Comedian and civil rights activist, Dick Gregory (center) joined by Edith and Janet McCloud (left)

From the book Red Power, by Alvin M. Josephy Jr., 1971

Among some of the Indians of western Washington State the true meaning of the fight for their fishing rights was epitomized by the name they gave to an organization that they formed to give solidity to their struggle – The Survival of American Indians Association, Inc. One of its first members was Janet McCloud, a Tulalip Indian who was married to a Puyallup Indian and was the mother of eight children.

From the beginning she and her husband were leaders in the fishing rights struggle. On October 13, 1965, they were among six Indians arrested and jailed for fishing at their usual fishing site at Frank’s Landing on Washington’s Nisqually River. Their trial was not held until January 15, 1969. By then Mrs. McCloud had become an embattled champion for Indian rights and was known to Indians throughout the country for her courage and devotion to traditional Indian values. Many Indians, as well as non-Indians, who knew and admired her, were interested in the outcome of the January 15 trial. The following report, written by Laura McCloud, one of her daughters, and circulated among the defendants’ well-wishers, provides an intimate glimpse of an experience that has become almost routine to Indians fighting for their survival.

Is the Trend Changing?

by Laura McCloud

On October 13, 1965, we held a “fish-in” on the Nisqually River to try and bring a focus on our fishing fight with State of Washington. The “fish-in” started at 4:00 p.m. and was over at about 4:30 p.m. It ended with 6 Indians in jail and dazed Indian kids wondering “what happened?”

My parents, Don & Janet McCloud; Al and Maiselle Bridges; Suzan Satiacum and Don George Jr. were arrested that day. They were released after posting bail a few hours later. The charges against these six Indians was “obstructing the duty of a police officer.” Now all we could do was wait till the trials started. There was a seventh Indian arrested for the same charge, Nugent Kautz. And he had not been at Frank’s Landing on that day.

The trial was to begin on January 15, 1969, at 9:30 a.m. We went into the courthouse that Wednesday certain we would not receive justice as was proven to us in other trials. As we walked into the hallways there were many game wardens standing there, some dressed in their uniforms some in plain clothes, but we recognized all of them.

Many of us were dressed in our traditional way with head bands, leggings and necklaces. As we walked the length of the corridor to the courtroom, the game wardens were looking us up and down, laughing at us. I said to my cousin, “Don’t pay any attention to them, they don’t know any better.” The three leaders of this “gestapo” group were present in the corridor, “Colonel Custer” Neubrech, and his henchmen Buzz Sawyer from the game department and Zimmerman, field marshal. We kind of had to laugh at these men because they were strutting around like roosters. Any person, even if they did not realize what was going on, but sensitive to feeling could probably feel the bad vibrations emanating from one side of the hallway to the other side. The tension was very high at all times. There were many Indians present at the trial, some from very far away. And as usual one Indian was arrested. In every trial I have attended they usually arrest some Indian.

The trial began a few minutes off schedule. The Deputy Prosecuting Attorney was a new man, his name was Judd – he acted very cocky and over confident. Judd’s director was the State game and Fisheries department legal advisor, Mike Johnson. Our attorney was Al Ziontz, an American Liberties Union volunteer.

The first witness for the State was a field marshal for the game department – Zimmerman. He stated that he was directing the game wardens at the Landing on Oct. 13. He was in charge of the reinforcements from all over the State that came down on us like a sea of green. At the time of the fish-in I thought that there were about a hundred game wardens.

The next State witness was the public relations-man for the game department. He had 16 millimeter motion pictures to show. He had been posing as a newsman on the day of the fish-in. Our attorney objected to the pictures because they could have been cut and fixed to the State’s advantage or taken for the State’s advantage. But the State got their way and the motion pictures were shown. And to this moment I can not understand why they wanted these pictures shown because they sure looked better for our side than for theirs.

The parade of State witnesses were all either game wardens or fisheries patrolmen. All these men swore oaths to their God to tell the truth. It is my opinion that it seemed to them just a farce because everyone of them lied under oath. They were all asked if any of them carried weapons or if they had seen any wardens carrying weapons. Doughtery a game warden was the last State witness. He had the audacity state that a fish could be caught in a net with no lead line weights to hold it down. A net consists of three main parts a lead line on the bottom to hold it down, the main part is the middle which is the nylon mesh, and on top of the net a cork line to hold the net up. Now, without a leadline the net will just float on the top of the water. All I can say is, “Boy, these guys teach us new things all the tine.” The idea of catching a fish in a net without a leadline is absolutely absurd – the game wardens must think the fish are trying to get caught. Yeah, they just jump up into the net.

After these gamewardens went on the stand the prosecutor attorney said they had one more witness but he could not be there until the next day. So the judge said the trial would be adjourned until 9:30 the next morning.

The trial started late again the next morning (1/16/69). The State started off with their last witness, State Fisheries Biologist, Lasseter. He talked about how we Indians are the ones who depleted the fish in the Puyallup River and if we weren’t controlled we would do the same to the Nisqually River. The Puyallup River is filled with pollution more than it is with water, And why would we want to wipe out our livelihood? Our attorney made Lasseter state that it could have been the pollution not the Indians who depleted the fish in the Puyallup River.

