Frank Jäger wrote what seemed like a truly heartfelt apology on behalf of the City and People of Eureka.
Unfortunately, the City Council had to approve the letter before it could be sent. Tuesday night it went before the full City Council for discussion and public comment. That’s when the apology went completely sideways. Right before the meeting, the City Attorney dropped a new draft letter, from staff, on the council. Jäger seemed truly rattled during the discussions.
Council member Mike Newman asked the City attorney about “legal matters” and “exposure to the city finances”. The City Attorney’s response never actually claimed the City would be in any real danger, she just made the vague admonition “whenever you put something in writing it’s possible that someone going to take it and use it for a purpose that you did not intend.”
(more on bogus lawsuit excuse)
City Attorney Day-Wilson revealed, “So when staff talked this afternoon we came up with a different approach. Still an apology, but a different approach.”
Council member Ciarabellini pointed out that the staff version no longer used the word apology. Ciarabellini asked “Could the second version of the letter be still be titled an apology?” Day-Wilson dodged the question and just stated “the second letter talks about reconciliation and ceremony moving forward”.
In the discussion, Newman said; “I think reconciliation is a important part of forgiveness and apologies”, “I just hesitate going with the apology straight out”, “I also hear and feel my heart, but as an elected member of this council to oversee the business of the city, to open it for possibilities of any lawsuits, however remote that may be, I just can’t feel that it would be in my place to, okay that.”
Newman went on, “I like the language ….. we offer our support to the Wiyot Tribe and re-affirm our commitment toward healing the Wiyot people’s wounds and continuing to work toward establishing better relationships rooted in reconciliation. The continuation of the Wiyot Renewal Ceremony is a step toward the healing of the wounds that have been a scar on our community”
What was particularly revolting was Newman and the Council seemed to expect forgiveness for the massacre without offering an apology! This action really shows Eurekans still have no realistic view of the consequences of the genocide that the Cities founders perpetrated. The further insult is that Jäger told tribal members that the City was going to apologize at the World Renewal Ceremony. The Wiyot were wise enough not to accept that and told the City to do it at a tribal meeting.
The version which passed unanimously by the City Council contains no mention of the massacre it just says they were attacked and the ceremony was never finished.
The new letter also deleted is the statement “work to remove prejudice and bigotry that still exists in our society today.”
The Original letter would have been a start, but the City killed it
Council Member Atkins briefly bemoaned the changes from the heartfelt draft to the bureaucratic one.
However, by the end of the discussion, she turned around and made the motion to adopt the version she said she didn’t like. Unbelievable!
The Original Letter that is an actual apology, that would have helped to restore some honor to the City of Eureka, is presented here:
Dear Members of the Wiyot Tribe:
In February 1860, 154 years ago, citizens from Eureka participated in what has been described as a massacre of unfathomable proportions. On that winter night long ago, the Wiyot people of Humboldt Bay were attacked. That incident resulted in the death of scores of mostly women and children on the tribal island in Humboldt Bay. Worse yet, this attack occurred during the Wiyot Renewal Ceremony to bring healing to the Earth. The ceremony was never finished.
Today the people of Eureka are pleased to see the World Renewal Ceremony, that was cut short in 1860, will at last be finished. The ceremony will take place on island land deeded to the Wiyot people in 2004.
As Mayor of Eureka, on behalf of the City Council and the people of Eureka, we would like to offer a formal apology to the Wiyot people for the actions of our people in 1860. Nothing we say or do can make up for what occurred on that night of infamy. It will forever be a scar on our history. We can, however, with our present and future actions of support for the Wiyot, work to remove the prejudice and bigotry that still exists in our society today.
Frank J. Jäger
HISTORY and why a Real Apology is Required:
Some 250 people were butchered that night and no one was ever held accountable. The remaining Wiyots fled to the local military fort and were eventually relocated to reservations. It’s important to remember that the genocide of Native Americans was widely supported and the stated goal of many politicians and businessmen. Below is an image of Austin Wiley, editor of the Humboldt Times, who called for the extermination of the Wiyot people. He later became Superintendent for Indian Affairs in California.
Map and some other information from Northcoast Journal