Category Archives: Current Events

A Message to Our Authors, Readers, and Partners

During this unprecedented global crisis, we at UW Press share concern and solidarity with all affected. We realize that this is an incredibly challenging time for people around the world, and we are grateful for your continued engagement.

Although we are working remotely, the press is operational and open for business.

Our spring travel plans have changed as many academic conferences have been canceled. The press will no longer be attending the following meetings:

  • Association for Asian Studies (March 19–22)
  • American Society for Environmental History (March 25–29)
  • Organization for American Historians (April 2–5)
  • American Association of Geographers (April 6–10)
  • Association for Asian American Studies (April 9–11)
  • Society of Architectural Historians (April 29–May 3)
  • Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (May 7–9)
  • Berkshire Conference of Women, Genders, and Sexualities (the Big Berks) (May 28–31)

Our acquisitions editors have been transitioning their conference appointments to virtual meetings by phone and Zoom. We are eager to hear about new projects and welcome your proposals. You can find a list of our editors and their subject areas here.

In the coming weeks we will be highlighting book lists from the spring conferences we had planned to attend. Stay tuned for special announcements and promotions via our social media channels.

We and our authors look forward to launching the exciting new titles coming out this season. Our marketing team is developing creative ways to share our new books through online platforms and social media.

During these difficult times, we encourage you to support independent bookstores, many of which are offering online or curbside sales. Connect with independent bookstores here or here.

Additionally, UW Press is offering 40% off all books and free shipping through May 15. To take advantage of this offer, please use promo code WASH20 on our website or contact Hopkins Fulfillment Services (800-53705487 or hfscustserv@press.jhu.edu).

UW Press remains committed to scholarship and the publication of vital new work as a public good, and we ask that you continue to engage with us and share ideas. Thank you so much for your support.

 

What to Know (And Ask) About COVID-19 With Dr. Christopher Sanford

Dr. Christopher Sanford, author of Staying Healthy Abroad, offers suggestions on how to stay informed and healthy amidst the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19).

The purpose of this article is educational. For medical advice for any health condition, please consult your physician. To learn more about COVID-19, check out the links that Dr. Sanford recommends at the bottom of the post.

There is currently so much news about coronavirus that it is difficult to step back from the deluge of information and determine what it means. Possibly the optimal stance is to realize two truths, simultaneously, which are admittedly at odds with each another.

On one hand, the outbreak is undeniably a big deal. It is rapidly spreading around the world. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, characterized the current status of COVID-19 as “uncharted territory.” The virus could indeed spread to every country on Earth, infecting millions, and killing a large number of people. Frustratingly, with all the authorities and institutions giving recommendations, there is inevitably conflicting advice given to the public. And the first several deaths from COVID-19 in the US occurred in Washington State.

On the other hand, this illness does not herald the end of the world. Most people—whether or not they get this illness—will do well. Below are some answers and tips to address the most common questions and concerns about COVID-19.

Coronavirus Q&A

Q: How should we react?

A: The benefits of closing schools and worksites is still being debated, but there are some best practices you can follow:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Keep your distance from people who are ill.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

            The same measures that ensure long-term good health will reduce your risk of acquiring this illness, and, should you acquire it, of faring poorly.

Q: How do I boost my immune system?

A: The whole notion of boosting one’s immune system by a short-term measure is a myth.

The robustness of your immune system is tied to your overall, head-to-toe health. Hence, the same measures that are linked to cardiac health, brain health, cancer risk reduction, and longevity also are linked to immune function:

  • Maintain a normal body weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, low in red meat
  • Drink moderately or not at all
  • See a medical provider regularly for routine screening—blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.

There’s no shortcut.

Q: Should I avoid international travel?

A: Given the rapidly evolving nature of this pandemic, it is impossible to make a blanket recommendation regarding travel, and risk factors for acquiring this illness are still being determined. Each potential destination must be individually assessed with the latest information. The elderly, and those with chronic medical conditions are at elevated risk of severe illness.

Current destinations with heightened risk of community spread of coronavirus: China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.

For some of these destinations, the US State Department gives more granular guidance. Regarding Italy, for example, the current travel advisory for the country as a whole is Travel Advisory Level 3: Reconsider travel. However, for Lombardy and Veneto (two of the twenty administrative regions of Italy), the Advisory Level is 4—Do not travel—due to both high levels of community transmission and imposition of local quarantine procedures.

