Dick Gregory, 1932-2017. Photo: Stephen Melkisethian

Puyallup elder Nancy Shippentower pens tribute to the late warrior Dick Gregory

The late civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory was known for standing up to racism. But did you also know he was a friend to Indian Country on treaties, racist mascots and other issues? Gyasi Ross, the editor at large for Indian Country Media Network, shares a letter he received from Nancy Shippentower, an elder from the Puyallup Tribe who recalls Gregory's support for tribes during the treaty fishing wars in Washington:
I was in the mountains when i heard about Dick Gregory this morning, it was very sad news. I always hoped I could have went to see him. I was thinking about this this year.

Dick came into our lives when I was about 14 or 15. He did a comedy act on the waterfront at the Seattle Yachts Club and Ivar’s Chowderhouse. He was meeting with all our people and raising money for their bail or to buy boats and other necessary items to stay strong in our Indigenous rights and treaty rights.

Both Dick Gregory and Marlon Brando went to jail. Dick went to Thurston County and Marlon went to Pierce County. The difference was that Dick got sentenced to 6 months in jail and Marlon didn’t.

When he went to jail he went on a fast, and almost died. My mother Janet McCloud went with a bunch of her kids and teenagers and we set up a teepee and tents across from the jail on the Capitol grounds. They were asked why they were there and her reply was, ‘We will be here till Dick is released from jail.’

Read More on the Story:
Gyasi Ross: A Letter from a Native Elder Nancy Shippentower: Dick Gregory Was a Warrior Who Sacrificed Powerfully For Native People (Indian Country Media Network August 21, 2017)