Response to letter on Buffy Sainte-Marie | Letter

Response to letter on Buffy Sainte-Marie

The recent letter to the editor regarding Friday Harbor Film Festival’s documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On highlights the ongoing controversies surrounding indigenous rights and identity. However, more context is needed. This film was screened at the 2023 Friday Harbor Film Festival just days after the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) released an investigative report questioning Buffy Sainte-Marie’s heritage and ethnicity.

There is much that is not known, and much that is contested about her background, as is the case for many Native Americans. The film highlights her accomplishments as an artist and as an activist for indigenous rights and social justice, using her career as a platform to advocate for indigenous peoples.

The film was voted an audience choice favorite at the 2023 Friday Harbor Film Festival, and as such is included in our 2024 Best of the Fest program. A key component of the Friday Harbor Film Festival is to encourage discussion and discourse among filmmakers and audience members and to provide opportunities to explore complex issues and express differing opinions.

The issues surrounding indigenous identity and cultural appropriation are not to be taken lightly. In Buffy’s case, she was fully adopted into a Cree family, and her contributions to social justice and advocacy are without question.

In the Friday Harbor Film Festival interview with Executive Director Kyle Irving, he said of the controversy: “I’m not sure if anyone knows the real truth about that story. I’ve seen the documentary film [CBC] challenging her indigenous identity. I think there is a lot of information in that film that is important to consider…. That being said, I’m not sure even Buffy knows the real truth. Having known Buffy for more than 15 years, I believe that she believes that she is an indigenous person and always has … that is what she believes to be her truth. She has conducted herself throughout her life as if she is [indigenous], and it is pretty hard to argue with all the selfless work that she has done to lift up that community, raise awareness around it, and give voice to a lot of people who otherwise did not have voices. I would like to suggest that she opened the door and laid the path for a lot more indigenous artists to come into the forefront and share their stories. I understand the controversy… I understand the pain it causes a lot of people. But it is pretty hard to take away from a woman who is now in her eighties and has done so much for so many people for so long.”

Plan to attend future Best of Fest screenings and participate in thoughtful discussion after each film.

Friday Harbor Film Festival

Rebuttal- Land Bank, Skoog, Brast, Azous

The January 10th issue of the Journal included an excellent letter of opinion submitted by Mark Fishaut, titled “Moving forward with the Land Bank.” Mark noted the Town to Zylstra Lake Trail fiasco as reason for review of the entire LB operation. The January 24th issue of the Journal included three rebuttals. Jim Skoog wrote “The mysterious Zylstra Lake Trails fiasco has absolutely nothing to do with the Land Bank”. Cynthia Brast wrote “The mysterious Zylstra Lake Trail was NOT a Land Bank project” and “The Land Bank is completely transparent with their purchases and finances.” Amanda Azous wrote “The Conservation Land Bank did not promote or pursue the Zylstra Lake Trail project”

Now look at pages 3, and 24-27 of San Juan County Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas Plan 2023-2028;

Seven members of the LB Commission are listed on Page 3. LB Director Lincoln Bormann is listed as a member of the Planning Team.

Page 24 lists five trail projects with Lincoln Bormann as the Key Contact for four of them. The LB is listed as a funding source. The second listed project prescribes “increase long-distance trails and trail connections on all islands via cooperative agreements with landowners, with a target of 10 miles. Does this sound a lot like the TZLT project? It does to me and it doesn’t square with the statements of Jim Skoog, Cynthia Brast, and Amanda Azous or their assertions of transparency. Lincoln Bormann is the key contact for four more projects on pages 25-27. Maybe the LB didn’t initiate the effort for federal funds for the TZLT but to say the LB had nothing to do with it, was not a LB project, and did not promote or pursue the project is disingenuous at best. LB fingerprints are all over trail development. After island residents and County Council soundly rejected the TZLT the LB attempts to distance themselves from being a part of the TZLT. That’s the opposite of transparency. It’s a smoke screen that all can see through. And…It’s gonna resonate this November!!

Ron Whalen

San Juan Island

Rebuttal to a rebuttal…Land Bank Skoog, Brast, Azous

As I stated in my letter published in the January 24th issue of the Journal in a rebuttal I wrote to Mark Fishaut’s letter, the accusations of specious Land Bank involvement in the TZLT (Town to Zylstra Lake Trail) are at best a wing and a prayer by a conspiracy theorist, and at worst a coordinated effort to smear the Land Bank. In defense of Mark Fishaut and his contributions to this community, I may have to believe the latter is at work.

Ron Whalen has recently chimed in with his letter yesterday with the same conspiracy theoretical thinking and tries to somehow legitimize his thoughts that the Land Bank is trying to cover something up. Quite the contrary. All the notations in Ron Whalen’s rant are tied directly to OTHER PROJECTS and never mention the TZLT trail. There are no fingerprints to be found. There is nothing there Ron, no matter how you try to connect the dots. You are disingenuous in your effort to create something out of nothing. Your attempt here to discredit the Land Bank with your smoke and mirrors and the spirit in which you do it is going to resonate this November. There are many trail projects that the Land Bank is involved in and thank God they are so we can get out into nature, but the TZLT is not one of them and never has been. There is a time and a place for good trails. Please, let’s just focus on the truth.

Jim Skoog

San Juan Island

In response to Ron Whalen letter regarding Land Bank

Ron Whalen and I both provided public comments to the County Council opposing the Town to Zylstra Trail. I submitted written comments and spoke at the public hearing as a private citizen and concerned resident of San Juan Island.

I also serve in the position of Land Bank Commissioner for District #1, San Juan Island.

The Land Bank had nothing to do with that project.

Thank you,

Marilyn O’Connor

San Juan Island