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Friday, December 31, 2010

In the Garden of Intergenerational Love (for W)

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

My grandparents lived at the edge of town, in a wood frame house in the Sacramento valley that they had surrounded with flower and vegetable gardens, trellises, grape vines and cactuses that thrived in the California sun, a chicken coop in the back, where the rooster roamed.

They had planted fruit trees, apricot, peach, plum, walnut, almond, fig and olive, long before I was born and they all easily bore my weight and that of my brother, our cousins and friends, significant chunks of childhood spent up in those trees or throwing figs at each other, racing around the house and barn or into the fields across the street. I never acquired a taste for figs, but they made superb missiles, much better than the other fruits and vegetables near at hand, and the seasonal fig fights began as soon as they were large enough to throw, still green on the tree.

My grandparents grew corn, grapes, tomatoes, peppers and chilies, cucumbers, squash, beans and peas, all destined for the kitchen table, where my grandmother made fresh tortillas every morning, where a pot of beans was always steaming on the stove, never so warm as the love she gave us children, memories of my grandmother and her red and white checked tablecloth….

My father also kept a vegetable garden in our backyard, where he spent many an hour working his stress into the earth, a facet I did not understand until later, after he was gone, and I had become an adult working in my own garden, the soil absorbing my own stress, clearing my mind, building a life for my own young family, tomato plant by tomato plant.

My father suffered a series of heart attacks, two of them while working in his garden amid the corn stalks and jalapenos. There were tears in his eyes when he told me that he would no longer be able to work out there, his heart going bad in those days before bypass surgery was available, the technology that would have saved his life not quite invented yet, and he was gone in 1975 at a youthful 52 years of age, far too soon.

My grandmother passed in 1980 at the age of 80, at least 50 of those years spent in that house, in that kitchen, in the gardens. After the house was sold, the new owners allowed the property to sink into neglect, and within a couple of years the entire garden was dead, most of the trees cut down, a tragedy, an affront, a paradise lost.

When I work in my own garden, I think of my father and my grandmother mostly. I think about the life they built for me, the foundations they laid, the garden paths they designed. I understand how valuable gardening time was to my father, and I know that I honor him when I work out there. I speak to my father in my garden.

In the eight years that I have lived here in this house, I have put hundreds of plants into the ground, all with thoughts of my parents, my grandparents and my children, all with reflections on the past, the present, the future. Plants, you see, are often not just plants….

I put fruit trees into the earth, cherry, peach and apricot, in part to connect me to those California gardens I grew up in, but the climate in Portland does not favor these varieties, and after having only one good crop, I’ve taken out the peach and apricot. I'll replace the cherries this spring.

I planted an olive tree a few years ago. It’s about eight feet tall now, and I’m going to learn how to cure the olives pretty soon.

I have a remnant of my grandmother's garden, an old concrete birdbath on a pedestal, a frog figure on top, that part broken decades ago, standing in an honored place under my olive tree, shaded, protected, priceless....

I’ve planted strawberries, blueberries, cactus, bamboo, sage, all the common garden vegetables, potatoes to tomatoes, and built a greenhouse from recycled glass doors and windows and assorted found objects, painted up in many bright colors, a couple of murals on the fence.

I like to think that after I am gone, the garden will endure, will live on, that someone will work it, knowing the linkage and the history, that the connection between this garden and my father’s garden and my grandmother’s garden will be unbroken, a legacy of fruit and vegetables and the earth to be sure, but most importantly a legacy of love, of intergenerational love, born in a grandmother’s heart, and shared on a red and white checkered tablecloth.

Before my four children disappeared in 1996 in a Mormon kidnapping, I used to work my garden with my children, like my father before me.

My grandparents names were Victor and Dominga Cruz; my parents names were John and Olive Cruz; my children’s names Natalia, Aaron, Tyler, Allie…. Honor to you, love always….

I tend a garden of intergenerational love. Sometimes it tastes like cucumbers, sometimes like snow peas, today it tastes like unfrozen strawberries, Oregon strawberries from the east side of the house….

It always tastes of love….

Thursday, December 16, 2010

US to end holdout status on UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

"I want to be clear: what matters far more than words, what matters far more than any resolution or declaration, are actions to match those words," President Barack Obama said today, opening the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C.

President Obama stated that the US will sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, becoming the last major nation to support the nonbinding agreement, which was endorsed by 145 countries in 2007.

The United States, New Zealand, Australia and Canada were the lone “No” votes at the time.

While one could hardly have expected the Bush-Cheney regime to support any pesky UN document, binding or nonbinding, that would suggest there was a problem with the title to land stolen from indigenous people, the 2007 vote was a spectacular failure of the US federal government to match its “Champion of Human Rights” rhetoric with even symbolic action.

The key question will be, as President Obama noted, what actions will be taken to match the rhetoric.

This is a far more dicey proposition now than it was a year ago, with the rise of Tea Party nativism and Reaganistic fundamental selfishness, the election-surge of a House likely to be as hostile to Native people as the Andrew Jackson administration, and a nation still locked in the death-grip of the Bush—Cheney economic and foreign policy catastrophes.

Here is the link to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and below that, the Preamble to the original United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted unanimously on December 10, 1948, suggesting, I suppose, that it is better to be late than to never get there:

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People:

Link to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights:


“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

“Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

“Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

“Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

“Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

“Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

…and better late than never. –Sean Cruz

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

America under siege: the four directions

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

While the threat of economic collapse in developed nations looms on all sides in this second decade of the 21st Century, the United States faces certain threats from all four directions of the compass, each as distinct as the directions themselves.

From the East, there is the threat of random physical violence through terrorism and Islamic extremism, although distance and the Atlantic Ocean serves as a wide moat, channeling potential attacks into the skies through civilian air carriers, carried out by small groups or cells, or persons delivering a bomb alone. The economic cost of defending US air travel from our own citizenry due to a single underwear bomb ensures that someone somewhere is taking it to the next level, developing a suppository bomb, and you do not want to think about how the TSA will defend against that threat. Invest in latex gloves, a growth stock for sure, spectacular returns on the near horizon.

From the West, there is China, where the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean as a physical barrier is largely irrelevant in the global economy. This is nothing like Japan in the 1930s. The sheer size and entrepreneurship of the Chinese people, where the number of students studying English today is greater than the entire population of the United States, signals a day when its imperviousness to US “We’re Number One” braggadocio will become clear to even the diehard Cold Warriors still fighting the illusions described in Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book.

Our dependence on China to finance our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on credit is more than a double-edged sword held at our throat. The “full faith and credit” of the nation dictates that we will make good on the Bush-Cheney promises to pay principle and interest to China for generations to come; the wars are enormous sinkholes of money, military personnel and national morale that no amount of economic development can compensate for; and, the wars create motive and financing for continued attacks on the US from the East.

Some day, books will be written titled The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, with photographs of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on the cover.

From the North, the principle threat to the nation comes in the form of massive environmental destruction on a scale heretofore known only in China and in the Soviet destruction of the Aral Sea: the Alberta tar sands catastrophe.

Most Americans think of Canada with disinterest, as a benign neighbor, but the US-Canadian border is little more than a line drawn on a map, and we are in the same boat together when the large North American ecosystems are considered.

“It (the Alberta Tar Sands) is the most evil project on the face of the earth, and I want to do my part to stop it,” Winona LaDuke said recently, mincing no words in her description of the damage that the process of extracting oil from the Alberta tar sands inflicts on the land, the air, the water, the boreal forest, the wildlife and on the people who live in close proximity.

Our Canadian friends are willing to sacrifice vast expanses of Canada to feed our bottomless addiction for oil at any cost, and no other type of oil extraction is as costly or as dirty or as harmful as that which comes from tar sands. Americans largely measure their interest in energy by the price they pay at the pump, where periodic uproars generally die down when the cost of fuel drops a few cents a gallon.

We are linked to the Alberta tar sands also by pipelines that carry the oil wrung out of the earth.

There are battles currently underway to stop the construction of the1700-mile Keystone XL pipeline under the nation’s heartland all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and to stop the “heavy haul” shipments of mining extraction equipment across the Northwestern states. This equipment, it should be noted, is manufactured in Asia.