Q: Where can I find reliable information on this pandemic?

A: The WHO is calling the current overabundance of information, online and elsewhere—of markedly variable reliability—an “infodemic.” Three solid, evidence-based sources are:

  1. CDC. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary.
  2. AAFP. American Academy of Family Physicians, Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Information to educate your patients and prepare your practice teams.
  3. WHO. World Health Organization. Rolling updates on Coronavirus disease.

Bottom line: COVID-19 is a huge and significant pandemic. No one knows how many people it will affect. But most people will do well. I’ve seen both Shaun of the Dead and World War Z so I know the zombie apocalypse is coming. But this isn’t it.


Christopher Sanford, MD, MPH is associate professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Global Health at the University of Washington, and a family medicine physician who specializes in tropical medicine and travelers’ health. His research interests include medical education in low-resource settings and health risks of urban centers in low-income nations.

Giving Historical Context to Elizabeth Warren’s Plan for Native Americans

On August 16, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced the policy she will pursue for American Indians if she wins the presidency in 2020. While the New York Times called it a plan to “help” Native Americans, the Huffington Post emphasized Warren’s intent to “empower tribal nations,” noting specifically her desire “to reverse” a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that tribal governments have no power to prosecute non-Indian lawbreakers.

Warren promised to seek congressional affirmation that tribes have “inherent jurisdiction over their sovereign territory,” including jurisdiction to arrest, try, and jail non-Indians who commit crimes there. Voters may think that is a radical and unrealistic proposal, but Warren’s choice of words – her call for legislation to “restore” tribes’ jurisdiction over non-Indians – suggests that radical change came with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of existing law. Indeed, a year before the court ruled, the American Indian Policy Commission – a body created by and composed of US lawmakers – adopted virtually the same position on tribal jurisdiction as Warren has. A commission investigation revealed that several dozen tribes were applying their laws to non-Indians as well as Indians, with encouragement from key federal officials.

This historical information is not from Warren’s manifesto; it appears in Reclaiming the Reservation: Histories of Indian Sovereignty Suppressed and Renewed, my book recounting modern tribes’ efforts to regulate all people and activities within reservation boundaries. Reservations – even those established for Indians’ “exclusive use” – were never entirely closed to non-Indians, but thousands of non-Indians now live on reservations because Congress allowed them to acquire land there in the late 1800s. For five subsequent decades, the undeniably dominant United States tried to dismantle tribal nations and discourage Indian self-governance but did not abolish reservations or deny tribes’ inherent sovereignty. Meanwhile, through several turns of US policy, lawmakers and judges made a jumble of the rules for governing what remained of Indian country.

With stories from Indian perspectives, which the Supreme Court did not consider, Reclaiming the Reservation shows why and how tribes brought the issue of their power over non-Indians to national attention in the 1970s. Several factors had combined to convince them that taking responsibility for reservation conditions was essential for their communities’ survival and was their right under US law. Although tribes featured in the book did want to deter criminal activity, that was a secondary aim – a corollary of their desire to preserve and manage the land and resources on which their future as tribes depended.

Nevertheless, the action that eventually provoked a Supreme Court case about tribes’ jurisdiction over non-Indians was not a land use regulation; it was an arrest and prosecution for assault. A climactic chapter of the book examines the court’s denial of tribal power in Oliphant v. Suquamish Tribe along with the criticism that opinion earned for its blinkered, disingenuous account of relevant history and its evident racial bias. The book does not end there, however, because – as Elizabeth Warren’s familiarity with the issue indicates – tribes’ determination to ensure safe conditions on reservations did not end there. The Supreme Court’s veto of criminal law enforcement has not deterred them from invoking civil power to regulate non-Indians.

As the number of non-Indians who travel, live, or work on Indian reservations has grown in recent years, so have the stakes in the jurisdiction debate. Yet most non-Indian voters today are as uninformed about reservation community histories as the justices were in 1978. Thus, while Senator Warren’s support for tribal power may win her Indian votes, it could alienate more numerous non-Indians, many of them fearful that tribal police and courts will be unfair. Rather than address that fear directly, Warren identified tribal jurisdiction as a sensible response to another, proven threat: criminals are escaping justice through gaps in reservation law enforcement. She cited Native women’s shocking rate of violent victimization, often by non-Natives who never face prosecution – a scandal that motivated Congress in 2013 to approve limited tribal court jurisdiction over Indians’ abusive, non-Indian intimate partners.

