Thursday, August 21, 2014

But, why did the Indian Shirt Story change?

Heather Lockman does a great job sketching out the Indian Shirt Story in Olympia (the actual story) and how it changed over the years.


If you don't end up watching the video (but you should), the gist of it is that the details in the story get more sinister and anti-Indian as the years go on. So, why over time, did people telling the story of an Indian who wants a shirt change details to make them more scary?

It probably has to do with how we related to Indians when the story actually took place (1850s) and when the final details of the Indian Shirt story were finally added (in the early 1900s).

In those initial years, the relationship with Indians and non-Indians was certainly and violently one sided. Most of the murder victims between 1854 and 1857 were Indians being killed by white people. Yes, we now have stories of farmers abandoning their homesteads for towns and blockhouses, but when you look at the details of the Puget Sound War, you find the Mashel Massacre, Quiemuth and Leschi. You also have the internment of hundreds of other non-combatant Indians during the war.

There were certainly victims of the war on the non-Indian side, but in those years, you could hardly imagine the majority of whites (especially pre-Puget Sound War) being afraid of an Indian asking for a shirt.

The rest of this post will be a long log roll for my own book "Oyster Light," (here or here) so I apologize. I do suggest you buy Heather's book. Its a good one.

Even after the war, roving bands of whites walked into Indian reservations and murdered people, seemingly without punishment. From Oyster Light's "All the Bunting Trails":
George McCallister (the late James’ 21 year old son) headed the group to bring in Too-a-pi-ti. The young McAllister, between the murder of Quiemuth and going out to track down Too-a-pi-ti, had also reportedly killed another Nisqually Indian on the tribe’s reservation, who had bore some guilt for his father’s death.
The era of the original telling of the Indian Shirt Story was a violent time, mostly for Indians. But, as the years go along, the relationship changes. Mostly to an attitude of glorifying the past and bringing to light actual fears whites had of being murdered themselves, and ignoring their own violence.

In her talk, Heather points out the phenomena locally in the early 1900s of beginning to worry about the imminent deaths of that original pioneer generation. Many of our first historical monuments date from the first two decades of the last century.

Looking at those years deeper, it also shows how the Indian/non-Indian relationship had changed. Mostly, the concern was "why didn't these Indians just go away?"

From Oyster Light's "E.N. Steele":
The local anti-Indian sentiment surrounding the cases is encapsulated in an editorial in the Olympia Recorder that ran the same day as the Kennedy v. Becker news.

Coverage of Peters’ and James’ case was typically sprinkled with terms like "squaw," "pow wow," and "Papooses." While Steele himself wasn't immune to language like this, the Recorder editorial shows that defending Indians for fishing and hunting was not a popular task:

The Indian thinks his ancient treaty rights give him the authority to shoot a deer or spear a salmon at any time he contends that the game laws do not affect him. He declares that the white man is trying to go back on his bargain... Of course the supreme court, in holding that the game laws abrogate the treaty, is ruling that the laws were passed to govern all the people, white, red, black and yellow, and that the treaty is superseded just as all former laws that conflict with new ones are repealed.
If it is non-Indian history, it is a vital cultural heritage to be preserved. If its a treaty with Indians, it is "ancient" or in contrast to modern living.

Non-tribal society at this point had moved on. It remembered the blockhouses and their own telling of the Puget Sound War, so naturally, the Indians in the shirt story would be violent and scary, approaching at night, threatening a young mother. The implied context in the early 1900s is that the non-Indians in the 1850s heroically defeated the violent Indians. They forget about George McCallister and others like Josepth Bunting and Jim Riley.