“In the upcoming months, more Native Nations, in Montana, the Dakotas, and Oklahoma, will be asked to open their right of ways to the pipeline…. Tar Sands are ecologically considered the most destructive projects on the earth. The impact is devastating in northern Alberta and to the Native nations. The pipelines will not only link our region to an unsustainable set of projects, but threaten the ground water in our region.”—Winona LaDuke

From the South, the threat comes through Mexico as much as it comes from Mexico, but it comes largely by way of invitation. It is a threat that we buy, that we invest in, that for some pays well.

As cash-strapped as most of us are in this economy, Americans still send billions of dollars of cash, bales and suitcases and truckloads of cash, across the southern border, and along with them rivers of American-manufactured guns and ammunition to fuel the violence that has killed more than 30,000 Mexican people in the last four years alone.

Author and poet Benjamin Alire Saenze wrote: “Wealthy people are welcome anywhere in the world. Borders exist to keep out the poor.”

This is the only direction where Americans use the word “invasion” to describe a threat to the nation. It is not an invasion of armies, however, but a migration of the poor, in large part driven out of their homes by desperation that can be traced to US foreign policy, corruption fueled by the drug trade, and the colonial practices of international corporations.

Among the guiltiest of parties to the violence are the gun dealers protected by US laws who supply the cartels with weapons and ammunition that no Mexican citizen can legally purchase or possess.


Author and poet Benjamin Alire Saenz spoke about violence and life along the US-Mexico border on PBS Newshour recently.

GWEN IFILL: Finally, another in our series on poets and poetry -- tonight, Benjamin Saenz. He lives on and writes about a part of the U.S.-Mexico border beset by violent crime in recent years. Saenz has authored numerous books of fiction and poetry. His latest collection is called "The Book of What Remains."

BENJAMIN ALIRE SAENZ, author, "The Book of What Remains":

“My name is Benjamin Alire Saenz. I live on the Juarez/El Paso border on the U.S. side. I'm a Latino writer, poet, artist, children's book writer.

“I really actually like to identify myself these days as a fronterizo, someone who lives on the border. This is the place that really defines me, because it is such a difficult terrain to negotiate, because there are no sense of certainties, the fixed ideas of one's identity, of one's natural boundaries, the way one uses words, that they come from all sides. And, sometimes, they come at you like bullets.

“It's not a comfortable place to live. And, if you want to be a writer, you don't want to live in a comfortable place.

"Meditation on Living in the Desert No. 11"

"I am looking at a book of photographs. The photographs document the exodus of Mexicans crossing the desert. I am staring at the face of a woman who is more a girl than a woman. She is handing her documents to a government official. I know and you know and we all know that the documents are forged. The official is not in the photograph, only the frightened eyes of the girl."

                                                              -- Benjamin Alire Saenz

“I think the reason I started writing these odes to Juarez is that I feel a profound connection to that city and to the people of Juarez. Juarez used to be a place where you could go and have a drink, meet people for dinner. It used to be a playground, if you will, of some sort, to become -- it's become this dangerous place, which is the opposite of a playground, really.

“Murder happens with impunity. There is no institutional system of justice that's working. And, to me, that is not only terrifying, but profoundly sad.

“So, some people leave. Some people have to stay. Some people still come back and forth. Some people try to live as normal a life -- most people try to live as normal a life as they can. Some people do move if they have the means.

“This is when borders do become fluid. Wealthy people can move anywhere they want. Wealthy people are welcome anywhere in the world, which then we have to say then borders are really to keep out the poor. “ –Benjamin Alire Saenz

"Ode to Juarez No. 5."

"This is where we live. The old man sits. There is nothing to do but remember. He is too old to work, too healthy to die, too rich to starve, too poor to leave the city. He hears a rumor. El Cartel de Sinaloa has defeated El Cartel de Juarez. If the war is over, then why is there still killing? We will be dead and buried before the killing stops. The killing will go on for an eternity, killing our new addiction, our new cocaine.

"People are leaving. The old man and his wife, Elena, will stay. This is where they were born, where they have always lived. The words they used to speak are disappearing. It hurts too much to talk. Sometimes, it hurts too much to breathe. Sometimes, it hurts too much to wake. There is no other place but here. There is no place to go. They have to stay and wait, but wait for what?"

                                                                       -- Benjamin Alire Saenz

Monday, December 13, 2010

American guns, Mexican violence

American guns, Mexican violence

“Federal authorities say more than 60,000 U.S. guns of all types have been recovered in Mexico in the past four years, helping fuel the violence that has contributed to 30,000 deaths.”

See this important story in the Washington Post:

By James V. Grimaldi and Sari Horwitz, Washington Post

No other state has produced more guns seized by police in the brutal Mexican drug wars than Texas. In the Lone Star State, no other city has more guns linked to Mexican crime scenes than Houston. And in the Texas oil town, no single independent dealer stands out more for selling guns traced from south of the border than Bill Carter.

Carter, 76, has operated four Carter's Country stores in the Houston metropolitan area over the past half-century. In the past two years, more than 115 guns from his stores have been seized by the police and military in Mexico.

As an unprecedented number of American guns flows to the murderous drug cartels across the border, the identities of U.S. dealers that sell guns seized at Mexican crime scenes remain confidential under a law passed by Congress in 2003.

A year-long investigation by The Washington Post has cracked that secrecy and uncovered the names of the top 12 U.S. dealers of guns traced to Mexico in the past two years.

Eight of the top 12 dealers are in Texas, three are in Arizona, and one is in California. In Texas, two of the four Houston area Carter's Country stores are on the list, along with four gun retailers in the Rio Grande Valley at the southern tip of the state. There are 3,800 gun retailers in Texas, 300 in Houston alone.

"One of the reasons that Houston is the number one source, you can go to a different gun store for a month and never hit the same gun store," said J. Dewey Webb, special agent in charge of the Houston field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "You can buy [a 9mm handgun] down along the border, but if you come to Houston, you can probably buy it cheaper because there's more dealers, there's more competition."

Link to full article

Monday, December 06, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz: Interlude 1: Quality Time

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Anyone with a large family would know how difficult it is to have quality time alone with each of your children separately, times when it is just the two of you and the time and experience together is genuinely “quality” time for everyone.

As a divorced single parent with two boys and two girls and an order for joint custody, time with my children was always at a premium, and how to satisfy each of their differing interests, wants and needs simultaneously always a balancing act as the months and years went by.

Aaron created a way for him and me to share some regular quality time together, and he made it happen on his own initiative during the year before he and my other children disappeared into Utah.

During the school year, the joint custody order stated that the children would reside with me immediately after school on Fridays and through the weekends at varying lengths.

Every Friday, after picking up my children, we would stop at a grocery store on the way home, so each of the kids could have input into what foods we would have for meals and snacks during our time together. The kids and I would negotiate our preferences as we walked through the store so that everyone left happy about something.

This is how grocery shopping became part of our quality time together as a family, except for my mom, who was housebound from her chronic illnesses. I was my mother’s sole caregiver in those days.

Aaron hungered for something more than food, however. He hungered for more time with me, just the two of us, and he developed a plan to carve that time out every Friday. I was skeptical at first, but he worked his plan to perfection.

He found out what each of his sisters and his brother wanted from the store, and he asked them for backups if their first choices weren’t available. Aaron put a lot of effort into his interviews with his siblings, because he wanted to eliminate each of their desires to go shopping with us, this week and every week.

These could be very complex arrangements, fascinating to listen to their negotiations, how they planned their snacks, with much bartering and swapping and sharing after the grocery run.

Under his system, Aaron and I would drop the other kids at home with my mother, where Natalia and Tyler would generally make a beeline for the video games and Allie would play with my mom’s dachshund Sox, and all of the kids together would provide love and companionship for their grandmother, and he and I would make our grocery run for my family, for our family. Everyone was content at the very same time.

Our last grocery run together was Saturday, February 10, 1996. Aaron, Natalia, Tyler and Allie disappeared two days later, on their way to the home of Mormon zealots Chris and Kory Wright in a remote area in the mountains east of Ogden, Utah, I would later learn. This was the first place that my children were concealed.

I think about Aaron every time I set foot in a grocery store, ever since those days we were together as a family.

I miss his companionship and how he would explain to me in exquisite detail what item was for which child as he placed things into our shopping cart.

