The City Council of Eureka dishonors it’s citizens and itself

wiyot woman child
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.murderer
massacre map
Map and some other information from Northcoast Journal

22 thoughts on “The City Council of Eureka dishonors it’s citizens and itself

  1. Totally fumbled, and it appears the Mayor was the chief fumbler.


  2. Frank Jager does have a problem of thinking for himself; then finding his thoughts going against the wishes of his political masters. I for one applaud his original thinking… and deplore the fact he can’t just tell these folks, “I have made a decision I think is correct and stand by it.”

    I guess Jager too often forgets he is just a mouthpiece and not really a mayor. But he eventually comes around so they’ll keep him for another term.

    I think an apology (and other more demonstrable actions) is over 150 years overdue.


  3. If Newman represents our moral compass we are all so screwed !!


  4. I hear ya Old Sam. I sorta expect that level of hypocrisy from Newman and Brady. The thing that got me. I really wanted to see Linda take a strong principled stand, but to our collective shock, she made the dam motion.
    Yer right Old Sam “we are all so screwed!!”


  5. And so now Atkins gets thrown under the bus, too? I guess she can keep EPIC company under there. The purity police sure are quick on the draw around here!

    That being said, I actually agree with the overall point that the original draft was a real apology, while the staff version is weak tea — and lukewarm weak tea at that. It’s really unfortunate that it was watered down, and on such an seemingly flimsy basis. Not exactly “profiles in courage.”


  6. Anonymous 1:07:

    The only person who pushed Linda Atkins under the bus was Linda Atkins.

    Perhaps she drank the Kool-Aid….er…bought the legal responsibility argument, I don’t know. But it is not irresponsible to criticize her on her vote.


  7. Looks like the concern about how this went down, and the weak-ass result, is not limited to the “progressive” faction. Here’s a piece from John Chiv — a very “moderate” and “business-friendly” blogger who is not a political foe of the current council majority — taking them to task for their handling of this:


  8. <i "it is not irresponsible to criticize her on her vote."

    Fair enough. In fact, in retrospect I guess I should be offering kudos to the Tuluwat Examiner for not ignoring the fact that Atkins ended up voting the same way as the rest of her colleagues on this. If the TE hadn’t noted that, one could have legitimately complained that she was being given a pass because of where she fits in the local political scene. In fact, I can imagine myself making just that argument. 😉

    So yes, you’re right, there was nothing wrong with criticizing her on her vote. So I will disavow my 1:07 snark, and offer the TE an apology. Looks like I was the one with the itchy trigger finger! Anyway, mea culpa, and, again, I agree with the gist of the article — this was not a proud day for the Eureka City Council.

    At the risk of spoiling my above apology by introducing another complaint, I do have one concern with this article — the fact that no one from the Wiyot tribe was quoted. I don’t know if the TE looked for or tried to get an on-the-record response from the tribe, or members thereof, if they tried and no comments were available or forthcoming, then it’s not the TE’s fault. Either way, though, it’s unfortunate to be missing what seems like a really vital part of the story — namely, how the descendants of the tribe that suffered the massacre feel about this lame pseudo-apology. Not that it’s hard to guess, but still, since we got a number of quotes from those crafting this “apology,” it seems like we should have something from those on the receiving end of it.


  9. You are correct on the lack reporting concerning the response of the Wiyot Tribe. I’ve not seen their viewpoint expressed on any local media so far. In addition, I’ve not seen any response from the tribe or any tribe member on the blogs I look at, including LoCO.

    I could have missed one, of course.

    Perhaps for some reason the tribe has decided to keep a low profile on this issue. Perhaps even that the tribe thought that any apology was way too little and way too late. Therefore…. they would not have much emotion invested in an apology no matter how it was worded.

    Just speculation on my part about something I know nothing about.


  10. Well, it’s totally up to them, I can understand if they don’t even want to dignify this sad circus with a response, or if they’re just taking a little time to consider their response, or whatever. I would also understand if they decide to not accept the non-apology, either by overtly rejecting it, or by just ignoring it. I’d like to hear from them, but I’m well aware that this is not about what I might like or not like.

