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March 9, 2006
CACKLING PEEPS: In the pre-dawn dark, out
in one of the far-off corners of Hookton Slough, a few geese
begin chattering in high-pitched nasally voices. Nearby, beside
the dike of grassy land where a stream of murmuring people has
just flowed by, somebody splashes quietly in the water and lets
out a woo-WOO!-woo. A trumpeter swan.
The people gather, a dark clump in the gloom, to
look out across the water to where the geese voices are growing
into a swarm of sound. Soon a black band of shifting, winged
dots rises into the lightening sky and swirls, expands. The Aleutian
cackling geese go every which way -- breaking into small groups,
forming half-hearted Vs that quickly disintegrate into noisy,
conversational clumps or waggling lines (underscoring their status
as a sub-species of the decidedly more regimented, V-perfectionist
Canada goose), re-merging with bigger groups, splitting off again.
They fly east, west and finally circle the horizon
like a broad fringe of babbling sky ants. By daybreak, some 30,000
geese (and there's another 40,000 launching from other sites
between here and Crescent City) are off to spend another day
nibbling on Humboldt County farmers' fields. Which, you know,
is just what they do.
Meanwhile, down on the dike bisecting the slough,
the humans have congregated beside a spotting scope to spy on
a group of trumpeter swans and chatter about the "goose
problem" -- used to be, these geese were nearly extinct.
Now, they're thriving. But these people seem to like the geese
-- they're bird lovers, out here this early morn for the 4th
Annual Humboldt Geese Fly-Off & Family Fun Weekend. So they
spy, catch up on gossip, mingle, joke -- the wind snatches at
fragments of their talk: "Oh, sounds like quite a catch!"
"She must really miss her." "I'm Sue." "Hi.
I'm Martin." "They eat the grass grown for the cows."
"Who wants to go for a swim?"
"Woo-WOO!-woo," says a swan, its white
body and black face now visible in the water. The wind is freezing,
the day layers of cold blue water, black land, cold blue sky.
And the geese are still cackling, in the air and on the ground.
Talking, talking: "Look at the people over there."
"Did I tell you about that farmer who chased me?" "Their
population just keeps growing." "It's a problem."
"Hmm. Nice grass, though." "How'd you sleep?"
HOMICIDES: In as many weeks, two people
have been killed in Humboldt County. The first homicide of 2006
was the murder of Tracy Daniel Reynolds, 38, a homeless man who
was allegedly killed by two teenage boys near the railroad tracks
along Humboldt Bay between the Elk River Slough Bridge and the
Humboldt Bay Power Plant in south Eureka. The boys, Joaquin Fitzgerald,
16, and Keyontae Lamar Taylor, 15, who have both attended area
schools, were arrested by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.
They will be tried as adults by the Humboldt County District
Attorney's Office for armed robbery, homicide and animal cruelty.
The boys reportedly shot and killed a cow, robbed Reynolds of
$2 and change and shot him twice through the heart and once in
the leg on Feb. 24.
On the evening of March 5, after receiving a 911
call reporting an assault, sheriff's deputies responded to the
400 block of Crocketts Crossing in Fieldbrook. There they found
Peter Wyland, 58, of Fieldbrook lying in the driveway, dead from
a stab wound. The next morning detectives returned to the scene
and arrested 24-year-old Michael Kenneth Throckmorton at the
residence, where he lived with a roommate. He was booked into
the Humboldt County jail for murder and one count of attempted
murder for also stabbing David Harris, 46, of Fieldbrook. Harris
was taken to the hospital by a neighbor before police arrived.
According to police, Throckmorton was involved in an ongoing
dispute with his landlord. Neither Wyland nor Harris owned the
residence or lived there, but had reportedly intervened in past
disputes. Throckmorton's bail was set at $1 million. His arraignment
is scheduled for Wednesday, March 8.
BIG ALLOWANCE: The Capitol Weekly,
a Sacramento-based newspaper specializing in state politics,
reported last month that an 18-year-old Eureka high-schooler
had contributed $44,600 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's reelection
campaign -- the maximum amount allowed under campaign finance
laws. Who's the generous young woman, you ask, and how many cups
of lemonade did she have to sell to raise such an impressive
amount? The answers, as you may have already guessed, are: Elizabeth
Arkley, and none.
