September 21, 2000
The sun shone on the calm waters of Humboldt Bay last week as the tour boat Madaket cruised the shoreline. California Coastal Commissioners were taking a break from their meeting in Eureka to see the physical realities behind some agenda items they would soon be considering. As the boat cruised under the Samoa Bridge approaching Indian Island, commissioners sipped their drinks, listening with polite interest as Captain Leroy Zerlang gave a brief history of the bay -- beginning in 1806, the year it was discovered.
That comment brought a wry smile to the faces of two others on board that day, Cheryl Seidner and Leona Wilkinson, direct descendents of the only known survivor of the 1860 Indian Island Massacre -- an infant boy named Jerry James. The two women know that the "history" of Humboldt Bay actually began many years before 1806. They are members of the Wiyot tribe, the original inhabitants not only of Indian Island centuries before 1806, but all lands surrounding Humboldt Bay from south of Rio Dell to north of McKinleyville and inland to the area east of Blue Lake.
Seidner, chairwoman of the Wiyots, did not dwell on the massacre that day but on her tribe's plans to reclaim the island as a site for redemption and reconciliation. She informed the commissioners of the purchase in March of a 1.5-acre parcel on Indian Island for $106,500. The land, a cluttered and abandoned boatyard, is ironically the exact site of the atrocity that occurred on Feb. 25, 1860 when white men, armed with hatchets and bowie knives, crossed from Eureka and murdered all those on the island, 188 Indians, mostly women and children..
"It's not the fact that it's the massacre site which makes it sacred. The whole island is sacred," she said.
Raising money to re-establish a foothold on the island hasn't been easy, Seidner said. The tribe has been seeking help from throughout the state and county. She tells of one night when she made her plea to a meeting of the National Congress of American Indians.
"I got to plead my case in front of 1,300 Native Americans from the United States and Canada. I told them about Indian Island and about our plight. A friend of mine came up and said, `I have $100 and I challenge you all to do the same.' We raised $40,000 that day -- $700 in one-dollar bills alone."
In addition to money and land, Seidner said, the tribe needs to continue to work on recovering its culture -- Wiyot basketmaking, dances and language. There are no native Wiyot speakers left, but the language is being resurrected from conversations taped by a linguist at Berkeley in the 1950s. Seidner studies those tapes, trying to piece together a part of her identity.
Seidner said that in order to bring about cultural renewal, it is also important to forgive.
"In Catholicism, when you get ready for Communion, you have to have a clean heart. Same here. You have to have a clean heart to start over."
Which is why Zerlang's comments didn't bother the two sisters. In fact, Zerlang is an ardent supporter of the Indian Island project and has had cruises aboard his ship to raise money.
The "historical" comments spring from an older state of mind, Wilkinson said, one that still persists.
"We can change some attitudes for some people, but there are some families -- of the `second settlers' (settlers of European descent) -- that have been here since 1860. And their thoughts will never change," she said. "We're really trying to work towards revitalizing Wiyot culture -- and that's for all people, not just Wiyot."
With seven weeks remaining before the Nov. 7 elections, the campaign season has begun in earnest. Last week Michael Lampson of Kelseyville, the Republican challenger to 1st District Assemblyman Virginia Strom-Martin announced she will not actively campaign, citing lack of financial resources. Strom-Martin was reelected to a second term in 1998, capturing 60 percent of the vote. Lampson's name will still appear on the ballot along with Libertarian candidate, Gail Lightfoot.
In addition to state and national contests and state initiatives, this fall's election will feature a number of local races and bond measures. The following is a list of the candidates and a short description of the measures. In the coming weeks Journal coverage will focus on several of the more critical local races.
Blue Lake City Council. No election. Three candidates for three open seats were appointed by the council.
Rio Dell City Council. No election. Two candidates for two seats were appointed by the council.
City Councils of Trinidad and Fortuna. Vacancies also filled by appointments following filing periods prior to spring 2000 elections.
Eureka City Council Second Ward (being vacated by Jim Gupton). Candidates: Virginia Bass-Jackson, 38, restaurant manager; Peter La Vallee, 51, director of the Youth Service Bureau; Duff Huettner, 73, retired director of Small Business Development Center; and Brent McCoy, 30, retail sales clerk.
Eureka City Council Fourth Ward. Candidates: Connie Miller, 56, business manager (incumbent); and Chris Kerrigan, 20, student, Humboldt State University.
