Friday, September 23, 2011

Making up for history

Tacoma expelled Chinese residents in 1885, so Tacoma dedicates a park and a Ting:
“This has been a long, long time in coming,” said Gregory Youtz, who chairs the Tacoma-Fuzhou Sister City Committee and emceed the event. “We hope this helps Tacoma tell its story to the world.”


“This will become an icon in the community,” project manager Lihuang Wung said. “This is where people can get together, get married, think about our history and think about the future of our community.”

Lewis and Clark stole a canoe, so the decedents of Captain William Clark gave one back:
More than 200 years later, William Clark's descendants will make amends by presenting a 36-foot replica of the canoe to the Chinook Indian Nation during a ceremony here Saturday.

"We talked about what happened 205 years ago, and we believed that things could be restored if something like this were done," said Carlota Clark Holton of St. Louis, Mo., seven generations removed from William Clark.

"I think everyone acknowledges that it was wrong, and we wanted to right a wrong," she said. "The family was very much behind it."

And, of course, we put Leschi on trial again and exonerated him:
The reason it is so important to exonerate Chief Leschi is for the multiple generations of tribal ancestors who have lived a lifetime with the frustration and anger of knowing what happened to the last Chief of Nisqually.
I like this idea of returning to history, pulling back how the people came before us acted, and attempting to recognize and repair. Its a short-sighted point of view to say that none of us alive today were responsible for expelling the Chinese, stealing a canoe or killing Leschi, so why should we go through the process of honoring the better choices our ancestors could have made?

We do because history matters and its worth pointing out in a very deliberate (a ceremony or historic trial) and long lasting (a park) manner that something bad happened and we'd like not to repeat it.

That said, Olympia has some very dark acts near our founding that we should deal with. Olympia in the 1850s wasn't a very nice place at all:

Also worth noting is that Thurston County was named for a person who once said this:
[It] is a question of life or death to us in Oregon. The negroes associate with the Indians and intermarry, and, if their free ingress is encouraged or allowed, there would a relationship spring up between them and the different tribes, and a mixed race would ensure inimical to the whites; and the Indians being led on by the negro who is better acquainted with the customs, language, and manners of the whites, than the Indian, these savages would become much more formidable than they otherwise would, and long bloody wars would be the fruits of the comingling of the races. It is the principle of self preservation that justifies the actions of the Oregon legislature.

King County changed its name to elegantly avoid being named for a historic racist, might be worth an effort in Olympia.