Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Good News For A Change (We Can Believe In)

Looking for some good news?  This will have to hold you for awhile:  A CDC study shows a 43% drop in early childhood obesity (ages 2-5) over the past ten years, most of it in the past two years.  This is the first substantial drop in any category, and it's also the only category that shows a drop this time.

Should First Lady Michelle Obama get some credit here for her strenuous efforts to bring attention to the problem and to get children to exercise?  I don't know, but I do remember when a different study a few months ago that showed no drop led to stories that suggested it meant she'd failed.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Last Vigil

On Saturday evening was held the last candlelight vigil on Woodley Island in Humboldt Bay honoring the memory of the Wiyot women and children massacred in 1860 on the nearby Indian Island, and dedicated to regaining the island so that the World Renewal Dance--the reason the Wiyots were there--could be danced there again.

It was the last vigil because next month, for the first time since 1860, Wiyots will dance on the island again.

In 2004 I wrote a story about the vigils and the Wiyot for the San Francisco Chronicle.  At that time the Wiyot had raised enough money to buy back a few acres of the island called Tuluwat in the Wiyot language.  Shortly thereafter the Eureka City Council deeded back 40 more acres.  The process of cleaning up the land from years of industrial pollution began.  Expanded versions of articles I wrote about all this (for the Chronicle and News from Native California) are here at my archival site, Kowincidence.

Ten years later, the island is ready.  Other North Coast tribes are helping to bring back the World Renewal ceremonies.  Most of them have similar ceremonies.  The Wiyot dance is scheduled for three days at the end of March.
The vigils have been held since 1992, when former tribal chair Cheryl Seidner and a few others rebelled against remembering only Columbus (one of his replica ships was in Humboldt Bay) and organized a different remembrance, of what was nearly the end of a people on Indian Island in 1860.  Since then vigils have been held in rain, fog, wind and cold (the one in 2000 was brought indoors because it was raining so hard.)  But this last one was on a warm, clear bright evening--like the first one was, Cheryl would later say.  Here people are just beginning to gather.

 The sun was pouring its rays towards us.  Facing the camera in this photo is Leona Wilkinson, Cheryl's sister who was one of the original four who started the vigils.  They are direct descendants of an infant survivor of the 1860 massacre. Behind her across the water is a portion of Indian Island.

 What struck me this time was the number of children and babies, of families.  I thought of people I remembered from prior vigils who weren't there.

Cheryl conducted the event informally as usual.  She invited Wiyots in the crowd to come into the inner circle, where they sang a traditional song.  A drum circle from HSU did three songs.  There were moments of prayer and remembrance.

In the center of the circle was a fire that Cheryl tended.  By this time the sun was directly in my eyes, and in my camera lens.

 That's Cheryl tending the fire.  She grew up a baseball fan and remembered seeing Kent Tekulve pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  I wore a black Pirates cap so she might remember me but it didn't work.