Smith: She was changed by her discoveries at Standing Rock

For most of her life, Cynthia Quinn says, she kept her Native American ancestry largely to herself.

The manager of the Windsor branch of an international home-care agency, Quinn had long been advised that the potential for negative responses made it advisable that she not broadcast her Yurok roots.

Having just returned from the Standing Rock gathering and protest in North Dakota with her grown daughter, she is changed.

“Our hearts are still there,” she said.

She’d driven to the encampment that resists the construction of an oil pipeline to deliver blankets and such, and she witnessed what she describes as a great embracing of Native American identity, values ?and culture.

“People are lining up as warriors. It’s an amazing feeling,” Quinn said.

She saw adults in traditional dress show children how to skin and cook elk and buffalo. She heard a man instruct a boy, “Respect your mother, respect what you are doing.”

Though the collection of camps exists primarily to counter plans for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Quinn found a community that’s validating the beliefs and rituals of Native Americans.

“It’s amazing, the healing that people are doing there,” she said.

There’s a fair amount going on in Sonoma County in support of what’s happening at Standing Rock.

A GoFundMe appeal by Sebastopol’s Ahkua Huling for help to build shelters, composting toilets and such at the encampment quickly drew about $14,000. A public discussion of the protest happens at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the First United Methodist Church on Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Drive.

Quinn said that to personally experience the phenomenon in North Dakota “changes your perspective completely.” She expects to return.


THANKS TO A JUDGE: Gary Medvigy leaves the Sonoma County Superior Court bench with a load of memories and more than a few serious concerns over what he calls the state’s dysfunctional approach to funding the courts.

And there’s this emailed letter.

A former jail inmate from Santa Rosa read in the PD about Medvigy resigning to become a flight instructor. The man wrote to the judge, thanking him for clearing his criminal record of charges that weren’t warranted but that he’d accepted under duress.

He added, “I also thank you for helping me with cases I deserved punishment and consequences for and learned my lesson through.”

He told Medvigy he’s grateful also for the chance to confront his addiction in a rehab program. He wrote that the changes he made to his life allowed him to regain full custody of his 14-year-old son.

“I have received a job as a security officer at Kaiser hospital and have moved up,” the man wrote, adding that in the past two years he hasn’t missed a single day of work.

“In fact,” he shared with the departing judge, “I am proud to have worked over 2,600 hours each year including overtime. I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity you gave me to live a better life.”

Pretty nice that he’d take the time to let the judge know that even before he begins teaching pilots, he helped a father in trouble to find his wings.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and

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