Echo of Falling Water

In the spirit of birthday adventure I wanted to hit the Maryhill Museum and explore WA14 along the Washington side of the Gorge.

I had stood on the edges of the southern slopes of the Gorge before- wondering about the land across- and what sorts of mysteries awaited!

In all seriousness, there is a vastness out here in the west that is sometimes scary. Unknowns, wrong turns, dark woods, mountains, rocks; time is unforgiving and it’s relentless pace is evident- jutting up and out from the ground in constant reflection of forces both great and terrifyingly awesome. Very mysterious. Much to learn.

I like to punctuate my birthdays- so I hatched a plan- made Aaron leave the office, did some research and we hit the road.

My major discovery of the day: (outside of the weirdo-Quaker rich guy Sam Hill happening to build a mansion -now converted to a museum full of Romanian royal treasure, Rodin sculpture and other fantastic pieces—( LOOK THIS GUY UP!), the Stonehenge monument, AND the ridiculous beauty)—-

it was the native history I stumbled across in my research of the area that blew my mind.

Turns out (NEVER KNEW THIS) just past the railroad bridge below from where we stood yesterday, happened to be THE major trading and fishing epicenter of a multitude of native tribes for over 15,000 years.

Get this:

“Celilo Falls and The Dalles were strategically located at the border between Chinookan and Sahaptian speaking peoples and served as the center of an extensive trading network across the Pacific Plateau. Artifacts from the original village site at Celilo suggest that trade goods came from as far away as the Great Plains, Southwestern United States, and Alaska. When the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through the area in 1805, the explorers found a “great emporium…where all the neighboring nations assemble,” and a population density unlike anything they had seen on their journey.Accordingly, historians have likened the Celilo area to the “Wall Street of the West.” The Wishram people lived on the north bank, while the Wasco lived on the south bank, with the most intense bargaining occurring at the Wishram village of Nix-luidix.

So there we were, standing on the northern slope of the Columbia River- inspired by the sites, and saddened by the lack there of– because today, Celilo Falls is under water, a victim, of the federal government’s construction of massive, multi-purpose dams on the Columbia River.

They flooded the falls.

Wow.

Just gone.

Here is an account of one of the the last of the First Salmon rites:

“On April 20, 1956, the last of the First Salmon rites was conducted at Celilo Village, which was located on the Oregon shore at the falls. The Dalles Dam was nearing completion downriver, and within a year its flood gates would be closed and a reservoir would flood Celilo Falls. April 20 was a Sunday. Author Anthony Netboy witnessed the ceremony and later wrote that the day was warm and sunny and that hundreds of Indians gathered for the ceremony. Chief Tommy Thompson of the Wyam Tribe, who lived at Celilo Village, presided. He was said to be more than 100 years old. Thompson blessed the first fish and then made an emotional speech in his tribe’s language. According to Netboy, Thompson was weeping before he finished, and while Netboy could not understand the Wyam language, he wrote that he could imagine the feelings that inspired the chief as he realized the ancient falls soon would be flooded. Netboy also saw tears in many of the others gathered at the ceremony that day.”

Of course reparations were made- but the injustice of loosing the falls will not be rectified until they are active again.

It’s a ponderous situation- surrounded by all of the ancient rocks- you feel so small- a life just flits by- this is nature- it’s ok… What was so shocking yesterday was the reality that 15,000 years of culture and sacred practice can be erased in a matter of 6 hours.

This, is wrong.

The silencing of the Celilo Falls is a metaphor in the act itself. It was/is the suffocation of culture. It is a standing water grave.

It is tragic.

I never knew.

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