the head.
I was angry. It was the day the first Environmental Impact Study came out in favor of the Makah. It was Friday the 13. The local newspaper quoted Chuck Owens calling it an unlucky day for whales.
I was angry. The antiwhalers were trying to frighten me. I went search of a policeman. I found one and dragged him to see my mailbox. I told him I thought it was the antiwhalers. He told me not to go to my house. He said he would contact me when he found out what it was.
I went to my mother’s house and waited. That was about noon. The policeman came about 10:30 that night to tell me I could go home. An off duty policewoman had passed my mailbox. She didn’t see the rope stretched from my mailbox to the telephone pole across the street. When her car touched the rope it triggered a projectile that shattered her windshield. The car belonged to her mother, a drinking partner of the Owens.
They must have realized they didn’t get me. They did it again. This time they got a non-Tribal member. The police watched my mailbox for a week. The antiwhalers did not come back.
I was talking on the phone with another CERTAIN member when the policeman told me I could go home. She told me that what had been done was called monkey wrenching. It was developed by those trying to stop logging of old growth forests.
The monkey wrenchers were probably from Earth First. Some were here to protest Makah Whaling. They wanted to silence the most vocal of the Makah supporters. Makah and members of other Tribes would stop me on the street or in stores. They thanked me for my letters. They said I was able to say what they couldn’t. The English language is still foreign to us. Spirit has given me the gift of words. I use it to protect my People.
I don’t drink or do drugs so my social path had never crossed the Owens. I met them at the Sullivan Reading. Robert Sullivan, a white journalist, had written a book about the Makah Whale Hunt. In general it was a good book and funny. I went to the reading to confront him about his chapter on Paul Watson.
Paul Watson of Seashepherd had called himself The American Indian Movement’s medic. He made absurd claims of being at the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. Interesting thing is no one who was there remembers him.
Watson claimed to have “run through a hail of lead” to rescue wounded medic Roque Madrid. He also said he assisted Lakota Medicine Man Leonard Crow Dog in removing the bullet. Crow Dog doesn’t remember him. Neither did Roque.
Watson said he received a vision in a sweat ceremony with Lakota Medicine Man Wallace Black Elk. Apparently a buffalo appeared to Watson. It had a spear in it with a rope attached. He says he chased off the hunters. He said Wallace Black Elk interpreted his vision for him. He claims Wallace said that it wasn’t a buffalo but the buffalo of the seas, whales. He said that Watson was the shepherd of the sea.
That’s a very nice story. Wallace said it never happened. Watson tells this story to prove he’s not racist against Indians. It’s a lie.
I asked Sullivan why he printed Watson’s sack of lies. I told him that if he researched those statements he would have known it was all a lie. Watson is famous among Indians for his lies. Sullivan said he included Watson’s stories because Watson believed they were true.
Chuck, Margaret and Dan Spomer were at the reading. I had seen Chuck’s photos in the paper. He is a big man with long shaggy hair and a beard. He is your basic old hippie. Many of the residents in the little community of Joyce where the Owens live wear overalls. Chuck became recognizable for his size and overalls in the anti-whaling demonstrations.
I had been writing letters to the editor in the only daily newspaper on the peninsula. I debated the antiwhalers statements point by point. I corrected their lies about our Treaties and our culture and religion. The anti-whalers used racism and deceit to enflame the white community against us.
Indians and whites experience the world differently. Words in English may mean opposite things to us. Sacrifice is one of those words.
We will sacrifice for our family, our Tribe, to change a situation. That may mean we will join our faith, participate in a ceremony, or seek a vision.
We believe that an animal or plant will sacrifice himself or herself to feed us. It is their choice. They hear our prayers and decide that it would be an honor to give their lives to us.
That appears to be inapprehensible to the antiwhalers. They claim to love the whales for their intelligence and human qualities. Yet they do not acknowledge the sovereignty of the whales. That is inapprehensible to me.
The antiwhalers twisted our words about the whale’s sacrifice. They claimed that we sacrificed the whale as Satanists sacrifice animals. That’s funny because most of the antiwhalers are wiccan. It appears that some of their leaders may be full-blown Satanists.