Hoo boy. You should read about Jim Riley. He's a piece of work.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Statues, bees, food and punks (Olyblogosphere for August 18, 2014)

1. The Olympia's Plinth Project from OlySketcher.

2. Bees from that Amicus blog.

3. Our best local food blogger was out. Back in now? I dunno, she showed us a pi pie though. That was cute:
Besides, we’ve all dropped out of life at some point during the course of it, but no one likes to admit to that. I could brag about finishing my Master’s degree; I could tell you stories about the US healthcare systems and a crazy neurologist that would make you want to emigrate to a cold, dark Scandinavian country; I could say that I was running out of recipes, which would be entirely true; I could just pretend it didn’t happen like I do with some of the jobs I leave off my resume, but I think I’m just going to admit to it. I dropped out. I gave out. I burned out.
 4. A small piece of Olympia music scene, RVIVR playing Party Queen at the Flophouse from Campfire Island.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

There's no paywall to public records in Whatcom County

So, there shouldn't be one anywhere else.

If you're looking for public documents from the Thurston County Clerk (or from practically any other county clerk in Washington State) you need to pay exorbitant fees. Like almost $30 for downloading a 16 page document from a public database.

But, not in Whatcom County. The Whatcom County superior court maintains a public database that offers direct access to court filings with no charge. As it should be.

Here is a link to the Whatcom County Superior Court database. Before searching for court documents, you need a case number, which you can search by individual name or business name here.

Once you plug in a case number you're interested in, you are given direct access to the entire court record.


What in most counties is an unnecessarily arduous and expensive process, is simple and free in Whatcom County. 

I emailed the Whatcom clerk, Dave Reynolds, about his county's choice not to charge, and he responded:
This system was in place before my time, but I fully support it. We feel it saves on both staff time and foot traffic into the court house to obtain documents. We wouldn't charge for someone to come into the office to look at a file. If they chose to make copies, there would be a cost and staff time. I believe it actually saves money by freeing up staff time to do more important tasks. We have had significant reductions in force over the past several years. Further, it provides equal access regardless of financial resources.
Providing for free what should already be free not only makes it easier on the clerk but provides equal access. That sounds great.

This county shows that we don't really need to charge $4 transaction fees plus $.25 per page for public documents. Even though state law allows clerks to collect expensive fees for public documents (much more than what you'd pay for a document from any other part of government), Whatcom County doesn't.

An interesting wrinkle is that what also makes Whatcom County different is that it doesn't have an elected clerk watching over court records. Whatcom County rewrote its county charter in the late 1970s and rolled the function of the clerks office into the superior court. I might be reading into that fact a bit too much, but having to support an entire other office aside from just the courts probably justifies keeping open as many revenue streams as possible.

I emailed both candidates for Thurston County Clerk about what they thought of the public records paywall, neither of whom have written back yet.

What Whatcom County shows is that there is really no reason (other than just bringing more money into a specific county office) to charge so much for public records.

These aren't private documents, there is no reason the clerks' offices should be charging so much for them. From RECAP the Law:
We are a nation of laws. Our law is created not only via legislation, but also through the adjudicative process of the courts. Whereas we generally have open and free access to the statutes that bind us, case law has had a more mixed history. Earlier experiments in secret proceedings did not go well. Western law subsequently developed strong precedents for access to judicial proceedings — citing the importance of transparency in promoting court legitimacy, accountability, fairness, and democratic due process. When the law is accessible, “ignorance of the law is no excuse."
The public interest is not served when only those who can afford it can have access to what goes on in our courts.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why does the Olympia Oyster House mean so much to us?


The Oyster House will open back up tomorrow after more than a year closure because of a fire.

After a false start of an announced opening near Lakefair weekend, the Oyster House posted up last week August 12. And, Olympia caught fire.

I don't think it would be a stretch to expect a line out the door when they reopen.

But, why does the Oyster House, seemingly more than any other restaurant (short of maybe the Spar) hold such a high place in Olympia?

It certainly isn't the food. I'd agree with most that the food there is good, decent, but generally unexciting. I suppose that works because it remains accessible to most people. It is a pretty standard, fairly priced, Cascadian seafood place. But, certainly below the standard of the other shoreline seafood places even in Olympia.

You have to admit, the Oyster House has a pretty nice location. Practically all the traffic crossing Olympia is funneled right in front of the Oyster House. And, no other business on that stretch (sorry green Vietnamese place) has the sense of the Oyster House looming over that corridor, sitting crisp and smartly on the southern edge of Puget Sound. Everyone who lives here passes by the Oyster House often enough to get it stuck in their head.

