The Indians of the Pacific Northwest are engaged in what may well be called the last Indian war. They are taking a stand against the never-ending encroachment and aggression of their white neighbors within the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The Indians' fishing stations on the rivers of those three states are coveted by powerful, politically-minded sportsmen's groups, who are pushing the State officials to get the Indians off the rivers.
Along the banks of the Nisqually River the spotlight is focused upon a band of pathetically outnumbered Indians who are waging a series of bitter and bloody battles against the police power of the State of Washington. Equally small bands of Indians are springing up all over Washington State to fight for the last shred of the rights guaranteed to them through numerous treaties with the United States Government.
Governor Dan Evans, one of the nationally publicized new faces of the Republican Party, is brutally wielding the police power of this state in an effort to force the Indian people into submissive compliance with his demand that the Indians give up their fishing stations for the exclusive use of the sportsmen.
Treaties: History of Theft
It all began in 1854, when the President of the United States sent his official emissary, Isaac Stevens, to negotiate treaties with the Northwest Indians on behalf of the federal government. (Actually, his mission was to spread a thin layer of legality over the theft of Indian land, which was already occurring in the Oregon Territory as it had everywhere else in the country.) It was necessary to do this prior to the granting of statehood to Washington and Oregon, for no state constitution can be formed, or any legal foundation arrived at, until title to the land is securely vested in the hands of the federal government. Americans have always displayed a fine hand for legality -- no matter how you steal a thing, in the end make it look legal.
These negotiations followed the usual pattern of making treaties with the unlettered Indians, a blanket take-it-or-leave-it choice. The whites drew up the so-called sacred documents and used interpreters to give the Indians an entirely different version of the treaties, which needed the Indians' signatures to make them legal and binding.
In the Oregon Territory on December 26, 1854, the first treaty was negotiated on the banks of the Medicine Creek with the Nisqually, Squaxin, Puyallup and allied tribes. The Indians protestingly gave up their home-lands -- millions of acres, today worth billions' of dollars. They were allowed to reserve a small reservation to live upon, more for the purpose of isolating the Indians than as a concession. When the Indians learned that they were going to be confined they became very worried, for these were fisher-people and nomadic in their fishing habits. Stevens assured them over and over that he wanted only the land; he further stated that all the fish and game belonged to the Indians, and would belong to them forever. The right to fish was more important to these north coast Indians than the land. The Indians reserved their fishing rights unrestricted.
The ------ -----lt on the Indians who are living a way of life that is natural to them was legally triggered by an injunction prohibiting Indians from fishing in their ancestral fishing stations. Judge John Cochran, Pierce County Superior Court, Tacoma, set aside the hundred-year old treaty commitment of the federal government and forbade Indians to fish on the Nisqually River in Washington State. 'This was done at the behest of the state's Game and Fisheries Departments, which in turn are carrying out Governor Stevens' program.
It is extremely questionable whether any state judge has the legal power to set aside or nullify a treaty drawn up between the federal government and the Indian Nations (so designated in the language of the treaty itself, which was written solely by the whites and upon which the very foundation of Washington statehood is based). Legally only an act of Congress can revoke treaty obligations and commitments, but the letter of the law never seems to apply to Indian land and rights as it does to others. (To illustrate: just imagine the furor that Governor Evans would create if he took the same attitude to the treaty commitments the federal government has made to various Saigon regimes, as they applied to the State of Washington.)
Clashes and Protests
Following this injunction a series of clashes occurred between the protesting Indians and the state wardens. To cite a few of the most notable ones: On October 7, 1965, two Indian fishermen, Billy Frank and Alvin Bridges, were tending their nets when state wardens came up the Nisqually River in a big power boat and rammed their frail canoe without any warning. It was a dark, rainy night. One of the fishermen was spilled into the ice-cold, dangerous river. Fortunately, despite being dressed in heavy winter gear he made it safely to shore - - right into the arms of wardens waiting there.
