Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have celebrated storytelling as a way to connect the present to past lessons and future dreaming. Narrative sovereignty is a form of land guardianship, and Nia Tero supports this work through its storytelling initiatives, including the Seedcast podcast, as well as in this monthly column for media partner the South Seattle Emerald.
I grew up in the 1980s in Texas in a family of migrant farmworkers. We spent half of the year in Texas; the other half of the year we lived in Washington State. When I was about 6 or 7, my mom settled in Skagit County, and I’ve been here pretty much ever since then. At age 10, I joined my family members at work. I grew up in the fields and stayed there for a decade and a half.
These days I spend most of my time serving as the political director for an independent farmworker union called Familias Unidas por La Justicia (FUJ). While most people associate unions with strikes, work stoppages, and picket lines, my day-to-day job at FUJ is based in quieter activities. I mostly talk one-on-one with members of the union, whom I consider to be my bosses, prioritizing my tasks based on what they need. I help with work-related problems but also rent-related or immigration-related issues. Care for our members extends past the fields and into the lives of their families.
In June, for example, we focused on getting ready for berry harvesting season — strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry — going out to sites of employment and letting workers know about their rights. When it’s safe to travel, I also represent the union across the state and country as well as around the world, coordinating initiatives with partners then reporting back to our executive committee and our workers. I enjoy my work and the people I get to work for. I’m lucky.
This week’s “long read” is an essay on archaeology in Palladium magazine, discussing some recent developments that might upend the dominant thinking on when human society began.
Nailing down the timeline for the dawn of human civilization has always been a bit of a guessing game, because human society predated recorded history. Even those societies with robust oral histories tend to maintain them only for as long as the society itself remains viable. So archaeologists exploring the dawn of human society try to extrapolate what happened based on an examination of what the essay calls the “extended phenotype” of the human race: the marks that humans leave on their world. For the most part when dealing with early societies, the extended phenotype consists of buildings, tools, and bones — often long buried.
Washington State’s undocumented workers waiting for the same kind of economic relief their documented peers receive will have to keep waiting, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office told the Emerald. They also won’t be eligible for the state’s first public option health program, Cascade Care, when it begins next year.
In late May, Inslee said his office was looking into the possibility of creating a novel coronavirus pandemic relief fund for undocumented workers, who are ineligible to receive unemployment benefits or federal economic relief. In an email to the Emerald on July 10, Inslee’s Deputy Communications Director and Press Secretary Mike Faulk said that the reason a fund is taking so long is due to a number of factors, including the complexity of the task and the recent mandate that requires certain staff members to take one furlough day per week, in an effort to cut costs.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee said in a press conference on May 28 that the state will be instituting additional protections for agricultural workers, and that his office is looking into the possibility of creating a relief fund for undocumented workers who do not have access to unemployment benefits, despite paying taxes.
Every morning at 6 a.m., Penelope punches into work at a food processing warehouse in Eltopia, Washington. She works seven days a week with no days off for $13.65 an hour. With the exception of a 30-minute lunch break, Penelope is on her feet sorting spears of asparagus for up to nine or 10 hours a day. It’s difficult work in normal times. But now, it’s become dangerous.
Penelope says her employer is not providing her or other employees with enough personal protective equipment or allowing them any space to social distance to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. She is undocumented, so she’s afraid of repercussions if she speaks out or tries to involve the Department of Labor and Industries, which is responsible for overseeing safe workplace conditions. But she is also afraid that these conditions will get her killed: she’s 40 years old and suffers from diabetes and heart disease, and has breast cancer that has recently reemerged.
Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffery, Sr. always enjoyed his meals, but never thought much about what he was eating. That changed in the early 2000s, when he was diagnosed with diverticulitis, an intestinal disease that affects food digestion.
Despite the spitting rain and smoky conditions, a few hardy souls gathered outside The Beet Box in South Seattle Saturday for a free permaculture class. Tugging down her mask to speak, South Seattle resident and class participant Naomi Cooper said she was there to help give back to the community.