Category Archives: Guest Post

Grays Harbor Workers: Aaron Goings on “The Port of Missing Men”

History has not been kind to the Washington coast’s working class. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries thousands of the region’s workers toiled long hours in logging camps and lumber mills and in maritime trades—some of the country’s most dangerous industries. Those who acted collectively to improve their working and living conditions were targets of persecution, physically attacked by employers and their allies in the local, state, and federal governments. Vigilante businessmen beat, shot, and kidnapped activists, and deported them from towns, while police jailed them and raided their halls. Indeed, many of the most famous financially successful men in the history of the Olympic Peninsula and southwest Washington defended their wealth through a combination of violent anti-labor activism and support for anti-union legislation. Stories of vigilantes and cops brutalizing working-class women, men, and children fill early twentieth-century newspaper columns—providing potent reminders that the scenes playing out across the United States in 2020 are part of a long history of violent reactions against workers’ movements.

In the past forty years, many of the region’s workers have faced a fresh round of horrors: layoffs and mill closures, as parts of southwest Washington and the Olympic Peninsula began to resemble a Pacific Northwest “Rust Belt.” A recent gut punch came in June 2018 when the Aberdeen Museum of History burned. The fire destroyed priceless labor history collections—virtually the entire archive of Grays Harbor’s rich working-class history is now lost to posterity.

The archive told the important history of collective action in the heart of lumber country. Highlights included huge collections from the International Woodworkers of America and locals of the Cooks and Waiters’ Union—the latter an important source of women’s working-class activism before women won the right to vote. The fire also turned to ashes a collection of records from maritime unions—groups of workers that persistently fought for the types of work-life improvements Americans celebrate on Labor Day.

One of the most important (and certainly the most famous) labor activists from Washington’s coast was William “Billy” Gohl, subject of my new book from the University of Washington Press, The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest. Gohl served as agent for the Aberdeen branch of the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific between 1903 and 1910, when Grays Harbor ranked as both the world’s most prolific lumber port and Washington State’s most densely unionized area.

Gohl was the best-known and most effective union activist in Grays Harbor. His fellow unionists twice elected him president of the local labor council, and he led efforts to force ship captains to follow union contracts and workplace safety laws. Gohl’s activism extended well beyond the shop floor: he was also a community activist committed to improving the lives of maritime workers and making the local waterfront safer.

Not surprisingly for anyone who has done much reading in US labor history, Gohl’s lasting fame has nothing to do with his community activism. Instead, Gohl’s life has long interested journalists and true-crime junkies, because “Billy” is widely known as the “Ghoul of Grays Harbor.” Dozens of true-crime tales—and popular memory—blame Gohl for the deaths of dozens of working men whose corpses were found floating in the Chehalis and Wishkah Rivers. Journalist and popular historian Murray Morgan wrote, “These anonymous dead men, culled from the hordes of migrant laborers who had flocked to Grays Harbor to cut trees, came to be known as the Floater Fleet. Billy Gohl was credited with launching most of them. If he was responsible for even half of the floaters found in the harbor during his day, Gohl was America’s most prolific murderer. Over a ten-year period the fleet numbered 124.”

Arrested and charged with murder in early 1910, Gohl became the subject of a massive campaign by local employers and their allies in the mainstream press to pin the region’s entire history of violent crimes on him and “his gang.” On the day of his arrest the Aberdeen Daily World blamed Gohl “for many of the members of the ‘floater fleet,’ comprising more than 40 bodies.” Three months after his arrest, Gohl was convicted of one murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Gohl was not the only convicted murderer in early Grays Harbor history, and the jury had difficulty coming to a decision about his guilt. Yet by the time the jury convicted him of a single murder Gohl already had been convicted in the public mind of being a cold-blooded killer who spent seven years ravaging Grays Harbor. The case against him appeared to be “the dream of some dime store novel writer,” said Gohl, as employers and the state conspired to remove Gohl from his place in the labor movement. Media accounts of Gohl’s “crimes”—like subsequent stories about Gohl—omit the important historical context that shows employers acting collectively and often brutally to eliminate labor activists in Grays Harbor and throughout the United States.

