Another gross injustice has been committed by the leaders of our country. We who believe the dream of America is to stand up for justice, a sacred commitment not to be brushed aside. What our forebears have done we cannot help, but what we do today is within our power to change. When we become aware of these injustices, we must act even if our power is limited to speaking out with our own small voice.
We will never have a better world until we start to address the injustices that exist in our present world. “An injury to one is an injury to all.” That includes correcting the injustices that have caused so much suffering over the years.
A good example of such an injustice is the one suffered by the Duwamish Tribe (on whose land all of Seattle rests). The well-known Chief of the Duwamish Indian Tribe, Sealth or Seattle, befriended the early pioneers instead of putting them to the spear, which he could easily have done.
As their numbers in Seattle grew, the invaders got the upper hand. They passed laws that said no Indian could live in Seattle. All were forced to move out of Seattle, with the exception of Princess Angeline, daughter of Chief Seattle. She was tolerated a few years until her death on May 31, 1896. The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs claiming responsibility for the Indians allowed the city of Seattle to get away with this gross injustice of forcing the remaining members of the tribe to seek shelter with other tribes.
The same Federal Bureau continues to deny the Duwamish official recognition because they claim the Duwamish have not been a continuous tribe with an unbroken line of leadership. This problem was created when Seattle forced the Duwamish to leave their homeland without providing them the promised reservation.
The present members of the tribe are blood descendants of the original Duwamish who lived here for thousands of years and they include the great-great grandson of Chief Seattle, Ken Workman, and the great-great-grandniece, Cecile Hansen, who has been the chairman of the tribe for over 40 years. The tribe has built a longhouse, with the help of descendants of the early pioneers replacing the one previously burned by the Whites.
President Clinton’s administration had granted recognition to the Duwamish. Then Little Boots (Bush) withdrew the recognition. Now Obama’s administration has gone along with Little Boots and again denied the Duwamish Federal recognition. We the people, especially the people of Seattle, should be outraged at this injustice. To help rectify the past injustices done to the Duwamish people, the City of Seattle should by proclamation grant recognition to the Duwamish and perhaps even better grant them one of the major parks as a reservation, actually a postage stamp compared to what was taken from them with no compensation. This could be a prelude to further efforts to get the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to grant them recognition.
Let’s quit being hypocrites and start demanding that the injustices perpetrated by our government and our criminal justice system be corrected. Recognition of the Duwamish is a good place to start. If the bureaucrats say the present law ties their hands, then change the law. That’s what we pay our representatives for—to make laws that provide justice for all.
About 2,000 years of going without a land base and central national leadership certainly did not keep the Jews from reconstituting themselves as a country fully recognized on the international scene. Therefore, through with no fault of their own and with less than 150 years without a land base and central leadership, the Duwamish should not be denied recognition after they have reconstituted themselves.
Please write to your Congressional representatives and have your friends in other states do the same to rectify this injustice now by granting recognition to the Duwamish and to stand up for Indian rights in their own state.
Poet and founder of PoetsWest and Activists for a Better World, J. Glenn Evans hosts PoetsWest at KSER 90.7FM, a nationally syndicated weekly radio show, and authored four books of poetry: Deadly Mistress, Window in the Sky, Seattle Poems and Buffalo Tracks, author of three novels, Broker Jim, Zeke’s Revenge and Wayfarers. Evans is a former stockbroker-investment banker. Part Cherokee and originally from Oklahoma, he has resided in Western Washington since 1970 and recently moved to Olympia.
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