American Indian museum says: We’re still here

        Let’s start with the National Museum of the American Indian, which was not the first museum we visited on our recent trip to Washington, D.C. In fact, it was the last one we saw and the least favorite of the three museums we visited: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Native American museum.

But some ideas came together there.

         The American Indian museum has a harder tale to tell than the other two. You can walk through the Holocaust museum tracing the antisemitism from ancient European pogroms to the death camps at Auschwitz. African-American museum starts in Africa and tells the degradation that have happened to black people from slave roundups in Africa, the Middle Passage, slavery in the Americas, Jim Crow, desegregation and the events that brought on the Black Lives Matter movement.

         The Native American museum tells the tale of many clans and tribes spread across the Americas. What those people believed, the stories they told and how they were treated by Europeans and colonists is hard to wrap up in a straight walk through the museum’s halls.

         I had expected our three-day, three-museum visit, which someone termed a “white liberal guilt trip,” to go this way: genocide, slavery and more genocide. But the word “genocide” was never heard or written in the exhibits I saw in the Native America museum. Instead, the theme seemed to be: “We’re still here!” Despite all that was done to us – disease, wars, massacres, reservations, boarding schools, restrictions on our languages – we’re still here.

         From all the products advertised with Indian names, you can’t deny their presence. The museum had everything from an Indian motorcycle to the maiden on the Land O’Lakes butter carton. There are several rooms telling how several tribes understand the universe. From duality to this wonderful story told through the glass art of Seattle’s Preston Singletary. (After January 29, 2023, the exhibit moves on to Chrysler Museum of Art, Virginia, where it will be from March 3, 2023, to June 20, 2023).

         “The Raven and the Box of Daylight” tells a Tlingit creation story about how light came to the world. Part of the introduction to the exhibit includes this: “Shdal’eiw Walter Porter (1944-2013), the eminent Tlingit American historian, mythologist, and storyteller, once stated. ‘The importance of mythology is that it’s universal. Every culture has the same information disguised in story.’ We hope you recognize some of your own story here.” The part about immaculate conception in the Raven story has a familiar ring.

         This video tells the story of a fallen star, who is much more friendly than Lucifer, who would rather “reign in Hell than serve in Heaven,” as Milton told us.

A star that wanders searching for the girl he loved

         The closest I saw where genocide got its due was in a room dedicated to the United States’ Indian Removal Act of 1830. Signed into law by President Andrew Jackson, it got its start from Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The end proposed should be their extermination, or their removal.” Encroaching colonists get Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and you get Oklahoma, after 4,000 of you die trekking there.

         While not aware of it, I first learned of the Indian Removal Act back in third grade when I read “Chief Black Hawk” by Frank L. Beals, part of the American Adventure series and I read them all. I’ve been trying to erase that glowing view of American history since about age 25. I’m still waiting for Chief Black Hawk to replace Andrew Jackson on the U.S. twenty-dollar bills.

         Jackson thought the act would “prevent annihilation, not cause it.” (“Andrew Jackson and his Indian Wars,” Robert V. Remini, Penguin Group, 2002, p. 228) Get away from us white folks so you can “perpetuate your race.” But Jackson’s tongue might have been “as forked as a chicken foot,” as Mastubbee, a Choctaw elder, said. (p. 248)

         My third-grade reading did not introduce me to those who had opposed the act: Jeremiah Evarts, Theodore Frelinghuysen or John Ross, a Cherokee chief. But they are there in the American Indian museum.

         This is where the museums start blending, where the ideas come together. The Indian Removal Act sounds an awful lot like Holocaust museum’s “Final Solution.” Where the horrible things that happened to Jews remind me of what has happened to African-Americans and Native Americans.

         Remini ends his book with this statement: “To his dying day on June 8, 1845, Andrew Jackson genuinely believed that what he accomplished rescued these people from inevitable annihilation.”

The American Indians are still here, as the museum attests. But I’m reminded of Seminoles begging at a roadside stand on a 1950s trip to Florida and then of children begging at the Wounded Knee site in 2015.

You’re still here, and I’m glad, but I hope the next 60 years are better for you than those that have passed between my visits to the Seminole stand and to Wounded Knee.

Best photo of the Trip Back East goes to . . .

Judging the photos Kathy and I took during our trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City, I’d have to give the top prize to Kathy for this view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol building. The light was just right, and she was quicker with her iPhone 8 than I was with my more expensive camera. We were standing on the terrace outside the Lincoln Monument when we noticed this view.

