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Eugene Weekly : News : 10.27.05

News Briefs: Lee Returns to EugeneSprawl Brings Big ProfitsMillegan Off to Fed CourtToxics Group AnniversaryNew Labor Board FormsCritical MassOil Behind the Warfare |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes


Going, Going …

Is the city turning back on its pledge to protect the south hills forests?


The First Lady Chief

Wilma Mankiller preaches gender equality for her tribe's survival.


Get 'Em While They're Young

Conservation for the next generation



Barbara Lee

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California was last in Eugene in August 2002 when she received the Wayne Morse Integrity in Government Award. The award was fitting — the late Sen. Morse cast the lone vote of dissent on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution that expanded the Vietnam War, and Rep. Lee was the only member of Congress to oppose giving the Bush Administration a carte blanche to go to war after 9/11.

Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has sponsored legislation disavowing the doctrine of preemptive war and led efforts to create a Department of Peace and end the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

This week, Lee will be back in Eugene as the keynote speaker for the "Gender, Race and Militarization" conference at the UO, co-sponsored by the UO Center for the Study of Women in Society and the Women's and Gender Studies Program. Other speakers will include authors Catherine Lutz, Lakshmi Chaudhry and Karen Houppert, who have all published books about the military.

The conference will be held from 9:45 am to 6 pm on Oct. 28 in the Erb Memorial Union on the UO campus. Lee will speak at 4 pm in the EMU Ballroom. All events are free and open to the public. For a complete schedule, visit http://csws.uoregon.edu or call 346-5015. — Kera Abraham



Developers flocked to the Eugene City Council last month calling for an expansion of the urban growth boundary. They blamed rising housing prices on regulations controlling urban sprawl. Homebuilders across the state are using the affordable housing argument to attack regulations controlling urban sprawl.

But rising home prices may be more about developer profit taking in a hot housing market than land use regulations.

Fueled by low interest rates and speculative frenzy, median home prices shot up 25 percent last year in Lane County. That increase of $40,000 a home translates into high profits for homebuilders, whose building costs in labor, land and materials increased comparatively little over the same period.

Many local development companies are privately held, but the economics of homebuilding can be clearly seen in the record profits of large publicly traded homebuilding companies. Toll Brothers, for example, says in its required SEC filings that it concentrates on luxury homes for the wealthy, a market "sweet spot" that maximizes profits.

With the housing price boom, Toll's profits have about doubled in the last two years to $409 million with continuing such jumps projected. In the last four years, the corporation's stock price has increased six-fold.

With rising prices Toll made nearly twice as much profit per home in 2004 than it did in 2000. No where in the corporation's exuberant annual report to investors does the word "affordable" appear. — Alan Pittman



Walterville resident Kris Millegan will be in federal court in South Carolina on Halloween, defending himself and his publishing company against a lawsuit filed by the Special Forces Association (see "Sinister Forces" cover story 8/25).

Kris Millegan

The lawsuit is an attempt to shut down Tine Day Books following the publication in 2003 of Expendable Elite: One Soldier's Journey into Covert Warfare, a Vietnam memoir of Lt. Col. USASF (Ret) Daniel Marvin. The book documents covert Special Forces incursions into Cambodia in 1966, as well as assassination efforts.

"If the Special Forces Association has their way, you will never know what really happened," says Millegan. "Nothing in the book is classified or describes operations not already outed by a variety of sources."

Millegan says the colonel became a born-again Christian and decided to tell the truth, and his "credibility makes the Special Forces Association based in Fort Bragg uncomfortable enough to launch a campaign of intimidation and harassment against the author, his publisher Trine Day and even the book's national distributor IPG to cut off the publisher's source of income and force him to comply."

Millegan says he has already spent about $20,000 on attorney fees and is scrambling to come up with another $15,000 to defend himself. "They are trying to bully and bankrupt me," he says.

