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

Tale of the Cedar Stump House

There are some places some people should not know of, some places where a smile and a nod, and the mile posts of stumps, gives you the key to another world.

Willapa Hills Cedar tree, photo unknown, ca. early 1900's

Willapa Hills Cedar tree, photo unknown, ca. early 1900′s

I first heard of this elusive Cedar Stump house from an old timer at the Pe Ell Pub one night, after a long round of Busch Lights and lines of stories. We were talking about his family and how they settled down here in the Willapa Hills over a 150 years ago. “The forest was a lot different back then”, he told me, rubbing his belly as if to move the words. He told me about, how back in the day, ‘the trees were so big you could live in them, I tell you know lie, in fact, I know of a place that you can live in one. It is an old Cedar stump out in Pacific County. The darn thing has a window, a door and a roof on it.” Not sure what year they made that stump a home, but I am pretty damn sure the old thing is still standing!” Of course this perked my investigative ears to the possibility I would find such a magical kingdom hidden in the hills of mists and moss.

As time went on, I kept asking the local folks questions IMG_20130209_211011(I consider myself a local but I need to live around here for 10 years, to become an “official local”, I am told.) about this elusive fairy land that had captured my imagination. Some people were reluctant to speak of it’s whereabouts, as if holding on to an old code of silence, looking me over with suspicious eyes. I would ‘prime the pump’ with cheap beer to get the lips telling stories, and got little clues. Most would boast about taking their girlfriend out there and writing their names on the holy grail of the ‘Stump”.

IMG_3485

Elk Camp 2014

It was not until I was helping a close friend with some tracking and hunting up in the Willapa Hills, did the biggest clue come. It sailed in on the setting sun, dressed on the wings of a Red Hawk, flying low above our packed Elk Camp caravan. It swooped through light and disappeared into the moss covered trees. At that moment, I looked down to see an old bridge, half rotted from the relentless rainforest mist, and heard the old timers voice in my head: “There is an old bridge…”. That night in Elk camp I laid half awake, listening to the call of cows echoing through the mists and pondered my earlier thoughts of the elusive eden, and made a vow to find it after the hunt.

Mists of the Willapa. | ©2014 H a v e n

Mists of the Willapa. | ©2014 H a v e n

I am finding myself lost in this hunt, this search. I know as a kid growing up in Carson there were, and are, some places, that you just don’t share with anyone, unless they know the code. The code of belonging, and trust, pack it in, pack it out. This ritual always felt sacred to me and solidified my sense of belonging to the community. When asked by an ‘out-of-towner’ if I knew how to get to the hot springs, I would point them to St. Martins , not wanting to give away the magic of the natural Springs, that was for us! It is this kind of rights of passage I felt I may break through if I visited the ‘Stump’. I would then be a local.

My wife Amber and I at the Cedar Stump house.

My wife Amber and I at the Cedar Stump house.

We came down the mountain from Elk camp to have the same Red Hawk fly with us at the same spot as before. I can not help but take notice when such events happen. As we passed by the old bridge again, my neck hairs raised ever so slightly. I wandered into town with tales from the hunting trip, but as soon as I told people where we set up camp, people told me, ‘the stump house is up that way..’ I knew it!

Mining for Solitude

“Hidden in the glorious wildness like unmined gold.”- John Muir.

"Rock Creek Falls, ca. 1904" author unknown

“Rock Creek Falls, ca. 1904″ author unknown

I often find the company of a stream, a forest, a lake, a river, more comforting than a room full of humans filled with the best intents and hearts. It seems us humans are always abrasive to the cycles, and tied up in the melodramas of our modern lives. I prefer to be hidden and gloriously alone most times. But, I am never alone, and the gold of the wild, is better than all the fame in heaven.

Listen to Rock Creek from July, 2014 here:

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.

The Journey has just Begun.

For the last several months I have been deeply steeped in book and print research, but this is not where my passion lies. I wish to be out and about with my recording gear, searching and digging for more knowledge and just sitting with the sound of the rivers and winds. It really is gathering many stories to piece together one story. The very question that started this whole journey was: “Who were my Ancestors?’ and from that one question, come many tributaries. And still my thirst grows.

Auntie Virginia Miller's Canoe. Edward S. Curtis photo

Auntie Virginia Miller’s Canoe. Edward S. Curtis photo

I am about to fully step into the initial aims of this project of documenting what is left of our Stories, meaning, more living persons oral histories. Some of my Watala/Cascade cousins are looking at dis-enrollment from the Grand Ronde tribe (read more here) and fighting for what it means to be ‘Indigenous’. The honest truth is, we are becoming ghosts and I wish to honor a memory, fully and honestly. I want to know what our traditions were. I want to know why Wind Mountain was so Sacred to us and I want it to become sacred again, before we are all gone. I want to know how the landscape shaped our myth and our traditions. Why did we flatten our foreheads? I don’t want to be co-opted into the generalization of the ‘plains noble Indian’, for we were our own People and we are our own People.

BUT….yet, I am the Immigrant carrying goods upriver and I am the hands that would build the dam that would silence it forever. I am of many stories. And giving the way the modern world is swallowing our sense of belonging to place, we too, and our stories, are becoming ghosts.

The journey has just begun.

Identity and Tradition: A Changing Story

Celilo Falls, post card. ca. 1930

Celilo Falls, post card. ca. 1930


‘I seem to have shown up at a strange and vulnerable time… a time of the in-medias-res or the in-between. My memory has been altered by many things and, at times, I feel like I am suffering from a incurable cultural amnesia, similar to putting a jigsaw together with no image. Image is there, but it is not my own.. it is from the bias of others, for my ancestors knew little of the industrial revolution until one day, they were violently thrown into the orgy. Yes, it has been tragic, and yes, it has been human.. but, it has allowed a different kind of breathing, or at least that is what I have to work with.’

- A paragraph from the book that I am writing.

I am of Many Stories.

Sometimes when I look at these pictures, I can hear the wind blowing the sweet smell of Spring rains up through the Gorge. I am Indigenous to this very spot, the Cascades on the Columbia, yet, I am the immigrant carrying goods upriver and I am the hands that would build the dam that would silence it forever. I am of many stories.
Columbia_River_below_the_Cascades_showing_sternwheeler,_ca_1901

Photo: Columbia River below the Cascades, looking west (downriver) showing sternwheeler, probably the Bailey Gatzert. c. 1901

 

Better than all the fame in heaven.

The night I Met Jesus at the Sidetrack Tavern,
May 1997

“Anonymity among men is better than all the fame in Heaven..”

Jack Kerouac

I once saw Jesus drinking whiskey in a smoky bar, observing the last supper of bad livers. His beard finely groomed awash in ash and too drunk to notice the drool.

He stands a stumble, catching himself on his barstool and meanders awkwardly to the angelic jukebox. A fire of light IMG_20130209_195732 shadows across his ancient face- he baptizes 2 quarters to the soundtrack of sadness. Alone he dances with himself to the blues of heaven, unaware of flesh, tempted in a purgatorial trance, bumping into tables on his way down to the soiled bar room floor.

‘Anonymity among men is better than all the fame in heaven”, he shouts out loud the words of keurouc and “right now i am making an ass out of myself’ he continues as he makes his way back to uneasy feet.

Twitching angelic and nervous he walks out the doors of the florescent illuminated purgatory.

it was the strangest night…….