That was one of the earliest racist lies that the antiwhalers told. They rant and rave that we sacrificed the whale the Makah caught in 1999.
I had gotten involved with CERTAIN on the internet because of Paul Watson’s lies about the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee. At that time he was living in Vancouver. There were a few of us from Washington State at the occupation of Wounded Knee.
We should have known a white boy from Vancouver. No one from the Pacific Northwest remembers a heroic white boy that ran through a hail of lead to rescue a wounded medic. No one remembers Paul Watson helping remove the bullet from a real medic. The white people from Washington State don’t remember Watson. He claims that we are denying his involvement.
Watson came to Neah Bay during the first Makah whale hunt. When I got involved Michael Kundu was his director of information. Kundu used the internet to organize their wiccan activity.
The Makah whale hunt was fought on several levels. You saw one level on the evening news. Seashepherd used the newspapers to pound their racist stereotypes into people’s heads.
A woman who had been protesting the Makah whale hunt left abruptly. She told CERTAIN that one of the female leaders took her to a coven meeting. They cast their spells on the Makah. This woman was the daughter of a Baptist preacher. It frightened her. She pretended to go along with everything until she got back to Sekiu. She didn’t even bother to pack her clothes. She immediately left for home. She was frightened.
We already knew of their Wicca activity. We had been lifting their work. Some hunters had come to me and asked me to look at something. They took me up into the mountains by Joyce. It was a real beautiful place.
They said that every time they went there a fog came up and a bird appeared and said hello. I saw a circle cut into the ground with rocks placed around it. The others had gone to see the view. I had seen this place in vision as we lifted their work.
When we started back down the hill we passed a caravan of cars speeding past. They were so intent I don’t think they saw us. I recognized Dan Spomer in the lead truck. I saw Chuck and Margaret Owens in the second truck. I didn’t recognize the car or passengers in the third car. They knew someone had found the site where they cast their spells. I laughed all the way down the mountain.
I call Port Angeles the Selma of the Pacific Northwest because of its racism. At the height of the controversy over Makah whaling a little girl’s baseball team cancelled their participation in a tournament in Port Angeles. Their African American parents said they didn’t want their children to be subject to racism.
That incident was a blow to the business community. They formed the Multicultural Taskforce on racism. The antiwhalers had called for a boycott of Washington State until the “citizens” stopped the Makah Whale Hunt.
The situation backfired on the antiwhalers. People were objecting to the racism. The antiwhalers called for a boycott of Indian owned casinos, fireworks stands and smokeshops. The Makah tribe does not own a casino or smokeshop. It was becoming more apparent that their real issue was racism.
The gray whales are no longer endangered. They’re not even threatened. That was never the issue. It was hate.
The local newspaper printed many letters of hate. Spomer and the Owens were allowed to write editorials and letters every month. Margaret’s poems would be printed. Their followers would write letters. We were flooded by hate.
One time Spomer wrote an article about the Hopi “sacrifice” of eagles. It was a silly fantasy printed as truth. I am held to journalistic standards for my letters. Apparently Spomer did not have to present evidence that his article on the Hopi was true.
The Owens and Spomer and their followers attacked me by name in their letters. I would respond to them by name and the opinions page editor refused to print them. I went to his office and demanded to know why.
I was told that I am in the public domain. I asked why. He said it was because I wrote such good letters. I guess it didn’t occur to him that the Native woman before him had a degree in journalism.
I said that I am not the head of an organization, I don’t ask for contributions, I don’t make press releases that the paper publishes. The Owens and Spomer are the heads of antiwhaling organizations. They ask for money. They make press releases. They are in the public domain.
The editor said that he didn’t want them confronted in Safeway. That was what they were trying to do to Indians. They intentionally raised racism to an unprecedented level.
He agreed to stop allowing them to attack me by name. He has kept his word. The antiwhalers hate me more than they hate the Makah. I am articulate and I am not afraid of them.
I have been facing racism in Port Angeles all of my life. On my first day of school I was five years old. It was my first time away from my family. It was the first time I faced white people by myself.