For more information, contact Millegan's attorney Barry Bachrach at bbachrach@bowditch.com or (508) 926-3403. — Ted Taylor



Oct. 28 marks the five-year anniversary of the Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA), the only statewide organization devoted exclusively to addressing toxics and related policies. A celebration is planned that will also honor founding member Mary O'Brien.

The celebration is from 5:30 to 7 pm Friday at the Campbell Activity Center, 155 High St. For more information, call 465-8860 or visit www.oregontoxics.org "Back in 1999, the right of communities to learn of toxics in their midst was a hot-button issue and the future of community pesticide and toxics reporting programs hung by a thin thread in the Legislature," says Lisa Arkin, executive director of OTA. "Eugene's landmark community Toxics Right to Know Law and the right of other Oregon communities to have a law like Eugene's was under attack by industry lobbyists in the Legislature."

Eugene voters passed a community right-to-know (RTK) law in 1996 that established the most comprehensive local toxics reporting program in the nation. Within a few months, industry lobbyists were organizing conservatives in the Legislature for a nearly successful attempt to kill Eugene's law.

"In 1997 the House Democrats saved Eugene's Right-to-Know by sheer audacity," says O'Brien. "It was the last night of the entire legislative session. The final bill on the docket would have dealt the fatal blow to Eugene's law. With only two minutes to go until the clock ran out, the Democrats refused to push their buttons that would have allowed a quick electronic vote to take place. Instead, they forced a roll-call vote. The roll call could not be completed before the mandatory time limit for the session ran out."

The industry lobbyists returned to the Legislature in 1999 and passed HB 2431 that made it extremely difficult for any other community to enact its own local RTK rules. Democrats had enough votes to support a veto by Gov. Kitzhaber, but he signed it under pressure from industry lobbyists.

In the wake of this loss, the environmental community rallied, led by O'Brien, Michael Carrigan and others from around the state. That October 1999, with a grant from the Bullitt Foundation, twenty top environmentalists met at Breitenbush to tackle the problem. The group created OTA to raise the level of understanding throughout Oregon about the need and opportunities to eliminate unnecessary toxics use and contamination.

"There was the feeling that existing groups like OSPIRG and Oregon Environmental Council just couldn't handle it all," says Jonathan Poisner, executive director of Oregon League of Conservation Voters who attended the summit at Breitenbush. "There needed to be a consistent effort to look at statewide toxics issues."

Key leaders from the Breitenbush meeting formed a board of directors and OTA was incorporated as a non-profit in 2000.

Arkin says that the membership-based OTA has been defending Eugene's RTK law, organizing local and statewide campaigns to reduce toxics use, and representing communities in their quest for safety and health. OTA had a significant victory this year, she says, when they created the grassroots campaigns that stopped two fossil-fueled power plants from siting in the Willamette Valley

"We are participating at every opportunity to raise awareness about the threat that toxics pose to our state's health and helping communities to take action," says Arkin.


Over the past decade or so, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has become less and less about helping the working folks, and more and more about ensuring corporate profitability. So in a number of cities around the country, labor groups have developed their own boards to deal with labor disputes. And now we have one in Lane County. The Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network (a coalition of labor, environmental and social justice advocates) has teamed up with the national labor group Jobs with Justice to form a Workers' Rights Board (WRB). The purpose of the board is to involve community leaders in disputes where employees are "seeking justice in the workplace."

According to Claire Syrett, ESSN organizer, "workers have been let down by the NLRB in terms of having access to the right to organize." Although the WRB has no legal authority to impose sanctions or otherwise require employers to treat their employees well, the board hopes to facilitate solutions to the workers' grievances.

The first meeting will be at 7 pm Tuesday, Nov. 1, in the Bascom-Tyskeson Room at Eugene Public Library. The public is invited to attend.

The hearing will address concerns by delivery drivers and dispatchers for DHL, a multi-national package delivery company. According to ESSN, a number of the drivers have been hired through a temp agency rather than being hired directly by DHL. This has allowed DHL to avoid paying benefits or the union wages to the employees it hires directly. Thirty-two workers in Lane County are effected and are hoping that community pressure will force DHL to stop the practice of using temp agencies to circumvent the union contract.

