Archive for the ‘Chinook Tribe’ Category

Cathapotle, Stella, and the Oscar B.

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Inside the Cathapotle Plankhouse

Talk about making every minute count!  Yesterday, Carol, Tucker, Nyel, and I went on another of our “summer field trips” – this time to two destinations with a bonus ferry ride thrown in!  Any one of those activities could have been the entire focus of the day, but it was definitely one of those “and while we are at it…” things.  Except for the ferry ride.  That turned out to be the only choice if we wanted to get home in a timely manner, and a great choice it was!

First, we headed for Ridgefield, Tucker driving – old duffers in the front, ladies in the back as usual.  We arrived about lunch time.  First stop:  a Mexican Restaurant and a quick ride around town.  We liked what we saw.  Worth going back, we thought.  Then on to the Catahpotle Plank House which is located on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

The Old Duffers

The Plankhouse was built in 2004-2005 in partnership with the Chinook Indian Nation, Portland State University, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and numerous other community partners and volunteers. The House serves as an education and interpretive center and is used by the Chinook Indian Nation for cultural events throughout the year.  It is open to the public on summer Saturdays and Sundays from noon to four and it is well worth the trip – and the walk from the parking lot once you get there!

Several years ago, Tony Johnson, Chairman of the Chinook Tribe, urged our Pacific County Community Historians to visit.  He spoke of the Plankhouse building process using traditional materials and techniques and the best historic information and extant examples available. He didn’t exaggerate one bit – it was all he had said and more!

Still at the Stella Museum

We decided to take Highway 4 home so we could stop in Stella at the Historical Museum there which, also, is open on weekends only, but from eleven to four.  We arrived about 3:30 and learned that the museum includes four buildings – three jam-packed with interesting things from Stella’s heyday and the fourth, an almost-completed blacksmith shop.  We also learned that Stella was not known for its cannery (as we thought from the Mary Garvey “Cannery Shed” song), but for their production of cigar rafts, once a major method for transporting logs down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco.

“We’ll stay as long as you’d like,”” said the friendly docent.  She turned out to be the museum’s primary mover-and-shaker – knows our friend Nancy Anderson of the Quarantine Station in Knappton and is working with Lucien Swerdloff who teaches Historic Preservation classes at Clatsop Community College. The museum’s annual fundraising event takes place the weekend after Labor Day and, by then, they hope to have the smithy up and running.

Aboard the Oscar B

We headed homeward about 4:30, only to find that the highway was closed just beyond Cathlamet.  Tucker did a bit of quick maneuvering and we were across the highway and headed down through town to the ferry dock before we could give it much thought at all.  Just in time!  The Oscar B was being loaded and we were the next-to-the-last vehicle to get on board.  Woot!  Woot!

Home by 6:30. Too tired to fix dinner.  Cheese and crackers and grapes while we watched the PBS News Hour and one Jeopardy rerun.  The best field trip day yet!!!

And speaking of Chinuk Wawa…

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia

“Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia”

Before we left for our Community Historian class at the Heritage Museum yesterday morning, Nyel reminded me to take Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia (copyright 2013 University of Washington Press) for Tony Johnson’s signature.  Johnson, one of the book’s three authors and the Chairman of the Chinook Tribe Cultural Committee, was to be our speaker of the day and this seemed the perfect opportunity to get him to sign.

It also was a perfect opportunity to get a copy of Chinuk Wawa (copyright 2012 by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) at the Museum bookstore, which I did on the way to class, and have him sign that, too.  As explained on the back of the hefty volume:  Chinuk Wawa (also known as Jargon and Chinook Jargon) is a hybrid lingua franca consisting of simplified Chinookan combined with contributions from Nuuchahnulth (Nootkan), Canadian French, English and other languages.  It originated on the lower Columbia River… It is the culmination of the Chinuk Wawa Dictionary Project which involved years of work by many people.  Tony Johnson was the Project Coordinator.

Chinuk Wawa

“Chinuk Wawa”

Shortly before class began I handed the books to Mr. Johnson and asked if he would give me his autograph.  “Do you want me to say anything in particular?” he asked.  “No – whatever you like.  Sydney is spelled with a ‘y’ like Australia… You could say what a wonderful person I am,” and we both laughed.

He began his talk, fittingly, with quite a long monologue in Chinuk Wawa.  Although he didn’t give a translation of what he said, I assume it was a speech of welcome and perhaps an introduction of himself.  Immediately afterwards he asked the group if we would like to hear one of the Chinuk paddle songs accompanied by the drum he held in his hands.   Enthusiastic agreement!

The next two hours sped by Mr. Johnson spoke (in English) on the subject of the day:  “Chinookan Culture and the Role of First-Person Oral Traditions in Native Cultures.”  I was much too engrossed to take any notes; Nyel took a few.  One of the most enlightening things he said was that when James Swan lived here on Shoalwater Bay from 1852 to 1855, he lived with an Indian woman.

