Thursday, May 08, 2014

This is your history

To struggle to protect treaty rights has been heavy on my mind this week. It is worth pointing out how long this struggle actually is.

This letter to the Puget Sound Courier (Steilacoom's paper) is a pointed attack at Governor Stevens during the Puget Sound War. The anonymous writer points out that the execution of the war and the removal of Indians to internment camps violated the terms of the treaties that were just signed. Like newspapers of that era, the Courier was picking sides in a political battle against Gov. Stevens.

But, the letter also marks the beginning of the treaty rights struggle that continued, sometimes in secret, through to today.

...let it be remembered that the Indian Department in Washignton territory, negogiated a treaty, forwarded it to Washington city for ratification, received that ratification, and violated, all within the short space of a year.

I wrote about one episode in Oyster Light (here's just that chapter), in which the Boldt Decision almost happened 50 years early when a young Olympia lawyer joined a coordinated legal effort to try treaty rights in court.

The treaty rights struggle, the tense relationship between these governments and our communities, goes back throughout our history. Its is impossible to understand the history of our region without thinking hard about it.

To that end, I would highly suggest the Katie Gale. I've read a lot of pieces, books and essays about treaty rights, tribal history and natural resources management. And, obviously Cecelia Svinth Carpenter is the original gold standard.

But, Katie Gale takes a perpendicular track to other things I've read. It tracks the life of of a women literally of the first post-treaty Indian generation. She was raised knowing only the world Scorpion described the launch of.

The book can sometimes slog down into details that don't move the narrative forward. We set the scene so long, it seems like we're taking in the scenery rather than listening to a story. But, those details really only remind us that our history is really complicated.

And, it is very local. This all happened right here. Someone who was central to these stories walked the same place you walked. Scorpion, Issac Stevens and Katie Gale have all been on the same streets as you.

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