The next clash was more serious. On October 9, 1965, also late at night, wardens cornered two teenage boys on a log jam in the middle of the Nisqually River. Word flew out somehow and the Nisquallies came flying from every direction. The wardens were now the cornered ones, an the enraged Indians would not let them go. Fights erupted everywhere. Indian war cries cut through the still night air, causing the wardens to suffer paroxysms of fear. They sent out a frightened call for reinforcements. Before the night was over every available unit of the Thurston County Sheriff's office, the Pierce County Sheriff's office, the Fort Lewis Military Police and Governor Evans' newly formed and specially trained State Troopers were at the scene. Some cars were busted up as well as some people. Finally Thurston County Sheriff Clarence Van Allen, long a friend to the Indians, talked them into calling it a stalemate. The police withdrew, and no Indians were arrested. However, the wardens did get away with an Indian's canoe, allegedly to use as court evidence. Though no one was arrested and no court case came of the incident, the canoe still has not been returned.
Then on October 13, 1965, the Survival of American Indians Association held a protest fish-in on the Nisqually River. It was highly publicized and was intended as a protest to the continued night raids by the state wardens against the Nisqually Indians. Fish-ins had been used in the past by Indians as their way of protesting the State's encroachment on their treaty fishing rights. It has been a peaceful way to vent the Indians' growing bitterness and hostility at the whites' never-ending invasion of their land and rights. That ended on October 13! Those who volunteer to go fishing in violation of the court injunction usually end up sitting in jail. Their purpose is to try to obtain a writ of habeas corpus from a higher court, as this is the cheapest, though the hardest, way to overturn a lower court ruling. It is the only way that these poverty-stricken Indians can go. To this date the higher courts of Washington have flatly refused even to hear these writs - - another violation of their court rules.
The October 13th fish-in turned into the bloodiest conflict of all, due to the sadistic actions of the wardens and their very evident hatred of the Indians. This battle took place at Frank's Landing, which is Federal trust land, posted with NO TRESPASSING signs as required by the Federal Trespass Law. Local news media sent their photographers and reporters to cover the story. Interested organizations sent their qualified representatives to observe the fish-in demonstration. The cameramen set up their equipment long before the fish-in was scheduled to begin. State wardens watched impassively from behind bushes on the other side of the river, the exact number of their forces well hidden from the Indians and non-Indian observers. There were about twenty-seven Indians, eight of them men and the rest women and children; there were more reporters than Indians. Later it was learned that the State's forces consisted ofabout 100 strong; game and fisheries wardens had been called in from allover the state, and Governor Evans' special unit of the State patrol was waiting about a half mile from the scene, with all the weapons of war to use against the unsuspecting Indians.
The Indians' boat contained eight occupants: two Indian fishermen, Donald McCloud and Alvin Bridges; one teenage boy, Dorien Sanchez; two boys under ten years of age, Don McCloud, Jr. and Jeffery McCloud; the family dog, Tex; and three newspapermen. At the preannounced tine the boat preceded out on the Nisqually River, and the Indian fishermen set their net. From the other side of the river shouts were heard: Get 'em! Get the dirty S.O.B.S. In the twinkling of an eye, three big powerboats emerged from the underbrush, were quickly launched and used to ram the Indians'. boat. No attempt was made to secure peaceful arrests, and at no time during the entire riot, which lasted only twenty minutes, were the Indians told that they were under arrest.
The Indians on the beach, now thoroughly incensed at the actions of the State wardens who had turned their intended peaceful demonstration into an excuse to beat up and terrorize the Indians, began pelting the state's forces with anything they could lay their hands on. A large force of wardens, who had been hiding on the Indians' side of the river, then closed in on the Indians, and the fighting became general. The Indians, though badly outnumbered, gave a good accounting of themselves even the children.
After the dust cleared, six Indians found themselves under arrest, charged with resisting arrest. (Alvin Bridges, 41, and his wife Maiselle 41; Don McCloud, 39, and his wife Janet, 31; Susan Satiacum, 23; and Don George, Jr.) In the squad cars the fighting continued, but here the newsmen were kept away and could verify nothing. When one of the women was questioned after her release she said, The way they were acting, we were afraid they were going to take up somewhere kill us. They can do anything they want to, because they wear a badge.
