I was fairly disgusted by the letter from Ron Cronk in favor of naming the HOPE Center Conference Room for Chief Leschi.
While Mr. Cronk’s proposal is certainly an honorable idea, his stated justification was insulting to people of both European and Nisqually/Duwamish ancestry. In referring to the 1858 hanging, Mr. Cronk made the ridiculous assertion that, “Not once since then has our community made an effort to reach out in friendship and reconciliation to our Native neighbors.”
That comment ignores the fact that the US Army troops refused at the time to participate, believing along with the executioner that Leschi was innocent. It further ignores the 1913 naming of a WA state ferry which served Lake Washington, the establishment of Leschi Park, the Leschi neighborhood in Seattle, an Elliott Bay fireboat, Leschi Place (a street in Seattle), Leschi Elementary School, Leschi High School, Leschi Drive in Steilacoom, and more.
The “not once” comment further ignores the 2004 “trial” by the Historical Court of Inquiry and Justice to rehear the evidence against Chief Leschi, a proceeding which exonerated Leschi of the murder of Abraham Moses (see
forejustice.org/wc/chief_leschi/chief_leschi.htm). This is all the more ironic, since Mr. Cronk later uses that very finding to further justify his argument for the naming of the conference room. Cronk cannot have it both ways; either our community has “not once… made an effort”, or else people have examined the topic and taken action upon it.
Finally, the comment ignores the thousands of individual acts by individual members of “our community” to reach out to Leschi’s people as individuals, and make personal connections for mutual benefit. Does Mr. Cronk think that each and every resident of Lakewood is an “Injun-hater” who must be taught a lesson by more enlightened people like himself?
Mr. Cronk’s empassioned plea seems to advocate the naming of a conference room as just recompense for both the hanging of Chief Leschi and for the years of supposed neglect about the memories of that bad act. It is as if he says, “We are sorry that white people hanged your chief, and that we ignored it all these years, so HERE, we’ll name this conference room for him. There! All better now!” That message is more insulting than the supposed slight Mr. Cronk now uses to justify his argument.
If it is indeed a good idea to name a conference room for Chief Leschi, then that is fine with me and I doubt any reasonable person would object to such a proposal being offered. But don’t haul out bogus and insulting arguments to justify it. Furthermore, for Mr. Cronk to imply racism on the part of people who have advocated naming the conference for someone else is a lousy way to make an argument. It is the old “emperor’s new clothes” logic trap – – either you must agree with Cronk, or else you hate “the original Americans”.
Before acting on Mr. Cronk’s proposal, the other members of the Lakewood City Council should first hold a vote to censure him for using his office to spew false and racially divisive commentary within our community. Such rhetoric is unbecoming for an elected representative of the community.
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