Inscription by Tony Johnson

From Tony Johnson

That fact has come down in the Chinookan oral tradition from several sources but, as Johnson pointed out, Swan never indicated his domestic arrangement in his diaries or in his 1857 book, The Northwest Coast or Three Years on Shoalwater Bay.  However, that knowledge goes a long way toward explaining Swan’s meticulous descriptions of the details of Chinook tribal life at that time.

Johnson actually shared that bit of information as an aside,  referring back to our pre-lecture discussion of our “homework” assignment which is to read (or for many of us to re-read) Swan’s book, two chapters each week.  I will be looking at Swan with new eyes now, thanks to that bit of enlightenment.

At the break, I picked up my two books from the front table and, of course, turned immediately to see the inscriptions.  Imagine my amazement and delight to find that they were written in Chinuk Wawa!  I haven’t a clue what they say!

After class, Mr. Johnson called over to me, “I’ll have to translate what I wrote sometime!”  And, again, we both laughed.

“I is for Indians”

Friday, November 8th, 2013
Classroom 106 (1)

Classroom #106

Fourteen of us gathered in Room 106 at Grays Harbor Community College last evening to take a class on Chinook Culture from Tony Johnson, Chairman of the Chinook Tribe’s Culture Committee.  Every one of us had a direct connection with the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and I suspect that most of us had first heard about the class from Dan Rinker, a museum volunteer and enthusiastic member of the Community Historian Project.

Five or six additional class members showed up, not in person but on the television screen at the front of the room.  They and our instructor were in Raymond and, through the magic of technology we could all see and hear each other remotely.  Mr. Johnson kindly acknowledged our greater numbers in Ilwaco and promised to deliver one of the four scheduled classes from our end of things.  I think we are all looking forward to that.

This was my first experience with live-streamed distance education.  Suffice it to say that I hope that our instructor comes to Ilwaco sooner rather than later.  It’s probably due to years and years of traditional teaching/learning techniques that I find it easier to ‘engage’ when the teacher is up close and personal.

I is for Indians

“I is for Indians”

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s class.  It was a pleasure to hear Mr. Johnson use the chinuk wawa (Chinook jargon) now and then and to hear from his lips the information that I have gathered over the years from reading books by non-Chinooks.  In the back of my mind, I held my breath a little, and will no doubt continue to do so throughout the class sessions.  I am eager (sort of) to see if there are any glaring errors in my 1999 book, I is for Indians.  So far, so good.

It’s not that I didn’t check with the Tribe before publication.  (In fact, illustrator Pat Fagerland talked about some of the visual details with Tony Johnson, himself.)  And it’s not that the book has been without praise from Chinook tribal members.  Even so, I am conscious now, just as I was then, that I am an outsider speaking about another culture without any real authority.  I don’t know if I would feel exactly the same way if my book had been about the Druids or Picts or other ancient folks who were my ancestors.

I think my feelings have to do with that cultural guilt that comes with being a present-day American.  I don’t know that there is any way to absolve myself from it.  I do take some pride that during the time he was a Washington State senator, my grandfather Harry Espy, went to Washington D.C. specifically to settle the question of the Chinook’s treaty rights.  Like many people, both Indian and non-Indian, he was only partially successful – but at least he tried and at least he got a monetary settlement which, according to Tribal Chairman Ray Gardener, the Lower Chinooks refused but the Clatsops accepted.

But that’s another story.  Suffice it to say that I winced a little last night when Mr. Johnson referred to the Chinook’s non-treaty status.  I doubt that I was the only class member who did.  I hope not.

If ir’s Wednesday, this must be…

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

In Oysterville, Wednesday is Garbage Day.  It’s the day we shuffle around the house emptying wastepaper baskets and bagging up everything that hasn’t gone into our compost or into the recycle bins.  The stuff that ultimately goes into the dumpster doesn’t amount to much these days after all the sorting and separating is done and so we’ve gone to once-a-month collections for our household.  The downside to that, of course, is remembering when Garbage Day rolls around.

When I was working, Wednesday was Hump Day.  I tended to forget that, too.  In fact, I didn’t ever get behind the concept of Wednesday being, as the online Urban Dictionary says:  the hump of the week – the absolute BEST day of the week, the day of maximum hope that you might make it out of this week alive.  Undoubtedly the concept came from people who disliked their jobs.  I couldn’t really relate to that.  I loved teaching and often wished there were more days in the work week, not fewer.

Today is Wednesday but it’s not Garbage Day (that was last week) and it’s not Hump Day (not since retirement.)  Today is Community Historian Day!  From now until the middle of April, Wednesdays are the days that seventeen students gather together to learn about the history of our area from the experts.  A few of us – steering committee members and Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum personnel – have been invited to audit the sessions.

