Defend Nahankuotana: Rogue River Valley Oregon

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Report from Cozca Itzpapalotl on pipeline resistance and repression on Kalapuya land in the context of ongoing colonial invasion and resource extraction.

by Cozca Itzpapalotl
@bluemazatl

On March 28, 2019 I was violently arrested for defending Nahankhuotana on Kalapuya land, now called Salem, Oregon.  I had gone there with a group of environmentalists and Klamath Water Protectors to lobby political representatives about the current climate emergency and directly share with them the impact a pipeline would have on the land and the people that belong to the land.

This was my 7th arrest in less than 18 months but to understand the context of my arrest one must understand the history of the region. European Americans largely avoided Nahankhuotana but once gold was discovered in California and the Applegate Trail was connected to the Oregon Trail, it brought a pipeline of Eurosettlers to Nahankhuotana and sparked the “Rogue River Indian Wars” including the Modoc war led by Kintapuash.

“The U.S. Army and local white volunteers rounded up the Native inhabitants of Nahankhuotana who survived the European American attacks, they were forcibly marched under the threat of death hundreds of miles up to the Coast Reservation.”

The U.S. Army and local white volunteers rounded up the Native inhabitants of Nahankhuotana who survived the European American attacks, they were forcibly marched under the threat of death hundreds of miles up to the Coast Reservation. Some of the people were forced on to steamships that went Portland, Oregon  later were prisoners of war on the Coast Reservation. All the males who refused to leave were slaughtered by local European American settlers the survivors were the wives, children and babies of the men murdered all were also forcibly removed to the Coast Reservation (which became the Siletz Reservation. The trauma of this forced marches under volunteer White militias and U.S. Army left a scar so deep in the people that every year the Siletz Tribe has a “Run to the Rogue” ceremonial event. The Siletz people run and walk back to Nahankhuotana.

The Coast Reservation was promised as a new Tuqwetatunne homeland. Tuqwetatunne was a common indigenous word in the Athabaskan linguistic family meaning “all the people” Tuqwetatunne referred to all indigenous people from Coos all the way down to Northern California. The Coast Reservation was going to be a place free from war with the U.S. government but the Rogue River Wars would continue in a different form. The Coast Reservation was 1.1 million acres and bit by bit it was stolen and divided in to the Grand Ronde and Siletz Reservations. The Siletz Reservation is currently only 3,666 acres. In 1856 the Grande Ronde Reservation was 61,440 acres and today it is 11,288 acres.

“The Rogue River Indian Wars continue and this new pipeline is just the latest assault. This pipeline is going through various tribes’ lands and some of those tribes and bands are members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, which is where I was raised and where my children are enrolled tribal members.”

The Rogue River Indian Wars continue and this new pipeline is just the latest assault. On March 15, 2019 the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians voted to oppose the LNG pipeline to Coos Bay and the Jordan Cove export facility. This pipeline is going through various tribes’ lands and some of those tribes and bands are members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, which is where I was raised and where my children are enrolled tribal members.

We are in a climate crisis and we should do everything we can to try to turn this around or at least lessen the blow of the climate change gun being held to our grandchildren’s heads. The truth is we all will suffer and for what so a few more millionaires and billionaires can make even more money destroying this life friendly climate we have on this planet.

During the meeting with Coos Bay Representative Caddy McKeown, she interrupted every presenter even though they only had a few precious minutes to collectively speak. McKeown laughed and rolled her eyes when the fisherman families expressed concern about losing their livelihood due to the damage putting in a pipeline and export terminal would have. She even stated that it didn’t matter if they dredge the bay because they have been doing it for 100 years, even through the depth of dredging for the LNG Terminal is much deeper.

After seeing McKeown mock her constituents, I couldn’t take it anymore and stepped forward to let her know the cost of Standing Rock and that she should factor in the Jordan Cove law enforcement costs, because I would do everything in my power to get in the way of a pipeline running through my children’s and my communities’ ancestors bones.  Of course she interrupted that statement as well to let me know she was on some “Native American Board”,  which is strange because the majority of tribes do not want this LNG project. I left her office because it wasn’t going to do any good to sit there with someone that disrespectful to Indigenous people and their concerns.