Arcata City Council (three seats, including one being vacated by Jennifer Hanan): Candidates: Susan Brinton, 53, nurse; Donn RJ Filbert, 69, retired businessman; Dwain Goforth, 47, computer programmer; Ron Hagg, 52, educator; Michael Machi, 50, woodworker; Robert Ornelas, 47, business owner (incumbent); Connie Stewart, 34, office manager (incumbent).
Humboldt County First District Supervisor (runoff for seat being vacated by Stan Dixon). Walt Giacomini, 56, cattle rancher; and Jimmy Smith, 52, fisherman/harbor commissioner.
Bond Measure N, Peninsula Union School. $1.08 million for modernization of the building and refurbishing classrooms.
Bond Measure Q, Fieldbrook School. $450,000 to match state funds for modernization of classrooms.
Bond Measure P, City of Arcata Utility Users Tax. Approximately $500,000 primarily for police staffing.
The sale of the town of Samoa took a step forward when the bidding was closed last week. Sealed bids were due Sept. 15, so theoretically, there's a buyer. But no one's saying who that might be.
John Rosenthal, the real estate agent who handled the sale for Realty Marketing Northwest, said that bidders won't receive notification until Sept. 22. That is the earliest date Simpson Timber Co., the current owners, could say who bought the property. And whoever wins the bid will have a 45-day "due diligence" period during which they can conduct further studies of the property. All this could further delay announcement of a buyer -- if Simpson wants.
"It's really up to Simpson to decide when they want to announce," Rosenthal said.
Jackie Deuschle, public affairs manager for Simpson, said Tuesday that she is not aware of when the new owner's identity will be made public. She was unable to comment on whether Simpson was satisfied with the winning bid, although it was clear that the minimum bid price of $1.75 million had been met.
Polish your reading glasses. Sept. 24-30 is Banned Books Week.
The week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read whatever we want -- and an eye-opener about what some people find offensive.
Each year during Banned Books Week, the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom publishes a list of books that people tried, sometimes successfully, to remove from library shelves. This year that list includes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Color Purple, which have been challenged for years. The bizarre logic award goes to the Oachita Parish School Library in Monroe, La., for removing Barbara Moe's Everything You Need to Know About Sexual Abstinence because of sexual content.
Schools from New York to California have tried to remove J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, as the wizardry, violence and smart-aleckism was feared to be too corrupting to children. And according to the Zeeland, Mich. school board, there's just too much animal-blood sucking in them.
For a complete listing of banned books, stop by Northtown Books in Arcata, where the staff will be setting up its annual banned-books window display Saturday -- or visit a bookstore near you.
This year's Coastal Cleanup, held on beaches across the county last weekend, collected more than 5,000 pounds of trash from Humboldt County beaches -- and that's with less than half of the 3,000 registered beachcombers reporting in.
Tim McKay, executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center which collects data on the cleanup in Humboldt County, said Tuesday that it usually takes a couple of weeks to get the numbers tabulated.
But he did say that there were some interesting surprises -- like wrappers from Hong Kong and Japan, and the hull of a boat, which was too heavy for the poor volunteer to move.
The cleanup day is important for two reasons, McKay said.
"At one level, it's a feel-good exercise, something I can do with my kids. There's a real community aspect to it. But it also has a scientific element," he said. "We get a snapshot of what is on the beach locally."
The local data is all forwarded to the Center for the Marine Environment in Virginia Beach, Va. There it is analyzed to try and get a comprehensive picture of where things are coming from.
"And that can be helpful in trying to stem the tide of the stuff," McKay said, no pun intended.
Capt. Hugh Thompson, a true hero of the Vietnam War, is coming to Humboldt County.
In the spring of 1968, as part of an effort to "root out" resistance to the American occupation, Lt. William Calley ordered the soldiers under his command to fire on the assembled unarmed residents of the village of My Lai. The man who finally stopped the carnage was Thompson, a helicopter pilot who landed his chopper between the soldiers and the villagers. Thompson is credited with saving the few remaining villagers and the residents of three other villages Calley was to secure.
Thompson will speak at the Eureka Campus of the College of the Redwoods Sept. 27 and at Humboldt State University Sept. 28. See this week's Calendar for details.
Humboldt County -- as well as the rest of California -- is experiencing prime fire weather this week, but the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection just received reinforcements. CDF hired a private helicopter, equipped to carry two-man crews and a water bucket, to respond quickly to the threat of fire.
The measure was necessary because of the critical fire danger, said Kevin Mancebo, engineer with the CDF forest fire team stationed in Bridgeville.
Along with record high temperatures and wind velocities, humidity levels have been unusually low.
"Right now we've
got a weather pattern that's set up over Northern California
with easterly wind flows that just creates prime fire weather,"
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