Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Native Women Occupy Washington State Capitol Overnight

Above: Seven Native women peacefully occupied the Washington State Capitol Campus in front of the Legislative Building in Olympia on Monday night. After being told to disperse, a representative for Governor Jay Inslee told them that they would be allowed to stay. Negotiations with a federal representative will occur on Tuesday.

Interview with Water Protector Janene Hampton

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The first day of the Washington State Legislature’s 60 day session in Olympia on Monday began with a climate justice rally organized by 350.org and other climate action groups and ended with the overnight occupation of the Capitol Campus by seven Native women.

Major themes for the morning rally were stopping Puget Sound Energy’s liquid natural gas facility which is being built at the Port of Tacoma on Puyallup Tribal land, encouraging renewable energy, an end to fish farming, and protection of the 76 remaining Southern Resident killer whales in Puget Sound.

While the rally was underway, a Native encampment with several tarpees occupied the strip of grass located between the Legislative Building and the Temple of Justice. 

Tarpees are portable shelters made out of tarps and not to be confused with teepees.

Above: The Native encampment occupied the Washington State Capitol Campus in Olympia on Monday.

An unexpected situation for Capitol Campus facility staff occurred when they approached the camp at about 4:40 p.m. and requested that the “tents” be taken down, saying they were in violation of Capitol Campus grounds rules. 

According to policy, the structure could be there but they would have to put a wood floor down, remove the stakes and not have anyone in it overnight and move it every five days. 

One tarpee was occupied by seven indigenous women, including a 12 year old, who were threatened with arrest for trespassing.

When they did not leave, representatives for Governor Jay Inslee came out and delivered a message to say that the Washington State Patrol could be called to clear the camp.

A civil discussion of the issues ensued between Native camp representatives and Inslee’s staff. Inslee was working on his State of the State address, which he will deliver Tuesday at noon.

The land that the Washington State Capitol Campus occupies is Medicine Creek Treaty Land. 

After it was clarified that the Medicine Creek Treaty supersedes the State of Washington, a representative for Inslee came out and said that although they were trespassing and the occupation was unpermitted, the Washington State Patrol would not do a sweep of the camp as long as there was no danger or violence. 

The women were expected to spend the night on the Capitol Campus grounds in front of the Legislative Building. Negotiations with a federal representative will occur on Tuesday.

A live feed posted on Paul Cheoketen Wagner’s Facebook account chronicled the drama as it unfolded.

When Wagner requested that Governor Inslee call a federal government agent who deals with treaty rights, Inslee’s representative asked Wagner, “How long do you want to stay?”

“Fifty-nine days,” replied Wagner. “It’s not so much to ask - we’re on our own land!” Wagner laughed.

Saying that the LNG terminal violates all the treaties and cultural genocide is being delivered, Wagner said, “We’re here…we’re going to be here and exercise our treaty rights…and make sure they know that we’re doing this work, and they need to do this work too.…The luxury of time is gone. The luxury of weak decision making and decision making for the corporations and profiteering – that era is over and we need to realize that we are in a different era today and the choices are limited if we want to have a future....Celebrate the victory we have tonight – for future generations.”

Above: Paul Cheoketen Wagner, Saanich First Nations of Vancouver Island, who is credited with creating the tarpees used at Standing Rock, spoke earlier in the day at the climate justice rally on the Capitol Campus. Elizabeth Satiacum, Quileute, in purple coat, holds up a copy of the Medicine Creek Treaty.

Interview with Water Protector Janene Hampton

The night was quiet at about 9:00 p.m. when Little Hollywood interviewed Janene Hampton, Colville and Pentictan Indian Band, one of seven women spending the night in the tarpee.

A massage therapist and mother of three grown daughters, Hampton says she closed her massage practice to go to Standing Rock and stayed for six months. 

She now works at a spa in Bellevue that is supportive of her being in Olympia. She told them that she may need 60 days off, she says, laughing.

While the Washington State Patrol patrolled the area, the conversation turned more emotional as Hampton described how indigenous people have always known that they are supposed to protect the water.

“...The womb itself is water, the uterus, where the spirit goes from the spirit world into the human form...that is why we are water protectors. The men are the fire keepers but we are the life givers.

“Three hundred Tribes gathered to try and stop the Dakota Pipeline. There are 700 pipelines in the United States, and we are fighting the LNG in Tacoma. It is on a fault line….We have the right to our way of life, so we’re here because we want to be heard. Even today, when we were in [the opening ceremonies for the House and Senate], there were chants - ‘It’s not an Evergreen State if you don’t take care of the water.’ We are literally fighting for our culture not just for us but for everybody and not just here in Olympia.

“I have to talk like you in order for you to listen and that hurts because I’m losing my tradition. This is my family. It’s a sacrifice. It’s not easy. I worked double shifts so I could be here and not fundraise and ask for money. To me it’s really important to be self-sufficient...You don’t want to be a burden to the movement. You want to be able to help. 

“We have until noon on Tuesday and a federal agent will come...I honestly think they [Capitol Campus grounds staff] were stumped as to where they stood legally. I’m in traditional dress and I think they respect me more when I’m dressed traditional. I’m representing the people...I have to be pure of heart and do things in a good way. I cannot be violent, I cannot engage with them. This is a mentality that we got from Standing Rock...[law enforcement] were paid to try to make us engage so that they could fire upon us…and so, that’s the way that I walk, gently, so that I don’t put lives in danger. I am literally in ceremony.”

When you’re in ceremony, you’re not supposed to draw attention to yourself...people take pictures of you all the time, you’re in a spotlight, you still have to represent the people. Just because I’m out here doesn’t mean I want to look broken. There’s a standard that you want to put out there because people look at us like we’re dirty and uneducated, they just don’t have respect. A lot of people don’t even know we exist. They think we’re in history books….

I do educate people when I give massages. They’re on the table for an hour, so they’re like, “So, how long have you been here?” I’m like, “Well….” 

And then Hampton laughs again.

Above: Robert Satiacum, center, holds a copy of the Medicine Creek Treaty on the Capitol Campus on Monday.