She said she has been pro-Jordan Cove for the last 12 years and obviously by her actions and demeanor nothing would change her mind.  The Canadian company forcing this pipeline on Indigenous people already gave money to hire more sheriffs to deal with “protestors” but I can tell you from experience they do not have enough law enforcement to arrest the scores of others that are not going to take this extinction inducing pipeline without resistance. Standing Rock cost over 30 million dollars in law enforcement. The cost the company has budgeted for law enforcement in Jordan Cove project is not going to be enough. The indigenous people of Oregon are very resilient and have a fighting spirit which is why there were the Modoc Wars and the Rogue River Wars, the people wanted to fight for their families and homeland.  I feel a sense of duty to not allow this Jordan Cove export terminal to take one breath on Mother Earth.

Right before the lobby meeting with Representative Caddy McKeown, I had seen video of men, women and children in fenced cages under a freeway overpass in Texas. It was like I was seeing my own relatives caged. I was very injured and disturbed by such images. The image of brown people, many of whom are Indigenous, in cages under freeways, under armed guard. This is the future we all face unless we do something now.  We are in the last 8-12 years to do something.  What we choose now will mean life and death for millions of less fortunate fellow earth mates, our brothers and sisters. I cannot just be quiet while Oregon lawmakers approve another pipeline project.

As I left the office and made my way to the hallway, I felt like I could not leave without saying something. So I yelled out that we are in a climate crisis and we already have climate migrants. There is a UN estimation that by 2050 there will be as many as 1 billion climate refugees. I expressed my pain for the future we are causing just for money. Forests are dying and animals are already going extinct. Maybe in Caddy McKeown’s settler worldview they don’t matter, but to us as indigenous people they are our relatives too.

My chanting did not last long, and I was already standing in the elevator waiting to exit the building when a Oregon State Trooper stuck his hand in and refused to let us leave. The only thing on my mind was to go home. It was sickening being surrounded by artwork celebrating genocide as the State of Oregon rams another pipeline through the graves and ceremonial sites of the Tuqwetatunne peoples. Officer Benjamin Simpson kept his hand in the elevator. We were trapped.

My partner stood between me and the officer and explained to him that we were leaving.  The officer again said, “This elevator is not going down.”  My partner even advised him, “She is a veteran. She has PTSD.” The officer repeated he wasn’t letting the elevator go down.  I stepped out of the elevator because I felt trapped by this angry and aggressive cop. I told him that he did not need to put his hands on me because he was reaching for me. “You are going to piss me off” he stated and then told us to go down a hallway. I did not want to get arrested, so I complied.  I asked him why he wasn’t letting us leave, he was silent.  In fact he was not using words to direct us, he was just pointing and saying “this way.” I had to keep turning around to see which direction he was pointing so I went the correct way.

Because of his silence and very angry attitude I became frightened as he took us down some stairs, floor after floor. “Where are we going? What are we doing?” I asked him.  He never said I was being detained and he never said I was under arrest. I know from protest experience if these words are not spoken, you have a right to leave.

All the witnesses present state the officer never said I was being detained or I was under arrest. I started to mention that I felt like he was trying to trap me. It seriously felt like he was taking us to a closet basement. I was afraid of this cop. I asked him for a female officer he was silent. Once I got outside I heard him yell you are under arrest, so I stopped when I felt like there were enough witnesses.

I have been doing this work nonstop since Standing Rock. I have been brutalized by the police all over North America.  The police are dangerous. The police have easily triggered tempers. This I know from the scars on my body and the scars of my ancestors and the scars of the tribes that raised me. This is the land of Nahankhuotana and I am standing up for the land of my friends, the land of my loved ones, and the land of their ancestors. Whatever handful of officers hired with dirty pipeline money will not be enough to contain the protests I will help wage against this killing machine they are trying to put in through the bones of my children’s ancestors. This is an Indigenous extinction rebellion.

Editor’s Note: Cozca Itzpapalotl was charged with disorderly conduct, escape, resisting arrest and interference with a “peace” officer. Her first appearance is scheduled for April 30th in Salem.


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