Native Americans help residents of a Washington State county get COVID vaccinations
Tim Wheeler/PW

SEQUIM, WA.—Clallam County residents by the thousands have driven through the checkpoints at Carrie Blake Park here to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations thanks to the skill and dedication of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe.

Clallam County has the highest vaccination rate in Washington State and public health authorities give credit to the tribe for organizing the effort enlisting the personnel from the tribe’s Jamestown Family Health Clinic (JFHC), Sequim Police Department, Fire District # 3, and an army of volunteers from the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Gratitude toward the Jamestown S’Klallams is the nearly universal sentiment in Clallam County, the local media filled with letters to the editor thanking the tribe for its “healing spirit.” But not everyone shares that feeling, certainly not Sequim’s QAnon Mayor, William Armacost.

The tribe takes this assignment so seriously that when my sister, Honeybee Burns, and I arrived for our first shot, Feb. 23, we were greeted by Dr. Paul Cunningham, Medical Director of the Jamestown Clinic, who was my first physician when we arrived in Clallam County in 2006.

Dr. Cunningham was circulating from car to car, checking people’s IDs and paperwork to make sure all was in order.

A masked JFHC nurse gave us our second Moderna shots March 23 at the drive-through tent. Then we sat in my car in a lot with about twenty others to ensure that we were not having an allergic reaction to the vaccinations. A young woman volunteer, wearing a double mask, chatted with us. She said she tested positive for COVID-19 last fall and suffered serious illness—high fever, chills, shortness of breath, cough. “I should have been hospitalized but I have two children and nobody to care for them,” she said. “They too tested positive but suffered only mild illness.” I told her she is a “frontline worker” who deserves our thanks for her role in combatting the deadly pandemic.

I am the “Acting Chair” of Voices for Health & Healing, a local organization that supports the tribe’s opioid clinic to treat the hundreds of people addicted to oxycontin and other addictive medication that is epidemic in Clallam County, the highest rate in the state.

A Republican instigated outfit, S.O.S. (Save Our Sequim)  has whipped up racist hatred against the tribe and stigma against victims of opioid addiction, spreading mass fear and slander to stop the clinic.

We drafted a proclamation thanking the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe for their many contributions to our community, most recently their stellar organization of the COVID-19 vaccination project. We submitted the draft to the Sequim City Council in February. One member, Brandon Janisse, endorsed the proclamation. But Sequim City Clerk, Sara McMillon, phoned me a couple of days before the Mar. 22 City Council meeting to tell me that Mayor Armacost has rejected the proclamation on grounds that the council last fall endorsed Native American day and plans in the near future to issue a proclamation thanking all the “volunteers” for the COVID-19 vaccination program.

Tim Wheeler/PW

In the March 22 ZOOM meeting of the City Council, Armacost made no mention of the proclamation. But a grateful city resident, read the entire one-page document aloud while Armacost listened in stony silence. Supporters of the tribe, that same day, and the previous Saturday, stood in a silent vigil holding signs that thanked the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe and denounced Armacost for refusing to approve the proclamation.

Armacost has gained nationwide notoriety as an open QAnon advocate calling the racist, anti-Semitic cult a “truth movement.” During a “Coffee with the Mayor” event last fall, he urged Sequim residents to listen to a QAnon video poisonous with lies that Democratic Party leaders are pedophiles and cannibals.

Then Sequim City Manager, Charlie Bush, sharply criticized Armacost for promoting QAnon while carrying out official duties. Armacost was forced to apologize. But he was so enraged at Bush that he spearheaded a drive supported by his three cronies, appointed—not elected—to the City Council, that resulted in Bush being forced to resign.

Now Armacost and his rightwing clique are scheming to ramrod the hiring of a new city manager before next November’s councilmanic elections. A broad movement has mobilized demanding that it is improper for the new city manager to be chosen by appointed, not elected council members.

Meanwhile, residents of Sequim, grateful that the tribe has saved an unknown number of lives from COVID-19, are still saying loudly: “Mayor Armacost, Say Four Words: Thank You, Jamestown Tribe!”


Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler has written over 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World, and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper.  His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view. After residing in Baltimore for many years, Tim now lives in Sequim, Wash.