That amendment to the Violence Against Women Act was politically feasible because tribal governments are increasingly sophisticated, effective, and accepted as permanent components of an American federation that has three kinds of sovereign polities. Senator Warren’s position on tribal jurisdiction is also a consequence of that historic tribal resurgence – a sign that tribes have persuasively communicated their need for empowerment and their ability to wield power judiciously. Their accomplishment illustrates a central theme of Reclaiming the Reservation: long after Europeans invaded America, Indians continue negotiating with their conquerors for terms of relations that will enable sovereign tribal communities to endure.


Alexandra Harmon is professor of American Indian studies at the University of Washington. She is the author of Rich Indians: Native People and the Problem of Wealth in American History and editor of The Power of Promises: Perspectives on Pacific Northwest Indian Treaties. Her book Reclaiming the Reservation is part of the Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography.

To hear more about Reclaiming the Reservation, please join us for Professor Harmon’s Emil and Kathleen Sick Lecture on November 6th at 3:30 p.m. in UW Allen Library’s Peterson Room.

Debunking Ten Arguments from the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Author of Staying Healthy Abroad, Dr. Christopher Sanford debunks ten common arguments used by anti-vaccine activists.

The purpose of this article is educational. For medical advice for any health condition, please consult your physician. To learn more about the measles outbreak, read this recent blog post.


In January of this year the WHO (World Health Organization) released a list, “Ten Threats to Global Health in 2019.” One of the ten threats listed was vaccine hesitancy: “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines.”

For a variety of reasons, a significant number of people choose to forego vaccines for themselves and/or their children. Anti-vaccine sentiment has swelled in recent years to a vehement political movement, and declining vaccine rates have led to a resurgence of a number of infectious diseases. Measles has seen a 30% increase in global cases in recent years. There are now measles outbreaks in 22 US states.

The evidence for the benefit and safety of vaccines is voluminous and consistent. Dr. William H. Foege, a public health physician who was instrumental in the global eradication of smallpox, wrote, “Vaccines are the tugboats of preventive health.”

There are myriad arguments used by anti-vaccine activists. Below are ten common arguments that arise.

  1. Vaccines don’t work.
  2. Vaccines only give partial protection.
  3. Protection from vaccines is inferior to that from natural infection.
  4. Vaccines contain mercury, a toxic heavy metal, and antifreeze, ether, and other toxic chemicals.
  5. Vaccines cause autism.
  6. Vaccines are no longer necessary.
  7. Vaccines overwhelm the body’s immune system.
  8. Vaccines are a plot by pharma (large pharmaceutical corporations) to generate profit.
  9. Vaccines are a plot by the CDC and/or US federal government, to attain any of a panoply of nefarious goals.
  10. Vaccines contain fetal cells.

Let’s address these one by one.

1. Vaccines don’t work.

This is a bizarre argument. Disease after disease has diminished markedly in prevalence immediately following the introduction of its respective vaccine. Tetanus in the US has been reduced by more than 98%; polio is almost eliminated worldwide; smallpox, which caused an average 48,000 cases per year in the United States during the 20th century, has been eliminated from the planet. The HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine was introduced in the US in 2006; already we are seeing a significantly reduced level of cervical cancer in women. The incidence of multiple other infectious diseases, including mumps, rubella, and pertussis, have been markedly reduced in recent years—all because of vaccination.

2. Vaccines only give partial protection.

This is true but is not a reason to avoid vaccines. And often the protection level is very high. At one extreme, vaccines such as yellow fever and hepatitis A (in those under age 40) offer over 99% protection. At the other extreme, influenza often offers about 50% protection; this can be even lower if the vaccine and circulating strains are a poor match. Many vaccines are about 90% protective. If vaccine levels are sufficiently high as to prevent easy transmission in a population (“herd immunity”), there may be sporadic cases but outbreaks are effectively prevented. The level of immunity necessary to attain herd immunity differs for different infections. For polio, this level is 80% of the population; for measles, which is more infectious, about 95% of a population needs to be protected, either by vaccine or prior infection, to prevent outbreaks.