I could enjoy this time with Aaron free of anxiety for the other kids and for my mom, because they were home together and they were all safe. I would hold off shopping for myself until Fridays, so I could go with Aaron. I also hungered for that time.

Aaron would distribute the snacks and treats to the other kids when we got back to the house, and there was never a disappointed word.

All was good under the sun, dependably good, every Friday afternoon, without fail. I still have the grocery receipts.

When I recovered Aaron from the abduction in 2003, he was too ill to go shopping, and then he was ordered to return to Utah for deployment to Iraq, and then he became more ill there in Payson, and then came his Last Days.

To this day, I never enter a grocery store without thinking of Aaron, without feeling his absence, without remembering that last day that my family was safe, together and at home.

And then the Mormons entered the picture, and with them an abduction and a program….

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz, pt 4: A terrible feeling...a note to mom....

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

I awoke that April morning with a terrible feeling, with a sense that something dreadful was taking place. I was worried about Aaron, who was living in his mother’s empty house in Payson, Utah. He hadn’t answered his cell phone in several days, which happened from time to time and always caused me worry, and I considered calling the Payson police department to ask them to do a welfare check on my son.

There was an unknown element of risk to Aaron in getting the Payson PD involved, however, as I had little confidence that they could check on a person in crisis and not make matters worse, one way or another. There was much history where they had gotten things wrong in the past, this small-town Mormon police department on the edge of the desert, a story for another day.

I decided to try to get help from the Veterans Administration instead of the police, and when I arrived at my desk in the Oregon Senate that morning, I called Jim Willis, Director of Oregon’s Department of Veteran Affairs and told him about my worries. Jim assured me that they could help, that they could contact the Utah VA, that the VA does welfare checks on veterans in all sorts of crisis circumstances and that they do so frequently.

I was far more comfortable with the notion that my son would get a surprise visit from soldiers than from armed Mormon police officers, the same ones who had targeted Aaron for arrest in the past, more stories for another day. Payson is a small town with an infamous, lurid history, scene of non-Mormon settlers massacred by Mormons, polygamous horror stories, child brides marrying middle-aged Mormon men in the shadow of a powerful church.

Aaron did not fit in here, nor did his circle of friends, all rebels against the Mormon order, rebels without plan or leadership and bereft of resources, the local throwaway kids, every single one, some dying young from suicide and/or drug overdose, all sharing the same bleak shrunken vision of their own potential.

The local police were notoriously hostile to these kids.

Like any other parent, I was in the habit of worrying about my children whenever they were out of my sight, which in this ninth year since their 1996 abduction meant that worry was my constant companion, present in every breath of air, in every pulse through my heart, but today the worry was very strong and it was difficult to concentrate on my work. We were deep into the 2005 legislative session, but my mind was in Utah.

My fears were confirmed the following morning, when I received a call from the Payson Police Department. A friend of Aaron’s had grown worried about him and broke into the house, where he found my son lying unconscious on the floor.

This officer speaking to me had answered the 911 call, had found Aaron comatose in his mother’s house and as we spoke my son was in an ambulance on its way to the emergency room.

The officer told me that Aaron was unresponsive. I understood what that meant. He said that Aaron had apparently been there alone for three days, had not answered the door or his phone, and one of his friends had broken in and called the police.

He told me that they were unable to locate my son’s mother, so they were calling me. He gave me the hospital’s phone number.

The first time I called the ER, Aaron was in the elevator on his way up to that floor, the nurse said, to ICU, and she asked me to call back in 15 minutes.

When we spoke again, Aaron was in ICU, hooked up to the machines, but remained unresponsive. She gave me no cause for optimism.

I was on a flight to Salt Lake City early the following morning, paid for with money I had to borrow from friends. I had spent out all of my savings, leveraged all of my resources keeping Aaron alive over the past two years, and was now down to living from paycheck to paycheck.

I spoke into my son’s ear when I arrived at his bedside in the intensive care unit, “Aaron, it’s your Dad. Your daddy’s here, son,” I told him again and again. I don’t know if there was enough life left in him to hear me, but I know that hearing is the last sense to go, and I spoke into his ear. “I’m here, son, your Dad’s here, I will not leave you….”

I stayed with him for the next five days, sleeping either in a chair in his room or on a couch down the hall. I didn’t check into a motel until after they pronounced my beautiful son dead. Although he was on life support and technically alive in ICU, his fingers were stiff and his flesh hard, and I held no illusions about how this nightmare would turn out.

Hospital personnel met with Aaron’s mother and I on April 25. Aaron’s heart was strong, but there was no brain activity and no hope, and we agreed to end life support. Aaron was an organ donor, so they would need him for a couple of more days while they figured out what parts they could use to give life to someone else.

I clipped a lock of hair from the back of his head then and said goodbye to my son.

I left the hospital to see the place where my son had died.

The house was on a residential street near the center of town. No one was there. I saw where the door had been broken, and I walked inside.

The house was smaller than I had expected, with just two bedrooms on the main floor. A third room in the basement had apparently been used as a bedroom by my sons, but it was not up to code, with no fire egress. The walls and ceiling down there were painted black. It would have been a horrible place to live as a child, as a teenager. It was like a dungeon, this place where my children had been forced to live. The toilet in the basement bathroom had turned completely black. I’ve never seen anything like it. It must have taken months to get like that.

The only furniture was a bed and a couch, just stuff his mother had abandoned when she eloped with her fifth husband and moved out to El Dorado Hills, California, leaving Aaron behind. Years later, I would learn that Ben and Gina Foulk own and operate a string of senior care homes there.

There wasn’t much food in the house, and little to suggest that it had been a home recently. Cardboard boxes were stacked here and there, car parts and tools, clothes.

Wherever Aaron’s body had been lying when he was found had been cleaned up. There were no prescription bottles anywhere. Aaron would have had dozens of empty RX bottles. He never threw them out. He was a chain smoker. All traces of smoking were gone, too. No alcohol present. I was sure that Aaron had run out of his anti-seizure meds, but his mother had gotten there ahead of me and tweaked the scene.

I found a note in there, however, two pages long, written in Aaron’s hand on a yellow pad, and it read:

“In my hour of need, NO your not there
and though I reached out for you
you wouldn’t lend a hand.

“Through my darkest hour, grace did not shine on me
it feels so cold, so very cold, No one cares for me!

“did you ever think that I get lonely, did you ever think that I needed love,
did you ever think to stop thinking you’re the only one that I’m thinking of.
You’ll never know how hard I tried to find a space to satisfy you too.

“Things will be better when I’m dead and gone.

“Don’t try to understand, knowing you, I’m probably wrong.

“But oh how I’ve lived my life for you, still you turned away.
Now as I die for you, my flesh still crawls as I breathe your name.

“All this time I thought I was wrong, now I know it was you.
Raise your head, raise your face, your eyes tell me who you think you are.

“I walk, I walk Alone into the promised land, there’s a better place for me,
but its far far away.

“Everlasting life for me in a perfect world, But I Gotta Die first!
So please God send me on my way!
Time has a way of taking time. Loneliness is not only felt by fools.

“Alone I call to ease the pain of yearning to be held by you.
Alone so Alone I’m lost consumed by the pain!
I begged, I begged won’t you hold me again? You just laughed
My whole life was work built on the past, the time has come when all things shall pass
This good thing passed away….

“Don’t remember where I was when I realized life was a game.
The more seriously I took things the harder the rules became.
I had no idea what it’d cost, my life past before my eyes.
I found out how little I accomplished all my plans denied.
So as you read this know my friends, I’d love to stay with you all
Please smile when you think of me, my body’s gone that’s all
If my heart were still alive, I know it would surely break.
And my memories left with you there’s nothing more to say.
Moving on is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard
You know the Dead feel no more pain,
And the living all are SCARRED!”

On a third page, Aaron wrote:

“I heard somebody fix today, there was no last goodbyes to say
His will to live ran out, I heard somebody turn to dust
Looking back at what I left, a list of plans and photographs
Songs that will never be sung these are the things I won’t get done
Just one shot to say goodbye, one last taste to mourn and cry
Scores and shoots
The lights go dim, just one shot to do him in.
He hangs his head and wonders why, why the monkey only lies
But pay the pauper, he did choose
He hung his head inside the noose

“Ive seen the man use the needle, seen the needle use the man
I’ve seen them crawl from the cradle to the coffin on their hands
They fight a war but its fatal, It’s so hard to understand
I’ve seen myself use the needle, seen the needle in my hand”

Aaron’s notes were undated and unaddressed. With all of the changes to the scene, it would have been impossible to tell whether he had committed suicide, suffered some kind of overdose, or died from complications related to his seizure disorder, or through some other chain of events. The toxicology report had indicated no illegal substances were in his system, but he had lain there alone comatose in his mother’s house for three days, time for some metabolization to take place.

