Friday, October 3, 2008

City Slightly Delays Move On Nickelsville

The latest breaking news is that the City Attorney's office has agreed to repost the site with a new deadline of noon Monday for residents to leave or risk arrest. Moments ago, someone from Land Use showed up at the camp with the new notices. The Northwest Justice Project is seeking a restraining order to prevent the clearance, and expects a hearing to be scheduled for Monday morning. It's another Nickelsville down-to-the-wire Hail Mary, but one thing I've learned is that these folks are not to be under-estimated.

This morning Revel and I drove out there to see the encampment, nestled into an out of the way scenic glen behind the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park. A more invisible and out of the way location is hard to imagine. One camper became misty eyed as he showed us his campsite, near a bucolic mossy pool situated next to a small creek. Despite this mornings' rain and the palpable anxiety of the campers, one could sense a great peace emanating from the ground itself.

United Indians of All Tribes, whose land is on a 99-year lease from the City of Seattle, is between a rock and a hard place. They have, say Nickelsville organizers, been "extremely gracious," although they are unable to give permission to the campers to remain. The city is reserving this right to themselves. United Indians of All Tribes is out on a limb here, and I imagine that Nickels and crew are leaning as hard as they can to break it off beneath them.

That Nickelsville has arrived at this place is fitting. Like homeless people, American Indians have been screwed a hundred ways from Sunday, and their own rights to this land were established through a takeover during the heyday of Red Power by the legendary Seattle activist Bernie Whitebear.
On the morning of March 8, 1970, two half-mile long columns of vehicles began forming in a south Seattle neighborhood. The vehicles moved north towards Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood and the recently decommissioned Fort Lawton Army installation. As the convoys headed north onlookers could see the red cloth banners streaming from the antennas of the automobiles. When the caravans reached their destinations, both the north and south sides of Fort Lawton, the occupants of the cars launched a coordinated effort to occupy the fort and establish it as a cultural and social services center for Seattle’s growing Native American population. In the midst of the ensuing struggle, the occupation’s principal organizer Bernie Whitebear stated, “We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.”
Whitebear's history of the founding of UIAT can be read here, and the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project account of the takeover is here. Like that of Nickelsville, this is the story of people who have been pushed too far fighting back.

Nickelsville supporters are asked to be on hand at the site noon Monday for a show of solidarity, and to come by when possible to say hello and take away some trash. They're poor, but they're clean.

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