The walk to the Lincoln Monument has been on all my trips to Washington, D. C. I always start at the Vietnam Memorial and then start making the bend around the reflecting pool with a stop to visit Lincoln and read parts of his speeches craved on the walls there. With the sun going down, it was hard to read my favorite from his second inaugural speech. It’s the one that ends this way:

“With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Despite not being able to read that speech, Lincoln was as impressive as ever and our walk was not done.

While we were visiting the Vietnam Memorial, we talked to a gentleman who was about our age (Remember the Sixties!). He remarked on it “being our war, whether we served over there or not.”

Certainly it had an influence on those of us growing up then. The draft. The draft lottery. Student deferments. Those who fought coming home and how they were treated. Those wounded or killed.

My only acquaintance with those names carved on the wall is a person who beat me up in the first grade. Still, I feel bad for him, and certainly bad for the 53,000 United States service people lost in a war that we as a nation can’t decide if it was worth it or not.

We were debating whether to walk past the Lincoln Monument to visit the Korean War Monument, which was not there the last time we had visited Washington. It seemed as though that monument got squeezed into a corner of the Mall and might not be worth visiting. Oh no, said our gentleman at the Vietnam wall. “Get there when it is raining and dark,” he said, “and you will think the soldiers there are alive and stalking their enemies. Don’t miss it.”

We did not, especially since it was getting dark and rain had started to fall.

The soldiers may not be alive, but your could almost feel the moisture seeping into their boots from the wet grass they were walking through. There is a list of those lost in the war, both U.S. and South Korean. The side panels that run along side the soldiers have an eerie feel to them depicting those who served in a war that is still going on. Would our nation decide to fight if one of Kim Jong-un‘s missiles did not quite reach the sea and fell on Seoul? That would be a decision for the nation.

That ended our evening walk. Earlier in the day, we had taken a bus to see the Jefferson Memorial, which I had not visited. Despite all the bad things said about Thomas Jefferson in Ron Chernow’s book “Hamilton” and the song the Jefferson character sings in the musical (“What’d I Miss”), I still hold Jefferson as a Founding Father who founded much of what formed our country, like “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There’s also that master/slave matter of Sally Hemings. OK, he was a randy coward who skipped the fighting in the Revolutionary War, but I still like much of what he said, including this on the wall of the memorial:

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in law and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

Setting aside whether human minds have progressed past our barbarous ancestors, there’s six people on the Supreme Court right now who should walk down to the Jefferson Memorial to read that.

There was one other monument on the Mall that was not there the last time we visited Washington. It opened in April 2004, which shows how long it has been since we traveled to the nation’s capital.

The monument marks a war in which 416,000 Americans died, 45 million people world wide were killed and two totalitarian regimes were snuffed out. It took the nation 60 years to commemorate the achievement of the “Greatest Generation.” It’s a war most Americans have no trouble deciding whether it was worth it or not.

But the monument to World War II? My decision: It fails. To me, it seems as if someone or some committee decided to include all that they thought should go into a monument: fountains, lots of stone, statues, bronze plaques, arches, terraces. Build it in a prominent spot on the Mall and everyone will like it. But there is no there there. No symbolism as in the Vietnam Monument. Nothing to focus on as in the Korean Monument. No one statue that dominates as in the Lincoln and Jefferson monuments. Can we decide to do this one over?

3 days’ worth of tree cutting told in 10 minutes

We had two trees, both more than 100 feet tall, cut down at our home last week. I hate cutting down trees, but one tree was leaning over my neighbor’s house and the other one over ours. Rather than have them fall on us, we decided to take them down.

The job took Sky High Tree Care three days to complete, and we watched pretty much all of it. This video shows that work in about 10 minutes. All of it is hard work, but the climbers are the most fascinating to watch. As Kathy said, “They are doing treetop ballet.”

Hope you enjoy watching this video as much as we did watching the live event.

Immigration problems that won’t go away

I returned to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today to pick up where I left off, which was at the start of the main exhibit concerning the Nuremberg Trials.

I had covered the anti-semitism and how it had been around way before it became a mainstay of the Nazi party in Germany, the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, World War II and the Allied discovery of the concentration camp. That took five hours in the museum before I had to run to catch a plane back to Seattle. That was about 20 years ago when I was in Washington, D.C., for a conference. My apologies to The Seattle Times, who sent me there, that I can remember almost nothing about the conference besides visiting with others there who had previously worked at The Times and where I left off at the Holocaust museum.