The Port of Missing Men bears little resemblance to earlier writings about Gohl. I strove to avoid portraying him as a caricature, instead placing Gohl in his historical context. Unfortunately, like Billy the Kid, Gohl has reached the status of a legend. He is now a part of Wild West mythology that often casts imagined “monsters” like him—rather than larger forms of structural oppression—as responsible for violence.

The myth of Billy Gohl the mass murderer has proved remarkably resilient, and rare indeed is the person who, when asked about their knowledge of Billy Gohl, fails to mention the term “serial killer.” But Gohl was a militant labor leader and local bosses saw him as a dangerously effective enemy who needed to be silenced. My new book returns Gohl—the labor and community activist—to the center of a region’s working-class history, a history that, like the materials lost in the Aberdeen museum fire, often ends up in the dustbin.

 

Aaron Goings is associate professor of history and chair of the History and Political Science Department at Saint Martin’s University. He is coauthor of The Red Coast: Radicalism and Anti-radicalism in Southwest Washington and Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913–14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy. His latest book, The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest, is available now.

A Newcomer to the Big Empty: Sam Waterston on Ellen Waterston’s “Walking the High Desert”

We’ve all noticed how sharp our sensations, perceptions and observations are when visiting a place for the first time, from the Grand Canyon to the manmade canyons of New York City. We take in the sounds, smells, and sensations more acutely, more vividly, before familiarity moves in on our guilelessness, bringing its partner, contempt, along with it, the deadening “taking for granted” of the inherent and unique beauty of a place.

My brother Sam has visited me at various locations in the high desert: when I was ranching on the Crooked River; in Bend, at the foot of the Cascades mountains where I run a literary nonprofit; and in the wilds of Oregon’s Outback, during my research for Walking the High Desert. His below comments illustrate his capacity for experiencing this grand space each time as if for the first time. He brings, as he does to all he does, a fresh eye, an open mind and heart, and then extrapolates to a bigger invitation, tuning in to the plea of the place or the circumstance. Covid-19 has upped our appreciation game as everything seems more precious, fleeting. The pandemic has reminded us to appreciate what is right in front of us, what, perhaps, we have heretofore taken for granted; and, as Sam’s generous comments advocate, to take action to protect what is “fierce, fragile, beautiful,” the high desert and the earth itself.

Ellen Waterston


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Ellen Waterston and her brother Sam Waterston in Washington, D.C. in a Fire Drill Friday rally in support of legislation that protects the environment. January 2020

The high desert is like the ocean or the mountains of the moon: by itself, the name calls up space, the vast sky, the nearby stars, the one-hundred-mile gaze, the place where things and people stand out. It’s amazing. Many born and raised in it know this and never lose their awareness. After a lifetime of living in it, some still have the cowboys’ long horizons in their eyes. Some others, working to make it yield and bend to their needs, temporarily or permanently lose their amazement . . . Even an amazing place can become commonplace, merely where you do what you do; even here, a person can forget where they are. And isn’t that the way of it for most of us, wherever we live?

Most visitors do feel the wonder of the high desert at first, like babes in the woods, and that astonishment can last and last. It has with me. I first came out here to see my sister Ellen, who wrote Walking the High Desert. There aren’t so very many places where a hay field is measured by the thousand acres, where your front yard is fifty acres of wild iris, and the view is of the moon.

My sister was a newcomer to the Big Empty once. Because of the life she led and the person she is, her amazement at the wonder of the place she had come to never left her…and she went deep, looked deep. She is a poet and a journalist. She spent a lot of her time out in the desert, recorded what she witnessed, and brought the place to second life in words. This book is one fine example. She has a lot to say about the high desert. The high desert has a lot to tell. Almost inevitably, the long walks Ellen Waterston took out there over all those years landed her on the Oregon High Desert Trail—and she brought out for us the gold, the story of the place, entwined in her own story.

The earth is like the high desert, a fierce, fragile, beautiful, amazing place. We can’t afford to take it for granted anymore. There are as many opinions about what to do with it and for it now as there are interested parties . . . and we are all interested parties where the fate of the earth is involved. At least, we need to be. There is no place left for bystanders now. We all have to put our heads into this. My sister’s book will get you in the right state of mind.