Two days after the end of life support, Aaron’s mother told her story about the last time she had seen him alive, about how he was sick and feverish and she had left him alone with a sack of groceries in that deplorable, ugly house, with some Heavenly Father stories to keep him company. The following week, at his grave site, she spoke about how she didn’t think Aaron would live long enough to move to Hawaii, but reassured the gathering that she had made him aware that Heavenly Father loved him, and I am still reeling from these disclosures.

The medical examiner would be unable to determine a cause of death. His mother wanted no further inquiry, and she and her new deep-pocketed husband Ben Foulk hired a law firm to prevent my access to Aaron’s medical records.

Reading my son’s last writing is heartbreaking, and five and a half years have gone by since his death, time when I could not bring myself to write a word about this part of the story of my son’s last days.

Aaron and I were very much alike. These notes show that he had a talent for writing and a willingness to write about very personal issues, about pain itself, that he was unafraid to reveal himself in a world where many people live in closets.

His reference to scarring could have meant the physical scars on his arms, the self-inflicted knife wounds that he had carved into himself not long after he had been taken into concealment in Utah, but could also have referred to the emotional scars that he and his entire circle of friends shared, living their lives of rejection in that isolated Mormon enclave, or both. He could have become a writer.

Although his note was addressed to no one in particular, there are a lot of people who put Aaron in this place and kept him there. A well-understood principle of the consequences of a criminal act is that a person who commits that act is responsible for every harm subsequent to the original crime, which was the abduction of my four children and their forced immersion into Mormonism in Utah.

For that reason, I will name each of those persons known to have participated in the abduction, a continuing crime with permanent consequences. These names are all permanently attached to the cause of Aaron’s death:

Mormons with no relationship to my children by either blood or marriage: Chris and Kory Wright, Bishop David Holliday, Bishop Donald Taylor, and Relief Society President Evelyn Taylor.

Micheletti family members and relations: Gina and Ben Foulk, Tony and Connie Micheletti and Cindy Anderson, and former step dad #2 Steve Nielson, the man who slapped my children around in Payson, Utah.

Those that consider committing the crime of child abduction need to understand that the consequences of “taking, enticing, keeping or concealing” a child are permanent. If you join in the plan, you are responsible for all that follows, until the end of time.

If you plan to take a child from Oregon, Aaron’s Law is waiting for you now….

To be continued….

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jazz at the Native American Music Awards? Join the discussion!

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

My friend Marc Bowlegs Anderson, a jazz guitarist of Oklahoma Seminole descent, has instigated a spirited discussion regarding the absence of separate categories for jazz and classical recordings at the Native American Music Awards, now in its 12th year.

The Nammys currently place all jazz and classical nominees in a catch-all category labeled “instrumental,” although there are probably as many jazz and classical recordings with vocals as there are without.

The Nammys require a minimum of six nominations in each of the 28 categories that they currently recognize. They haven’t received the minimum six, they say, six this year, six last year and six next year to create the category.

Marc wrote to the Nammys: “The NAMMYS should take a proactive approach…and foster participation in jazz and classical music by offering these awards without regard to the number of entries in any year. This can only enhance the diversity and visibility of the NAMMYS and will certainly serve Native Classical and Jazz musicians well, thereby benefiting the entire Native American music community.”

The Nammys replied to Marc: “In our earlier years, we actually had a combined jazz/blues category. Over time, the jazz recording submissions vanished and were non-existent and thus gave way to a complete Blues category, as evidenced today. We are still attempting to hold on to the classical field through our Instrumental category.

"However, we continue to honor jazz and classical musicians with special awards as we have in the past with artists as Frederick Whiteface with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Jim Pepper - Hall of Fame, etc. and allow all jazz and classical artists to submit their recordings in whatever category they feel they are qualified to enter.

"We did not ask the Grammys to "break their rules", when we submitted the Native American music category proposal and sought their approval. In fact, we had to prove a marketplace existed five years prior and five years ahead showing hundreds of recordings each year in both the traditional and contemporary fields just to create ONE category for our genre. The same obviously does not apply to suggesting new categories in the Nammys, but to maintain our credibility among the mainstream music industry and media and keep the fairness among all competing categories - we require a minimum number of entries of six recordings for that year and continuous years just like any other national music awards show."

It’s a complicated subject. I intend to return to it several times over the coming months, any number of times going forward.

The argument is only in part about which should come first, the chicken or the egg, six entries each year for the foreseeable future or the category.

Music is often not easy to categorize or label, and that fact points to a separate but related issue, the arbitrariness of the nomenclature itself.

Coming off the stage after his set at the Isle of Wight music festival, Miles Davis was asked the name of whatever it was that his band had just performed. Miles said, “Call it anything,” and that’s how its labeled on the album.

There’s art, and then there are labels and categories.

Then there is the much larger issue of how Native American music and musicians are perceived and categorized by the recording industry and recognized by the Grammys, its annual self-promotional showcase. The Grammys bestows awards, prestige and other support to artists in 109 categories.

In each of the past 12 years the Nammys have demonstrated the broad diversity of Native American music, while in an entirely separate process the Grammys distills all of Native American music down to one performer per year, regardless of genre.

This discussion reaches to how Native American music is categorized and marketed in record store bins, often clustered with “World Music”, irony noted….

The six-entry rule bars recognition of a lot of Indian talent. Robbie Robertson is an easy example. Among his accomplishments are movie scores for “The Departed” and “Gangs of New York”. The music itself was not “Native”, but regardless, the Nammys are not likely to get six Best Score or Best Song Soundtrack for Motion Picture or Television any time soon. The only option was to award Robbie a Lifetime Achievement Nammy, which he earned for his time with The Band and Bob Dylan alone.

There should be a way to recognize the accomplishment for the accomplishment.

It’s not like there isn’t any Native American jazz or classical music close at hand….

Gabriel Ayala, the Yaqui guitarist, won the 2010 Best World Music Nammy with a recording of Spanish classical guitar music. Most record stores consider World music to be synonymous with indigenous music, not the Spanish classical canon.

On awards night, Gabriel performed a medley of Concierto de Aranjuez (as popularized by Miles Davis) and Chick Corea’s Spain, and that was jazz played on a classical guitar. Gabriel Ayala plays classical and jazz guitar on the same instrument, in the same performance.

His Nammy performance included this duet with Skylar Wolf. Feel free to put a label on it, to place it in a single category. Is it Indian music? Sure, but then what…?

Here are some thoughts going forward:

Muskokee Creek poet and musician Joy Harjo, last year’s Female Artist of the Year at the Nammys, has a new multimedia show titled “We were there when jazz was invented,” featuring her band, three Oklahoma stomp dancers and video.

The Nammies could make a powerful statement about Native Americans in jazz by featuring Joy Harjo’s program at the 2011 Nammys, I’m just saying….

And while we’re at it, let’s nominate Choctaw brother the late Don Cherry for the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame, to join his soul mate Jim Pepper there….

And then there’s the late Don Pullen, whose “Sacred Common Ground” with the Chief Cliff Singers (Kootenai) is just as astonishing a concept today as it was when recorded shortly before his death….

I’m just saying….

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oregon Indian wars to be continued? You can bet on it!

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Some sell snake oil, some sling the venom….

The two shiny-suited Lake Oswego hucksters fronting the recent attempt to build a foreign-owned private megacasino at the former greyhound track in Wood Village have announced that they—like the clap—will be back.

A 2-to-1 defeat at the polls would usually kill off most expensive, grandiose political schemes, particularly one as poorly thought out as the Measure 75 campaign was, but the Wood Village Casino zombie lives.

The promoters smell the sweet scent of hundreds of millions of dollars in the distance, even if nearly all of that fortune is money siphoned off from existing businesses and that comes at onerous social cost.