Unlike a lot of place, the Oyster House has grown up with Olympia. Other places that compete with the Oyster House's stature in Olympia either stayed stale for too long (the Spar, only recently updating under new ownership, aren't that old (Darby's) or appeal to a broad enough group (Ben Moore's).

The Oyster House has evolved, is widely acceptable and has a long history.

A history so long, I'd say it is effectively been the restaraunt that grew up with Olympia.

My unified field theory of Cascadian history holds that (come on now, stay with me) that we either turned a major corner or that our history really started in the 1940s. While the foundation of the region was set in the first 100 years, my theory is that we didn't really start building the house until World War II crossed off all the failed efforts in our start and stop history after statehood.

Since the 1940s, our history (even locally here in Olympia) has been a straight shot in one general direction. We've left behind the resource extractive industries, and grew in at a regular pace into a generally professional, quasi-government and college town.

And, the Oyster House has been there since our growth started. It left its own resource extractive history behind, switching fully from an oyster plant to a restaurant. Three since then, the restaurant was destroyed by fire. Each time, it came back, updating itself as it went along.

The most recent update in the early 1990s, when the now ubiquitous floor to ceiling windows and clean floor plan were added, were reactions to the closure of the Oyster House that I remember as a kid. I only went in there only once or twice, mostly because it wasn't a place for families.

Tall backed chairs, hardly any windows and dark. It seemed like a place where men and women would come together outside of a family setting and speak as men and women do. It was a cigarette era place and by the 1980s, that sort of place was not the centerpiece of our town.

This was the Olympia that in the 80s had won the Olympia marathon trial, had build the Washington Center and shelved their old form of city government. Finally, the added benefit of Evergreen was growing shoots in town, and we'd moved past the Oyster House being a smokey dark gathering place.

And, after this most recent fire, the Oyster House is coming back again. It looks like the same general layout is still being used, the large windows are still there as well. Which makes sense. I feel like Olympia is so much more of the family centered place that killed the old cigarette Oyster House in the 80s.

I understand that the Oyster House isn't accessible to everyone. For a town that isn't very diverse, it is diverse enough in taste for people not to like the Oyster House in the same way they don't like Lakefair. In exactly the same way. But, Lakefair is crowded and so will the Oyster House tomorrow.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

My less than meaningful Top Two primary (Imagining a better WA10 candidate)

On my primary ballot, there was only one race that really mattered. Even technically mattered. I live in the central portion of the county, so neither PUD race that actually had a primary was on my ballot. I also don't live in Lacey, so a very important fire levy was also not on my ballot.

The only race that had more than two candidates was the congressional race, incumbent Denny Heck versus a Republican (Pierce County councilmember) and two independents.

I was going to write this post to criticize those two independents, but I really only think one actually deserves criticism. Sam Wright is a typical crank sort of candidate. Not putting much of any effort into campaigning, shooting for a high profile position with no real effort behind his campaign. Enough about him.

On the other hand, Jennifer Ferguson is fascinating. She only ended up getting just about 5 percent of the vote, but I hope this doesn't end up being her last race. Like Sue Gunn two years ago, I think Ferguson should aim lower next time, and get her foot in elected office somewhere else.

In some pretty interesting ways, Ferguson really does represent the WA10. I wrote awhile back how WA10 really is a military base community district, and in a lot of ways she speaks to that community.

From her website:

Do you want someone to serve you that values people and quality of life?  Would you want someone to represent you that has a community track record of service and commitment such as volunteering 2500 hours in less than 13 months at Madigan with soldiers in acute distress and other mental health disorders to include PTSD?  Would you like someone to serve you and represent you that believes in standing up for what is right and has shown it over and again such as going to congress when the PTSD program at Madigan was shut down causing a congressional investigation? Would you want someone to serve and represent you on a large scale that has served and represented their entire life as a volunteer in the military community and in University Place PTA, President of UP Soccer Association, University Place Sheriffs Academy, and the list goes on?