3. Protection from vaccines is inferior to that from natural infection.

Untrue! Protection from either is equally protective. Vaccines provide protection without causing illness, or exposing people to the risk of death from their respective diseases.

4. Vaccines contain mercury, a toxic heavy metal, and aluminum, antifreeze, ether, and other toxic chemicals.

Thimerosol, a preservative which contains ethyl mercury, has been removed from all vaccines except multi-dose vials of influenza vaccine. There are thimerosol-free preparations of flu vaccine.

And thimerosol is not harmful. Ethyl mercury is quickly excreted from the body; it does not bioaccumulate. The form of mercury that bioaccumulates is methyl mercury; this is the form that is found is some seafood, such as tuna. Thus if you eat vast amounts of tuna, mercury toxicity may be an issue.

No vaccine contains ether or antifreeze. These are bizarre, invented assertions. Vaccines do contain miniscule amounts of aluminum, but this is without any health consequence. Melody Butler, founder of Nurses Who Vaccinate, correctly notes that a baby gets more aluminum from breast milk than from vaccines.

5. Vaccines cause autism.

Dr. William Wakefield, a British physician, published a single report in Lancet in 1996 stating that there is a possible link between the measles vaccine and autism. His report has since been retracted by Lancet; his license to practice medicine in the UK was subsequently revoked by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Every study—and there have been at least twelve—on the measles vaccine and autism show that there is no relationship between the two. The most recent study on this is a large one, on over 650,000 children in Denmark, published this year in Annals of Internal Medicine. It found that “…MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination.”

We do not know what causes autism, but we do know that it is unrelated to vaccines.

6. Vaccines are no longer necessary.

Au contraire. The only disease that has been eradicated from the planet is smallpox. All other infectious disease are still circulating, some common, some rare. All vaccine-preventable illnesses will become more common if vaccination rates drop.

7. Vaccines overwhelm the body’s immune system.

Not true. The human immune system can deal with hundreds of thousands of antigens (foreign substances that stimulate an immune response.) Whether one, or eight, vaccines are given on a single day, the immune response is equally strong to each.

8. Vaccines are a plot by pharma to generate profit.

Pharma—pharmaceutical corporations—making a profit on vaccines does not prove that vaccines are harmful. If all this were driven by pharma, it is unlikely that they would convince physicians, the CDC, public health officials, etc.

9. Vaccines are a plot by the CDC and/or US federal government, to attain any of a panoply of nefarious goals.

It takes a more paranoid mind than mine to think that the 15,000 people who work for the CDC are plotting to do you harm. The idea that that many health professionals would conspire to harm the American public—and that that doctors, nurses, etc., would be complicit—is preposterous.

10. Vaccines contain fetal cells.

A few vaccines (specifically: varicella [chickenpox], rubella [the R in MMR], hepatitis A, the older shingles vaccine [Zostavax, not Shingrix], and one preparation of rabies vaccine [Sanofi-Pasteur’s Imovax]) are made by growing the viruses, which are attenuated (non-disease causing) in fetal embryo fibroblast cells. These fibroblast cells were obtained from two elective terminations of pregnancies in the early 1960s, and continue to grow in laboratories today. No additional sources of fetal cells are needed to make these vaccines.


This is an emotional topic for many. Ethan Linderberger was raised in an Ohio family that did not believe in vaccines. When he recently turned eighteen, he decided to receive all recommended vaccines. His mother, Jill Wheeler, described this decision as “insulting” and a “slap in the face.”

With respect to infectious diseases, there is no zero-risk option. Your choices are the smaller risk from vaccines, or markedly larger risk from infectious diseases.

The bottom line is that the evidence for the benefits of vaccine is massive and consistent.

I concur with Jackson County (OR) Health Officer Jim Shames, who states, “From a medical standpoint, vaccines are probably the most powerful and effective public health intervention of all time.”

Given the vehemence and organization of anti-vaxxers, their battle with traditional medical providers will probably continue for the foreseeable future. It is important that those of us who believe in the benefits of vaccines speak our minds. If the pro-vaccine majority are passive, the anti-vaccine minority will determine the national and international tone and policy.