They are counting on a single element to work eventually in their favor: Indians. To be precise, they are counting on attitudes towards Indians and the threat of more Indians to motivate voters to choose to make the promoters rich.

The key lesson learned in the recent Measure 75 campaign was that no privately owned casino can possibly be built in Oregon without mustering up the votes to pass multiple constitutional amendments and to force other substantive changes in state law, although many voters probably misunderstood these prohibitive legal realities.

Since the Wood Village Casino complex creates nothing of new value to Oregon beyond the short-term construction jobs needed to build it, the promoters realize that they can make no compelling argument to persuade Oregon voters to grant them an exclusive license to enrich themselves on fiscal grounds alone.

As the M75 campaign demonstrated, their strategy in the future will be to mount an organized effort to dredge up anti-Indian resentments and to leverage that hostility into votes.

There is no other path to the place they want to lead Oregon.

The core of their business plan will continue to depend upon instigating and increasing hostile attitudes among the general public towards Oregon’s indigenous populations in general, against its nine Confederated Tribes in particular, and by conjuring up the threat that other Indians might build a casino north of the Columbia River in Southwest Washington.

This strategy is shamefully consistent with the history of the state.

The Oregon Territory was founded as a whites-only paradise. The Oregon Provisional Government authorized land claims to white settlers of 640 acres apiece for free, while early law and actual practice barred non-whites from land ownership and even from residing in the Territory.

The pioneers swarmed into Oregon and took all of the best, most productive land, destroying food sources that had sustained Native people for thousands of years in the process, introducing lethal new diseases and murdering any Indians who stood in the way.

Congress passed the Oregon Donation Land Act in 1850, offering free 160- and 320-acre tracts of land to white settlers only, years before the tribes were forced at gunpoint into treaties ceding the land. By the time the Act expired in 1855, white settlers had laid claim to 7,437 patents covering two and a half million acres of free land in Oregon.

These patents formed the foundation of many Oregon family fortunes, and the state’s founding fathers enshrined those racially discriminatory practices and attitudes in the Constitution itself.

Later generations passed the Dawes Allotment Act in 1887, the Surplus Land Act of 1901, and the Termination Act of 1954, all for the purpose of transferring Indian land and resources into white ownership. During this entire period, the federal government subjected Native American children to forced removal from their families and sent them to boarding schools en masse.

Extermination of the race was seen as a side benefit to these policies.

But reciting these facts merely annoys many people, nearly one third of the electorate in the last election cycle, as the M75 vote illustrates.

We can expect to see a lot of money spent on snake oil, on misinformation and on the usual mudslinging when the Wood Village Casino promoters ramp up their next campaign, but what will characterize their efforts more than any other single aspect will be the venom.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz, pt 3: Aaron's Law: A very personal piece of legislation

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

We were standing near the top of the hill, where my son’s gravesite lay waiting, that sunny day in May, at a place called El Dorado Hills, California.

I had never seen this place before. It was a field of strangers. No friends or family relations were buried here, the cemetery itself no more than 12 years old. There were no connections here, no family traditions, no history here, he was alone here. It was his mother’s choice to bury him here, to park his body here alone. My son was about to be parked here in this place.

I listened dumbfounded as my son’s mother continued her tearless matter-of-fact story, speaking about Aaron, about how he was sick back there in Payson, Utah, seriously ill; about how she had hoped he would agree to move to Hawaii and live with his sister, that maybe living in Hawaii would be good for his health; “But,” she said, “I didn’t think he was going to make it.”

She didn’t think he was going to make it? Did she just say that she didn’t think he would live? Yes! I was stunned and sickened. Again. Only a few days earlier, she had described the last time she had seen Aaron alive, about how he was sick and feverish and how she had left him alone with a sack of groceries and some Heavenly Father stories so she could join her new Mormon husband—the fifth time is the charm they say—who was waiting impatiently across town to get back to his dental practice in—El Dorado Hills!

So they had left Aaron alone, sick and feverish, that part was clear, and we were here in El Dorado Hills because it was convenient, because it was a good place to park, but most of all we were here because Aaron had died from lack of medical care….

My son’s mother plainfaced told the gathering on this grassy knoll that she did not think Aaron would live to board a flight to Hawaii, he was acutely ill, he was desperately ill. She thought he might die before he got out of Payson, Utah, where she had left him behind, and she was telling us all about it.

“I didn’t think he was going to make it”, she said, and what was not said was that she had made no effort at all to get my son medical care, not in Utah where she had left him behind, and not in El Dorado Hills, where she was busy with her new life now, in El Dorado Hills where there was no room for Aaron, not while he was alive, just this patch of hillside….

Aaron had needed hospitalization, urgently, and this was no secret, he had been ill for years, suffering there isolated in that rat hole in the Mormon desert, where they had drained the life out of him rather than let him be happy and free to be with me, to be himself, that’s the real Mormon way….

“I didn’t think he was going to make it”, she said, and then she assured us all that she had seen that Aaron knew all about Heavenly Father before he died, she had done her job you see, shedding no tears, she was devout, and that’s what counts….

Gina had told me that her new white-haired husband number five Ben Foulk had a dental practice but that he was mostly retired, that he had sung with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which must have made him a real catch in Mormon country I suppose, and that his ex-wife was putting a lot of pressure on his wallet, and this was the general impression I had at the time, which turned out to be only a partly true story….

I was angry with her, could not understand why her husband had taken no interest in his new wife’s son, in obvious critical need of medical care, didn’t this man have a medical degree?

She did not want to get her new husband upset over Aaron, she told me, speak-his-own-mind unMormon non-Mormon Aaron. She had told me in the hospital that Ben Foulk wouldn’t have understood Aaron, would have been impatient with his drug history and she did not want to upset the great man, former singer in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir….

This explained why Aaron had received no invitation to travel to El Dorado Hills.

Years later, a couple of years ago, I learned about the string of senior care centers that Ben and Gina Foulk own and operate, offering skilled medical care to those in their tender years….

El Dorado Hills Senior Care Village

Oak Haven Senior Care Village

Oak Creek Senior Care

Oak Grove Senior Care

Oak Hill Senior Care

Oak Ridge Senior Care

"Located in beautiful El Dorado Hills, California"

  • 24-Hour Responsive, Compassionate Care
  • Fresh Healthy Home Cooked Meals
  • Private Rooms with Private Bathrooms
  • Enjoyable Social and Recreational Activities
  • Music, Arts, Crafts,  and Games
  • Assistance with Bathing, & Personal Hygiene
  • Medication Management & Assistance
  • Manicured Landscaping with Paved Walkways
  • Scheduled Transportation to Appointments
  • Personal Housekeeping and Laundry Services
  • On-Site Salon Services

“Please take time to visit us and see for yourself why El Dorado Hills Senior Care Villageis considered one of the best resident care facilities for the elderly in the El Dorado Hills area,” so the brochure reads….

She had hoped that someone else would take care of Aaron, someone besides herself, had hoped he would just get on that plane to Hawaii and be his sister’s problem. That’s the way she was, our children having spent their entire lives making the world happy for their mother, no relief from that burden once they were taken into concealment in Utah, not then, not since, not now. They are locked into the Mormon world, keeping the world safe for Mom, fighting against evil non-Mormons….

Aaron Cruz suffered a seizure and died in Payson Utah after having run out of his prescription meds, his anti-seizure meds, alone in his mother’s left-behind empty house. He had also probably been unable to get to the methadone clinic a dozen miles away in Orem, adding to his suffering. His mother grabbed all of Aaron’s medical records, where they remain concealed behind a wall of Foulk lawyers.

I was back at my desk in the Oregon Senate Monday morning following the burial, where I led the workgroup on Senator Gordly’s landmark child abduction bill, SB 1041.

Senate Bill 1041 had its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 25, National Missing Children’s Day, where I testified on the abduction of my children and the death of my son.

Senate Bill 1041, creating a new path to prevent and resolve child abductions through a civil process outside of both the family law and criminal law systems that routinely fail to protect children from non-stranger abductions, would require ten major rewrites and would benefit from the near-record length of the 2005 legislative session, would need every hour of that time. No other state in the US has a law like this….

On August 1, 2005, the Oregon Senate passed SB 1041 on a 26-3 vote, the same day that I received the Utah Medical Examiner’s report on Aaron’s death, from “undetermined” causes. It was waiting in the mail for me when I got home that night. The report identified my son as “white.” That would need correction.

