I keep seeing her name at all these environmental/political events. "Tribute to Judi Bari: Join Dolores Huerta, Utah Phillips, Alicia Littletree and more." O.K. I know who Dolores Huerta and Utah Phillips are, but WHO is Alicia Littletree? Is that so much to ask? (and is that her REAL name?)
So I called Ms. Littletree and left a real polite message on her machine, asking her to call me back. I didn’t even mention the AVA. I waited for her return call.
I then called Ms Littletree back. Again I waited for her return call. She must have been busy, doing public speaking, appearing at all these important events, singing. (I think she sings, doesn’t she?) She was too busy too call me, at any rate.
Finally, I heard her on KZYX radio. This was my chance. I called in after the show, asked if I could do a quick phone interview. Here’s a transcription of that interview.
AVA: How did you get into the environmental movement?
I was politicized in 1990, when I was 16, during the whole Gulf War Thing.
AVA: That was here in California?
Yes, I was raised in Sacramento. So I joined up with a group of people who were politically active and we started organizing to oppose the war in November of 1990. Then they started the war in 91 so we were organizing a series of actions to try to draw attention to the opposition to the war. Because that was our biggest challenge, to show that not everybody was blindly swallowing that. That was really kind of a disillusioning experience for me, as far as my relationship with my society and my culture. Because all the things that I had been raised with, all the assumptions I had been raised with, were kind of obliterated. I was born the year Vietman ended.
AVA: What kind of a background were you raised in?
Single mom. Only child of a single mom. General, traditional values. You know, you work hard and you’ll succeed. All that stuff.
AVA: Middle class?
Oh yes. But definitely being a single mom with an only daughter, there’s definitely a feminist bent there. At least the idea that women can live, you know, without having to be dependent on men.
AVA: Was your mother political?
No, not at all. That’s how I came to live up here. In 1991, my affinity group from down in the city, my organizing group came up to Northern California to do Earth First! actions. I started getting involved with Earth First! Had a falling out with my mom and moved up here.
AVA: How did you first meet Judi Bari?
She was one of the most prominent Earth First! organizers up here. When I started going to Earth First! meetings, and deciding that’s where I wanted to put my energy, she was at all the meetings. She was this kind of tremendous force and I learned a lot from her. I didn’t really throw myself in from the beginning. I just kind of listened. I was very young. I just kind of got the impression of what was going on. Then in 1992, the Albion Uprising started and I did a tree sit. I did a tree sit for 9 days, in Albion, right on the banks of the Albion River. That’s where I got the name Littletree from. That was my code name.
AVA: That was my going to be my next question, is that your real name? Do you give your real name, or is that secret?
Oh, it doesn't matter. I never use it anyway.
AVA: What is it?
It doesn’t really matter. I never use it. So, anyhow, that’ s how me and Judi met. It was kind of like love at first sight. We both loved to play music and we were both loudmouths. We just connected. We knew we had a lot in common.
AVA: She was your mentor?
AVA: Yeah, exactly. Except she was the least ageist person that I know of. She always treated me like an equal. She always consulted me for my opinion and told me that I was very intelligent. Those are the kind of people are going to really make a difference. A guy just called up my show and said that youth should vote. Well, I’ve learned more from Judi treating me like an equal and treating me like I had some opinion. She treated me like I could actually do things and take responsibility. I’ve learned more and grown more because of that, than somebody telling me, you young folks should vote or whatever. She actually gave me the skills and showed me what I could do.
AVA: Did you study environmental science, biology or forestry in college? What’s your educational background? Did you have hands-on experience?
I came up here when I was 17, I graduated high school from Whale Gulch. That was a little podunk hippie school, a community school. It was awesome.
AVA: Where is that?
It’s west of Garberville. I just kind of landed there, after I moved out of my mom’s house. So I finished high school there and ended up getting into college. That was during the Albion Uprising. I was really, really excited about the political uprising, and the power we were generating. I loved the rambunctiousness of it. I thought that what I was doing was really, really incredible. I felt like going off to school would be like deviating from the education I was getting. I was really into it. I felt like going to school would be like going away from something that I wanted to do instead of going to something that I wanted to do. So I decided not to go to school. And I haven’t regretted it from the minute I made the decision. I’ve been getting a great education.
AVA: Do you see yourself now as an environmental leader? Is that what you want to be?