In total, the Weekly reported, the four-member
Arkley family -- headed by Rob and Cherie Arkley, owners of Security
National Servicing Corp., the Eureka Reporter and numerous
affiliated projects, including the Home Depot-based development
of Eureka's Balloon Track -- gave nearly $180,000 to the Schwarzenegger
campaign on one day in February. Of course, that's just a drop
in the bucket compared to the over $1 million the Arkleys have
contributed to state and national Republican causes in the last
two years. Someone's paying attention: TheRestofUs.org, a campaign-finance
watchdog based in Sacramento, said in a recent press release
that it would be filling a complaint with the state's Fair Political
Practices Commission, alleging that the Arkleys failed to properly
report some $350,000 given to Schwarzenegger-related causes in
BARSTOW CASINO: The Big Lagoon Rancheria's
bid to build a casino in Barstow has advanced one step forward
and stumbled one step back.
Forward: State Sen. Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata) and
Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Eureka) co-authored, and introduced
two weeks ago, a bill that would ratify compacts that Big Lagoon
and another tribe, the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno
Indians of San Diego County, negotiated with the governor last
September to build a $160 million joint, off-reservation dual-casino
resort in Barstow.
Back: A superior court judge threw out a lawsuit
that attempted to stop an initiative, intended for the June 6
ballot, that would establish a 570-acre gaming zone for Indian
casinos in Barstow that excludes the site where Big Lagoon and
Los Coyotes would build their casinos. The lawsuit had been filed
by a citizens group called "Barstow Citizens for Real Economic
Development," who said that the initiative would give unfair
advantage to a third tribe, the San Bernardino-based Chemehuevi,
that also wants to build a casino there. (It was recently revealed
that the citizens group is funded by Barwest, LLC, the consultant
group helping Big Lagoon and Los Coyotes launch their resort.)
Meanwhile, the city of Barstow has approved a municipal
services agreement with Los Coyotes to build a casino, but hasn't
negotiated one yet with Big Lagoon. (The city also has approved
such an agreement with the Chemehuevi.) If Big Lagoon gets the
city agreement, if the dual project meets the city council's
approval and if the project gains legislative approval, the remaining
hurdles will be the June 6 initiative and getting the U.S. Department
of the Interior to place the casino lands in federal trust.
Or, alternatively, perhaps it will be the Chemehuevi
who end up roping in some of the 60-million-annual travelers
between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
STORMS SINK OSCAR, AGAIN: For the second
year running, local ABC affiliate KAEF-TV thoroughly botched
the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night. Last year, the station's
signal blinked in and out throughout the duration of the broadcast,
usually reverting to snow at the most crucial moments, such as
the announcement of the Best Picture award. This year, the station
was long gone before they ever rolled out the red carpet, leaving
rabbit-ear-antenna-loving diehards high and dry all night long.
Of course, the station wasn't alone. Radio stations
up and down the coast were knocked out by Sunday's powerful winds,
which reached speeds of nearly 70 miles per hour in some spots.
(Even mighty KHUM, so praised for its efforts during the New
Year's storms, was out for a few hours Sunday morning. Cool105,
this was your turn to shine!) And power once again went out all
around the backwoods.
But KAEF's perennial signal woes can't be reduced
to bad weather. The station was also off the air Wednesday night,
the night the programming sadists at ABC had finally deigned
to give their viewers a new episode of Lost. Once again
-- perhaps this will become a yearly feature -- we pause to note
KAEF's slogan: "Serving The Community." It's good to
remember that, because if you didn't know any better you'd think
they were intentionally trying to herd you into the greasy 300-channel
world of cable or direct satellite.
North Coast Earth First!
streams live on the 'Net
story and photos by HEIDI WALTERS
like a backwoods bishop, shaggy-maned Shunka Wakan [right]
sat at a table inside his cramped, colorful Earth First!
office above a hubcap shop in Arcata last Thursday and ranted
about the devil-doings of corporations and the government. The
scent of local incense clung to air molecules, and behind Shunka
hung a cloth backdrop edged in blue paisley with a center cross
design in blue flowers. In front of him was a microphone, and
a few inches from that a video camera on a tripod. Shunka's roommate,
4 Winds [below], sat between the camera and a computer,
upon which the image of Shunka and the backdrop appeared on the
Earth First! website.
"Hello, this is Shunka Wakan, coming to you
live from North Coast Earth First! Media, Humboldt County,"
said the live Shunka and the streaming-video Shunka. "This
is our big debut show. So, we're gonna be coming to you live
every week on Thursday, 5 o'clock p.m., Pacific Standard Time,
from Humboldt County, California. We're here to expose Maxxam
Corporation/Pacific Lumber Company and the corrupt Humboldt County
Sheriff's Department and the corrupt agencies that enable Maxxam
PL to do the dirty things that they do here in Humboldt County."