So Kathy, who had not been at the museum before, started at the beginning of the main exhibit while I headed straight for the Nuremberg Trials. But I did stop and view the videos on America and the Holocaust, which I don’t remember being there in my previous visit. The videos looked back on what Americans knew about the persecution of Jews by Germans in Europe and what the United States did about it – not much.

There was another exhibit downstairs in the museum covering the same topic in greater detail, which I returned to after viewing the Nuremberg videos and displays and lunch at the museum café. The lunch was prompted by Kathy, who texted me, “I could use a break. Woof. This is tough stuff.”

It was. Tough stuff to ignore, which is what Americans did leading into World War II. Take more refugees? No way in a country suffering the Great Depression with 25 percent of the population unemployed. If we took more refugees would Germany respond by even tougher laws against the Jews? In a country where isolationism was the current policy, who cared what they were doing in Germany and the rest of Europe?

Refugees. Immigrants. Illegal migrants. Asylum seekers. No matter what you call them, it has been a sore subject for those of us safely within the borders of the United States. Go back to the 1920s when immigration was restricted and I think you will find that there has never been a policy that suits anyone or everyone. And there is no outlook for a future policy that will solve the immigration question.

Should Venezuelans have the same leniency shown to Cuban refugees/immigrants? They are both fleeing a communist regime.

Who could deny a Ukrainian family from coming to the U.S. now? They may be the latest victims of an aggressor trying to expand its territory, just like those who tried to flee Poland, Austria and other European states as Germany took them over and tried to rid them of Jews.

We don’t have 25 percent unemployment. In fact, we only have between three and four percent unemployment, which is considered by economists as full employment. Would more immigrants open up restaurants that can’t find workers?

The action of some governors to send migrants to other places seems cruel to those put on buses and hardly helpful to those reaching out to aid them in cities far from the southern border. Maybe a way of bringing attention to the problem, but still cruel and unhelpful.

No answers here, but some familiar tones in the awful history on display at the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum.


I could not escape the museum without buying two books in the gift shop: “Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial” by Joseph E. Persico, and “In Pursuit of Justice: Examining the Evidence of the Holocaust”, a project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

And I found a movie I have to see. Who can resist Edward G. Robinson?

What if COVID had come a week later?

Trying hard, with little success, not to think of the timing of this COVID attack.  Kathy and I went two and one half years into this pandemic without a whiff of COVID. Then a week before our rafting trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, I come down with COVID and spread it to seven of 10 family members. The only ones spared are two who have already had it and a 21-year-old who has a cold but refuses to test positive.

I also think about what would have happened if my first symptoms were a week later in Flagstaff.

Night 1: Feeling tired but it had been a long day with the orientation for the rafting trip.

2. Next morning: Some sniffles but nothing so serious that I could not get on the raft with the other 15 or so people who would be sailing down the Colorado.

Day 3 and Day 4: I would have spent these days sleeping, coughing and gulping down anything to sooth my sore throat. Muddy Colorado River water? Not a problem. Can I hang over the edge of the raft with my mouth open like whales sucking krill through their baleen?

Day 5: Guides would have pushed me overboard. If not. . .

Day 6: All guides, clients, orchestra sick in quarters. Section of river roped off to incoming rafters, who have to walk out of the canyon while the rest of us are left on our own to suffer.

I also thought about whether we canceled our trip too early. What if we had kept pushing on to Flagstaff? No travel on Days 3 and 4 (see above) when I was the sickest and Kathy came down with her first symptoms. Then it would be Friday. We’d still have time to stretch our two-day trip to Flagstaff into four driving days. We’d arrive tired and coughing, but with enough cough syrup we might get on the trip. If the company asked us to show a negative COVID test, we were sunk – probably by the other clients who saw the worst coming their way.

I’ve been over this a couple hundred times, and eventually we did what was right: Canceled, infected our family (who took wonderful care of us), then started a slow trip back home. I’m testing negative, Kathy still positive. Mostly holed up in the truck, masked when not, eating outside or in our rooms like bums under a culvert.

