Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Three Makah grandmothers (pictured here) have made the 330 miles journey from their home to Portland, Oregon today. They walked and drove the distance to protest what they say is a continual violation of Native American treaty rights. The women are Dotti Chamblin, 65, Gail Adams, 68, president, and Rhonda Markishtum, 50.

Two walked the whole way.

They brought with them at least 2,000 copies of a four-page letter they have written to hand out to congressional leaders' representatives, the governor, federal judges and anyone who wants a copy.

The letter demands better health care and talks of encroachments on treaty rights.

"Treaties are the supreme law of the land," Chamblin said.

It accuses elected officials of violating their oath of office by failing to honor Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution.

"Article 6 states that treaties are the law of the land and that federal judges will adhere to it," Chamblin said.

"A lot of things haven't happened that way.

"We ceded land to have a peace treaty, and there's a lot of atrocities that have happened to us that would not have happened to any other race of people — at least we think so, we grandmothers."

Among the treaty violations, the grandmothers believe, is the case of the five Makah men who hunted and killed a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sept. 7, 2007.

Last October, Chamblin and Adams took signs supporting Makah tribal whaling rights to the Port Angeles office of the 6th Congressional representative.

Their visit preceded a federal court arraignment of the five Makah men.

Since then, three of the men plead guilty to federal charges and were placed on five years' probation June 30, while one was sentenced to 90 days in the federal detention facility at Sea-Tac, and another was sentenced to five months there.

The Makah treaty of 1855 grants the tribe whaling rights.

"Those boys did nothing wrong, according to the treaty," Chamblin said then.

The grandmothers want their grandchildren to know when they see injustice, when someone tries to keep them quiet, they must speak out.

The following is from the Peninsula Daily News (Washington State).

Makah grandmothers marching for their causes reach Portland, Ore. -- Idaho next
By Diane Urbani de la Paz Peninsula Daily News

PORTLAND — Three walking, driving grandmothers made it to their destination Monday and pronounced their journey "awesome."

Rhonda Markishtum, Dotti Chamblin and Gail Adams, members of the Makah tribe and residents of Neah Bay, set out at 4 a.m. last Wednesday.

Their intention: To raise awareness of Native American treaty rights the women believe have been disrespected for too long.

At the end of the 330-mile trip, the trio walked into Portland, Ore., on Monday, just as they had planned, and headed for the Bureau of Indian Affairs office to deliver a simple message.

In treaties with the U.S. government, tribes all over this country traded their lands for basic human rights such as health care and education — but the United States hasn't held up its end of the deal, said Adams.

She lost her husband to cancer in May, and wonders whether he might have received better treatment if he'd lived somewhere besides the Makah Reservation.

In Neah Bay as in other remote Native American communities, tribal members struggle to get good care, said Adams, who at 68 is the eldest of the travelers.

Markishtum walked for her daughter, and for the grandchildren she hasn't seen in a long while. Her daughter's family, she said, was torn apart by domestic violence.

"My daughter is too scared to say anything. My whole family is too scared. But I'm not," added Markishtum, 48.

She's determined to get ­legal help for her daughter — and to call attention to the scourge of spousal abuse.

Wrapped in a shawl bearing a thunderbird, Markishtum walked into Port Angeles at noon last Wednesday.

She and Chamblin spoke about their hope to open a center for survivors of family violence in Neah Bay — and then they went to the Fifth Street office of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks to deliver a four-page letter about Native American rights.

Among other things, the grandmothers demand justice for the five Makah men who killed a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sept. 7, 2007, and who were later found to have violated the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Three of the men were placed on five years' probation while two are serving time at the federal detention facility at SeaTac.Whaling rights
The 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay was supposed to have guaranteed whaling rights to the Makah, Adams said.

In Port Angeles and on the road to Portland, she carried a sign that read, "Broken Trust: Makah Whaling."

Dicks, the Democrat from Belfair, sits on the Appropriation Subcommittee for the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

He wasn't in his Port Angeles office on Wednesday, so the grandmothers gave their letter to aide Judith Morris.

Then they went on to Tacoma and on to Olympia, walking 5 miles at a stretch and driving the rest in a tiny white car decorated with U.S. flags.

"People honked and waved and gave us thumbs up," said Markishtum.

In Port Angeles, though, one yelled at the women to "go home."

"All the way through to Tacoma, we had no rain," Markishtum added. Taken as a whole, the trip was "awesome."

In Olympia the women took their letter to the office of Gov. Chris Gregoire, who was out. Again, an aide accepted the grandmothers' missive.BIA regional director
At the end of the road, they did find one man who was in his office: Stanley Speaks, Northwest regional director of the BIA and a member of the Chickasaw tribe.

"I met with them," Speaks said Monday. "They just dropped in. . . . I haven't had time to get into what they're trying to achieve.

"They have a lot of concerns. The main thing is to get through the materials they left here."

Chamblin, 65, said she was pleased to share her message about Native American rights with people on the street.

A few passers-by stopped for conversation, she said, so the grandmothers had a chance to talk about little-known treaties between the U.S. government and tribes.

They cited Article VI of the Constitution, which states that "treaties made . . . under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme Law of the Land."

Elected representatives in the federal and state levels, the article continues, "shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution."

"We're getting some information out to the public," Chamblin added, "that they need to know about."

The grandmothers say they aren't ready to return home. They're headed next to Lewiston, Idaho, for a meeting with Indian Health Service officials.

How will they get there?

"Walk," said Chamblin.

On dangerous highway stretches, however, the women will climb back into their car, flags still flying.________
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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