For the next 35 minutes, using equipment donated
to the cause, Shunka read from local Earth First! press releases
and from newspaper articles -- a sustained laid-back rant with
recurring themes: "Maxxam Corporation SLAPP suits harassment
lawsuits ridiculous Hurwitz ancient redwoods civil lawsuits harass
people harass activists golden eagles marbled murrelet last remaining
old growth Pacific Lumber suing us suing them nonviolent civil
disobedience and direct action Hurwitz ridiculous propaganda
protect the forest on the web at northcoastearthfirst.org nonviolent
civil disobedience arrested just ridiculous."
a newcomer to the issue, it might have been a confusing half-hour.
For old-timers, who've read it all on the group's website or
perhaps partaken in the actions -- nothing new.
Shunka also peppered the news bits with commentary.
Regarding a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation)
filed by Pacific Lumber against him and some other activists
over an action in the Mattole River watershed, he said:
"I had heard that Pacific Lumber had fallen
a tree that had a golden eagle nest in it, so I went out there
with a video camera to document [it]. And I was tackled by a
Pacific Lumber backhoe operator [who was ordered to] chase us
around all day, tackled two of us injuring both of us, and then
we get charged -- right? They had actually sent in somebody --
or at least we'd been infiltrated, let's just say, by these two
young kids, let's say, that were coming in, leaving packs all
over the place -- they messed with the machine. North Coast Earth
First! does not do property destruction. So they came in, messed
with this guy's machine, who of course was enraged We have a
counter cross-complaint ."
He also trashed a new book, The Tree-Sitter
by Suzanne Matson. "Apparently she's from the Pacific Northwest,
but, this book just sounds awful. It's about this young girl
that gets involved with tree-sitters, and then these tree-sitters
supposedly become militant and start blowing things up and then
she has this awful crisis, this moral crisis. and they're blowing
stuff up It doesn't happen, OK? This book is just completely
disgusting, folks. I haven't read it, but just everything I've
read about it on the Internet it's just one thing after another,
trying to tie in tree-sitters with this whole eco-terrorism and
property destruction. People are sitting in trees, they're not
going around blowing things up. We're above ground, OK? It's
Shunka turned the mic and backdrop over to 4 Winds,
who rapped freestyle to a soaring soundtrack:
" it's all about making life better for each
and every person, the water and streams dreams water and earth
and the corn that grows from it rebel during the day rebel during
the night sacred, thank god that we made it this far and all
you have to do is stand in the trees and look up at the stars
come out to Humboldt County and experience it we've got things
like spotted owls and golden eagles, this forest is regal, you
gotta see it to believe it; and after they fall, you know we're
gonna have to grieve it ."
Then Shunka thanked the Streamguys, the Arcata-based
firm that hooked the system up for him, and turned the show over
to a short film by Alex Jones called America: Destroyed by
In the silence -- because all the action was now
taking place online -- Shunka and 4 Winds talked about how they
found their calling as EarthFirst! activists.
Shunka, 30, was an occasional activist in the beginning.
In 1995, on the banks of the Cheyenne River in South Dakota,
he was given his Lakota name. The first part, "Shunka Wakan,"
means "great dog." But there's more parts to the name
that he said he can't reveal. Altogether, his name means "the
humble man called horse."
When he was 23, Shunka fell asleep at the wheel
of his car and almost died. He was living in Missouri. "And
I just really decided I really wanted to go West," he said.
"Just the fact that I'd almost died in Missouri, and I was
working just some crappy job, and I felt I was really just wasting
my life. Then I heard this sister named Julia Butterfly was living
in a tree. I knew her in Arkansas -- we met through music."
So he moved to Humboldt County, sought out Julia
in her tree and became part of her core ground-support team.
Then, on Sept. 17, 1998, while he was doing his first direct
action with Earth First!, he saw David "Gypsy" Chain
get crushed by a tree that a logger felled. Gypsy's friends say
he was murdered, but the court ruled otherwise. "That's
when I decided to dedicate my life to filling the hole left by
his death -- a life of action, as opposed to doing it just once
in a while," Shunka said.
4 Winds, 28, grew up in San Francisco. He got his
name "from an Ojibwe down in Ward Valley, in the Mojave,
working with the American Indian Movement in the spring of 1998."
That same year he went to Humboldt County to join a protest --
he was in the woods the day before Gypsy died.
Shunka said he hopes, for future broadcasts, to
bring the camera out into the field, maybe to some tree-sits.
"Some of my friends are working on a real nice film right
now about Nanning Creek [where there's a tree-sit now], so we'll
be streaming that over too when they get that done," he
In the meantime, between the Thursday streaming
live webcasts, you can catch Shunka in person in front of the
Arcata Co-Op most days -- that's where he "tables,"
offering information on North Coast Earth First! and hoping for
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