Later that evening there was another clash on the Nisqually River banks. Two more Indians were arrested, Joe Kautz and Harold Gleason. Small boys were hauled in, but Sheriff Van Allen refused to book them, and they were released and sent home. Indian mothers and fathers looked far into the night for their young boys, who were hiding in the woods from the now drunken wardens (they had been celebrating their victory) who were chasing Indian boys with pistols and clubs. One of the guns was knocked out of a warden's hand by a young Indian. A search was conducted until it was found; according to Washington state law, warden:; are not allowed to carry firearms.
The State's actions were directed by Walter Neubrich, game director, and Robert Josephson, fisheries director. Later Mr. Neubrich proudly told reporters, Our men are not trained in riot control, but I was sure proud of the way they handled this.
Thor Tollefson, State Fisheries Director, had told newsmen before the fish-in that no unusual law-enforcement measures were to be used against the Indians. Therefore everyone assumed that the wardens would take down the Indians' names and ask the local judge to issue warrants, with the actual arrests to be made by the sheriff's department; this was the way it had been done in the past.
The next day, fully aware of the improper procedure of his departments, Governor Evans told the worried public that the entire blame was due to the irresponsible elements of the Indian population; he further stated, The Indian treaty is nothing but a worthless piece of hundred-year old paper and it isn't even worth the paper it's written on..
Fortunately for the Indians, the battle was well watched and photographed by a small army of competent observers. They told of the arrival of a large force of wardens, carrying nightsticks, long seven-inch flash lights (totally unnecessary in the bright sunlight, but a formidable weapon well known to them) and at least one blackjack, which the Indians got away from them.
Observers Cite Wardens' Brutality
State Representative Hal Wolfe of Yelm, a Republican, arrived on the scene after the Indians had been taken to jail. After he had talked to the crying and bruised children, he immediately went to the jail to find out what had happened. He told the press; Governor Evans assured me that no on-the-spot arrests were going to take place. Frank's Landing has been used as a fishing site by the local Indians for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure, but in my mind Gestapo methods were used against the Indians today.
Paris Emery, a 69-year-old television cameraman, was one of the few to be in a good position to take pictures of the riot. He obtained good shots of two young Indian boys being systematically worked over by wardens; when the wardens spotted Emery photographing them, they turned on him, knocking him around, twisting his arms, and trying to break his camera. They did succeed in dumping him into the river, but he saved his film. It was Emery's unedited film that was seen nationwide.
Another newsman, Darrel Houston of KIXI Radio, was threatened with arrest by Ed Sarardov, fisheries warden, when Houston attempted to get the name of an officer who was seen striking an Indian boy with a steel pipe. This warden officer refused to remove his hand from his jacket pocket, when surrounded by newsmen and witnesses demanding to see what he had concealed. One witness, however, did get movie film of this incident, and another got pictures of the same warden hitting an Indian girl in the mouth and pulling her long hair. The girl was Valerie Bridges, who was trying to help her mother Maiselle. Other children displayed marks that were obviously made by something harder than a man's fist. While an arrested Indian was being held by two wardens, another officer was seen striking him in the small of the back with his nightstick, but when a photographer tried to get a picture of this the wardens forcefully stopped his efforts.
One bystander, after watching the brutal manhandling of women and children, told a reporter. I think I'll go home and throw up.
Two men from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (which is universally hated - despised - by the Indians) were seen sitting in their car, a safe distance from the scene. When questioned by reporters, they refused to give their names, stating, We've been instructed not to get involved. They were identified by the Indians and by one reporter as A.G. Risswick and Charles B. Allen. They had talked to Janet McCloud before the fish-in began, and had asked her to take pictures of everything for them. They said that they had been sent by their superiors to observe. Later they tried to get statements from the Indians, but the Indians refused to give them any because they were furious at the cowardly actions of these federal officers. An Indian told them, You were sent here to watch and you were too scared to get out of your car; why should we do your job that you're getting paid to do!