View from our culvert

Also hard not to dial through everyone I met leading up to getting infected. Was it the person who sat behind us in the theater Friday night and coughed all through “Hamilton”? On the bus and light rail to my doctor’s appointment Friday morning? The clerks in the camera store where I bought three new memory cards and multiple batteries for the hundreds of pictures I was going to take in the canyon? The U-Haul clerks? Some wisp of air that had lost connection with whoever put it out there to travel up my nose. To them I say: May a bird of paradise fly up your nose, may an elephant caress you with his hose. Remember that song? Long-term memory is still intact. And I did fix my own car key (see post two back). I can read instructions. Wait. That’s new. My behavior has changed. A new COVID symptom?

A rafting trip before the river dries up

Canyon Explorations found a spot for Kathy and I on the 2023 trip. Maybe they read this piece in the Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2022/07/21/colorado-river-drought-water-crisis-west/

Here’s a scary line for river rafters: “If the reservoirs drop even lower — to a point called ‘deadpools’ — officials at the dams will no longer be able to send water downstream at all . . .”

So much for future river rafting. Hoping we make it through 2023 and our once again scheduled trip.

And so much for the 40 million people who depend on the river for food and water.

COVID just keeps on ruining things for me

I thought about burying the lede here, keeping the awful news behind other bad news, but then I thought I would never do that if I were getting paid to write this blog, So here is the awful news: Both Kathy and I have COVID, and we have canceled our 15-day trip rafting on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

The trip started like all trips do: Why do these bad things happen now. And here comes the other bad news. We got to the U-Haul place to pick up the van we used to move Kathy’s grandson and girlfriend to California now that they have completed Seattle University. They said we have your reservation but you have to go to West Seattle to pick up the van. Since the West Seattle bridge cracked, West Seattle is in a place far, far away. The GPS route looks like red spaghetti with touches of gold and yellow. But we arrived, got the van and reversed the spaghetti route back for the first load of furniture.

We also discovered that the canopy latch on my truck was no longer latching. Why do these things happen on the first day of a trip.

Then came the call from the security system that the alarm had gone off at our house. That happens when you leave the front door wide open. Our son is staying at the house and corrected our hurried exit fallacies. We do this a thousand times and why did it have to happen now?

Kathy offered to buy us Dick’s hamburgers and left order them. We drove to Dick’s, and found Kathy complaining that the automatic truck key would no longer open the truck. Why do these things happen now? I dug out the old-fashioned metal key ensconced in the modern key, climbed into the unlocked canopy to dig out the extra key I had packed just in case a bunch of stuff might happen now. I can get the bad key fixed in Petaluma at a Ram dealership I have used before.

Off to Portland, loaded the second set of furniture and headed for Eugene. We went somewhere to eat, I ordered too much food but did not collapse into it. I ended up in the truck snoozing until others got done eating and drinking. Long drive in a big, unfamiliar van, but should that make me that tired?

Woke up Tuesday with a river pouring out of my head. Sneezing, dripping. Where did that all come from? A cold, I thought, let’s push on.

On to our regular lunch stop on our way to Sebastopol, CA — The Olive Pit in Corning, CA. You can tell the muffuletta sandwiches were good by the olive oil that dripped all over my cell phone camera lens. On to Forestville, CA, and the delivery of the furniture.

Great dinner by Grandpa and Grandma, and this may have been where I infected five people with COVID. Tried to get some social distance, but we were inside and I was still under some delusion that this was a cold, and nothing more.

A cold until I took a COVID test that night and the T strip came on, blinking and in enlarged red type saying, “What were you thinking?”

This is Day Four since I started symptoms. All five of us are in different rooms in three houses trying to isolate ourselves. Joe, who had COVID before, is delivering food and medicine to our doors. My meds are not Paxlovid, which reacts with Warfarin — doesn’t everything? I will not be getting a new key for the truck any time soon.

Canyon Explorations offered us three options: 1. Get to Flagstaff with no COVID symptoms and a negative COVID test on Aug. 15. That will not happen now. 2. Hike in on the Bright Angel trail with all your equipment and enjoy the rest of the trip down the river. A chance to infect another 16 people. Hiking now when I can barely walk to the bathroom six feet away does not sound like something we could do 10 days from now. 3. Reschedule.

We chose option 3. We are on the waiting list for 2023 and on board for 2024.

This has been a huge disappointment. I learned of this trip in 2010 while working for the Census Bureau. Raft down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon with a string quartet aboard to play each night. We got on the waiting list for 2018. Nothing available. Same in 2019. Yes, for 2020, which is when COVID first happened. Same with 2021. But on for 2022, if COVID did not happen now, which it did.