By | Phil Santos
Only a sick mind believes you can give something that you have stolen. To give something, it must be yours in the first place. When you steal something, the status of your possession is always illegitimate. You can’t give something you’ve stolen because it was never yours, to begin with. This elementary concept is one that many fail to grasp or disregard completely.
One of those people is Rob Arkley. He has recently pledged to “buy” Tuluwat, the site of the 1860 massacre of Wiyot women, children and men from the city of Eureka. This is in direct conflict with Eureka’s plan to transfer the land back to the Wiyot tribe.
Regarding the outcry against Arkley’s proposal, Arkley said, “I am stunned by this whole thing. I don’t get it.”
Tuluwat is stolen land, but it’s in the process of being returned. Why would anyone pay money to stop that process? My answer is as stated above: their mind is sick.
However, Arkley says that he’s “concerned about what public access to the island will be like if the land transfer goes through.” He also says that “if [my] offer is taken up, [I] will set up a charity, similar to how Friends of the Dunes operates, [which is] to provide stewardship to the land [and that] it will remain open for public use like it is today.”
I call bullshit. In 2005, Friends of the Dunes tried to purchase land to preserve and Arkley pulled the same move on them!
An article in the North Coast Journal wrote, “‘they got in second place,’ Arkley said, making no effort to conceal his glee. ‘And it’ll never, ever, ever, ever, ever be sold to them. I’m not going to give it to the government agencies. I believe there’s far too much government land.’ Arkley has no specific plans for the parcel, which also includes a house. But he made it clear the land would be fenced off and not open to the public.”
Wiyot tribal administrator Michelle Vassel wrote in an email regarding the transfer of Tuluwat, “The Wiyot Tribe is a government which by nature is a public, not a private entity… the tribe has no intention of excluding people. We have worked long and hard with the city of Eureka and other government agencies, local native and non-native, people and organizations in this community to come together to work toward these goals.”
It seems like Arkley is afraid that the Wiyot would bar anyone from stepping foot on Tuluwat after it is returned to them. Where does that fear come from? It sounds like something that he would do. It’s an irrational fear of being subject to his own practices. By disregarding the statements of Michelle Vassel, Arkley is practicing the historic American tradition of distorting Indigenous practices. The Indigenous nations on this continent are historically stereotyped as “savage,” “uncivilized” and “unsophisticated.” The list goes on. The common element is that it’s all fabricated for the sake of telling a story to justify the genocide and theft which founded the settler society called The United States of America.
Arkley’s unfounded concerns promote an irrational fear of exclusion. This mobilizes the public to buy into his perspective – to believe the Wiyot will exclude the public from Tuluwat. He invokes classic tropes that are used to justify the theft of Indigenous land such as giving things back to Indigenous communities, or how Indigenous peoples aren’t using Tuluwat. This is representative of a deep divide in the way that American settler society sees history and the modern reality of contemporary life. As polarized as these viewpoints may be, there is hope because there might be one place where Arkley and the Wiyot see eye to eye.
This is best said by Arkley himself “I don’t get how they can take one of our assets and give it.”