Christopher Sanford, MD, MPH is associate professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Global Health at the University of Washington, and a family medicine physician who specializes in tropical medicine and travelers’ health. His research interests include medical education in low-resource settings and health risks of urban centers in low-income nations.

To hear more from Christopher Sanford, come to his book talk at the University Bookstore on Tuesday, June 11th. To learn more about how to keep yourself healthy while traveling, buy his book.

What You Need to Know About the Measles Outbreak

In light of the current measles outbreak in the United States, we asked Dr. Christopher Sanford, author of Staying Healthy Abroad, to break down the statistics on measles nationally and globally for travelers across the country. He also answers some commonly asked questions about immunity and vaccinations.

The purpose of this article is educational. For medical advice for any health condition, please consult your physician.


Over 700 people in 22 US states have been infected with measles this year—the biggest measles outbreak in the US since 1994. Sixty-six of these people have required hospitalization. Most of those with measles had not been vaccinated for measles.

Per the WHO (World Health Organization), global measles deaths have decreased significantly in recent years, from 550,000 deaths in 2000 to 90,000 deaths in 2016 (an 84% reduction), but measles remains common in many low-income nations, particularly in Africa and Asia. An estimated 7 million people were infected with measles in 2016.

People immunized before 1989 may have only received one dose of measles vaccine. This provides partial protection, but better protection is provided by receiving a booster dose, that is, two doses of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) total.

International travelers should receive a total of two doses of MMR vaccine. If travelers are uncertain as to their vaccine status, they may request serology (a blood test) from their medical provider to look for immunity. Those born before 1957 in the US are assumed to be immune to measles, mumps, and rubella from prior natural infection; vaccination with MMR is not advised.

Almost all US and Canadian universities and colleges began to require evidence of two prior doses of MMR vaccine (or proof of immunity) in about 1994.

Background

Measles is a serious viral infection that is transmitted by coughing and sneezing. The virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace or on a surface. Usual symptoms are fever, cough, rash, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Although most people fully recover, complications include encephalitis—swelling of the brain which can result in permanent brain damage or death—and pneumonia.

The usual case-fatality rate in measles is 1-2/1,000 (0.1-0.2%). However, in malnourished populations, the case-fatality rate can approach one in ten.

In order to prevent sustained transmission of measles, 95% of the population needs to be immune, either from vaccination or natural infection (“herd immunity”).

In the US, in the decade 1912-1922, measles caused an average of 6,000 deaths per year. Prior to 1963, when measles vaccination became available, measles caused 4,800 hospitalizations, 1,000 cases of encephalitis, and 400-500 deaths each year in the US.

Washington State

In the current measles outbreak in Washington State, there have been 71 cases in Clark County (in southwest Washington, adjacent to Portland, OR) and one case in King County. The majority of these cases were in unimmunized people.

United States

There are currently measles outbreaks in 22 US states.

There were 372 cases of measles in the US in 2018. Between January 1 and April 26 of this year, 704 cases have occurred.

Most US cases are in children. Per a April 9 article in the Wall Street Journal:

New York City officials declared a public-health emergency as authorities elsewhere in the state announced new measures to halt the spread of measles, stepping up their responses after a recent surge in cases. The city on Tuesday ordered mandatory measles-mumps-rubella vaccination and fines for noncompliance in certain ZIP Codes in Brooklyn.

The current US vaccine schedule for measles: two doses; first at 12-15 months, second at 4-6 years. Boosters after initial series of two are not advised.

Global Picture

The dramatic decline in global measles is primarily due to increased vaccine coverage in low-income nations. However, should vaccine efforts wane, measles cases and deaths would inevitably markedly increase.

Many countries in Europe have seen a large uptick in measles cases in recent years. There are currently outbreaks in Germany, Ireland, Italy, France, and other European countries. Countries outside of Europe with current outbreaks include Israel, Ukraine, and Australia.


What’s the difference between elimination and eradication?

Eradication is the complete and permanent worldwide reduction to zero new cases of a disease through deliberate efforts. Smallpox has been eradicated from the planet. Elimination is the reduction to zero, or a very low defined target rate, new cases of a disease in a specified geographical areas. Measles was declared to be eliminated from the US in 2000.