Sam Waterston is an American actor, producer, and director. Waterston is known for his work in theater, television and film as well as his environmental activism.

Ellen Waterston is author of Where the Crooked Desert Rises: A High Desert Home, a memoir, and four poetry collections including a verse novel. She is the founder and president of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize and the founder of the Writing Ranch in Bend, Oregon. Her latest book, Walking the High Desert: Encounters with Rural America along the Oregon Desert Trail, is available now.

The Future of Diversifying Publishing: Reflections from Hanni Jalil, the 2019-2020 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow

Academic publishing is a fascinating world, as my time as the Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow at the University of Washington Press has shown me. During my fellowship, I have met and worked with intellectually curious and critical individuals committed to collaborative work, to producing scholarship and knowledge as a public good, and to opening doors to diverse voices in publishing and in the academy. But what should commitment to diversity really look like in an industry that is still 76 % White? When we look at editorial departments, the numbers are less encouraging: a recent survey on diversity in publishing revealed that Black/Afro-American/ Afro-Caribbean colleagues in these departments make up only 1% of all editorial positions. Folks that identify as Latinx/Latino/Mexican make up only 2%, and Native Americans or First Nations colleagues represent less than 1% of all editorial jobs.

The Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship, spearheaded by Larin McLaughlin, editor in chief at the University of Washington Press and this year’s AUPresses Constituency Award winner, is a pipeline program designed to address this problem, with a particular emphasis on diversifying acquisitions departments at participating presses and beyond. “Fixing” the diversity problem in publishing necessitates more than increasing representation of BIPOC people across the industry. We should also reflect about diversity in terms of representation for our LGTBQ+ colleagues as well as in terms of neurodiversity and ability. However, here, I want to focus on the need to provide spaces and retention practices that encourage BIPOC folks to enter, stay, and thrive in the publishing industry.

Undoubtedly, those of us who have participated in this fellowship have benefited from this opportunity. During the fourteen months I worked at the press, I learned about the acquisitions process through formal and informal mentoring opportunities and conversations with my colleagues Mike Baccam, Lorri Hagman, Neecole Bostick, Andrew Berzanskis, and Larin McLaughlin. I have also had the privilege of sharing this experience with an incredible cohort of fellows past and present, whose support and mentorship has been invaluable. Because of the UW Press’s incredibly collaborative spirit, I also had the opportunity to learn from other colleagues in editorial design and production, marketing, and in rights and contracts.

I’m leaving the fellowship with experiences and lessons that will continue to shape my professional journey, so in my mind there is no question that the Mellon Fellowship is a significant resource and intervention to challenge the industry’s inequities and an amazing opportunity. But what will happen when the program ends? What happens at presses where there are no analogous programs? We need more than programs like this fellowship to fix problems that are structural and for which there are no easy solutions. Coming up with ways to solve the lack of diversity in publishing requires an industry-wide commitment to radically transform the visible and invisible structures that make academic publishing a predominantly white industry. In this post, I would like to focus on three types of barriers to inclusion, which the industry must face head-on. The first, the need to reimagine our outreach and hiring practices across departments; the second, the need to build meaningful and engaged mentoring relationships with BIPOC folks who enter publishing; and the third, the need to establish pay equity across the industry.

The first barrier speaks to the question of how to make diversity not a platitude or afterthought but a central goal in our outreach and hiring practices. Make this an intention and purpose in all of your efforts. What would happen if we gave the candidate’s engagement with and commitment to diversity the same weight we give the rest of their professional experience? Think about the transformative potential of these considerations and make them central to your outreach and hiring practices.

The second barrier speaks to the value of fostering meaningful and engaged mentoring relationships with BIPOC folks in publishing. Mentorship can make a difference as an effective retention strategy. Consider how your BIPOC colleagues feel about entering and working in an industry where the majority of folks who work in it are white. Here are some possible fears: Will I be tokenized? Will I face micro-aggressions? Will I be encouraged to speak-up? Will my opinion and viewpoints matter? The most effective pedagogies are those where educators think about and design their courses not with the average student in mind (thinking in terms of “average” is a fraught concept, anyway), but in ways that unlock individual potential, while acknowledging that the diversity of our life experiences is a constituent part of how we learn. Meaningful and engaged mentorship is similar to the role of instructors and facilitators in that it requires intentionality and cultural responsiveness. Make establishing a mentoring relationship intentional, provide guidance, be proactive about meeting the needs of your mentee, and, lastly, open spaces for your mentee to approach you with uncomfortable or hard conversations.