Now, it was our turn! The first witness for our defense was Bob Johnson. At the time of the fish-in he was the editor of the “Auburn Citizens” newspaper. He told of the tactics the game wardens used on us. Mr. Johnson also had evidence with him, pictures of the game wardens, showing billie clubs and seven celled flashlights. The Prosecuting attorney got real shook up about these. It seemed like he was saying “I object” every few minutes.

The next witness was a Mrs. Flanigan, a psychologist who had been with Bob Johnson, to be an impartial witness. She said she thought that this fish-in would be boring because of the other one she had attended at Brando’s Landing at the Puyallup River. But after this incident she became a believer and had led her to help start an organization to help the Indian people.

The next defense witness was Janet McCloud, Tulalip Indian. She told the facts about why the Indians had had the fish-in demonstration on that day and what the mood the Indians had before the fish-in. This was important because the State thought we were after blood that day. And we were not expecting any violence because all my brothers and sisters were there and the youngest was 4 at that time. And if we had expected any violence none of the children would have been there. She told how she felt when she realized that the game wardens were going to ram our boat and how she felt when she realized these men meant business with their 7-celled flashlights, billie clubs, and brass knuckles. My two little brothers were in that boat when it was rammed, the youngest was 7 and could not swim. Besides, once you get tangled in nylon mesh it is very easy to drown. While she was telling this story, we could tell she was trying very hard to keep from crying, but this did not help because she started to. And every Indian in that courtroom that was there that horrible day started to remember the fear and anger that they had felt that day. The fear was not for one’s self but for each other. We had the fear the Indians at SAND CREEK must have felt – and we started to remember more vividly. It took all the the strength we had to keep from crying too! We did not want these men to see us weak again.

The trial stopped for a few minutes while the Deputy prosecuting attorney went out to get a drink of water for Janet McCloud. He returned with it and handed it to Janet and just as she started to take a drink, Craig Carpenter jumped up and said, “Janet don’t drink that water. You don’t know what he put in it!” Indians knowing our history know what has happened to many leaders in the past by the State. Craig was asked to leave the courtroom. And he had come up all the way from California to be at this trial.

The next witness was Don McCloud, Puyallup Indian. He was one of the Indian men in the boat that day. He told how the boat was rammed. (Oh, incidentally, the game wardens said that they did not ram the boat.) He also said how he had seen a game warden with a steel pipe and how a game warden tried to knee him in the groin. And the other acts of violence that he had witnessed the game wardens doing.

The next witness was Nugent Kautz, a Puyallup Indian. He told how he had not been present at the fish-in but was in school at Tacoma.

With all this testimony and evidence, it was plain to see that the game wardens had lied. We only hoped that the jury would believe our side of the fish-in story. We also learned the names of the game wardens whose pictures we had, especially the one who had been beating on Alison and Valerie Bridges.

Mr. Ziontz called one last witness – a hostile one – a game warden. This was the one who had been carrying a leather slapper which the Indians confiscated on 1/13/65 from his hip-pocket and had entered as evidence. His name was engraved on the slapper. He admitted that it was his and had been taken out his pocket but he said that he never used it

The State called “Colonel Custer” Neubrech for their rebuttal witness. He said at the briefing he had given his men the night before the fish-in he had told them to have extreme patience with the Indians. Either they don’t know the meaning extreme patience or else they didn’t understand him right. Whatever, they didn’t have this patience.

After the two lawyers gave their summations the jury went into session. This was at ten o’clock at night. They were out until midnight. The foreman came in first and said, “The rest are afraid to come in.” I thought, here comes another guilty. When the foreman handed the judge the decision the room became very silent. Then the judge read, “The jury finds the defendant Nugent Kautz ‘not guilty’” He read the rest of the names with the same verdict. I didn’t believe it. I turned to my cousin and said, “Did I hear right?” She nodded her head, yes. Everyone was happy, except for the State. The game wardens were very hostile after this.

Footnote: The game wardens, incensed at the adverse verdict, left the Tyee Motel where they had been celebrating, prematurely, their victory and went down in large numbers to Frank’s Landing. A sympathetic soul overheard the wardens and called the Landing to warn the Indians. Nevertheless the wardens caught a car load of Indians at the railroad trestle and surrounded them in their state game cars – they proceeded to hit the Indians’ car with their nightsticks, cussing them and trying to provoke Al Bridges and Hank Adams to fight. It was obvious to the Indians that they had been drinking. This took place about 2 a.m. The next day two Indian boys were walking to the store when a carload of game wardens stopped them and Walter Neubrech, chief enforcement officer, game dept., asked Russell McCloud why the Indians didn’t have any nets in the river last night. He told him that he did not know. Neubrech went on to say that he had given his men orders to use their clubs on any Indian who goes fishing and to use them freely. So the war goes on – which goes to prove that the history books are wrong when they talk about “the last Indian wars.” They have never stopped! – Janet McCloud.

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