How effective is measles vaccine?

Very. The two-dose series provides 97% protection.

What is herd immunity?

If a certain threshold level of a community is immune to a disease, either through infection or immunization, that infection cannot be propagated within that community. The threshold for different infections varies. For example, the level of resistance for polio in a community necessary to prevent an epidemic is 80%. Measles is more infectious; about 95% of a community needs to be resistant to measles to prevent epidemics.

What is the current measles vaccine rate in the US?

Fairly high. Currently, per the CDC, 94.3% of kindergartners were current for measles vaccine in the 2017-18 school year. However, this rate is markedly lower in some communities, e.g., the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, NY, and Clark County, WA, in which measles epidemics are currently occurring.

How can I tell if I’m immune to measles?

If you’ve received the two-dose series of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, it is reasonable to assume that you’re immune. If your vaccine history is uncertain, options include a blood test to check immunity, or receiving the two-dose series.


Christopher Sanford, MD, MPH is associate professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Global Health at the University of Washington, and a family medicine physician who specializes in tropical medicine and travelers’ health. His research interests include medical education in low-resource settings and health risks of urban centers in low-income nations.

To hear more from Christopher Sanford, come to his book talk at the University Bookstore on Tuesday, June 11th. To learn more about how to keep yourself healthy while traveling, buy his book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LGBT Pride

GaySeattle-Atkins (2)Happy Pride Month! With the Seattle Pride Parade right around the corner, we’re bringing Gary L. Atkins’s award-winning Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging back into the spotlight.

In 1893, the Washington State legislature quietly began passing a set of laws that essentially made homosexuality, and eventually even the discussion of homosexuality, a crime. A century later Mike Lowry became the first governor of the state to address the annual lesbian and gay pride rally in Seattle. Gay Seattle traces the evolution of Seattle’s gay community during those one hundred turbulent years, telling through a century of stories how gays and lesbians have sought to achieve a sense of belonging in Seattle.

These stories of exile and belonging draw on numerous original interviews as well as case studies of individuals and organizations that played important roles in the history of Seattle’s gay and lesbian community. Collectively, they are a powerful testament to the endurance and fortitude of this minority community, revealing the ways a previously hidden sexual minority “comes out” as a people and establishes a public presence in the face of challenges from within and without.

Gary L. Atkins is professor of women and gender studies at Seattle University. His most recent book is Imagining Gay Paradise: Bali, Bangkok and Cyber-Singapore.

Today, we talk with Professor Atkins about the process of writing Gay Seattle and its contribution to the community.



What inspired you to get into your field?

GA: Ever since I was in third grade, I’ve been compelled by writing as well as by understanding the history of how different places, people and imaginations came to be. That gradually translated into an interest in journalism, especially in nonfiction creative writing.

Why did you want to write this book?

GA: I moved to Seattle in 1978 and, of course, I immediately wanted to know more about both the geography and the history of the Northwest. Over the years I kept reading—but the customary history books all left out any stories of lesbians and gay men. I didn’t find anything that reflected who I was . . . or who the generations of lesbians and gay men who had come before me were.

Describe the process of writing this book.

GA: Because I am very interested in geography and architecture and how both influence people’s imaginations, I actually began by just walking around. Even though I had already lived in Seattle for fifteen years by the time I began the book, I wanted to deliberately see what were both the existing spaces in which gay men and lesbians had settled and created their public gathering spots, as well as spaces I had heard about. Then came the usual journalistic research approaches: sweeping city and university libraries for any information; digging through microfilm of criminal cases to turn up who had been arrested for crimes like sodomy; visiting county, state and federal archives for reports on things like treatments at mental hospitals. Intermixed with that were interviews with any of the “old-timers” I could find. I conducted many of these, but I also involved students in my Seattle U classes.  After all the reporting came draft after draft after draft of the book. The whole process took about ten years from its start in 1993 until publication in 2003. Although, of course, I was still teaching fulltime.

What do you think is this book’s most important contribution?

GA: It reports and describes a saga that had been overlooked in other stories of the Northwest at the time of publication: the efforts of those who had been criminalized and treated as sick for their sexual desires and their loves to instead create their own community and to establish themselves publicly.  