Lastly, think about the urgency of establishing pay equity across the industry, particularly for folks in entry-level positions. Retention strategies require us to think about our colleagues’ material realities. Should we be asking our colleagues in entry-level positions to sacrifice their financial stability and well-being in order to stay in publishing? Most of us would agree the answer is no. Let us go a step further: because publishing is an apprenticeship-based industry, where moving from entry-level positions to mid-career or managerial positions takes a considerable investment of time, are there expected sacrifices ultimately matched in compensation, possibilities of advancement, and job security? Can BIPOC people or folks who come from low-income families, folks who are first-generation students, who have familial responsibilities, or who do not have networks of financial support really assume this sacrifice? Now think about the ways that oppression and exclusions intersect and overlap, and ask yourself if promoting pay equity and paying higher livable wages is not also a necessary component of the industry’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

We all have privileges, some more than others, but if publishing is serious about overcoming the historical and structural barriers that keep the industry predominantly white, we need to take action. While implementing diversity initiatives like the Mellon Fellowship is a step in the right direction, it must be one of many steps on the path to transformative change.


Hanni Jalil migrated with her siblings to the United States from Cali-Colombia; she is the 2019-2020 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow. This fall, she will join California State University Channel Islands as an assistant professor of Latin American history.

What keeps us calm during the chaos: Nozomi Naoi on “Yumeji Modern” and finding the “moon-viewing” moment

In such uncertain times, it is important to remember the things that keep us human, keep us who we are, and allow us to persevere.

My book, Yumeji Modern: Designing the Everyday in Twentieth-Century Japan, has a chapter on the artistic reception and visualization of the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 (Chapter 5). As tempting as it is to focus on the disaster and suffering, I want to introduce one newspaper illustration and accompanying text that focuses on a moment of serenity, beauty, and humanity amidst the chaos and wreckage.

The modern Japanese artist and main subject of the book, Takehisa Yumeji (1884-1934), wrote and illustrated a newspaper series called Tōkyō sainan gashin (“Sketches of the Tokyo Disaster”), which was published daily in the newspaper Miyako shinbun. Comprising both texts and images, Yumeji’s series records his reactions to the catastrophe and its aftermath and participate in a collective making of memory in modern Japanese history. His visual and literary observations showcase feelings of empathy and shock, as well as disappointment due to the inaction on the part the Japanese government in helping its citizens. Tokyo Disaster began its serialized, daily release merely thirteen days after the earthquake struck, running from September 14 to October 4, and the series presented some of the earliest responses to reach the public.

Out of the twenty-one issues in the series, one stood out: the twelfth issue from September 25, Chūshū no meigetsu (Moon-viewing; fig. 5.09, p. 161). It is a tranquil night scene with a mother and her two children, seen from behind, sitting in a field and looking up at the moon. It is a poignant scene and all the more so with Yumeji’s sensitive portrayal of the woman, as his interest in the female image made him popular with his iconic “Yumeji-style beauty.” The romanticized natural setting and the figures communicate a beautiful moment even within a series that dwells on the theme of destruction.

Moon-viewing

The text recounts how people had to spend many nights in the open due to a lack of shelter and then describes the mother:

I saw a woman pulling pampas grass in the field at Aoyama. I passed by casually, then realized that tonight was “moon-viewing” (chūshū no meigetsu). Some do not forget the offerings to the full moon even in such destitute times when people are living in shacks. Tonight there must be people gazing at the bright moon from the eaves of the galvanized iron roofs, grateful for their survival . . . (pp. 160-161)

Moon-viewing festivities celebrated the beauty of the autumnal moon and prayed for an abundant harvest. The appreciation of mother nature, which had just struck against humanity is nonetheless breathtaking. By homing in on the attempts of one woman to preserve the tradition of moon-viewing for her children despite the tragedy, the image and text also reflect Yumeji’s focus on the experience of the individual in the face of a cataclysmic natural disaster.

