Well, this is awkward... I'm a Wiyot tribal member, as well as an acquaintance of Ms. Mullen... Although I live out of the county, I am sorry to have missed this particular "kerfuffle" when it occurred more than a year ago.
I'm not acquainted with Mr. Torma, our Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, but I completely understand his point that the telling of history has been under the control of those who have not had other points of view in mind. Having raised two sons in the California educational system, and suffering a great deal of frustration at the use of history curriculum that was horrendously inaccurate... For instance, how would you like to read about history only from the point of view of the "forty-niners", the immigrants... when your own personal family history, passed on by your own elders, was a history of genocide and forced slavery. The history books used in schools do not validate "our" version. It is a continuation of policy that does not accord us dignity or recognize our humanity.
As a young child, listening to my mother recount the story of an ancestor who was a survivor of one of the many massacres that occurred in Humboldt County during that era, I can remember thinking, "Why do they hate us so much?" When she told me about that same ancestor being a servant to a family in Ferndale, who gave her an "English" name, I wanted to know what was wrong with her original name. It was later, on my own, that I learned about indentured servitude, which was a merely another name for slavery, just prettied up to make it sound better. My mother said she often heard relatives speaking their original language, but couldn't even tell me a single word. When I asked her why, she would say there her mother told her that "White man's ways are best." As a little girl, I didn't understand, but as an adult, I came to understand that my grandmother was merely trying to make her children's lives better than her own. But I also understood that we were not valued, not our language, nor our culture, nor our knowledge of medicines... So much has been lost... Did we not deserve our existence?
So, forgive us, because we are a bit touchy on the topic of history! We do wish to own it going forward. That being said...
I was "surfin' the 'net" one day, and I happened upon a TEDx video about indentured servitude. It was given by Lynette Mullens, and I thought she'd done an excellent job with it... Actually, since it isn't a topic that is commonly discussed, I was impressed that anyone even attempted to cover it. In it, she had actually mentioned the same ancestor that I've spoken of, here. I sent her a note complimenting her, and mentioning that one of those she'd spoken of was my gggrandmother. From that, she also sent me her article on Lucy Romero. Our discussions continued from there.
As Mr. Torma mentioned, since Lucy had been present at the Indian Island massacre, I made the assumption she was Wiyot. It did come up in discussions between Lynette and I, and she'd said the same thing, that she thought Lucy was not originally from the immediate area. I don't recall if our discussion went much further in that area, but I do remember thinking that she must have family ties, if she'd been at the World Renewal ceremonies. I don't suppose that particular riddle will ever be resolved. I do have a sense of Ms. Mullen's intent, however, as well as a sense of her nature to present information as accurately as possible. Her intent, obviously, was to tell the story of Lucy. It wasn't focused on the massacres, or indentured servitude, or specific tribes... It was merely to give a voice to a victim of an atrocity. Lucy Romero once lived, she suffered, she had children so she left a legacy... By conjecture, people can assume that her story was not unique... Being Indian was not a pleasant experience after the arrival of immigrants, and that continued well into the 20th century. In some ways, and in some areas, it continues to this day. Remember what I told you about those history books used in schools? The ones that do not tell the entire story about what happened? Our history, our stories, are still not validated, still not respected... At least, not by many, partially because of ignorance, or being uncomfortable to view the uglier side of our national history, and some, because they still have no tolerance for those who are different from themselves.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
If the whole truth is not taught, not a sanitized version, but one that looks at all perspectives, then how do we ever begin to heal all the wounds?
In Print This Week:
Feb 16, 2017
vol XXVIII issue 7
Under the Color of Authority
The North Coast Journal
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