At the first recess I walked outside. I was surrounded by a bunch of bigger older white boys. I was terrified. They said a lot of ugly things to me. The one I remember was they told me that the reason I wasn’t white was because Indians bathe in shit. That memory hurts as much today as it did then.
That treatment continued throughout my school days in Port Angeles. I began taking the classes that would get me into college when I was in Junior High.
Indians weren’t expected to finish high school. College was an impossible dream for an Indian girl. I was the only Indian in my classes. The white students tortured me.
Many of the first antiwhalers in Port Angeles were those same people. It was the same hate hidden behind the cause of whales. They had never shown a concern for the environment.
Racism on the internet reminded me of school in Port Angeles. It was ugly and stupid. They were hiding behind monitors so it was a free for all.
I had fun picking a name for the internet wars over racism. Many whites who claim Indian blood are descended from an Indian grandmother who was a princess. Many white women who are married to an Indian man claim that he is descended from chiefs. That makes them a princess.
I discussed this with friends. I wanted a name from English royalty. I turned the tables on those stealing royalty from us. We discussed many names. One tugged at my mind. I rejected it because it was too soon after the death of England’s Princess Diana. It was too good to pass. I became Diana Princess of Whales.
The men of CERTAIN used their real names. The women used pseudonyms for safety’s sake.
A couple of the CERTAIN members created a character called DaBoss Whale. Watson had said that he takes orders only from the whales. Another antiwhaler said that Indians shouldn’t eat whales because they are actually from the planet Sirius. They are here as ambassadors.
DaBoss Whale became a Sirian assigned to planet Earth to study humans. DaBoss Whale made daily reports to the Sirian High Commander about the actions of the antiwhalers. He was fascinated with their racism. Many of his reports were his attempts to understand the cause and need for racism among humans.
It was fun and some of our best writing came through the Sirians. The High Commander reported to the Galactic Council. He ordered his scientists to abduct some of the antiwhalers, They took DNA and did tests to see if racism was from a physical defect. The Sirian scientists concluded that racism was a mental illness. They offered their help to the antiwhalers. None of them accepted the Sirians gracious offer.
Indians can find and create humor in the worst of situations.
I confronted Spomer and the Owens at the Sullivan reading about their racism. Chuck told me that he was doing what he was doing to protect our Treaties. He said that the US government wasn’t really protecting our Treaty rights. He said they were after oil that they’d found off the Coast of Washington State.
I told him that I didn’t need a racist white man to protect my Treaty Rights. Chuck is a bully. Like all bullies he is a coward when an enemy faces him.
When I confronted him at the supermarket about his nails in the coffin statement he said he wasn’t a racist because he supported my Tribe during the Tsewhitzen issue. He also said he was opposing the whalers because they violated their own Tribe’s laws.
He said he wrote an article supporting my Tribes effort to stop the State of Washington from desecrating our Ancestors. I had never seen that article. That would not excuse him from his racism against the Makah.
Chuck said he received death threats because of his support of my Tribe. One of my Spiritual teachers that has gone on would have told me to thank him. I have seen her do that to people that were lying. She did most of the work lifting the antiwhalers Wiccan and Satanist work on the Makah.
Chuck called for the manager of the Supermarket. He told them I was threatening to kick his butt. The clerks looked at him then at me and laughed. I told them to call the newspaper too. The smug smirk left Chuck’s face.
He was imagining as I was headlines about racist antiwhaling leader Chuck Owens being physically threatened by a local Indian woman. I laughed at the look on his face.
The manager came and talked to me about racism in Port Angeles until Chuck finished his shopping. Then he let me do mine.
It was a funny incident. It exemplifies the treatment of Indians in this country. Times have changed though. I am not five years old. I am not frightened of racist white bullies.
We have won. That first whale the Makah got brought great healing to all of our communities. She taught us the power of prayer.
It doesn’t matter what the racists say or do. That first whale that they had christened Yabis knowingly gave her life that we might live. She started a new era for us.
The imprisonment of Wayne Johnson and Andy Noel is just the newest incident of oppression of the First Peoples of this land. They will be remembered along with the Great Chiefs Joseph, Geronimo and Crazy Horse.
Thanks Chuck Owens for standing up for my Ancestors. That act was good for your soul.