No, not necessarily. I definitely am an organizer. I definitely am a trusted voice. I definitely play a leadership role. But I’m also definitely part of a collective of people who make decisions as a group. One of my roles is to go out and speak, as a spokes person representative of the struggle. That makes me a spokesperson. But I don’t think of myself as a leader of the environmental struggle.
AVA: Have you ever been involved in the labor movement like Judi was back East?
No, no. Judi’s and my backgrounds were extremely different. Very different.
AVA: What about the future of Earth First!?
I think that the future of Earth First! is really linked to the past. The FBI’s involvement, how they’ve done a lot to infiltrate and disrupt our group. I think that Earth First! is really a very revolutionary group, as far as our attitudes towards society’s relationship to the earth. The ability of the earth to support our human society, then to take into account all other species. I think that’s really revolutionary and it calls for really profound changes in our society. But I think that the key role that Earth First! plays is to continue to survive through the FBI assault on us as a radical group. I mean, things are getting worse and worse, as far as I can see. The divisions between rich and poor are getting huger. As far as I can see in the past 7 or 8 years, things have just really been on a bad spiral. I think we have our work really cut out for us.
AVA: When is the next court date in the FBI lawsuit?
August 1, 10:30 am, Oakland. As far as my future, that’s what a lot of my work is going to focus on in the next couple of years. Bringing that case to trial. And I think it’s really important to maintain the identity as an Earth Firster and to continue to be engaged in Earth First! struggles in the community. And to connect those two things, the FBI lawsuit and the Earth First! struggles.
AVA: Is that an actual trial date on August 1?
It’s a pretrial hearing. It’s a very major hearing though. It’s going to be awesome. We just filed a brief back in March to ask the judge that to rule that the FBI doesn’t have immunity from prosecution. We lay out the entire case, basically. All the reasons why they knew they were doing what they were doing. That’s the core of our case. That’s going to be argued on Friday, August 1.
AVA: Any new leads in the Judi Bari bombing case? On who actually did the bombing?
Well, every time we get documents from the FBI, it implicates the FBI more and more in a terrible, terrible smear campaign against Earth First! It brings up questions of how did they do this so well? What were they doing to Earth First!, what were they doing to Judi and Darryl? We don’t really have any implications that the FBI bombed Judi, but we are starting to get more and more implications that they had prior knowledge of the bombing. But we don’t have any new leads as far as who the bomber might be.
AVA: Are you the keeper of the archives now? I understand Judi had some 100,000 pages of documents relating to the bombing case.
No, no. It’s about 12,000 pages. That’s the FBI files, the depositions, testimonies, and we have a bunch of investigative files too. That adds up to about 15,000 pages. There’s a group of people who’ve been working on the case since it was filed, and I came on to it in 1992. There’s a group of us who’ve been working on it for quite a long time, including Tanya Brannon, who is the administrator of the Redwood Justice Project.
AVA: Mainly the direction you’re going in is focusing on the FBI lawsuit and winning that?
Yes, but we already have a victory in that case because Earth First! survived. Thanks to Judi standing up after the bombing and filing the lawsuit and continuing to work as an Earth First! organizer, we’re still around. I know that our work is starting to bring in hundreds and hundreds and thousands and thousands of people. That’s not just Earth First! but that’s our whole community based movement. I know that our work is politicizing a whole new generation of people. We kind of bring people to the front lines, bring them into non violent confrontations where they challenge a system that’s wrong. And it changes their lives, just like it changed my life. Earth First! is kind of like this cultural movement, this cultural resistance. And it’s continuing to thrive and I think we play a really important role in that. Earth First! has been through a lot. Just in making all these connections. Making the connections to the FBI, to feminism, to working people, to the relationship with the earth. It’s phenomenal. It’s really, really cool. And continuing to be under assault by the FBI and continuing to live through it, and to take a stand with our principles.
AVA: Of course every radical group is a target for the FBI.
But Earth First! wasn’t really radical, I mean, it had a radical ideology. But it wasn’t necessarily a revolutionary radical group in its own mind. It was kind of this rednecks for wilderness thing.
AVA: Back when it started with Dave Foreman and Mike Rosselle.
Right. And they targeted them anyway. It’s almost like they’re creating their own targetsBecause they’ve been so effective in neutralizing any really progressive movements.
AVA: So from Sacramento to the Redwoods?
Yeah, that’s it. It was a pretty straight shot.