The Road to Oceti Sakowin Camp: Stories From the Lines

His voice is heavy with the weight of struggle, yet stands tall with determination and will. His name is Christopher Francisco, a proud Navajo Diné brother who was one of the last to feel the effects of the Indian boarding school system and its manifesto of ‘kill the Indian, save the man’. Christopher is a strong and solid soul who cares very deeply for the Earth and his People and has been very active in defending their Sovereignty.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0216.JPG We have become fast friends and I have learned a great deal from his wisdom. We have started working together on story gathering projects here at Oceti Sakowin Camp during this time of struggle against the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

Listen to his Story.

 

A Fierce and Mighty Wind

The fish wheel in the back ground looms like a dragon, ready to pounce, and devour a way of life, hungry and impermanent. I often dream of the other years,

Celilo Falls, post card. ca. 1930

Celilo Falls, post card. ca. 1930

but often find myself barely able to remember how to fish as I browse the supermarket aisle for the freshest caught bargain. Irony showers my existence. I feel like there is this wind that is blowing so hard it will knock the ‘Indian’ right out of me. I watch the flat surface of the lake that now covers the “echoes of falling water”, and see my cousins being shunned from their tribes for not having enough blood-quantum, and tribes, such as the Wy’am and many Columbia River Indians, not being seen as a Sovereign Nation and I feel lost. To be honest, Gathering the Stories is my anchor, or stump, you could say, to this wind, and I must say, it scares the living shit out of me to know that my offspring will no longer be considered part of a tribe.

Reading links:
Read about Celilo Falls from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission here

Read about the dis-enrollment of Chief Tumulth’s descendants from the Grande Ronde Tribe based on blood-quantum here

Read “Recalling Celilo: An Essay by Elizabeth Woody” from the book “Salmon Nation: People, Fish and Our Common Home” here

The Drive

'Chehalis' | © 2015 H a v e n

‘Chehalis’ | © 2015 H a v e n

A thirst lingers even when the rainy seasons fall. A thirst for old ways that seem to be eaten by the rusty splinters of time. Injected with the last breath, tree gives way to steel, steel gives way to silicone. I sometimes get in my car and drive as hard and as far away as I can, where stories still linger in old dusty corners, and the quiet nod of the neighbor is the loudest conversation heard all day. I drive until beauty overwhelms my senses, pull over and exhale. I drink in the mists, eat the landscape and remember how to pray.

'Dream |V' | © 2015 H a v e n

‘Dream |V’ | © 2015 H a v e n

I use to pray, even if the sounds echoed into empty space. I felt some faith those words would reach some distant star and portals would open up in the night sky. But, instead, I would dream. I would dream until I forgot it was I was dreaming about, what was the reason for the journey? I often find the journey is the only thing that keeps me still, most times, nodding off to the narcotic rhetoric of the modern age. It is in these journeys, I meet my guides, who, with unforeseen hands, move the air of the fates in and out of existence and Coyote always seems to wake me up right before the climax. Now I pray to keep this car on the road as it climbs into the mists of unseen vistas, comprehending god.

'Pleasant Hill' | © 2015 H a v e n

‘Pleasant Hill’ | © 2015 H a v e n

Myth, I believe is subject to the winds of which it is blown. Times have changed, and times are changing, but the story tellers are lost behind their reality TV shows and quick fix GMO hungry man. Myth, feeling lost, stagnant, forgotten, found homes in the catharsis of our youth. And sometimes, judge Judy and Jerry Springer are the only story tellers we have left. So be it. I will keep driving, and if some one stops to share a bit of forgotten, timeless wisdom, I am all ears…..

The Hatfield and McCoy’s of Skamania County

ALL NEIGHBORS NOT GOOD IN COUNTY’S EARLY SETTLEMENTS (Published in Skamania County Pioneer January, 1949)

“Neighbors” in the pioneer days of the county were not always “good neighbors,” according to Henry Metzger, pioneer Carson resident who this week recalled some of the occurances enlivening the early days in Skamania County.

The Hatfield clan from the famous Hatfield and McCoy conflict.

The Hatfield clan from the famous Hatfield and McCoy conflict.

“Much has been, and still is, said and written about the pioneer spirit, the spirit of neighborliness, mutual assistance, courage to take and solve difficult problems as if, and it is true, much of that has been and still is in evidence in this neck of the woods, but it would be folly and serve no good purpose to tell the now growing up generation that everything was sweet peace and harmony among the early settlers, for such was not always the case. Fact of the matter is that, in my opinion at least, there is now much more harmony among the neighbors than there was only about a half century ago. The reason for this I contribute to a much higher standard of education and to the fact that country life is getting more and more like city life, where you often do not know your next door neighbor.

Random photo of a fellow on Larch Mountain during the 1930's.

Random photo of a fellow on Larch Mountain during the 1930′s.