In her work as a mental health provider, Gigi has worked with youth on drugs, youth in gangs, women as domestic violence victims, and families who have lost their children to the state for many reasons. Jennifer is a hard worker and committed to making this a better place than she found it.  Jennifer is committed to her faith which causes her to touch hearts, minds and lives where she goes. 
Don't get me wrong, I really like Denny Heck. I voted for him this week and I'll vote again for him in November. He does a great job on JBLM and other WA10 issues and is a polished and intelligent politician.

But, there is something about Ferguson that strikes me as very authentically WA10. We're a very new congressional district, so our political identity is still being developed. But, she seems to speak much more clearly to the concerns of base communities.

So, not this time around, but I think she should take a crack at another local office. Like, who is taking on Doug Richardson next year?

Monday, August 04, 2014

Bridges, woods, and waxwings (Olyblogosphere for August 4, 2014)

1. From Olympia WA (via olynews), the Rainbow Bridge. I wish I knew where this was. I can't place it.

2. Also from Olympia WA, a blog post about LBA Woods, and balanced:
So yes, Olympia could purchase the properties, but we wouldn’t even have a park. We’d have another project on add to our ever increasing to do list. I’m not outright saying Olympia shouldn’t try to purchase the properties, but Olympia already has a lot of unfinished projects. It’s important to consider what else we could do with that money. And before die-hard park fanatics demand my head on a plate for suggesting that Olympia shouldn’t save the LBA Woods, in the future I’ll write a piece about potential compromises and other reason why I’m torn on the subject.
This is the Olympia blog I've been waiting for.

3. "It's like they put an amusement park in the middle of downtown." YDHWM covers LakeFair and other parks of fun. The only thing you'll need to help you remember LakeFair.

4. Cedar Waxwings is a pretty cool name for a bird:
That is why I was surprised once again to notice something intriguing happening there: a whole flock of birds flitting on and off the wood pile. What was going on? From far away, these birds looked rosy in color, so I thought at first they might be finches. But in checking them out through binoculars, I discovered they were cedar waxwings, and they were "hawking" - catching food on the wing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer archive post: Soccer history, two stories about Puget Sound

First, you might not have known, but soccer has a deep and rich history in Cascadia (from a submission I put into GoalWa):
This isn’t a thorough history of high level Puget Sound area soccer, but rather a quick overview of what I could find in a few places about the earliest soccer in the area. I drew solely from articles I could find at Chronicling America and the Internet Archive. I put my emphasis on adult intercity soccer, ignoring mentions of international soccer (there seemed to be some friendlies played in Seattle) and school soccer.

The years I was able to find resources were basically from 1906 through the early 1920′s. That said, these years seem to represent a high water mark for local soccer.

The Seattle Wanderers traveled to Bainbridge Island to play the Port Blakely team at Pleasant Beach in 1906. This game, and the Wanderers themselves, are the earliest reference to Seattle soccer I could find. Below this article is an interesting reminder of how old some issues in soccer really are. The article is about why the game itself is called “soccer,” reminding more mainstream fans of the full name of the sport of association football.
But, did you know its also true that Olympia itself (tiny little Oly!) has its own rich history of club soccer. This includes a trip into what I think is the best sporting tournament in America, the U.S. Open Cup:
The 1973 campaign by the Olympia Olys in the Challenge Cup turned out a little better. They won their first round game on February 11 against the Rainier Brewers 4-1, but a couple of weeks later, they dropped 4-2 against the San Jose Portuguese. That team would end up losing to eventual champions Maccabi Los Angeles.

Club soccer in western Washington was different back in the 70s. Most semi-pro teams played in the state soccer league, which kicked off in the early 1950s and at its peak was a three division system. Olympia's first entry into the league was in 1965. That team played at Stevens Field, the old high school stadium just south of the Lincoln School.
Remember history is deep. Its varied. The history you know is often there because someone wrote it down. The saying "history is written by the winners" is so true, that its not even funny. But, we can look beyond that first telling of history, digitize way more stuff than we ever had before, and go back and relearn what we know about ourselves.