The desire for people to recreate and preserve normalcy even during a time of trauma touched Yumeji.

Serialization also allowed Yumeji’s reactions to the earthquake to reach a broad audience every day for three weeks, and the series became a platform that expanded and built upon itself, enabling a kind of memoristic journey that the artist and his audience experienced together.

The series finds its source in Yumeji’s artistic beginnings as an illustrator for socialist bulletins during the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and demonstrates on a more personal level his concern for the place of the common people, of the voiceless within a climate of mounting government oppression and militarism. In addition, his keen observation and focus on the figure and its interiority was germane to his development in the portrayal of the female figure, one that evolved from his prolific production of bijinga (beautiful women) imagery, mostly for publications targeting a female audience.

Tokyo Disaster is an important series in the examination of the artist Yumeji and his role in the early twentieth-century mediascape. But it also holds a more personal meaning.

While doing research for this book in Japan, the Tōhoku Earthquake struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, followed by countless aftershocks and a massive tsunami. It was in the aftermath of this event and during Japan’s collective efforts to restore, reconcile, and narrate this disaster that led me to Yumeji’s responses to the Great Kantō Earthquake, the greatest natural disaster during his lifetime. This experience permitted me to approach this series with a better understanding of and insight into Yumeji’s heartfelt reactions to the 1923 earthquake, and I decided to devote my last chapter of the book on this series and include the entire series translation in the appendix. I completed the translations and analysis of this series with the 2011 disaster in mind, which even years later affects the many people who are still unable to return to their homes.

In our current circumstance in 2020, I now feel that the many reactions and critiques seen in this series are ever more relevant, and I hope that in our times today each and every one of us is able to find our own “moon-viewing” moment.


Nozomi Naoi is assistant professor of humanities (art history) at Yale-NUS College and author of Yumeji Modern.

 

 

 

 

 

Hyung-A Kim on “Korean Skilled Workers”

The Korean case of national development is an outstanding one. South Korea rose from one of the poorest countries in the world to the twelfth largest economy in terms of gross domestic product with innovative technology (innotech) development, which ranks globally in the top three countries. Although not entirely without its flaws and idiosyncrasies, Korea has indeed succeeded in a dual industrial and democratic revolution together with innotech development within just six decades since the mid-1960s, surviving several traumatic global financial crises, including the Asian financial crises in 1997 and 2008.

Some of Korea’s large family-owned conglomerates, or chaebŏls, in particular, have become the world’s preeminent manufacturing brands. Samsung Electronics’ smartphones, Hyundai Motors’ automobiles, Hyundai Heavy Industries’ shipbuilding, LG’s electronic home appliances, and various Korean telecommunication brands, not to mention K-pop and cosmetics, all boast global reputations and associated market power. Chaebŏls thus quite rightly feature in developmental literature on Korea.

Unlike the prominent chaebŏls, Korea’s highly disciplined and technologically savvy skilled workers are little known, other than for their union militancy that has branded them a “labor aristocracy” and an object of social criticism for their collective “selfishness.” Affiliated with the radical Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, king of unions in the country, the Korean skilled workers’ unions have in fact become one of the most powerful forces. They, in the eyes of the Korean public, pursue only power and vested-interests in the name of “progress” in Korea’s highly polarized society today.

Herein lies a new narrative that I tell in Korean Skilled Workers: Toward a Labor Aristocracy, a story that recounts not only their critical contribution to South Korea’s rapid development but also their controversial roles in Korea’s democratic working class movement and its current economic status in the world.

My book is the first comprehensive study of Korea’s first generation of skilled workers in the heavy and chemical industries (HCI) sector, tracing the intriguing transformation of the skilled workers’ collective image and character, which have dramatically changed over more than four decades since the early 1970s. This story involves their socio-political trajectory of dramatic transformation, tracking how they initially became patriotic and obedient “industrial warriors” of the Korean state-led HCI program since the 1970s, and then changed into self-proclaimed “Goliat warriors” during South Korea’s democratic transition from 1987 to the early 1990s.