“Maybe I can best illustrate the pioneer spirit by telling of an incident that, I am told, happened in Skamania County about 60 years ago. There were two prominent citizens, joint farmer-neighbors, who could not get along together well. They could not smell one another, so the saying goes. They were not on speaking terms and when they met at public meeting they would oppose each other even if they were of the same opinion on the subject under discussion. It so happened that one of those farmers had hay on, ready to haul in when it looked as if the weather would turn to rain. He started hauling in hay, him on the wagon and his wife, a frail woman, pitching on the hay. But soon his ‘despised’ neighbor appeared and walking up to the woman said in a harsh tone, ‘Give me that fork and you go to the house, that’s where you belong,’ and he started in pitching on the hay and these two men worked for hours together, never speaking a single word to each other, not even would they say ‘thank you’ or ‘good bye’ when they parted after the hay was all in the barn.

“This is what I would call the ‘the Pioneer Spirit in the Rough’.”

Mt. Shasta and JC Brown’s Lost City

Mt. Shasta | ©2014 H a v e n

Mt. Shasta | ©2014 H a v e n

According to legend, JC Brown was a British prospector who discovered a lost underground city beneath Mt. Shasta in 1904. Brown had been hired by The Lord Cowdray Mining Company of England to prospect for gold, and discovered a cave which sloped downward for 11 miles. In the cave, he found an underground village filled with gold, shields, and mummies, some being up to 10 feet tall.

Thirty years later, he told his story to John C. Root who proceeded to gather an exploration team in Stockton, California. 80 people joined the team, but on the day the team was to set out, Brown did not show up. Brown was not heard from again.

A Mount Adams Story

A Mount Adams Story

Pahto | © 2010 H a v e n

Pahto | © 2010 H a v e n

Mount Adams (12,307 feet in altitude), the second highest peak in Washington, stands in the southwestern part of the state. The Klickitat and Yakama Indians called it Pahto. They claimed it as their mountain.

This legend was told by Chief Jobe Charley, with his granddaughter, Hattie Wesley, acting as interpreter. Now eighty-six years old, Jobe Charley heard the story when he was a little boy. When he got his first horse, he rode to Mount Adams and climbed it. Until he saw the eagles up there, he had not believed the story. Many eagles are hatched in the caves in the east side of Mount Adams.

Back when the mountains were people, Sun was a man. He had five mountains for his wives. One was Plash-Plash, where the Goat Rocks are now. Plash-Plash means “white spots.” Another was Wahkshum, west of Satus Pass. The others were Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens. The Indians called all of them Pahto, which means “standing high.” Wahkshum and Plash-Plash were once known as Pahtoes also. I will call only Mount Adams Pahto in this story, for Rainier and St. Helens are not important in it.

Mt. Adams post card from the 1920's.

Mt. Adams post card from the 1920′s.

Sun traveled from east to west, of a course. So Wahkshum was the first wife he talked to every morning. Plash-Plash was the second, and Pahto was the third. Pahto became jealous of the other two and made up her mind to get rid of them. Jealous and angry, she fought them and broke down their high heads. All that is left of Plash-Plash is goat rocks. All that is left of Wahkshum is the mountain called Simcoe Mountain and the little huckleberry bushes on it. Rainier and St. Helens were so far away that Pahto left them alone.

For a while after she had broken the heads of Wahkshum and Plash-Plash, Pahto was happy. Every morning she was the first wife Sun spoke to. She was the tallest mountain around, and she was proud and strong. But she did not remain satisfied. She made up her mind to go across the river and take what she wanted from the mountains south of her.

Mt. St. Helens. ca. 1920's

Mt. St. Helens. ca. 1920′s

So she went down there and brought back all their grizzly bears, black bears, elk, deer, pine nuts, huckleberries, roots, and herbs. From the rivers and creeks she took the salmon and trout and put them in the streams which flowed sown her sides. She planted the berries and the pine nuts and the roots all around her. She turned loose the elk, deer, and bears. That is why there are plenty on Mount Adams today.

All this time the great was watching. He saw the wrong things Pahto was doing. He thought to himself, “There must be a law that any wrongdoing shall be punished.”

But punishment did not come yet. Pahto was so strong and tall that the other mountains said, “We’ll not do anything about what she has done. We’ll just let it go.”

But Klah-Klahnee-You call them the Three Sisters- said among themselves, ”Pahto is too proud and greedy. We must do something.”

Wy'east.  Postcard, ca. 1920's

Wy’east. Postcard, ca. 1920′s

The came up north and said to Wyeast, Mount Hood, “Why don’t you destroy Pahto? Why do you let her get the best of you? You are tall and strong. Some day there will be people on the earth. When they find that we have let Pahto destroy us and steal from us, they will make fun of us.”

That is how Klah-Klahnee caused Wyeast to fight Pahto. “If I get the best of her,” Wyeast promised them, “I’ll take all that she has stolen from us.”

But first Wyeast said to Pahto, in a nice way, “I want you to give back half of what you took from us. When the new people come, those who live in are part of the country should have the same food that people near you will have. I am asking you now, in a nice way, for only half of what you took from us. If you give it to me, the new people will have food.”