Passing the Senate was an important step but we were only just arriving at the legislative halfway point, and it had taken months to get here. SB 1041 would yet have to get through the entire House process, and the end of the 2005 session could come at any time. We were entering the session’s final week. There were only a handful of bills still alive in the building, and I held no realistic hope that the bill would see the House floor this biennium.

The following evening, however, as Senator Gordly and I prepared to leave the building, we received a call from staff that the House State and Federal Affairs Committee would hear SB 1041 in just 15 minutes. Another two minutes and we would have missed the call and the hearing. We put our briefcases down and walked across the Capitol building to testify.

Representative Linda Flores, a member of the HSFA Committee, took a particular interest in the bill as the hearing unfolded, disclosing that her grandchild had disappeared into Mexico in a parental abduction and had been missing for a year. Her support was crucial, and the bill was voted out of Committee with a “do pass” recommendation.

After the hearing, we first started referring to SB 1041 as Aaron’s Law. It was a very personal piece of legislation. But the session was coming to an end and time had run out….

The next morning, on August 3, in a stunning surprise, Senator Gordly and I arrived at the Capitol to learn that SB 1041 was scheduled for the House floor. Carried by Representative Flores, the Oregon House passed SB 1041, now called “Aaron’s Law”, named for my son Aaron Cruz, on a dramatic unanimous end-of session vote, 59-0 with one member absent.

I stood in the side aisle and received the congratulations of many of the House members. It was a good day for justice, for children at risk of parental and family abduction, although the legislation did not cover children who had already been kidnapped, like my own.

The legislature adjourned the following day.

To be continued….


Sean Cruz led the workgroup on Oregon’s landmark anti-kidnapping statute Senate Bill 1041 “Aaron’s Law”, named for his late son Aaron Cruz.

The provisions of the bill resulted in large part from the multiple failures of both the family law and criminal law systems in the wake of the abduction of his four children.

With Aaron’s Law, Oregon is the only state in the nation where abducting a child creates a civil cause of action.

Under Aaron’s Law, any victim can hold his or her abductor(s) accountable in civil court, including those who provided logistical, financial or planning support to the abduction or who otherwise participated materially in the crime, “enticing, taking or keeping” a child in violation of felony Custodial Interference I.

The civil process requires proof “by a preponderance of the evidence” instead of the much stricter “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement for conviction in criminal court.

Local law enforcement agencies rarely invest the time and resources required to reach the higher evidentiary standard in parental and family abduction cases, and there the investigations usually end, opening the door for the kidnappings to take place, for the actors to escape justice.

This fact applies in every state in the US, where each year more than 12,000 parental and family abductions lasting longer than six months take place, with lifelong consequences for all of the victims.

The system itself enables the abductions.

Aaron’s Law anticipates that defendants will lawyer up and that their lawyers will use every legal means to protect their clients, to buy time, to keep justice at bay for as long as the system permits, which is indefinitely, as the Kyron Hormankidnapping currently getting some national attention demonstrates fairly conclusively.

I had to fight against a dozen lawyers in three states, mostly representing myself, year after year, losing every time, as the lawyers won delay after delay, buying long stretches of time for my children’s abductors, despite an Order for Joint Custody that had been in effect for five years at the time my children vanished.

Aaron’s Law provides for the appointment of mental health and legal professionals to protect the abducted child and authorizes the judge to assign the costs to the party or parties who are the cause of the problem.

Aaron’s Law takes the additional step of authorizing the judge to order the parties into counseling sessions directed at educating the parties to the harm that their
conduct is causing the children, at their own expense.

These provisions are designed to address the real-life consequences of parental and family abductions and to deter the parties from carrying out the kidnapping in the first place.

Had Aaron’s Law been on the books in 1995, the Cruz family abduction would not have taken place and Aaron would be alive today. The Mormon non-family members, the Mormon Bishops and other officials who participated in the abduction would not have risked the consequences of Aaron’s Law.

Chris and Kory Wright, Bishop David Holliday, Bishop Donald Taylor and Relief Society President Evelyn Taylor would have all been subject to Aaron’s Law, all ordered financially liable for the damages, all subjected to the public humiliation of counseling directed at educating them to the harm their Mormon absolutism was causing my children and my family.

Aaron’s Law would have been a significant deterrent.

Once the Cruz kidnapping had begun, however, there was no way for them to end it without consequence, and my children’s conversion to Mormonism became their most important line of defense. I would never see my children again except under circumstances under Mormon control. They would never leave Utah except under Mormon supervision.

Aaron was too independent-minded to buy into their force-fed Mormonism, too much like his father, and they made him pay for that in Utah, where his despair became so complete that he began slicing up his arms with a knife at the age of fifteen.

Sean hopes to see the provisions of Aaron’s Law applied nationwide, that it might help reduce the number of parental and family abductions from its rate of more than 200,000 child victims a year to zero. More than 12,000 of those abductions last longer than six months, with lifelong consequences for all of the victims.

He also believes that Aaron’s Law provides the legal means for victims of child sex trafficking to hold their pimps and other abusers financially accountable for their crimes, having violated the Custodial Interference I statute.

No information about Senate Bill 1041 currently appears on the Oregon State Police Missing Children Clearinghouse website, five years after its passage.

There is much work yet to be done on this issue.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oregon's Museum of Missing Children and the child sex trade

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

You are probably not aware that the Oregon State Police maintains a Museum of Missing Children.

Created in 1989, it maintains such a low profile that I did not learn it existed until the summer of 2004, eight long years after my four children had disappeared from Oregon, on their way to concealment in a series of remote Mormon enclaves in Utah.

I discovered the OSP Missing Children Clearinghouse website while preparing my testimony for the Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, which held four meetings that year.

It was a shocking discovery, my first clue to the fact that no Oregon law enforcement agency maintains a list of missing or abducted children, not then and not now (see “Abducted child vs stolen car: A problem of priorities” for further discussion).

One would think that the OSP Missing Children Clearinghouse would have such a list, collected from and shared with local law enforcement agencies throughout the state, but that is far from the case.

The site contains a scant 41 names. Some have been missing for decades. The only name added in the past three years is Kyron Horman, last seen in the company of his stepmom, Terri Horman, in June.

Yet Portland has been making the national news recently for its prominence in the child sex trade trafficking business.

In September, Sharyn Alfonsi reported on ABC World News:

“Though Portland, Oregon is considered one of the most livable cities in the U.S., it also has a reputation as the national hub for child sex trafficking.

“In today's Conversation, ABC's Diane Sawyer and Sharyn Alfonsi talked about Alfonsi's trip to Portland and why middle-class children are getting recruited in a city with the largest legal commercial sex trade (per capita) in the U.S.

“Alfonsi visited the 82nd Avenue strip, also known as "The Track," where there are more than 100 massage parlors and strip clubs. She interviewed child victims their parents and even the pimps.”

These reports are clearly at odds with the OSP list. It is not known what set of circumstances would cause a missing or abducted child’s name to appear on the OSP website, but it would begin with a report from local law enforcement.

Most of the photographs of the 41 missing children on the OSP website appear to be school pictures, and there is a nostalgic sense of looking at old yearbooks, at moments frozen in time, as one gazes at these faces, all but one, Kyron Horman, completely forgotten by all but the once-child’s surviving family members.

There is no cold case squad for missing or abducted children; for most, there isn’t even a warm case squad. If they are still alive, most of these faces belong to adults now, and one can be sure that law enforcement isn’t looking for children-now-adults.

These are photos for a museum, with little effective purpose other than to underscore the fact that abductions are forever, that these are continuing crimes, crimes without end, regardless of the ages of the victims.

To be sure, the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse suffers from inadequate funding, a condition made permanent by the voters themselves when they amended the Constitution in the 1980’s to shift funding from the State Highway Fund to the General Fund, and then made a habit of continually underfunding the agency, biennium after biennium.

Efforts to recover Oregon’s missing and abducted children and to make a dent in the child sex trade that is currently flourishing here are surely hampered by the failure to prioritize the children, a fault shared by state and local law enforcement agencies and by successive legislatures.

The most recent OSP Annual Performance Progress Report posted on the agency website makes no mention of missing children, nor does its proposed Key Performance Measures for the 2009-2011 biennium.

