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White Privilege Returns to Indian Island

The city of Eureka recently gave Indian Island back to the Wiyot Tribe, a decision that did not sit well with wealthy Robin Arkley.

There is a man who has deep roots in our community and he also happens to be very wealthy. This gives him a certain latitude to go beyond the norm from ordinary citizens as he gives money to charitable causes and has renovated an old theater to be a performing arts center.

His name is Robin Arkley and he recently went on a local talk radio station to protest the decision of the city of Eureka, California to talk with the Wiyot Tribe about giving them Indian Island.

Let me give you a short history of Indian Island. On February 26, 1860 during the middle of a world renewal ceremony, that goes for 10 days, the men of the tribe were out getting supplies. At dawn a group of volunteer militia descended upon the village filled with old men, women and children and began killing them. No accurate number has been determined but it is agreed that over 100 Wiyots were butchered during that massacre. The local newspaper the Northern Californian reported it like this:

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"Blood stood in pools on all sides; the walls of the huts were stained and the grass colored red. Lying around were dead bodies of both sexes and all ages from the old man to the infant at the breast. Some had their heads split in twain by axes, others beaten into jelly with clubs, others pierced or cut to pieces with bowie knives. Some struck down as they mired; others had almost reached the water when overtaken and butchered."

The Wiyots have been trying to recover from that act of barbarism ever since. Part of their healing has been an effort to reclaim what once was Wiyot homeland. In 2000 they purchased a small portion of the island. In 2004 they signed an agreement with the city of Eureka that returned 40 acres (no mule was handed over), of the island to the tribe.

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Recently the city of Eureka resumed efforts to return remaining portions of Indian Island that they control to the Wiyot people. This raised the ire of Lord Arkly who proclaimed that the island is an asset of his and others that he sees when he takes his children on the island. How a parent could take their progeny to the site of a genocidal stain on local history is fodder for another story.

During the course of his diatribe the notion of the city considering giving the Island back to the tribe was “astonishing and flabbergasting” to him. Of course it is; how can the effort to recover from the distress of having nearly your entire tribe killed be more important than having a nice picnic spot for the delight of our effete elite. Heavens forbid we disturb the gentile benevolence of our local patron.

In his largess Herr Arkley offered to pay over the appraised price for the piece of land. I can only assume he would do this so it would be available for his use the few days he is actually in our community, as he sits on his throne and overlooks his fiefdom from Louisiana. How fortunate we are to our own mini-Trump to remind us to stay in our place and bow before the all mighty dollar.

This is yet another example of the 1 percent aristocracy holding their ill gotten gains over the heads, lives and islands of indigenous people. Manifest Destiny sucks.

Just my two dentalia’s worth.

André Cramblit is a Karuk Tribal Member from the Klamath and Salmon rivers in northwest California. He drives on the highway that circumnavigates Indian Island and ponders the possibilities of it’s eminent return to the Wiyot people.