June 05, 2011

Leschi play mirrors woodcarver's killing

Play tackles fears of young Native Americans after woodcarver killed

By Charla BearIt’s been more than nine months since a Seattle police officer killed First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams, and tensions are still running high among Native Americans. They say the shooting brings up the long history of brutality Native people have faced.

The anxiety has also affected children, who’ve had a tough time putting Williams’ death in perspective.

This coming weekend, a local theater group will debut a performance to help young Native Americans move forward, starting with a look at the past.

In the play, A Right to Justice, 17-year-old Dylan Elwood plays Chief Leschi, who led the Nisqually tribe until he was put on trial for killing a white soldier in the mid 1800s.

Leschi was hanged to death and labeled a war criminal in history books. That’s until 2004, when a historical court unanimously ruled it was wrong to try him for murdering an enemy soldier during wartime.

Elwood says the Chief Leschi story parallels what happened to John T. Williams:“They both, in essence, were murdered for no reason,” he says. “And it sort of gives hope that maybe someday, probably not soon, but sometime in the future, the John T. Williams, we could feel some kind of closure with it.”
Comment:  For more on Native theater, see Klamath, Modoc Tales Become Plays and The Colors Started It.

Below:  "Young Native American actors portray prisoners in the Red Eagle Soaring production, A Right To Justice. The play aims to help youth work out their feelings about police since Ian Birk, a former Seattle officer, shot woodcarver John T. Williams." (Charla Bear/KPLU)


Jaine said...

somebody on FB recently shared a youtube clip about this - the cop is afraid he wont get a fair trial. I thought a commenter summed it up best with:
"Won't get a fair trial" is Fascist NewSpeak for "won't get away with it."

This clip was dated though, what happened at the trial of the cop? Does anybody know?

Jaine said...

Never mind, found it. Feel sickened but not surprised.

dmarks said...

A really fair trial is one where the guilty are punished and the innocent get off.

Rob said...

After prosecutors decided not to charge Officer Birk for killing woodcarver Williams, Birk resigned.