According to Margaret Hallock, director of the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and member of the board, "the WRB is intended to generate a more public discussion of specific worker concerns and their impact on the community." Even without legal authority to require changes, WRBs around the country have been effective in getting employers to make changes that benefit their employees. The local WRB hopes that they will have the same successes. Syrett expects that "as we announce the formation of the board, workers will come to us with grievances."

For more information, call Syrett at 736-9041. — Rita Radostitz


The monthly mass gathering of bicyclists is coming up again at 5:30 pm Friday, Oct. 28 at the corner of 17th and Charnelton. The event happens in cities all over the world on the last Friday of each month. Critical Mass was inspired by a phenomenon in urban China: At times, so many bicyclists are on streets that automobile traffic has to stop and wait.

Local cyclist Rachel Jensen says less than 150 cyclists joined last month's ride. "It would seem that, despite growing resistance to oil wars, only about one tenth of one percent of our community has been willing to demonstrate true opposition to the over-consumption of dwindling resources," she says.

"The air quality is getting worse every day and more and more of our community is being paved over to make way for bigger and bigger SUVs," she says. "Whenever you're ready to give up your ties to the machines that dominate and control our lives, we'll be there waiting on the corner of 17th and Charnelton."


Internationally recognized filmmaker Gerard Ungerman will be on campus to show his new documentary The Oil Factor: Behind the War on Terror at 6:30 pm Sunday, Oct. 30 at PLC 180, 14th and Kincaid. The free film showing is in cooperation with the UO Sociology Department.

In The Oil Factor, actor Ed Asner narrates a comprehensive examination of the underlying causes for the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film looks at both the human cost and the greater geo-strategic picture of Bush's "war on terror."

A short clip from a previous Ungerman film, Hidden Wars, will be screened before The Oil Factor, and a discussion with the director will follow the showings.




Is it some kind of sociological statement when a fitness temple turns into a real church? We dunno, but that's what's happening at 252 Lawrence. South Valley Fellowship is proposing to move into the old 24 Hour Fitness building if all the parking issues can be resolved. The Fellowship expects as many as 700 participants on Sunday mornings, up to 500 for evening meetings

Lots of bling-bling at the Democratic Party of Lane County auction in the DAC ballroom last Sunday night. Like a coming-out party for the young organizers who went from the Kerry campaign to the DPLC, it highlighted Val Hoyle, new chair, and Amy Gibson, who put on the party, along with other hard-working activists. Maybe the most important person there for the future of the party was George Wingard, one of those moderate Oregon Republicans who has changed his registration and declares himself a Democrat. Wingard served in the Legislature, ran for statewide office as a Republican.

Hard to imagine him hobnobbing with DeFazio, Dwyer, Bradbury, Barnhart, Piercy, but that's where he is today.

Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken's noises about running against incumbent Bill Dwyer for county commissioner are being taken seriously by the Dwyer camp. Dwyer has a lot of popular support, but Leiken has big name recognition in the district, and potentially big bucks behind him from conservative interests. Leiken's been in the public eye lots lately, but all the attention could have a downside: Everything Leiken says or does will now be closely scrutinized, including his inside track on Glenwood development. Dwyer backers are going door-to-door gathering signatures Saturday morning for his re-election campaign. See Calendar, call 343-7250 or e-mail dwyer1@cmc.net to get involved.

Eugene Councilors Bonny Bettman and Andrea Ortiz are getting flack for "potential conflict of interest" in letters to the R-G and most likely on e-mails lists. The complaint is that they shouldn't be campaigning for Ballot Measure 20-106 to establish independent police complaint review because they are also involved in these issues as voting councilors. By that same argument, former Mayor Torrey should have recused himself from campaigning to pass a city tax to support public schools. Or councilors shouldn't have worked on campaigns to pass police bond measures. It seems it's only a conflict if you don't like what's on the ballot.