The OSP and the Department of Justice assured the Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions in 2004 that they would implement a rule requiring that all Oregon local law enforcement agencies report all cases of missing or abducted children to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, because they were not doing so on their own.

They never implemented the rule, making this a good time to remind the Oregon legislature and law enforcement agencies around the state, as they plan for the coming 2011 budgeting bloodbath, of the mission of the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse:

“The mission of the Missing Children Clearinghouse is to receive and distribute information on missing children to local law enforcement agencies, school districts, state and federal agencies, and the public.  In 1989,the Oregon legislature mandated that OSP establish and maintain a missing children clearinghouse.

“The goal of the Missing Children Clearinghouse is to streamline the system, serving child victims and their families by providing assistance to law enforcement agencies and the public.”

Lest they continue to be forgotten, the names of Oregon’s 41 missing children:

The earliest name on the list is Brian page, missing since 1975

Christi Farni and Edward Nye comprise the Class of 1978

Jerry Johnson has been missing since 1982.

Joan Hall vanished in 1983

William Gunn disappeared in 1984

Jeremy Bright and Duane Fochtman have been missing since 1986

Walter Ackerson, Kacey Perry and Rachanda Pickle, Class of 1990

Thomas Gibson made the list in 1991

Ashlyn Wilson vanished in 1995

Annalycia Cruz was an infant weighing 14 pounds when she disappeared in 1996

Aryssa Torabi and Derrick Engebretson, Class of 1998

Five children disappeared in 2001: Shausha Henson, Yuliana Escudero, Kami Vollendroff, Eugene Hyatt and Shaina Kirkpatrick

Carlos Cortez-Leon vanished in 2002

Five more children disappeared in 2004: Karla Coronado, Miriam Cruz-Torres, Schnee Bedford, and siblings Takoda and Tiana Weed

Narcisa Bernadino has been missing since 2005

Five children made the list in 2006: Samuel Boehlke, Nieves Izquierdo-Olea, Esmerelda Salazar-Penaloza, Luis Adrian-Olea, and Yeni Fuentes-Garcia

Seven children vanished in 2007: Jesus Marina-Mendoza, Keely Gigoux, Maria Hidalgo, sisters Savanah and Sierra Ontiveros, Jamie Wiedeman and Jacob Thorpe

According to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, no Oregon children were reported missing in 2008, 2009 or 2010, until Kyron Horman was abducted in June 2010.

Tell that to Diane Sawyer and Sharyn Alfonsi….


Sean Cruz led the workgroup on Oregon’s landmark anti-kidnapping statute Senate Bill 1041 “Aaron’s Law”, named for his late son Aaron Cruz. The provisions of the bill resulted in large part from the multiple failures of both the family law and criminal law systems in the wake of the abduction of his four children.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Avel Gordly and passed on a dramatic end-of-session unanimous House vote in 2005.

With Aaron’s Law, Oregon is the only state in the nation where abducting a child creates a civil cause of action.

Under Aaron’s Law, any victim can hold his or her abductor(s) financially accountable in civil court, including those who provided logistical, financial or planning support to the abductor(s) or who otherwise participated materially in the crime.

Sean hopes to see the provisions of Aaron’s Law applied nationwide and reduce the number of parental and family abductions from its rate of more than 200,000 child victims a year to zero.

He also believes that Aaron’s Law provides the legal means for victims of child sex trafficking to hold their pimps and other abusers financially accountable for their crimes, having violated the Custodial Interference I statute.

No information about Senate Bill 1041 appears on the OSP website.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

On election to the Oregon Native American Chamber Board

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Members of the Oregon Native American Chamber recently elected me to its nine-member Board of Directors.

I am thrilled and honored to have this opportunity to make a contribution to ONAC’s mission and to the People the organization serves.

I am grateful for the friendship and support that ONAC members and friends of ONAC contributed to our work to establish the Jim Pepper Chair, the Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarship Fund and the Jim Pepper Arts Festival at Portland State University. Their support was vital to our success.

I look forward to working alongside my fellow ONAC Board members on issues of significance to Native American populations statewide and throughout the NW region.

The Portland Metro Area is home to the ninth largest Native American population in the USA, with more than 380 tribes identified in the urban area alone.

ONAC’s mission is:

“We are dedicated to working with all members of the community to advance the educational and economic opportunities for Native Americans in Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

ONAC promotes and supports:

“The education, training and cultural understanding of Native Americans, ONAC members and ONAC partners through access to economic development programs, services and resources.

“The development, growth and advancement of Native American businesses, professionals and students in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

“Networking to increase business opportunities among Native American businesses, professionals, ONAC members and ONAC partners, thereby strengthening and growing economic opportunity for all communities in Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

I want to invite you to become a member of ONAC. You can thank me later. Find out more here:

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Abducted child vs stolen car: A problem of priorities

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

“Guns drawn, everyone out and down on the ground!”

That’s how the officer described what would happen if the police encountered whoever was driving my freshly-stolen car, just last week.

He wanted me to know this because, although finding the car myself would be extremely unlikely, it does happen, and if I did happen to find it, I should report that fact before driving it anywhere, because I could also find myself facing an abrupt out-of-the-car-and-down-on-the-ground-at-gunpoint situation, and however unlikely that might be, it would be good advice to keep in mind.

Less than two hours after I had reported it stolen, information about my recently-departed red Subaru was already in the Law Enforcement Database and police agencies had been alerted from the Canadian border down to Mexico, and from the Oregon coast eastward to the Mississippi River.

As I listened to the officer, I reflected back nearly fifteen years ago, when I had reported the disappearance of my four children to local law enforcement, taken in what I would learn was a Mormon abduction as much as it was a parental and family abduction, and how differently law enforcement handled the case.

The bottom-line point I want to make here is that while Oregon law enforcement agencies maintain and share lists of stolen vehicles, there is no comparable list of abducted children anywhere throughout the state.

This dichotomy exposes one of the major gaps that abducted children fall through, particularly if the suspected kidnapper is a parent or family member.

The structural problem lies in the fact that local law enforcement agencies handle each case of abducted or missing children in their own way, with little or no sharing of information with other agencies or with the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse.

The OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse has added only one new name to its short list in the past three years.

The Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions became aware of the problem in 2004 and considered legislation to correct it, but was dissuaded as reported to the Senate President:

“The Task Force considered legislation that would have required that all local law enforcement agencies report missing children to the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse.

“However, after the State Police and the Department of Justice met and discussed the issue, they determined that the State Police could obtain this information by an administrative process that will automatically notify the Missing Children’s Clearinghouse of all reports of missing children made by state, county and local law enforcement agencies. Consequently, the Task Force decided that this legislation is not needed.” –Final Report, Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, 2004.

It is important to understand what is being stated here:

1. The Task Force wanted to require that all Oregon local law enforcement agencies report all cases of missing or abducted children to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, because they were not doing so on their own.

2. The OSP stated that they could get the information from local law enforcement by administrative rule, convincing the Task Force not to press legislation.

3. The OSP never implemented the rule, which would have created a list of all cases of abducted or missing children reported in Oregon.

The Task Force determined that Oregon has its per capita share of the more than 200,000 cases of parental and family abductions that take place in the USA each year, yet the Oregon State Police has added only one name, that of Kyron Horman, to its Missing Children’s Clearinghouse list in the past three years.

A few months ago, a father from southern Oregon whose 3-year-old daughter went missing with the child’s mother in July contacted me. Local law enforcement had told him that his missing child did not “meet the criteria” for any actual action by law enforcement, including adding his missing child to the State Police list of missing Oregon children, or notifying law enforcement in other jurisdictions of the missing child…and yet there was a child missing….

The phrase “does not meet the criteria” struck me when I took the call, because I was already planning to write about the subject, which came up during a press conference on the Kyron Horman abduction on July 23, when Sheriff Dan Staton
responded to a series of questions, including this one:

Q: How many other children are considered missing/endangered in Multnomah County at this time, aside from Kyron? 

There are no other cases that meet this criteria,” he said.

“This criteria” may have included the fact that one of Kyron’s close family members is a police detective, giving the family instant credibility with law enforcement.

Coupled with the fact that Kyron’s disappearance was originally thought to be a stranger abduction (since no one else was missing), the family’s call to 911 quickly led to the largest search for a missing child in the history of the state.

