For a change, lets do the right thing
June 12, 2008 · Updated 4:44 PM
America, and South Kitsap which was still part of America the last time I checked have a love-hate relationship with Indians.
John Wayne played a hero many times after the real shooting stopped, killed tribes full of celluloid Native Americans in the movies.
He and his fellow actors always seemed to be saving virtuous little girls like Brittany Spears (thats irony, folks, dont write and tell me about her ninth wedding this year) from savages.
But our cultural attitude toward Native Americans is no longer the simple kill em all and let God sort em out proposition that dominated our 19th century national conversation.
Many Americans have, over the years, developed a deep respect for the way Native Americans lived with and on the land we tend to log and pave over.
Even the movie view of Indians changed. By 1990, Kevin Costners Dances With Wolves portrayed the Indians (and Kevin) as the good guys.
And Ive met at least 100 pure-dee white Americans since I moved West 20 years ago whove tried to convince me they are one-quarter Native American.
All but one of these ersatz Indians claimed to be Cherokee. The one rebel said he was part-Choctaw.
If there were as many part-Cherokee people around as there are white folks claiming to be Cherokee, that poor tribe wouldnt have been forced onto the Trail of Tears. Wed have marched our butts off instead.
But the fact that so many folks value Indians enough to want to be part-Indian themselves says a lot about our (white folks) confused feelings concerning the issue.
For example, you dont see too many folks named Smith claiming to be one-quarter Iranian or one-eighth Afghani. There is something this culture values about Native Americans, even if we have mixed feelings about our historical dealings with them.
Thats why I read with interest Adele Fergus-ons column, published in this newspaper Aug. 11, concerning the Suquamish Tribes attempts to retake control of Old Man State Park, the final resting place of the tribes greatest chief, Chief Seattle.
Whatever you think of my writing, you have to read the columns to see what Im saying, because my opinions are all over the map. I sure wont be voting for George Bush, but I did vote for his Daddy.
I voted for Bob Oke the first time. I am not a card-carrying anything.
Unlike me, Miss Adele, at least when Native Americans are involved, doesnt give you a lot of looks as the sports scouts like to say about one-dimensional athletes. In my eight years of reading her columns liking some, agreeing with some, hating others and disagreeing violently with a few I cant remember Adele ever giving a Native American a fair shake.
Indians are her Achilles Heel.
She can say what she likes, her writing gives one the definite feeling that she isnt someone who will ever claim to be one-quarter Cherokee.
Of course Adele thought Old Man should stay in the states hands. Washington has been running the park since buying it in 1950. This from a woman who has made her reputation complaining about big government.
According to Adeles main source, some old dude who retired from the states park commission four years ago, the tribe doesnt show much love and care in the parks cemetery.
One might make the point that the state didnt show much love and care for Chief Seattle while he lived, but why be petty? Even Adele admits Indian occupation of the parks site dates back 2,000 years.
The park belongs to Native Americans. They should have it. Seems simple enough to me.
And the Park Commission basically agreed with me at its Aug. 13 meeting. Theyve put some conditions on the deal but have turned the park, and the chiefs grave, over to the tribe.
That was the right thing to do.
America has a less-than-sanguine history concerning Native Americans. Granted, settlers were in a war with the various tribes they displaced from sea to shining sea, but still...
Im glad to see the descendants of our areas settlers have decided to do the right thing by the descendants of Chief Seattle.
And Im sure the tribe, which has shown quite a head for business with its casino, will be able to cheerfully maintain the tiny Old Man State Park.
Oh yeah, Im not gonna make any money on this deal. Im half-German (paternal) and half-Irish (maternal). Not that I wouldnt be proud if Indian blood flowed in my veins. It just doesnt.
Ive got enough to contend with wondering why half of me wants everything organized and the other half of me often feels like it needs a drink.
Dennis Wilken is a former Port Orchard Independent reporter.