    For those of us who are disappointed with the watering down of the original draft, here’s what I suggest: Each of us, as individuals, print out that draft and sign it, and send it to the Wiyot Tribe. And/or write a personal letter or e-mail sharing our thoughts. Let them know that we support the stronger apology even if these elected officials were too timid to do so. No, it’s not the same thing, but I think it would be a positive gesture. I’m going to do it right now.

    If anyone else thinks that’s a good idea, here are some options for how to send your letter to the tribe, by snail-mail, fax, or e-mail.


  11. I don’t quite get how the original apology letter threatened to expose the City to litigation. Was the City Attorney claiming that by admitting wrongdoing by past city residents, the City Council would be opening the City up to wrongful death lawsuits by the descendants of those killed in the massacre, or something like that? That seems pretty far-fetched — I can’t really imagine any judge or jury going along with blaming or punishing current City residents for things done by their long-dead predecessors.

    Now I suppose if the letter had stated that the city government itself, aka the “City of Eureka,” was responsible for the massacre, maybe some enterprising lawyer could make something of that — but that’s not what the apology said. It just said what is already well-established fact, namely that some Eureka residents took part in the massacre.

    I wasn’t at this meeting, so here’s a question for anyone who was there, or watched it on public access or whatever: Did anyone on the City Council make any other arguments against the original apology letter, besides the stated concern about somehow opening the City up to lawsuits? If so, what were those arguments?


  12. As far as I can see, there have been no proud moments for the council, no moral high ground based on principal. Even the US government apologized to Japanese Americans for their treatment during WWII. What is it with these people? They ring their hands when one priest is killed and don’t have a tear for the hundreds of Wiyot people Killed that night 154 years ago. A pox on Eureka’s house.


  13. In a spirit of fairness (of a sorts) it should be remembered many of the whites who carried out the massacre were from Arcata (or Union as it was then known). Has that city made an apology either? Perhaps that apology should really be made on the behalf of the County instead?

    It’s not just a matter of whose forebears had blood on their hands and whose does not. Who ultimately should be apologizing to whom?

    The only apologies that REALLY matter are those that lead to the impossibility of anything of the sort happening again to anyone.

    Alas, I’m not creative enough to figure out what that might be. But it is worth much thought (and even more action). Perhaps a start could be the restoration of the entirety of Indian Island (and calling that island by its native less-pejorative sounding name) to the Wiyot people.


  14. Well Anon 1:16 I’m glad to see that Mr. Chiv put his obsession with tweaker Shilo Chase aside for a moment to address a more pressing issues within our community than berating a former bully of his?


  15. Yes, good on John Chiv and bad on Linda if she did not forcefully vote against or advocate for the first edition of the letter. Kudos to Frank Jager if he did write the orignal letter and hopefully we as a city can get out that first letter sooner than later. For reasons brought up here, and, impressively on Chiv’s blog too. Good on you John and Tuluwat, and Bolithio, among others.


  16. Just spoke to Linda and she is OK with me posting this. (Just before the progressive dems meeting btw, where you too can joint the movement to put the democratic values back in the Democrats.) (7pm every 4th Thursday – ie tonight!)

    Anyway, the reason she made the motion (to accpet the flimsy version) and voted on it was otherwise the letter would have been tabled. Her thought being a “sopport” letter is better than no letter. I have to say I agree. However, let’s us keep working to fix this. We need an apology letter, again, sooner than later.


    • Thanks for the clarification Jon. The Examiner staff discuss this tonight, and we think that’s pretty weak.
      The Examiner thinks anything short of a real apology is more insult to injury.


  17. The anonymous blogger has consulted his “staff” and made a pronouncement. How consequential.


  18. Anonymous 10:25:

    And the anonymous Green Bat Winged blogger plays the same tune on the same old set of bag pipes.

    You don’t like the Tuluwat Examiner…. Okay. I think we got it. If you like torturing yourself hanging out in a place you don’t like then that’s your scene (a little masochistic for my taste but I try to be open to alternate lifestyles).

    But please; find something else to go on about. Try a little variety in your life… you might like it.


  19. You seem to be the one dis-enjoying yourself, MOLA:42. So perhaps take your own advice. 😉


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