During this period, the first generation of Korean skilled workers in the HCI sector represented the democratic labor union movement and the solidarity movement of the Korean working class in their partnership with radical university students and intellectuals. The book then shows how they finally became a “labor aristocracy” by consolidating their collective status in Korea’s dual labor market as regular workers at large HCI firms. Since the 2000s, they have become a distinct class of a labor aristocracy in Korean society.

In this book I have challenged hitherto prevalent approaches to the study of the Korean case of development by analyzing the lived experience of Korea’s first generation of skilled workers, speaking directly to several dozens of skilled workers and many prominent leaders of the various skilled workers’ labor movements and unions, and corporate CEOs, among others, including academics, journalists, and labor experts. I analyzed newly declassified sources from Korea’s presidential and national archives, among other internal documents, as well as data on Korean workers’ views on the role of unions taken from surveys conducted in 1978, 1987, and 2005. I also conducted in-depth interviews during 2014 and 2015 to obtain up-to-date information on the individual situations and perspectives of HCI workers. This book alerts us to the need to rethink the conventional understanding of the East Asian model of development espoused by elite development theory (EDT) traditions.

This book is a must-read in coming to understand not only how necessary skilled workers are to enabling a nation’s development, but also how they as a newly emerged “labor aristocracy” need to move beyond collective selfishness, especially in this global era of labor market polarization between precarious workers and highly-paid regular workers in many developing and advanced countries throughout the world.


Hyung-A Kim is associate professor of Korean history and politics at the Australian National University. She is author of Korea’s Development under Park Chung Hee: Rapid Industrialization, 1961–1979. Her new book Korean Skilled Workers: Toward a Labor Aristocracy is available now.

Jill La Pointe on the Art—and Preservation—of Lushootseed Storytelling

Adapted from Jill La Pointe’s foreword to Haboo: Native American Stories from Puget Sound by Vi Hilbert, Jill La Pointe, Thom Hess

When Haboo was first published 35 years ago, the dramatic art of traditional storytelling in many of our Native American communities was fading as younger generations became more adapted to mainstream culture and values. Recognizing the impact of cultural change taking place in their communities, my grandmother—like so many other elders—sought to gather and preserve as much traditional information and wisdom as possible. Every elder who contributed to this magnificent collection of cultural stories did so in hopes that someday future generations will once again appreciate the ancient art of storytelling. 

Although much has changed over the years, there remains one unfortunate constant. Despite all the technological advancements since the first publication of Haboo, our communities continue to lose many of their beloved elders. As each year passes, we are left with fewer and fewer among us who can still recite the ancient stories and even fewer who can retell the stories in our traditional Lushootseed language.

Confronting this reality remains as critical to the survival of Coast Salish culture and language today as it was 35 years ago. The wisdom and teachings found in Haboo continue to offer a pedagogical resource that highlights a way of being in the world that we have strayed from, and they remain as relevant today as they have been for generations. 

Growing up, my brother Jay and I heard our grandmother Vi taqʷšəblu Hilbert tell many of the stories included here over and over again. Staying true to who she was, she never explained the meaning or revealed the overall lessons hidden in the stories, but rather she instructed us to think about each story and ask ourselves, “What is the story trying to tell me?”

It wasn’t until years later that I gained a deep appreciation for the traditional art of storytelling, as I heard Grandma repeat to audiences everywhere, young and old, that “Lushootseed never insults the intelligence of a listener by explaining the story,” allowing them the same dignity her elders allowed her, to find their own interpretation and understanding.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT Literary Hub.


Jill tsisqʷux̌ʷał La Pointe is director of Lushootseed Research and granddaughter of Vi taqʷšəblu Hilbert.

While Making Other Plans: Ellen Waterston on “Walking the High Desert”

 

In 2012 the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) pieced together a 750-mile trail that starts at the Oregon Badlands Wilderness outside of Bend and continues to the southeastern Oregon canyonlands that flank the Owyhee River. I moved from New England to the high desert of central Oregon four decades ago. Though I now live in Bend, my love of this hardscrabble outback still informs me every day. So it’s no surprise that this new trail spoke to me, lured me back into the desert. No longer actively ranching, I decided I’d walk sections of the trail to bring attention to the ONDA’s Oregon Desert Trail especially as it underscored public and private land use issues. I would make a point of evenly and fairly presenting the conflicting points of view about repurposing open areas of public land. I prided myself that in so many ways I already knew the players: ranchers; Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife employees; schoolteachers in rural schoolhouses; merchants in remote outposts; American Indians on reservations in the high desert; law enforcement officials who, some years back, were kind enough to wave me on, despite my excessive speed, as I made my way along desolate Highway 20 back to the ranch with a station wagon full of fussy infants and sacks of groceries.