Hurricane Katrina is slipping from the headlines as the nation's attention turns to other catastrophes, but the story continues. Part 8 of Michael Tisserand's series, "Submerged: An Evacuee's Journal," is now up on AltWeeklies.com. This week's dispatch, "Calculated Risks," deals with evacuees' fears about environmental contamination. The series began with an EW cover story Aug. 25.

As we go to press this week, the 2,000th U.S. soldier has died in Iraq and a local vigil was being planned for Oct. 26 at the Federal Building. In addition to the nearly 2,000 American fatalities and 15,220 American wounded (www.antiwar.com/casualties),97 British troops have died, along with 102 soldiers from other coalition countries. Iraq Body Count (www.iraqbodycount.net)figures the number of Iraqi civilian deaths runs between 26,000 and 30,000. Regarding the cost of the war so far, photographer Kurt Jensen and Dr. Martin Jones of Physicians for Social Responsibility are planning a graphic presentation at 7 pm Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the EWEB training room. Call 485-0911 for more information.

SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor@eugeneweekly.com



Going, Going …

Is the city turning back on its pledge to protect the south hills forests?


The city website brags about it. The UO peddles it to prospective students. Hikers, bikers and runners cherish it. Eugene's wooded ridgeline defines the city, and local land use laws aim to preserve it.

But the land-use nonprofit Friends of Eugene and several neighborhood groups worry that today, the city is faltering on its commitment to protect Eugene's forested slopes. They cite four potential developments, each at different stages in the planning pipeline, that could forever change the ridgeline.

The debate centers on the way that citizens and city planners interpret the South Hills Study (SHS), a policy that the city adopted in 1974 to preserve the wooded slopes south of 18th Avenue. The SHS directs the city to preserve the ridgeline for public use and keep developments to a minimum. It's a binding part of the city code, but its language leaves some wiggle room.

The SHS offers development guidelines based on elevation. Land above 901 feet is to be "preserved from an intensive level of development," with two exceptions: single-family homes on existing lots and special-case subdivisions that the city regulates through a process called Planned Unit Development (PUD). Major developments on steep slopes between 501 and 900 feet also require PUDs.

The clear-cut lots of the Brookside subdivision, near the current Spring Knoll PUD

So far, the SHS has kept developments above 901 feet to a minimum. (The houses on Spring Boulevard are a notable exception.) But in recent years, city planners have given the green light to a handful of intensive developments above 901 feet, says Kevin Matthews, president of both FoE and the neighborhood association Southeast Neighbors.

City planner Gabriel Flock says that the city has always complied with the SHS — but the document's intent is debatable. It could mean that there shouldn't be any development above 900 feet, or it could mean that intensive development is OK if the city regulates it. City planners have gone with the latter interpretation. "[The South Hills Study] statements don't necessarily preclude an intensive level of development if it goes through the PUD process," Flock says.

Consultant Eben Fodor, who has been hired by the Southeast Neighbors to examine several of the properties in question, suggests that developers have taken advantage of a forgiving city planning staff coupled with a complacent public. "I think that a lot of people aren't aware that a lot of these properties are on the chopping block," he says. "If there isn't a strong effort by the community and the city to take action, these places are going to be gone."

Green Valley Glen PUD

Some call it the East Fork Amazon Headwaters Forest. Some call it Green Valley Glen. The names both sound green and squishy, but they describe entirely different visions for a 40-acre plot of land between Nectar Way and Dillard Road in southeast Eugene.

Those who call it the East Fork Amazon Headwaters argue that the parcel — which spans from about 500 to 800 feet in elevation and contains Amazon Creek headwaters, seasonal wetlands, upland wildlife habitat and more than a half-dozen rare plant and animal species — should be preserved as a public open space. But on Sept. 26, Portland developer Joe Green submitted a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to build 110 houses on the property, which he calls Green Valley Glen.

Green's PUD outlines provisions to protect sensitive species, preserve riparian corridors and steep slopes, and leave clusters of oaks and madrones standing. But those measures don't satisfy members of Southeast Neighbors, who worry that the PUD fails to address key resource protection measures such as tree preservation, erosion control and stormwater runoff. Southeast Neighbors board member Lisa Warnes hopes that the city will use its power of eminent domain to condemn the property and turn it into public open space.