But Pahto was greedy. ” No, I shall never give you anything,” she said.

So they fought.

Paul Kane painting.

Paul Kane painting.

Up to that time, Pahto had a high head. Wyeast hit her from the east side and knocked her head off. Today on the north side of Pahto there is a pile of fine rocks about a half a mile long. These rocks were once Pahto’s head.

The Wyeast thought, “I’ll leave here and there a little bit of everything she took away-elk, deer, berries, I’ll put some here, some there. Pahto can’t have everything.” So Wyeast shared with the other mountains.

The Great Spirit saw all that happened. He did not try to help Pahto. ”She deserved that punishment,” he thought. “She deserved to lose her head because she destroyed the heads of Wahkshum and Plash-Plash. That will be the law. If people do wrong they will be punished in the same way.”

But after Pahto lost her head, she became mean. Whenever she became angry, she would send a big thunderstorm and much rain. In the winter she would send big snows, and in the spring there would be floods. All through the Yakama Valley there were lakes from the big floods. When the first people came to the earth, they lived only on the mountains.

The Great Spirit was watching. He saw all that happened. At last he said, “I shall make a new head for Pahto. Then she will not be so mean.”

So he sent down a big white eagle with his son, a red eagle, riding on his right shoulder. He put the two eagles on top of Pahto, to be her head. Then he said to her, “I am sending white eagle and his son to you, to be your head. Don’t have hard feelings toward the other mountains. And don’t flood the earth again. Remember that you are the daughter of the Great Spirit.

Pahto answered, “I am glad you have given me the eagles. I will forgive the other mountains, and I will not flood the country anymore.”

Then she raised her right hand and said, “I did not know that the Great Spirit is my father. I am sorry for all wrong things I have done.”

Then the Great Spirit replied, ” I gave the world to you mountains. I put you here and there, where I wanted you to be. Some of you I made high. Some I made low. You should have never destroyed Wahkshum and Plash-Plash.”

Source: (http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/FOLKLORE/2000-09/0968495643)

Mr. Bojangles and the Spider.

I am not sure where he fell from. Some would say it was from heaven, others would say bridges and slums and vans that sleep many lonely nights in impound yards.Spider pointing towards Canada

Spider is his name. Born in 1948 and raised on the promise of a great America- he grew restless and left the dream. He wanders with a purpose but the wind steers him off course easily and the bottle has laid a heavy anchor on his heart. He says that he is on his way to Port Townsend, Washington to see his grandson, who has just turned 15, and to take him fishing, or surfing. He says that he is on his way to a new journey and often mentions the ‘bucketlist’ and point blank says he is ready and at peace to die. This all may sound heavy but there is a joy and innocence to his demeanor. He suffers from late stage alcoholism and often forgets where he is at or who you are, but always remembers songs and tends to communicate best through his minstrels. Today, I take him to detox, where he is going to ‘try on sobriety again’, because, he said, ‘I miss living.” His van is for sale, he says he wants to sell it so he “can get some wings, eh?”

Mapping the universe.

Mapping the universe.

I sat with the old timer for several hours a day, recording his music and stories, hanging on to his words like air itself. I became very attached to the old tramp. It was strange. I felt like I was visited by an apparition, a ripple in the matrix. We connected like kindred and he reminded me to breathe and create and would say, ‘don’t do what I done..” Mr. Bojangles dances down the avenue of life, and I know our paths shall cross again. Thank you Spider, may the wind now be at your back!

A snippet of our visit together:

Why did my Chinook Ancestors flatten their heads?

George Catlin. 1850

George Catlin. 1850

The picture is from about 1850 and is a pencil drawing of a scene at The Dalles, on the Columbia River by George Catlin. It clearly depicts the flat heads my tribe gave their children at birth by use of a set cradle board over the forehead during the first few months of life. Learn more here.

I am very interested in why we did this? Were there any old stories that were told that explained why we started flattening our foreheads? How did we come to accept and implement such a custom, that seems so foreign to our modern standards of beauty?

Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "Wind Mountain, Columbia River."

Penny Postcard, ca.1910, “Wind Mountain, Columbia River.”

What role did the landscape we live in play in this custom? I have always noticed a similarity between the contours of Wind Mountain and the profile of the flattened head, is this just coincidence? So many questions… so go’s the seeking.

How Carson got it’s name: As told by Henry Metzger

Skamania County Pioneer, April 21, 1939

John Skaar and unidentified man. ca. 1913

John Skaar and unidentified man. ca. 1913


“… Prior to 1893, the nearest store and postoffice was at Cascade Locks, Oregon. To get there and back by rowboat was to say the least, very inconvenient. In that year, A.G. Tucker, an old bachelor, started a store in a miserable, tumble-down shack which was built by the sawmill company. The citizens of Carson applied for a postoffice and were granted a twice-a-week mail service. Mr. Tucker, an ardent admirer of Kit Carson, suggested the name “Carson” for the postoffice and the name was adopted without objection. … Before [there was] a postoffice … Carson was known as “Sprague Landing”. …”