What is the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?

GA: Although the general histories of Seattle documented the old police payoff system that existed for decades until the 1970s, no one had really tracked how that affected the development of the lesbian and gay bars—and so the development of the gay community—in the city. As I worked through archives, grand jury reports, and newspaper stories, it gradually became apparent that the payoff system had fostered the community, but ironically, I also found out that it was a particular gay bar owner who had eventually helped bring the whole system down. By then, for all practical purposes, he had disappeared from the city. So one of the most fantastic experiences I had was simply seeing an old phone number on a document, and it was actually still his number. I was able to track him down on Camano Island and then conduct interviews with him.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing the book?

GA: One of the most surprising things was that students at my own university, Seattle U, helped launch the LGBTQ civil rights effort in Seattle back in the 1960s, although in a rather negative way. From the oral history interviews that one of my students conducted, we discovered that SU students had harassed gay men who were living next to the university and who sometimes dressed in drag. The students threw rocks at their home, which prompted the men to race after them in drag, causing the police to intervene and the drag queens to tell their stories to a radio station. Out of that came organizing efforts for the old Dorian Society, which was the first really long-lasting gay rights group in Seattle.  The gay men met with the SU president at the time and were apparently told they should move. Resolutely, they responded that he should instead tell his students to stop throwing rocks. I guess you could consider that one of many little “stonewalls” that started happening in Seattle well before the big one back in New York.


This year’s Pride Parade will take place on Sunday, June 24th in downtown Seattle. Learn more here.

IMG_8195

Check out more books like Gay Seattle in our Critical Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies catalog.

Q&A with ‘Dismembered’ coauthors David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins

Today we speak with coauthors David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins about their book, Dismembered: Native Disenrollment and the Battle for Human Rights, published this spring. Florangela Davila, writing in Seattle Magazine, calls it “a first-of-its-kind book that looks at tribal disenrollment.”

Since the 1990s, Native governments have been banishing, denying, or disenrolling citizens at an unprecedented rate. Nearly eighty nations, in at least twenty states, have terminated the rights of indigenous citizens. This first comprehensive examination of the origins of this disturbing trend looks at hundreds of tribal constitutions and interviews with disenrolled members and tribal officials to show the damage this practice is having across Indian Country and ways to address the problem.

What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about your field and what you do?

David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins: The conflicting stereotypes about Native peoples are always an obstacle to understanding. Indians are: extinct/corporations; poverty stricken/rich; addicts/mystics; craven opportunists/naive naturalists.

People who don’t know anyone Native swing back and forth between these ideas depending on the argument they are trying to make. This reliance on racist views obscures the real work being done by Native peoples and governments. There are only a handful of Native political scientists and it’s our job to provide the best level of research and writing possible so that Native governments, and those who interact with them, have the tools and knowledge they need for effective and long-lasting good governance.

Why did you want to write this book?  

DEW & SHW: We wanted to call attention to the wrongs happening under the guise of sovereignty. Native people are very proud of their sovereign status yet, in some instances that has been used by scoundrels as an excuse, a shield behind which they destroy political opponents, enrich themselves, or take revenge for old grudges. Allowing sovereignty to be used in this way diminishes and endangers its power across Indian Country. Many are afraid to speak out because they don’t want to be seen as questioning a Tribe’s sovereign authority to decide for themselves who does and does not belong to their nation. Unfortunately, this attempt to protect sovereignty through silence—hoping the issue will just go away—ends up eroding it for everyone. Our book is an attempt to bring the facts behind these shameful actions to light so that they can be discussed and addressed in the open.

What do you think is Dismembered‘s most important contribution?

DEW & SHW: We want to educate everyone about the issue of disenrollment and encourage Native people to examine and appreciate the power of citizenship and sovereignty. The people, not the government, hold true sovereignty, thus it cannot exist without human and civil rights.

The power to define citizenship is critical to the exercise of sovereignty for Native Nations. That said, the tools and the concepts utilized by many Tribal governments are those they inherited from the US Federal Government. Traditional means of governance did not include making distinctions about belonging based on blood quantum, genealogy, or enrollment records.  These are standards set by a government with the goal of eliminating or assimilating Native people.