Today one of the featured experts will be Museum Collections Manager Barbara Minard.  Her subject will be “Material Culture” and students will have some hands-on opportunities with artifacts from the museum’s collection.  I understand that a representative from the Chinook Nation will also be on hand to give cultural context to those artifacts.

Whoo Hoo!  I am excited about the opportunity to be there.  If today’s session is anything like last week’s program with ecologist Kathleen Sayce and artist Charles Funk, we will all come away stuffed with new knowledge and will be looking around us with new eyes.  And to think there are folks out there that are only looking forward to this as Hump Day!  Sad.

Our Baby Has Legs!

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

The parking lot at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum was filled to overflowing when I arrived yesterday morning.  It was the first-ever-meeting of the Pacific County Historian Project – the first of fifteen Wednesdays of learning, teaching, sharing, experiencing and even creating (!) Pacific County History.  Birthed and on the move at last!

This particular ‘baby’ has been almost two years in gestation.  It was February 11, 2011, that Jim Sayce called me to talk about an ‘idea’ he had – “to establish a workable vehicle by which we can perpetuate the history of this area.”   The next day I sent him a follow-up email full of plans, ideas, concerns which ended … And meantime I’ve been cursing you (just a little) for piquing my interest in yet another subject I really have no time for.  Little did I know… or did I?

Within a week or so Jim and I met right here at our place along with museum director Betsy Millard, and journalist/educator Cate Gable and began brainstorming.  The meetings continued monthly or oftener and eventually involved museum collections manager Barbara Minard and recently-retired State Parks curator/collections manager Donella Lucero.  All of us were there yesterday along with the sixteen first-ever participants.  And, of course, the speakers of the day.

Appropriately, biologist/ecologist Kathleen Sayce started us off at ‘the’ beginning –13.8 billion years ago!  With slides and maps and hands-on ‘show and tell,’ Kathleen took us through the historical landscapes of Pacific County – land forms and geology of the area, Ice Age floods, basalt cliffs and moving sands, our unique environments of currents, tides and weather. And always with the focus on Pacific County – our rocks, our sand, our weather, our special characteristics.  I don’t think any of us will ever look at our garden soil or listen to a weather forecast for our area in quite the same way again!

After a build-your-own-sandwich lunch and a chance to visit with one another, artist Charles Funk took center stage to share some of his fabulous landscapes of the area, as well as the stories of their creation.  An elder of the Chinook Tribe, Charlie brings a special dimension to his work and to his story-telling, interweaving his personal history with the history and legends of the Chinookan people. Not only did he give us all an inside look at his unique way of perpetuating Pacific County’s history, but his humor and his obvious enjoyment of life here in this area underscored the program’s purpose.

Hooray!  Our project is up and running!  Our baby definitely has legs!

Photos by Cate Gable.

Sidetracked (by Indians) at the Finn Fest!

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

We had every intention of making a quick stop at the Finn Fest yesterday, perhaps getting a bite to eat and seeing a few of the exhibits, and then heading back to Long Beach to the rodeo.  Well, “the best laid plans…” as they say…

First, despite the cars parked from here-to-Sunday, someone pulled out and we nipped into a spot just yards away from the festivities.  We could hear the Naselle High School Marimba Band and smell the barbecue as we walked along, thoughts of cowboys already fading into the distance.

We watched costumed little girls do their Maypole dance, visited with the women placidly spinning to one side of the quilt exhibit, and checked out the old (and all-too-familiar!) tools in the museum room.  We ate and we visited with our neighbor Hal who was manning Susan Holway’s booth where books and CDs by performers were for sale.

We saw Sue, herself, only from afar.  She looked fabulous in her Finnish regalia and I chased after her a couple of times but never could catch up to get her picture.  Part of the trouble was that we kept running into people we knew.  In fact, visiting with folks – even with strangers – was one of the most fun parts.  And always we were asked, “Are you Finnish?”

It was the question of the day.  I overheard many people answer: “Well, my husband is…” or “Half, on my mother’s side…” and immediately there would be an exchange of names and a litany of who was related to whom, where they had come from, where they were living now, etc.  Somehow, everyone made us feel as though we, too, belonged.  And so, of course rodeo thoughts drifted even farther away.

Early on, we saw Chinook Tribal Chairman Ray Gardner and had a chance to visit with him and his wife for a while.  His question to me wasn’t about my heritage, but about what book I was working on now. My question to him was about his schedule over the next few months and whether he’d be available to participate in the upcoming Community History Project being sponsored by the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.

When we saw on the program that he was speaking at 3:00, we had to stay of course.  All thoughts of cowboys completely disappeared.  We had been captured by Indians – well, by one totally charismatic Indian.  Ray Gardner is always a pleasure to listen to and, as usual, we were not only entertained but learned new information along the way.   We were so glad we stayed!

The plan for today:  the Cowboy Breakfast at the Rodeo Grounds!