What a week RAN had in Seattle! The week of March 11th through the 15th was packed full of educational events, actions, meetings, and so much more. It’s took me a few days to get back into the swing of things here at the RAN office in San Francisco, and even more time to reflect on the experiences that we had in Seattle. This blog post is a bit later than it should have been, and I apologize for that.
The week started on Saturday the 10th when our friends from Grassy Narrows Maria, Gloria, and Warren arrived in Seattle along with RAN campaigner David and Hazel, a documentarian. Many of us were staying together and began the week by grocery shopping and making props for upcoming actions. On Sunday evening we piled into cars and caravanned over to the American Friends Service Committee’s gorgeous meeting house. We are very proud and honored that AFSC’s Indian Program offered to co-sponsor and host the Grassy Narrows speaking event in Seattle. The speaking event opened with an appearance by the Seattle Labor Chorus who sang songs celebrating the strength of environmental and social justice movements when they work in coalition. Singing was a great way to kick off the speaking event, everyone sang along and the mood was festive. As Maria, Gloria and Warren began to speak about their struggles in Grassy Narrows, everyone in the room was moved by the unbelievable hardships faced by the Indigenous community, as well as their continuing determination to fight for the survival of their culture. It was clear that if the struggle for Indigenous rights in Grassy Narrows will succeed, it will take a strong coalition of people and movements coming together.
On Monday morning, the representatives from Grassy Narrows went with David and Brant from RAN to meet with Weyerhaeuser executives at their Federal Way headquarters. While I did not attend the meeting, I heard Warren talk about how he felt it went. He told me that he felt like the executives had a hard time hearing what the folks from Grassy had to say. At one point, after one Weyerhaeuser executive had been dominating the conversation and asking a series of leading questions, Maria told her politely, but firmly, that they had traveled 3000 miles to attend this meeting and it was time that Weyerhaeuser stop talking, and try to listen. I have to whole-heartedly agree with Maria on that point, Weyerhaeuser spends a lot of time blaming the Province of Ontario for their “inability” to pull out of Grassy Narrows when they could instead start looking at the ways to honor and strengthen their existing policy toward Aboriginal rights.
Tuesday was a lot of fun, we once again piled into cars and caravanned up to Everett to meet up with the Seattle Rainforest Action Group (SeaRAG) organizers outside of the Everett Events Center for the 2007 Built Green Conference and Expo. We set up a banner that said “Built Green Beware! Quadrant Homes – Green Imposter” and laid out a couple dozen paper mache “stumps” to create a clear-cut on the side walk. Some activists donned caribou antlers and became homeless caribou without habitat wandering around the clear-cut. What was amazing about the Built Green Expo was that we were extremely well received by many of the people who were attending the conference. The Old Growth campaign has traditionally had great relationships with green builders, and this event was no exception. Quadrant Homes, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser and one of the largest builders of new-homes in Washington State, is a member of Built Green. Many of the conference attendees are frustrated that Quadrant Homes, and Weyerhaeuser have such low building standards and worry that Quadrant does more harm to the Built Green certification than good. Quadrant Homes was set to receive an award during the conference, and a couple of RAN activists went inside the conference center to protest their award. While those activists were promptly shown the door, they successfully embarrassed Quadrant for claiming a “green” label while building new homes from wood stolen from Grassy Narrows traditional territory.
Wednesday was definitely the most adrenaline-filled of the whole week! We woke up and got ready for the day’s events by waiting for a call from the action team. When it finally came, we raced out to a Quadrant Homes development in Bothell, about 20 minutes north of Seattle. We arrived to find two activists perched on the roof of a model home with a huge banner that read, “We’ll leave your home when you leave ours.” Nobody at the development had realized yet that a model-home takeover was just beginning! We got pictures of the representatives from Grassy Narrows standing by the house, under the banner and waited for the media and police to arrive. Over the next hour or so activists arrived to support the action, media streamed in to document the events, and police came to figure out what to do with us. The home takeover was entirely peaceful, and surprisingly calm. We were clear with our demands and our message – we wanted to hear from Weyerhaeuser CEO Steve Rogel. We wanted to know how Mr. Rogel plans to get Weyerhaeuser out of Grassy Narrows, and the activists on the roof weren’t going to leave willingly until we heard those plans. Toward the end of the afternoon, in an amazingly serendipitous moment, the fire trucks arrived just as two local-news helicopters started circling the model home – we were “Live at 5” on the news! Check out the great news coverage here-.
All in all, the week was great for the Old Growth campaign and RAN. We had three successful events, an opportunity to meet with Weyerhaeuser Senior Executives, and brought together a strong coalition of local Seattle RAN activists, human rights advocates, and Labor rights supporters. As the campaign moves forward, we plan to keep the pressure on Weyerhaeuser and their home-building subsidiaries such as Quadrant homes until they decide to pull out of Grassy Narrows.
Check out pictures at www.freegrassy.org.