In the 1990s, a woman who was stripped of her Tribal citizenship contacted David. He had heard of banishment—a temporary punishment for wrong-doing—but the idea that a human being could be stripped of their citizenship, their Tribal identity, was shocking. He began to keep a file on the issue. At first, the practice wasn’t widespread and seemed to be confined to a few California Tribes, but his file began to grow.

The reasons given were all over the place. Some were accused of treason for voicing disagreement at open council meetings. Disenrollement—or, as we began to call it, dismemberment—was also an efficient means of dealing with whistleblowers. If someone uncovered corruption involving those in power, the Tribe found a reason to get rid of them. Elders, children, native language speakers, former chairs, and council members—no one was immune. A common assertion was that these people lacked sufficient blood quantum or were dually enrolled in other tribes, but the problem was that record keeping by the federal government was terrible. Even the lucky ones who were able to offer what was considered official proof of their rights to belong were confronted with changing rules. No sooner did they provide what was asked than they were presented with another arbitrary road block. One family was put through the horrific experience of exhuming their great-grandmother and grandmother for DNA testing. The tests proved they belonged, but the Tribe disenrolled them anyway.

Perhaps, even more shocking than this cruelty was posthumous dismemberment– stripping the dead of their Tribal identities. It’s a very efficient means of getting rid of trouble makers or trimming your rolls. If you traced your heritage through your grandpa and those in power decided your grandpa wasn’t an Indian, then all who descended from him were automatically out.

Some people are enrolled fraudulently. In a very few instances people deliberately have lied or forged documents but these make up only a small portion of the disenrollment cases.

Cast-out people had nowhere to turn. Tribal governments said that as a sovereign nation, it was right and proper that they have the ability to define their membership, just as any other nation. Their Tribal Courts offered no relief. Those systems have come a long way since that time, but many were (and many still are) beholden to the Tribal leadership. They were unable or unwilling to rule against their own sovereign government in favor of an individual that government had decided to terminate. Judges who tried to do so were fired and replaced with those more amenable to the status quo.

Disenrollees lost their citizenship, which may just sound like a shame to most people who take their US and state citizenship for granted. US citizenship can’t be taken away and, after all, the dismembered are still citizens of their states and the US, but in reality, losing citizenship is deadly. Folks lost their health care, access to education, jobs, homes, even their family members as the process split households—one brother was in, the other was out.

Ultimately, there is no due process.  These people can be labeled and accused of anything and they have had no rights, no means with which to fight back. A few hard working attorneys, like Gabe Galanda and Ryan Dreveskracht, have started to make a real difference—they were able to prevent the disenrollment of a group of folks from the Grand Ronde Community in Oregon and are fighting for the Nooksack 306 here in Washington. That gives us hope.

How did you come up with the title?

DEW & SHW: Tribes tend to call their citizens members, a term that came from the federal government that serves to diminish the importance of belonging to a Tribal Nation. It sounds more like joining the Rotary than being part of a nation. But we felt it important to deconstruct and reuse the term. The feelings these people described were so agonizing, as though they were physically cut off from the body that sustained them. Tribal nations, too, suffered when they cut off living beings that are the true embodiment of their sovereignty. That is why we refer to these people as dismembered.

Describe the process of writing the book.

SHW: David had more than 20 years worth of stories in his file and a network of friends who had been dismembered. He had also written articles over those years. Together, we wrote more articles and began to conduct formal interviews. Marty Two Bulls, an incredibly talented political cartoonist, contributed his work. The tireless Gabe Galanda, one of the few attorneys to take on the cause of disenrollees, shared photos from a social media campaign he and Louie Gong designed to call attention to the issue.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing the book?

DEW & SHW: Perhaps the most shocking thing we learned was the amount of money outsiders were making from fomenting discord within Tribal Nations. Non-native attorneys who keep the conflicts going in order to bill more hours, outside consultants—self-professed enrollment experts—who organize seminars or directly advise Tribal leaders on ways to “clean-up their rolls,” financial advisors who calculated how much further per-capita payments would go if membership were to be reduced.


David E. Wilkins is the McKnight Presidential Professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the coauthor of American Indian Politics and the American Political System. Shelly Hulse Wilkins is a partner with the Wilkins Forum and specializes in tribal governmental relations.