john T. Williams & Restorative Justice

John T. Williams mural – info

Four years ago – Aug 30, 2010 a Ditidaht Deaf totem carver, John T. Williams, was gunned down on the sidewalk of a Seattle Street.  When i first learned about the case in Dec of 2010 it broke my heart – see the entry Being Deaf is Deadly???

(more info from 2010 – vlog about the inquest –  Back in 2010 i was still a member of the NAD and was urging them to write a letter of outrage about this shooting that was clearly based on racism and audism and they asked me to draft a letter so i did and they tweaked it and sent to the Seattle Police Dept – you can see the letter at: and an entry about the family winning a $1.5 million dollar civil law suit

Photo of Eric, John T., and Rick Williams taken a few hours before John T was killed. Photo from Indian Country article

last year i stumbled upon a short youtube video showing a huge crowd carrying a gigantic totem carved in John T. Williams honor through the streets of Seattle to be erected in a public park for posterity and it gave me joy and a while after me dearest friend of mine sent me a link to a documentary about the making of the honor totem and each time i watch the film i cry

It’s captioned and worth every minute of your time to watch it folks

and yesterday another dear friend sent me a link to an article about restorative justice work and john t. williams

totem pix by joshua trujillo960x540
crowd carrying John T. Williams’ honor totem to site (photo by Joshua Trujillo from

I very much appreciate this article because during all the sadness and anguish over the recent killing of Black men by the hands of our police – i have been wondering why the media has made no mention of John T. Williams murder.  Im glad this article reminds us of John’s death due to police intentional or unintentionally having biases, stereotypes, profiling, and prejudices. Also the article is one of the few that mention that John T was partially Deaf.  it does not mention that audism played a hand in the killing of john T williams but it surely did.  The rookie cop who later resigned from the force after DAs office decided not to prosecute had called out to John T. Williams from behind to drop the small carving knife.  John may have heard but most likely didnt understand and then BAM BAM BAM BAM John is no more.  All the cop could say in his defense when all the other cops arrived was “i told him to drop the knife” he says it repeatedly.  He shot John because he didnt do what he was told immediately.  How many Deaf folks have been yelled at, misunderstood, given dirty looks, smacked, spat at, kicked, hurt etc for not having understood and followed orders that they didnt even know were said to them?  Ah everybodies hands are up.
Now John T being Deaf is not why the cop pulled over at the intersection and chased after John.  Nope – he did that because John was a person of color – a Native American walking peacefully across a city street carrying a small totem and a wee carving knife.  RACE was the motive to hunt him down.  John was not a threat to anyone – folks and cars are going by him with no worry.  Would the cop have shot John T. Williams dead if he had fully heard, understood, and dropped the knife?  Maybe – we have seen what cops have done to Black men in St. Louis, Staten Island, and other places.  The fact that the cop uses John’s non-response to his command as his reason to repeatedly shoot him in just a few seconds after calling out to him to drop the knife –  indicates that racism and audism are REAL and they are deadly.  Especially when combined.  In Rochester, NY – a city that is hailed as being Deaf-Friendly – on two separate occasions two African-American Deaf men were shot dead by cops for simply not stopping when they told them to stop and put up their hands.  It is very unlikely they would be dead if they were White.  If they were Hearing Black men – they may still have faced the treat of being killed.

i totally thank Rick Williams for being such a good soul and thank all the good folks who know i was studying up on that case and mourning it for a million moons and these wee things coming in are a balm and a hope.  it dont bring John T. Williams back or Eric Garner back or Michael Brown  back or Tamir Rice back.  Hopefully it will go a long way in making sure police officers be peace officers.

More info on the honor and companion totems here

image frome
image frome

Figures in the John T. Williams Honor Totem: (from

• Top: Eagle. “The Eagle flies the highest and sees the farthest, so he takes the perch at the top of the pole.”

• Middle: Master Carver. “This is a Williams family symbol handed down through seven generations of woodcarvers. This master carver is John T. Williams displaying his own signature totem, which features the Kingfisher and the Salmon. This carving, at the age of 15, made John a master carver in the Ditidaht First Nation, in British Columbia.” According to the interpretive display, John T. Williams’s works, and other Williams family pieces, are displayed all over Seattle, at the White House and in the Smithsonian. At this writing, early John T. Williams carvings are being sold on eBay for $8,500.

• Bottom: Raven Mother and Baby. “The Raven watches and nurtures us, making up the foundation of the totem.”

a young John T. Williams with one of his totems (from
3 totems by John T. Williams
3 totems by John T. Williams
eric rick williams totem
Eric and Rick Williams blessing the totem – photo by Joshua Trujillo from

many wonderful photos at the John T. Williams Totem project

and at their facebook page

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