Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hawk Beard

Friday, June 16, 2006

Katy and the Cougar

One of the pleasures of working in alternative media was meeting young interns from the local university's school of journalism. As the editorial advisor at a bi-weekly print newspaper, I had the privilege of briefing them on topic background, showing them how to use the archives, and helping them develop a story using unconventional perspectives and interviewees.

My favorite intern during my two-year stint at the Bellingham WA Every Other Weekly, Gene Metrick, was also the student editor of the WWU Western Front. Gene, by the way, has gone on to garner numerous awards as a reporter and editor in his new home of North Carolina, where he and his ex-wife Katy had once planned to move when she completed studies at Northwest Indian College.

Katy was from the Eastern Cherokee tribe living in the mountains of southern Appalachia, which, as a matter of fact, were the same clans my Irish immigrant grandmother's grandfather's grandfather lived and traded with two centuries previous. In the summer of 1997, Gene was busy helping us do a feature series on the Wise Use/Anti-Indian Movement at that time personified by Washington State's US Senator, Slade Gorton.

When Gene graduated, Katy and her sister threw a party at their rented cabin on a bluff overlooking Lake Whatcom, surrounded by towering pines and sandstone caves. Penned up below the outside deck where we sat were her numerous dogs I remarked on as a formidable security system.

Katy laughed, and then proceeded to tell me about how they all cowered and refused to come upstairs to her loft bedroom when she called them one recent afternoon, only to discover when she rose to use the bathroom that a mountain lion was bounding out the bathroom window and springing off the roof into the limbs of a nearby tree. Looking at the destroyed window screen and broken toilet tank lid on the floor, she noticed the cat food bag had been shredded and that big cat tracks led into the bedroom where she'd been sleeping moments before.

As she told us the story, Katy recalled dreaming that afternoon that something was watching her and smelling her breath. Needless to say, this brought chills to her and us as we listened.

I've manged to stay in touch with Gene over the years, but, unfortunately, have lost contact with Katy. I imagine she has returned to the Smoky Mountains, but it would sure be nice to hear from her.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


There’s a small room attached to the senior center that serves as the museum for the Quileute tribe on the central coast of Washington. On display are artifacts—mostly baskets—that depict large canoes of Indians in pursuit of Humpback whales. Now days, they no longer hunt whales, but still fish salmon and halibut.

Perhaps more amazing than harpooning whales on the open ocean from hand-carved cedar canoes, was the construction of communal structures using two hundred foot long logs—thick as a man is tall-- as clear-span ridge beams, by using earthen ramps, cedar fiber ropes, and human muscle power. Both required elaborate preparation and organizing.

My friend Benny—who was part Hoh and part Lummi, I think—once told me stories of growing up there during and after World War Two. The Hoh res had no road, and was reachable only by friends who came in boats, but the Quileute res had a road that connected their village of LaPush with the Olympic rainforest logging town of Forks. Still, by war’s end, the Quileute had no electricity or phones.

Benny remembered fondly those days as a kid when everyone gathered for a potluck each night after hunting, fishing and gathering all day, to share food and stories around a campfire until they drifted off to their beds. He also recalled happily the time as a teenager when the Bureau of Indian Affairs offered the Quileute electricity if they would dig holes for the cedar poles that would connect LaPush by copper wire to Forks. This big project of digging miles of postholes, that began each day with a hike in the woods together—often catching a glimpse of bears, elk, and other wildlife—interrupted by a picnic mid-day, and concluded with berry-picking and wood-gathering on their way home, was another highlight of cooperative effort in his youth.

But Benny also recalled the changes that happened as his friends and relatives acquired refrigerators and radios that allowed them to keep surplus food and eat by incandescent light in their homes while listening to radio programs. Slowly, fewer and fewer gathered around the campfire to hear the stories that had been told there for thousands of years.

About this time of subtle social change, Benny learned to scuba dive at the Quileute Coast Guard Station, and started borrowing gear to watch the Gray whales each spring and fall when they stopped at LaPush to rub the barnacles off their bellies on the perfectly-sloped, gravelly beach. Most times, Benny just sat on the bottom blowing bubbles from his diving mask and looking eye-to-eye with his mammalian cousins who’d stopped in on their semi-annual migrations, as they’d done at this rocky shore they’d shared with the Quileute for hundreds of generations.

A few years back, when Benny returned to the other world to share stories with his ancestors, I remembered these stories he told me over the phone one morning, while holding his drum and the photo I’d sent him of the new canoe carved by his childhood friend at LaPush. He was thinking of maybe going back for a visit during the great gathering of tribal ocean paddlers from Canada and Washington that I told him I’d seen advertised while camping out there on vacation.