Green's attorney, Mark Hoyt, feels that the protest is unwarranted. "We certainly understand that change is hard, but this property is zoned for development," he says. "We would really hope that the neighbors are able to recognize that this is a very environmentally responsible approach."

City planner Alissa Hansen, however, is unconvinced that the PUD is good to go. On Oct. 20, she returned the PUD to Green, asking for more information about how his development will preserve trees, protect rare and native vegetation, minimize impacts to streams and wetlands, and design buildings on slopes to blend with natural terrain.

Green now has 150 days to complete the PUD. A public hearing will follow. Interested community members can track the PUD's progress on the East Fork Amazon Preservation website: www.efn.org/~ksl

Spring Knoll PUD

The Spring Knoll PUD, on 12 acres in the southeast hills at 43rd Avenue and Wendell Lane, is a testament to perseverance — on the parts of both the developers and the neighborhood activists who dog them.

Southeast Neighbors argued that the original PUD would have violated the SHS by failing to adequately protect existing vegetation, wetland areas or ridgeline trees. In February, the city's hearings official agreed and denied the PUD. The developers, Derril and Alice Simpson, appealed to the Eugene Planning Commission, but the commission upheld the original ruling and the application died.

The story might have stalled there, but due to changes in the city land use code, it didn't. Until recently, developers had to wait a year after a PUD is denied before filing a new one. But in 2001, city staff removed the waiting period provision. The Simpsons filed a slightly revised PUD in July.

Matthews says the changes are insufficient; the developers still propose to clearcut large swaths of land, rather than just the places where buildings will be constructed. "The result would be big holes in the forest and a big bald spot along the skyline," he says. "Either there needs to be a mechanism that preserves the trees outside of the buildings' immediate area, or else the PUD should be denied."

The public comment period for the Spring Knoll PUD closed on Oct. 26. A decision is expected by late November.

Timberline PUD

The Timberline Hills PUD is a 100-acre parcel south of Timberline Drive and west of Hawkins Lane. Developer James Breeden would like to build 255 units on the land — more than 100 of them above 901 feet, the range at which the SHS recommends minimal development. The bowl-shaped parcel contains a creek, 7.5 acres of wetlands and forested hillsides.

The city deemed the application complete in August, held a public hearing on Sept. 28 and closed the public record on Oct. 12. A decision is due by Oct. 27.

Beverly property

Yet another parcel is a player in the planning game: a 25-acre plot near the intersection of West Amazon and Martin St., containing an oak and fir forest, wetlands, two primary branches of Amazon Creek and several threatened plant communities.

Developers Martin and Leslie Beverly filed a PUD to develop the property in 2000, but the city denied it because it failed to adequately protect natural features.

In the subsequent years, the developers have removed some of the larger trees and understory vegetation from the property. They recently held a pre-application meeting with the city, but they haven't yet filed a PUD. They suggest that they're willing to sell the land to the city, but they're asking a hefty price: $2.6 million.

FoE and Southeast Neighbors are scrambling to purchase the property, hopefully with the city's help. "If we're ever going to fulfill the community vision of connecting Amazon Creek from the ridgeline to the existing Amazon Greenway for a wildlife and recreation corridor, this is it," Matthews says.


The city's land use code is interpretive, but two points are clear: One, the urban lands in the South Hills are zoned for residential development. Two, the city must make sure they are developed in a way that minimizes the impacts on trees, soils, wildlife, streams and wetlands.

We can do both, says Eugene Tree Foundation President Phillip Carroll. "These are urban lands," he says. "We can build housing to our density goals and still have healthy ecosystems."

Carroll points to one housing development as a model in eco-conscious building: Timber Village, which in 2002 received the Eugene Tree Foundation's Bigleaf Award for excellence in the stewardship of Eugene's urban forest. "The homes were built among the trees and the trees were retained, in keeping with the natural context," Carroll says. "Homeowners are proud to live there."

