A tribe savors justice, a century later

Local conservative wags like to describe Seattle as an island surrounded by reality, as if Seattle were a haven for bliss ninnies and their damn liberal causes.

But people of color, or gays or lesbians, know how, outside the city limits, respect for diversity drops off.

Last week, up in Port Angeles, some of that outside "reality" exposed itself for what it is.

On Thursday, Aug. 12, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to transfer Old Man House State Park to the Suquamish Tribe. Before voting they listened to more than 30 citizens give their input on the issue. Supporters and opponents of the transfer were well organized, with opponents garnering some 750 signatures to support their view.

First, some quick history.

The 1-acre park fronts the Agate Pass shoreline on the Kitsap Peninsula and looks across the water to Bainbridge Island. The park was once the site of the Suquamish Tribe's mother village and Chief Seattle's longhouse. The U.S. Army took control of the land in 1904. Some of the land became a post-World War II housing development and in 1950 the state turned the undeveloped parcel into a park.

The Suquamish Tribe wanted the park land back. It has great cultural and spiritual significance. The tribe promised to keep the land open to the public and adhere to the management plan. If not, the park could revert to the state.

None of this was good enough for opponents of the transfer.

They had organized, in classic Trojan horse fashion, into a group calling themselves "friends" of the park. Their stated goal was to "maintain" the park, but the "friends" became the driving force behind those opposed to handing it over to the tribe.

Their leader is Matt Cleverley, a lawyer who lives near the park. Cleverley, no doubt buoyed by the "friends," is now a candidate for Kitsap County commissioner.

"There is an issue of trust," Cleverley, commenting on the transfer, told the commission.

That's a good one.

Cleverley, like many of the "friends," suffers from a severe irony deficiency.

One opponent told the commission the transfer would be a bad precedent. Another told the commission the tribe has acted in bad faith.

There are few spectacles sorrier or more graceless than those with an aggrieved sense of entitlement fighting to keep an unfair advantage.

You can turn on KVI radio and catch that sort of spew - I'm angry, therefore I am.

Meanwhile, the system worked. And the Suquamish Tribe, as it prepares for its Chief Seattle Days festival this weekend, has something to celebrate. It's just too bad righting this old wrong took 100 years.

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