I don’t know if he made it back, but I like to think that he’s happy more people are starting to appreciate the values of cooperation, reciprocity, and sharing he grew up with. It would make him feel good.

--Jay Taber

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


When our old Volvo sedan died climbing Cayuse Pass on the backside of Mount Rainier, my dad gave us my Aunt Audrey’s ’63 Impala that had been sitting in her garage for ten or fifteen years. Just before ascending the Cascade Mountain Range from the foothills of the Yakama Indian Reservation, the engine in the Volvo had started bucking around under the hood due to a sheared engine bolt. The clothes hanger wire I used to lash it down worked OK, but by the time we were in view of the glacier, the transmission expired. After a white knuckle tow down the mountain in the dark behind a crazed logger’s pickup, we got an auto shop to transfuse enough life into the Volvo to limp the hundred miles back home to Whatcom Falls.

Our new protector--by then a classic car collector’s dream--was a mint condition cream with red interior automatic with plenty of room for our three hound dogs in the back seat and a trunk that held coolers and camping gear for four with room to spare. The Impala’s first trip was to the Olympic Peninsula, crossing on the Keystone Ferry to Port Townsend and driving along the Strait of Juan de Fuca bluff out to Cape Flattery on the Makah Indian Reservation, where we camped the first night next to the lighthouse and helped chase some stray horses away from the beach when a couple of Makahs passed herding their twenty or so horses down the dirt road banging a garbage can lid on the side of their slow-moving rusted pickup.

The next morning, before hiking into the beach camping area with our packs, we parked in a field next to the Makah Police Deputy’s mother’s house and gave her our keys along with ten bucks to keep an eye on our magnificent metal steed. A week later when we hiked out after living on clams and September sunsets and utter star-sparkled darkness, we encountered a stripped Volkswagen at the trail head, and experienced momentary anxiety until rounding the bend where our protector sat unmolested.

For the rest of the summer, the Impala took us and neighbor kids and dogs to the falls for evening swims and barbecues. In the fall, we loaded up with crabbing gear and hauled many a Dungeness up from Samish Bay tossing buckets and boots and beverages in the trunk and Borzois in the back seat. Come winter, we hauled hay and water twice a day to our two horses pastured on the other side of the woods. By December--after removing the back seat--I was making newspaper bundle drops, crawling up Yew Street Road in a foot of snow listening to Bing Crosby on the radio marveling at all the Christmas lights and moon over Lake Whatcom.

Soon after the holidays, when Marianne’s co-worker Robyn had a baby and announced she and her husband were moving to the Makah Res, we sold them Protector, which held all their stuff, including a crib, and kept them safe and warm as they traveled back to the rainforest in hail and sleet to a new home. We have no way of knowing, but--twenty years later--we suspect that Impala now spends its days herding horses and hauling salmon and kids and grandmas around Soos Beach and Neah Bay.

Maybe next time we visit Sol Duc Hot Springs it’ll be there with a couple of stout, purple-black ravens walking around checking it out.

--Jay Taber

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Even the Quiet

The little beach I walked on looked the same as it did twenty years earlier: same rocks, same sand, same barnacles, same broken clam shells. The water, the spit, the island, the dock--all the same. Even the quiet had not changed.

She read in her car while I walked and remembered boats and fish and Indians and spreading wakes in moonlight. Her mother taught her noblesse oblige, but when the destroyers attacked our community it was us and not them who saved it from destruction.

She knew it was wrong to sit idly by while her own mother was defamed, and summoned her peers to protect her family honor. Yet, as an untested beneficiary of wealth and status, she was untrained and unprepared and failed the community when called on, herself.

She remembered me from when I once cut firewood for her mother and made repairs to the family home. She was aware that I had come through many times over the years when she'd gone silently about her business.

As the ferry approached and she looked up from her newspaper, she smiled and said hi. I asked if she was going over for the weekend.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Skookum Index

At Skookum blog you will find much of what you'll need to know in order to be effectively involved in extending universal human rights in the new millenium. In addition to the papers, memoirs, presentations, correspondence, letters, and reports by Skookum's editor, you also have at your disposal his discussions with other activist-scholars, as well as articles and commentary on related topics.

Special sections devoted to building a movement--including colleagial input on such subjects as communication and pedagogy, curricula development, the global indigenous resurgence, new world order, and comprehending the right-wing milieu--make it possible for educators to build on the valuable experience of others in creating their own popular or formal learning centers off-the-shelf. Indeed, this has already happened.