Carroll, Matthews and Fodor agree that where the land-use code is vague — regarding when and where trees can be cut, how dense developments can be, and what lands to preserve as public open space — citizens can help the city form more conclusive policies. "I don't want to villanize the developers, and I'm reluctant to say that the city is failing us. That's a little too easy," Carroll says. "It's not a matter of good guy versus bad guy. It's a matter of the community coming together to meet our goals on all of those levels."

Matthews agrees. "The community needs to re-affirm our commitment to protecting the hills, much as we have a commitment to protect the river and the wetlands, if we're going to maintain the essence of Eugene as a city that embraces the natural," he says.   

Citizens will have a chance to weigh in during the upcoming land-use code amendment process, which will include a public hearing. For more information, contact Interim Planning Director Steve Nystrom at 682-8385 or steven.a.nystrom@ci.eugene.or.us.



The First Lady Chief

Wilma Mankiller preaches gender equality for her tribe's survival.


Chief Wilma Mankiller sits at the front of the room, looking out at the elders, their clans, and their 50 sets of eyes. She speaks slowly and loudly. Her voice bellows through the Many Nations Longhouse, yet carries a tone of river-flowing calmness. Everyone's attention is focused on Mankiller, the first woman to lead the Cherokee people as principal chief in modern times. Between her sentences is the silence of 50 listeners — just the scratching of pens on paper and a fly fluttering against a nearby windowpane.

Mankiller is speaking about feminism and the changing role of women in Indian tribal life, an issue especially relevant to her. "It's important to take a woman's sensibility to leadership," Mankiller says, hands moving in the directions of her words. "Women should bring their own skills to leadership positions and not emulate men's."

Mankiller brought her feminine skills to her role as Cherokee chief in 1983, a time when women leaders were a revolutionary concept. In 1971 the Cherokee Nation, the second largest Native American tribe in the U.S., was bankrupt and operating out of a storefront in Tahlequah, Okla., but during Mankiller's tenure she helped build an organization with 1,200 employees and a $75 million budget. Today, the Nation has grown to more than 225,000 members.

In front of the elders and their clans, Mankiller goes on to talk about how, before Native cultures were forcibly assimilated into mainstream America, there was a balance of power between Native men and women. Each gender had its own voice; each gender had its own powers. This equality was necessary for the proper functioning of the tribe, she says.

When Mankiller finishes speaking, the elders gather their clans and discuss the differing roles of feminism in mainstream and Native cultures. But these clans aren't a tribal council, and this meeting isn't taking place on a reservation. These clans are made up of UO students, and they're in a school building behind the Knight Law Center.

In one group, a graduate student (one of the "elders") leads a discussion about how the mainstream notion of feminism contradicts Native peoples' communal culture. In another group, an undergraduate presents her clan's conclusions. She stammers a bit, then clearly explains that in the 1970s, when feminism in the dominant culture was concerned with abortion, Native women were still fighting the idea of forced sterilization. Mankiller sips her coffee and nods in approval.

Mankiller is this year's UO Wayne Morse Chair of Law and Politics. She team-teaches a class with law professor Rennard Strickland in the Many Nations Longhouse, a building similar in design to the traditional longhouses of the Kalapuya Indians — the first people known to live at the junction of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers.

Mankiller's career as a leader, developer, activist and author spans three decades. As a young woman living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she participated in the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz. She has received 18 honorary doctorates, including the Chubb Fellowship from Yale University and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to her by Bill Clinton in 1998. Her book Mankiller: A Chief and Her People is a national bestseller. She was the founding director of the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department, which focused on low-income Cherokee communities helping themselves through volunteer-driven housing and water projects. This was an innovative project that jump-started the revival of Cherokee communities.

She's spent her life leading, but at a recent UO event Mankiller said, "I don't like the term 'leader' applied to me. It's a team effort." Mankiller is credited for revitalizing the Cherokee Nation — a nation battered by a history of American governmental atrocities, including a forced removal of Native peoples from their homelands in 1838-1839, which resulted in thousands of deaths and became known as the Trail of Tears.