The OSP could hardly ignore that.

The Oregon State Police Missing Children Clearinghouse maintains a list of abducted or otherwise missing children, which stands currently at 41 children.

More than half of these children have been missing for decades, and the only child that has “met the criteria” to make the OSP list in the past three years is Kyron Horman….

The US Department of Justice has reported no decrease in the number of abducted children, tallied at more than 200,000 annually for more than a dozen years, signaling that not enough is being done to address the problem.

People abduct their own children or other family members in large part because they are likely to get away with it, to suffer no consequences for their part in the crime, partially explaining why the number is so high.

The failure of law enforcement to utilize the same technological resources that enable them to instantly notify agencies across every jurisdictional level or locale about my stolen Subaru, to reach the same agencies with reports of abducted or missing children is difficult enough to understand.

The Task Force report documents the fact that OSP and the Department of Justice became aware of both the problem and the solution through the course of the Task Force’s work, and yet have done nothing to correct it.

We all live complicated lives. Imagine for a moment how complicated your life would be if your child was abducted, and you found out that your child’s’ name wasn’t on the list, because there was no list.

It is not a question of knowledge or awareness; the Task Force report and the OSP’s addition of just a single name in the past three years indicates that this is a problem of policy, a problem of priorities, a matter of choosing to value stolen property over stolen lives.

--Sean Cruz, November 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Celilo Falls: Time to start the clock ticking, time to light the fire....

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

We live with the consequences of many disastrous public policy decisions, arguably none more plainly evident than the flooding of Celilo Falls, radioactive sites aside….

The flooding of Celilo Falls is the American equivalent of the Soviet decision to drain the Aral Sea, taken in the same era, the wrong people in charge, all thinking in the very same way….

This US Army Corp of Engineers movie was shot in 1956, one year before a confluence of short-sighted idiots at the state, local and federal levels deliberately destroyed all that you see here:

The Army film documents the fact that there was no shortage of information available to the decision-makers. They knew what they were about….

Another video, “See Through the Water”, tells the Celilo story in the words of the Celilo people themselves:

The rock structure of Celilo Falls lies intact below the surface of the pond that now covers this place.

Someday, a study will be taken, weighing the costs and benefits of reclaiming Celilo Falls and all that it stands for, versus the costs and benefits of maintaining the dam at The Dalles, and a decision will be made in favor of Celilo Falls and the salmon, someday….

It is only a matter of time until we get to that place, as these two videos make plain. There are costs and benefits either way. It’s time to do the math.

No reasonable person living today would consider building a dam to flood Celilo Falls. The notion, just like draining the Aral Sea, would be unthinkable….

There is a way to engineer getting the occasional barge up and down the river, and a way to generate power and a way to bring Celilo Falls back to life as surely as there is a way for a man to walk on the Moon….

Were it not for the terrible decisions of a previous generation, were Celilo Falls flowing today, this place would be regarded as one of the world’s greatest heritage sites, and every effort would be made to preserve the Falls and the cultures it sustained forever, to the last human breath, we would all stand together….

It is time to start the Celilo Falls clock ticking, time to do the math, time to stand vigil for the day that the waters roar and the earth shakes anew….

It is time to light the fire that will still be burning when Celilo Falls reappears, when the salmon leap and all the world celebrates, it is time to light the fire….

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On the M 75 Wood Village Casino: Who will carry The Monkey?

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Who will carry The Monkey?

Beyond the Good For Oregon rhetoric, the budget numbers claimed, the short-sighted appeal for construction jobs, the multiple constitutional law and legislative issues, the anti-Indian sentiments, the Tea Party fundamentalism, beyond the Disneyland-of-the-North picture that the Wood Village casino promoters are attempting to draw, is the question of who will carry The Monkey….

Who will carry The Monkey?

The project is being designed to function as a gigantic cradle-to-grave honey trap, where every activity on the premises is “fun”, and stepping into the Wood Village Casino becomes a rite of passage for every child upon reaching legal age, the last stop in the Rossman-Studer Continuum of Fun, where every child will someday meet The Monkey….

The business case that Matthew Rossman and Bruce Studer are promoting on behalf of their foreign investors is based on their assertions that the Wood Village Casino complex will increase local spending on gambling.

The complex is in fact expressly designed to encourage that behavior over the next several generations, hence the Tot’s Pool, the Children’s Wave Pool, and the Kids’ Fountain Pool, built close by where The Monkey lives….

They see a lot of future Casino customers swooshing down those water slides, enjoying all of that "fun family entertainment" throughout their childhood and adolescent years, so the pro forma proclaims, a Place Where One Step Leads to Another….

These two shiny-suited part-lawyers/part-carnival barkers imagine a bright future for Oregon.

They want to create an environment where casino gambling is as familiar, as close-at-hand to Oregon children, as is any other form of public entertainment.

The Rossman-Studer plan under Measure 75 amounts to an exclusive 30-year run at every family in the Portland Metro Area.

The 2010 Oregon General Election Voters Pamphlet is out now, signaling that the ballots will soon be in the mail.

Among the several Arguments in Favor published in the pamphlet, eight are signed by Rossman and Studer alone. They are hoping to pick up votes from some who might not notice the overselling.

To their everlasting shame, a couple of trade unions have submitted statements in favor of passage, but their interest does not extend beyond jobs for their own membership, even though some percentage of those union families too will become Monkey-bearers.

The Canadian firm bankrolling the Wood Village Casino is putting $ 250 million into the deal, and they are planning to get that back and more by stimulating “increased spending on local gambling.”

Long term, they've got their eyes on your children and on your child’s children, and it is them who will one day carry The Monkey, The Monkey on their backs that will make two Lake Oswego lawyers and their foreign investors rich beyond rich.

Vote NO on Measure 75.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chris Dudley's assault on Oregon's minimum wage

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Chris Dudley's campaign continues to promote a "training wage", which is an assault on Oregon’s minimum wage, while claiming that Dudley didn’t really mean it when he said that Oregon’s waitresses and other tip-earners are making too much money.

To Chris Dudley, a "training wage" is a new idea, but this issue has been fought over in the legislature for years, supported by the same Republicans who want to cut Oregon's minimum wage.

If he had been paying any attention at all to Oregon affairs, Dudley would know something about the history of the ongoing battle over Oregon's minimum wage, and the mess he stepped into when he brought the subject of a "training wage" and what he believes are Oregon’s overpaid waitresses into the discussion.

The same people, the same organizations, which have fought to cut Oregon's minimum wage over the years are bankrolling Dudley's campaign, and they are counting on their boy to come through for them. A “training wage” is their best shot at rolling back Oregon’s minimum wage, and they have been putting money into that battle for years.

Governor Ted Kulongoski and Governor John Kitzhaber have both been stalwart defenders of Oregon's minimum wage throughout their terms in office.

Every family with a minimum-wage earner or a student entering the workforce has a direct economic interest in the outcome of the race for Oregon Governor.

Chris Dudley's supporters are looking to recoup their investment by taking dollars out of your wallets. No one else stands to gain from a “training wage” exception to Oregon’s minimum wage standards.

Every working family in the state should stand behind John Kitzhaber for Governor in this election.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Looking at the numbers: Analyzing Chris Dudley's Point/Budget Ratio

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Oregon GOP candidate for Governor Chris Dudley has articulated several different long lists of things he would like to do if elected, all of which cost money, which means that numbers are important in this election. A simple Point/Budget Ratio analysis can provide valuable insights into the numbers.

As a public service, recognizing that it can be difficult for the average voter to ascertain what the numbers mean, here are the lists, along with the budget information the Dudley campaign has provided to show how each item would be paid for, and a 2-step process for analyzing Chris Dudley’s Point/Budget Ratio:

18-Point Plan called “Education for our Economic Future”

20-Point ”Plan to Create Private Sector Jobs and Stimulate the Economy”

26-Point “Plan to Control Spending and Reform Government”

67-Point “Plan to Make Everything All Better in Oregon’s Corrections System”

= 131 Total Points

Two-Step Point/Budget Ratio analysis:

1. Total points = 131
2. Total budget information provided = Zero

Chris Dudley’s Point-Budget Ratio is therefore 131/0.

I hope this information is helpful for the Undecided in this race.