For those who are so inclined, additional resources and links are listed, including archival repositories containing hard-to-find documents, and the chronological output of Skookum itself. Literature and film reviews--as well as books, screenplays, essays, fiction, short stories and children's stories by Skookum's editor--complement the treasures located in the guest articles and shadowtail tales handily featured in the sidebar.

Anyone desiring to learn more about the author of Skookum can quickly browse the acclaim section, take a look at his ancestry, lineage and extended family, read his poetry, or see what his companion blogs are up to. For those seeking further inspiration, Skookum provides audio/visual links to esteemed peers, native connections, search suggestions, and details about Skookum's current projects.

We hope you enjoy your visit, come again, and let us know if there's something else you'd like to see. Your questions and comments are always welcome.

p.s. To reduce overcrowding, we have relocated some of these materials to our companion blogs cited throughout or listed under Access in the Skookum sidebar. Readers are encouraged to visit these annexes for new items of focus unavailable elsewhere.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Think One

Think One and Think Two

Am I confused? Am I dreaming? Or is it déjà vu?
A time warp?--summer rerun?-- named Bush One and Bush Two?
Talking heads on the TV—Do they really have a clue?
Is this more infotainment, meant to baffle me and you?

Bad Sadam, bad bin Laden, they’ve turned their backs on you.
Give ‘em Schwartzkoff, give ‘em Powell, the old one and two!
“Will not stand”--“Cannot hide”—“Smoke ‘em out”, tried and true.
“Highway of death”—“Standing tall”—Vietnam purged from view.

I felt better, more humane, with Bill One and Bill Two.
We bombed them once; we bombed them twice, Afghanistan and Khartoum.
We sent our warships. We sent our bombers. Showed them a thing or two.
Wag the dog, smart bomb footage, surgical victories to view.

What’s wrong with these people?—these combatants--the Arab and the Jew.
We gave them Stingers, F-1s Apaches, Patriot missiles in lieu.
Mujahideen, Taliban, Iran-Contra and crew.
Drugs and guns, by the tons, thrown into this stew.

Achille Lauro, Beirut barracks, Trade Center bombing one and two.
Qaddafi, Ayatollah, bin Laden, and Abu.
Forget restraint, arrest and trial. We know what to do.
Homeless starved, sanctioned bombed, arms and oil, through and through.

Then Desert Storm, now Infinite Justice; blow back on me and you?
Infinite terror, infinite death; reap war one and war two?
Intelligence, investigation, national defense they do not do.
CIA, FBI, Joint Chiefs of Staff; get even for you.

One nation—one leader—one point of view.
Two Parties, two Houses, no dissent found in two.
“Bill of Rights”—“immigration”—“they did this to you!”
Stand up leaders--Morse, Lee, and Douglas, seem so far and so few.

One for me, two for you, human rights just won’t do.
“Give us power—give us money—then we’ll protect you.”
Could it be, there’s a pattern, revealed in this milieu?
Peace and justice, love and kindness, don’t come in one and two.

[Think One was read by Jay Taber as his contribution to the Writing Thru the Flames MFA Writing and Consciousness workshop held on Saturday October 6, 2001 at New College of California, San Francisco.]

Monday, June 05, 2006

State of Grace

I live in a building inhabited by three post-menopausal women and an adolescent dog. The dog and I have formed a pact in avoiding the snares set by the others to engage us in petty bickering set off by their forgetfulness, minor annoyances, and imagined slights.

With our improved social dexterity, dog person and myself are largely able to witness rather than suffer the periodic volcanic displays of emotion, and can thus focus our attention on preventing floods and fires and other catastrophic mishaps due to the intermittent lapses of the other occupants.

We live in a state of grace.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Public Good Project

The Public Good Project is a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. You can learn more about past Public Good projects by visiting its website at

Public Good's Research Director, Paul de Armond, is an internationally recognized authority on American right-wing terrorism. He first gained international attention on April 19, 1995, when he correctly identified the Oklahoma City bombing as the work of “Christian Patriot” terrorists associated with white supremacist militias. This was two days before the FBI abandoned their fruitless case theory that the bombing was the work of “Arab terrorists.”

Mr. de Armond has provided consulting research and analysis on domestic terrorism to the United Nations, the Department of Defense, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, various local and state law enforcement agencies as well as congressional committees, state agencies and local governments. His articles have been published in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism and the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board Forum, as well as in The Albion Monitor and EastsideWeek.

He has contributed chapters to two ground-breaking books: Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime and Militancy, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, 2001; and Hype or Reality?: The “New Terrorism” and Mass Casualty Attacks, Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, Washington DC, 1999.