In 2015, I began researching and writing this A to Z examination of land use issues in the high desert. But the January 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters by an armed group of far-right extremists changed all that. Life and writing projects are what happen while you are busy making other plans. The occupation was an invitation I couldn’t refuse to broaden the scope of the book, to examine how each section of the trail, in its own unique way, underscored issues that weren’t only regional but also national, if not international, seen through the optic of the high desert—issues such as water resources, climate change, protection of environmental habitat, recreational demands on open spaces, the rural-urban divide, economic inequities, and racism in the rural West.

Writing this book has led me to love the desert even more and to deeply apprehend how fragile it is socially and environmentally. With so many new people moving into this high and dry region, just as I did before them—there needs to be a commensurate commitment to care for it. I hope this book inspires people to engage in important conversations not only about the high desert but also about how these broader and seemingly unresolvable issues manifest where each of us live. As I encountered those issues, I confess I didn’t see any chance for resolution, but by the end of the book… well, I won’t be a spoiler.

 


Ellen Waterston is author of Where the Crooked Desert Rises: A High Desert Home, a memoir, four poetry collections, and four poetry collections including a verse novel. She is the founder and president of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize and the founder of the Writing Ranch in Bend, Oregon.

Walking Nearby History: Judy Bentley on “Walking Washington’s History”

Staying home and walking more in your neighborhood? There’s more underfoot than you may realize. Cities are rich in layers of history, some visible, some not.

Heading out my side door, I find a clothesline pole still standing between my house and the condo building next door, trailing vines instead of drying sheets. A half-mile away is a monument marking the landing of the Denny-Low-Terry party at Alki in 1851. Those are the obvious finds.

Less obvious is the median sloping downhill in front of our house, separating two narrow one-way streets. When we moved here 16 years ago, the hillside was overgrown with weeds. One lone plum tree drooped with fruit each fall. In the early 1900s children walked to the neighborhood school along a one-lane dirt road paralleling a meadow. “We frequently preferred the trail along Chilberg Avenue,” recalled one resident, “to enjoy some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the open fields and leading up into ‘the woods,’ the hillside forest.” Pleasant memories for troubled times.

Troubled times are nothing new. As I researched Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities, I often found conflict. I had read about the Everett Massacre of 1914 when striking millworkers in the city were supported by Wobblies who arrived on boats from Seattle. The Wobblies were met with gunfire. The dock where the clash occurred is long gone, but as I walked the waterfront in 2017, I found wreaths made out of dried cedar hung on a wire fence, each commemorating one of the 12 men killed.

WA History 1

At the Chinese Reconciliation Park in Tacoma, the haunting figures of Chinese workers expelled from the city in 1885 are painted on stone, an attempt to remember and acknowledge.

WA History 2

There were moments of pleasure, too, when I found the cool bubbling spring behind the Bigelow House in Olympia, which supplied drinking water to the early residents. Vancouver has not just one but three statues of women: a pioneer mother, a Native American woman, and a World War II welder.

WA History 3

Where history is less visible, interpretive art recalls the work of ordinary people. A sculpted fruit-picker’s bag sits on a square in Yakima.

WA History 4

To find history underfoot, look closely as you walk, and ask why. Then visit the local historical society when it opens again; you may find an oral history or memories that recall experiences like a walk to school.

Today, the meadow along that old dirt road has been reclaimed by community volunteers with plantings of more fruit trees, native shrubs, and wildflowers. Some of the forest above remains, on a hillside too steep for development. Walkers passing the wildflowers on this relatively quiet street are in good historic company.


Judy Bentley is the author of fourteen nonfiction books for young adults and three books published by the University of Washington Press, including Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities, Hiking Washington’s History, and Free Boy: A True Story of Slave and Master. She taught composition, literature, and Pacific Northwest history for more than 20 years at South Seattle College.

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.