Monday, January 10, 2005

Coming Home: Everyone in this room

Once inside the auditorium that doubles as a basketball court, it became apparent that quite a few people had come to witness the signing: judging from the overflow, probably 500, and maybe more.

The Mayor of Eureka, Peter La Vallee, spoke first. "I am honored and humbled," he said. He acknowledged the wrongs done by Eureka citizens in the past. "There is a time and a place to do the decent thing, the right thing," he said, "and that time and place is right now, right here."

Cheryl began by welcoming everyone from the four directions. "I want to welcome you to Wiyot country," she said. "We are coming home to our island. In 1860 people did not see fit for us to live. But this City Council, they beg to differ. They said, come, let us be together. And the Wiyot said, this is what we want..." She spoke of the Wiyots' desire to have all 175 acres of the island back eventually. "Today we get part of our island back... Each generation said we want it back. Each generation learned something new about the island, and each generation got closer..."

She said that it took many generations, all the tribes and many people of Eureka to make it happen. "It took everyone in this room, and more. We are grateful." After saying a prayer in the Wiyot language she repeated it in English. "We thank you for our differences and our different ways. We thank you for the Wiyot people who are coming back, who are coming back to life, CuruCiCi. It's been a long day coming."

The agenda for the rest of the event was short, with a few Eureka officials and government representatives, including state representative Patty Berg, scheduled to speak. But a spontaneous decision to bring forward some of those who worked with Julian to assemble the events outside led to a continued Indian presence in the proceedings.

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