Even the later encounter that evening was witnessed by a capable observer. Dr. Bran Robbers, Jr., of the American Friends Service Committee came to try to learn more of the day's events. He went with some of the Indian parents who were worriedly looking for their young boys. When he arrived at the scene where the night battle was taking place, he was hit in the stomach with a nightstick and told by state officials that he had no right to be present. The Quaker doctor stuck to his position that he had every right to be present. After he had taken in the scene, which was lit up by the wardens' flashlights, he told of wardens flashing pistols around and of smelling alcohol on some of the wardens' breath. He accused them outright of being intoxicated; he told them he was a doctor and therefore an expert on the subject. Later he made a statement to the press and a report to Governor Evans.
In another sworn statement, a qualified observer said, They were like animals that smell blood. Their whole treatment of the Indians was cold, premeditated and cruel, whereas the Indians' reaction was normal in the face of a situation where their legal test was being used as an excuse to terrorize them.
This statement pinpoints the basic difference between the current Negro revolt and the ever-continuing Indian struggle. The Negro faces discrimination which sometimes turns into race hatred as he struggles for assimilation. The Indian on the other hand, has always faced unreasoning race hatred from the very first. Indians fight desperately to regain an Indian way of life in the face of all the forced assimilation policies of the United States government. In fact, they despise much of the white culture and the values of an avaricious and aggressive white society.
While the fishing war simmered on the banks of the Washington rivers, the legal machinery in the courts continued to grind. In Tacoma, five Indians were convicted for illegal fishing and were sentenced to sixty days, suspended on condition they abide by the court injunction. In Olympia the same afternoon, six Indians pleaded not guilty to a charge of interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duty.
On October 26, 1965, in Seattle, the embattled western Washington Indians staged a protest march in front of the Federal Court House. Only about fifty people turned out for the march, which had been widely publicized. The Stillaguamish tribe sent a banner, and a few eastern Washington Indians were present. (Once more the total absence of liberal progressive, or left-wing whites underlined the basic difference between an Indian demonstration and a Negro demonstration - whites simply do not support the Indians' struggle; they all, whether left or right, reside upon Indian land, and they don't intend to return any part of that land or to make restitution.) The marchers passed out pamphlets explaining their just cause, to all who would accept them. Their flier contended that the Washington officials, in their persecution of the Indians, were violating the United States Constitution, existing federal laws, and also the Washington State Constitution and existing state laws. It went on to accuse the state's game and fisheries departments of deliberately enacting fish-conservation laws which are at variance with existing federal treaties and therefore unconstitutional.
Reuben Wright, a dedicated tribal council leader of the Puyallup tribe, was doing a sixty-day jail sentence for contempt of court in violating the fishing injunction. In the same jail on the same charge was the controversial, self-styled chief, Bob Satiacum. Both of these Indians had been volunteers at an earlier fish-in demonstration on the Puyallup River, which had been led by the well-known movie star, Marlon Brando, who had come to the state with the National Indian Youth Council. Brando was not arrested for his fishing activities, but later many Indians were. Mrs. Reuben (Elaine) Wright and her six children and Mrs. Bob (Susan) Satiacum and her children led the marching demonstration at the Federal Court House in Seattle.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs then announced that only the federal government had legal power to regulate the Indians' treaty fishing rights, although all three major parties involved in the dispute (the Indians, the states, and the federal government) now said that they would welcome an early ruling by the US Supreme Court. That is what the Indians have wanted all along.
next section: White Society Depletes Salmon, Blames Indians / Fish-ins, Rallies and Growing Support / Dick Gregory Joins Indian Fight / Formation of The Survival of American Indian Assc. / Yakima Fight for Rights
last section: Illegal Trials Play on Anti-Indian Sentiments / Muckleshoot Indians Fight in Court / State Harasses Fish Buyers / Operation Re-education Program: The Truth Shall Set You Free