Mankiller's specialty is planning development projects and teaching her people how to solve their own problems, but this is her first time teaching students in a university setting. She welcomed the opportunity to spend time with Strickland and to "learn from the students." Her class is very diverse: pale faces, dark faces, young faces and old faces at every table. Their attentiveness is almost startling.

"She is a wealth of knowledge and an articulate speaker. She hasn't taught before, yet she's a natural," says graduate teaching fellow Deana Dartt-Newton, a member of the Coastal Band Chumash Tribe. "It's like learning from an elder."

Mankiller's message, not her demeanor, is what commands respect. When she and Native rights activist John Trudell spoke at Indigenous Solidarity Day at the UO in October, the crowd of hundreds overflowing the EMU ballroom sat in silence when she spoke; even a baby that had been crying for most of the event seemed to know when to keep quiet.

But Mankiller didn't always receive this kind of respect. In 1983, she was elected the first female deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation, but many tribal leaders opposed her election because they thought electing a female would make the Cherokee a laughing stock. Some even thought it an affront to God. These men had forgotten, because of decades of American cultural imperialism, that traditional Cherokee communities held gender equality as a root belief. The more the Cherokee were assimilated, Mankiller says, the more sexist they became.

After the election Mankiller was scheduled to speak at a meeting of the Five Civilized Tribes Intertribal Council. She arrived, looked at the stage, and saw the other high-ranking tribal officials all sitting at one long table, purposely leaving no room for her. She just grabbed a chair, carried it onto the stage and said what she came to say.

As deputy chief, one of her duties was to lead the meetings of the Cherokee Tribal Council, a council consisting of members who unanimously opposed her election. One member in particular made problems for her at a 1983 meeting, claiming she was violating obscure ceremonial rules and was therefore an incompetent leader. Her solution: At the next meeting, she got control of the microphones and switched his off whenever he started to rant.

The sexism Mankiller encountered soon dissipated, in no doubt because her leadership re-instilled an essential sense of tribal interdependence among the Cherokee. She won re-election in 1991 with 82 percent of the vote, but didn't seek a third term in 1995 due to health problems. Her home is still on Mankiller Flats in Oklahoma — the land an ancestor protected, earning him his surname.

But it's not her name the students are discussing after class. A man of Middle Eastern descent and a Native American woman of the same clan are packing their bags and chatting about some of the issues raised in class. Each has an equal voice in this "tribe," just as Mankiller intended.   



Get 'Em While They're Young

Conservation for the next generation


No one needs to be convinced about the benefits of introducing kids to nature. It's a no-brainer. Each generation is born more reliant on technology for its entertainment. So how can we keep the next crop interested in the world outside cell phones, computers and iPods? A world that desperately needs their help? The answer is simple, say educators: Show them what they're missing.

To a Rapid Recovery   

"You see that," says Donald Burton, pointing to the stark, clear-cut hill that looms up behind us as we float down the crystal waters of the McKenzie River. "They say that's from kids whose parents didn't teach them very well." The five kids in the raft glance back at the giant, featureless dirt mound, silent. Burton watches their reactions and smiles, his lesson received. The bleak outline of the stripped hill stands in striking contrast to the lush growth lining the riverbanks. But Burton understands the river is no classroom. For the lessons to really sink in, it's vital for the kids to simply have fun.

Burton is one of those everyday heroes, planning this late summer rafting trip in his free time. He's teamed up with some kindred spirits in the Lane County Boys and Girls Club, an organization dedicated to providing academic incentives and responsible recreation to economically disadvantaged children. Most of the adults on the trip are Burton's friends and neighbors, who share his dedication to introducing kids to nature. Mel Bankoff, a neighbor of Donald's and the founder of Eugene-based Emerald Valley Organics, has brought his 10-year-old son Marley along. "Kids are just falling through the gaps in this country," says Bankoff. "This program is win, win, win, no matter how you look at it."

