The Quileute tribe in the far northwest corner of Washington state have managed to pull a fast one on the federal government while the captain of the ship of state is asleep at the wheel. The Obama administration has passed legislation transferring a sizable portion of our sacred national parkland to the tribe under the auspices of protecting their schoolchildren from the threat of tsunami. The land the tribe will acquire is higher in elevation and while currently undeveloped will be used for construction of new school buildings as well as other critical structures the tribe deems necessary. We can see it now, the old school buildings, almost waterfront property, are now ripe for development as a neon-gaudy casino, some of the land transferred to the tribe will be used to build the new school, some for high-rise hotels.
The Quileute Nation has only about 400 or so souls living on reservation lands in the remote town of La Push where it’s located. La Push and the nearby town of Forks, WA have seen an incredible growth in that form of locusts known as tourists drawn by interest in the Twilight series of books and movies, where the series is set. Rental cars and buses pour into the small town, disgorging crowds of flush visitors, who, finding nowhere to offload their purses, scuttle back into the vehicles and scurry away. The scenery there, dark luxurious woods, verdant with towering massive trees, ferns as high as a bigfoot’s withers and dark dripping mosses are frightening to these tourists, who wear blood red lipstick, pale white skin and deep kohl hued eyeshadow, even the males. To them the thick grasping forest and rugged, rocky outcropped coastline with its incessant crashing surf are the haunts of evil creatures, vampires, werewolves and other, unspeakable horrors.
Strangely, many of the original inhabitants of the area felt the same way. The antecedents of the Quileute nation got much of their living from the sea’s bounty, they lived reasonably well flotsam, jetsam and the occasional narwhal and seldom ventured into the dark of the forest. As a pastime they gamboled, and gambled too. So the precedent was set, and casinos set to follow. The precious real estate of what is one of America’s wildest and most scenic places, Olympic National Park, is being taken away from us and bestowed so a small group can feel safe from an event that may only happen every half a millennium, if then. And the spectacular scenery, the wild indomitable coastline, the towering monoliths of some of the worlds most magnificent trees and the fragile ferns, will they all be desecrated so that palaces bedecked with flashing lights and billboards be erected? Will the susurrations of soft mists drifting through coastal forests be replaced with the ringing of bells and the clanking of coins? Thanks to our current administration, as well as those that came before, and likely those we are likely to be saddled with in the future, we can probably look forward to the unremitting and wholesale losses of our wild heritage and the proliferation of casinos, amusement parks and entrance fees.