Storm clouds loom overhead, but several feet below us, the river bottom glides by in full detail. The water is so clear it feels like we're flying over the rocks. But it seldom gets above 50 degrees. When a couple of errant splashes with the paddles turns into an all-out water fight between rafts, some occupants moan for a truce through chattering teeth. But the kids are clearly enjoying themselves, and all around us, evidence of the river's health makes itself known.

Someone points out a pair of osprey that have migrated from Brazil to mate here, and one of the kids spots a bald eagle. Families of merganser ducks hide in the shadows, protecting their fuzzy fledglings from the giant, alien rafts. When we reach the class III Martin's Rapids near the end, the shouts of glee from the kids serve as a clear sign of the outing's success.

With more than 200,000 Oregonians receiving their drinking water from the McKenzie, these kids aren't the only ones who need a lesson in keeping it healthy. The Bush administration has recently taken steps to weaken the Northwest Forest Plan, once again opening vital stretches of the McKenzie watershed to logging. The ancient trees here are prime fodder for timber companies. But they also act as anchors for a delicate ecosystem that filters and purifies rainwater and snowmelt, keeping the river clean, clear and inviting. The hope of everyone on this trip is that with enough experiences like this one, these kids will want to take a stand in the coming years to protect this important ecosystem, instead of just letting it wash away.

Tree's Company

When Theresa Damron talks about red tree voles, her eyes light up and she speaks quietly, her voice full of childish wonder. The red tree vole is a small rodent, unique to Oregon, that spends its entire life in the canopy of old-growth trees, never touching the ground. I suspect Damron would probably do the same if she could. Instead, she's come up with a way to introduce the public, especially children, to the curious world the voles inhabit.

Damron runs The Pacific Tree Climbing Institute with her husband, Nathaniel Sperry, and her son Rob Miron. PTCI supplements the couple's other business, Sperry Tree Care. Damron started this Eco-tourism company a year ago as Oregon's answer to recreational tree climbing, an activity begun in Atlanta, Ga., 20 years ago with the goal of making forest canopy exploration open to everyone. "I'm convinced change doesn't happen based on intellectual knowledge," says Damron. "It happens based on a sense of emotional emergency. Climbing into the upper reaches of an old growth forest is a transformational experience."

We're standing in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Blue River, where a group of school children have assembled to climb a tree and, hopefully, walk away transformed. H.J. Andrews is a "living laboratory," where scientists from all over the world come to research stream and forest ecosystems in an attempt to anticipate the effects of natural and human impact.

On the Lookout Creek old-growth trail, the kids from Fern Ridge Middle School stand in a neat line. Damron gives them a short introduction to their surroundings, reiterating the importance of minimizing impact to the surrounding forest. She outfits some with helmets and harnesses and directs them over to where Sperry, son Rob, and arborist Jason Seppa wait at the base of a carefully chosen, 150-ft. Douglas fir rigged with climbing ropes. The other kids take turns sitting crammed together in a "tree boat" (a hammock-like canvas platform strong enough to hold a truck), suspended just off the ground, quietly practicing knot-tying.

Twenty feet away, their friends are learning how to hoist themselves up the ropes toward another tree boat suspended 40 feet over their heads. One by one, they all make the ascent. Some of the girls return to the ground exhilarated and giddy from their accomplishment. But the boys, adhering to strict middle school social codes, choose to play it cool, like they've done it all before.

Normally, PTCI shoots for the canopy, but with a group this large, speed and equal opportunity dictate a more modest height. As the kids depart, assembly line style, the PTCI crew starts packing up gear. "I know we have some impact on the area," says Damron, "but while we're standing here, this stuff is being clear-cut." I think back to the lunar surface of that hill on the McKenzie. In my book, climbing ropes beat chainsaws any day. But then again, I've felt that way since I was a kid.

For more information contact: Pacific Tree Climbing Institute at 461-9410, www.pacifictreecliming.com or Helfrich's McKenzie River Rafting at 726-5039, www.raft2fish.com or H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest at (541) 822-6300.