I offer thanks to
my friends, relatives, and ancestors whose strength of
led me to my own. A special thanks to my co-author,
Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel, for her deep love and dedication to me and this project.
Without her tireless effort and selfless interest,
this liberating history of Oregon would never have been written.
Bones Suggest Early Settlement
Mammoth bones found in Southeastern Wisconsin suggest human
settlement 13,500 years ago—or 1,000 years before what has been
considered the oldest human community in the Western Hemisphere,
an expert on pre-historic Indian life says.
Carbon dating established that the bones found in Kenosha County are 13,500 years old.
"I think we can build a case for people having used the carcasses," said Eileen Johnson, curator of anthropology at the Museum of Texas Tech University and research director at Lubbock Lake National Landmark.
Authors Guardino and Riedel at Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison
Photos Courtesy of M. Constance Guardino III
and Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel 1996
Although the research is preliminary,
"there do appear to be marks that may well have been made by
tools, certainly by people," said Johnson, who examined the
bones in Kenosha and Milwaukee this week.
Monte Verde in Southern Chile has been considered the oldest human.
For thousands of years, Native American memorizers retained and transmitted knowledge through memory and word of mouth. The memorizers, who were usually women since they were less apt to be killed in battle, were among the most respected citizens of every nation. Memorizers spent their lives absorbing historical, medicinal, religious, and secular literature from their predecessors, and in turn teaching it to representatives of the next generation. Until recently, Native Americans were reluctant to share this knowledge with the white man, but to avoid its being lost forever, Cherokee Dhyani Ywahoo,Chief Sedillo of the Yanqui Indians, Apache Chief Asa Delugio, and others are generously revealing what is so carefully preserved.
Dhyani Ywahoo tells us that the forebears of the Cherokee came from the Pleiadians to Atlantis, where they lived until its final destruction. When their homes sank into the ocean, they escaped to this continent. Before the Europeans arrived, Dhyani Ywahoo's people lived a happy life, always harmonious with their natural environment. The Cherokees' advanced mathematical skills, detailed knowledge of astronomy, and legends of their sources of power reflect the wisdom and accomplishments of their ancestors. Cherokee medicine people utilized crystals to capture and manage earth's energy for their protection. Ywahoo describes this positive energy issuing from forceful dragons the Cherokee called Ukdena. Ancient sacred rituals help these descendants of Pleiadians from Atlantis maintain a harmonious balance of power from the sun, the moon, the earth, and the universe. The Cherokee grew bountiful crops and lived happily for an untold number of years in the Southern US. When western civilization encroached, the number of Cherokee medicine people decreased, the shamans lost the dragon power, and their beneficial relationship with the energy currents of the universe disappeared...
Legends transmitted for generations by descendants of the Algonquin family refer to the great flood and to the big country that sank in the sunrise sea. In their drawings the crescent is its symbol; when the points are up, the old land is still living, and when the points are down, their homeland is covered by the ocean. The Sioux, like Aztecs and the Caribs, believe they are the children of seven kings from an old, red land. To this day they still keep seven tribes. Their realistic tales of the flood help to confirm that their memorizers related facts, not fiction, Apaches recall a grand fire island in the eastern ocean and the maze like entrance to its port. Asa Delugio offers a graphic description of the sacred mountain that "spurt fire like a giant fountain" describing "the Fire God crawling through the caverns, roaring and thrashing the land about like a wolf shakes the rabbit. He reports that after his distant forefathers fled from their homeland, they traveled west to South America and eventually reached the mountains. Here they found temporary shelter in immense, ancient tunnels. After leaving the mountains they wandered with their seeds and fruit plants for many years before coming to the North American continent. Hopi, who live in the Southwestern US, describe their Third World, the one before this, as being an advanced civilization on a red land where the inhabitants wore shields to fly thorough the air. Their legends portray an overpowering flood destroying that world and survivors migrating on reed rafts to the present Fourth World. When they finally landed on the shore of a warm country to the south, their ancestors separated into various group sand began their long migrations over the continent. The Hopi expect that the islands of their past home will emerge one day to prove the truth of their memories.
Giants in History
Translators attempting to learn things
from Indians, particularly in the mid 1700s, did not always
render the proper meaning of what the Indians were saying. If
presented with the assertion that coincident with these large
creatures were tribes or groups of very large men, the chances
are substantial that the translator would use the English word
"giant" as an adequate substitute for the Indian word or
description. The word "giant," unfortunately, has certain
connotations in the English language and immediately suggests
children's stories, folklore, and, in the minds of scientists,
From talking with elders of several tribes, my understanding is that the Indians were describing people of more than average height. In fact, some elders as a routine matter have reported that the Indians themselves were much larger and taller. A more general description of these people used by traditional elders is "the tall ones."
Ella E. Clark's collections of Indian traditions, Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest and Indian Legends of the Northern Rockies, contains numerous stories of giant people ... she respected the elders who shared their stories and tried, as much as possible, to retain the exact wording and flavor of what they said, although sometimes she used "giants" also.
In a story discussing the origin of the Chief's Face, a rock formation on Mount Hood, south of the Columbia River, an elder commented: "In those days [early times] the Indians were also taller than they are now. They were as tall as the pine and fir trees that cover the hills, and their chief was such a giant that his warriors could walk under his outstretched arms." The mountain exploded, and the people could not live near it for a long time. When they returned to the area "... The children, starved and weak for so long, never became as tall and strong as their parents and grandparents had been." The story predicted that the people would remain weak until a great chief came who could conquer the volcano spirit.
This tradition seems to be straightforward and appears to describe a condition of malnutrition which might be expected to occur if people were deprived of food for several generations. One would expect that after a century of living again in a fertile land the deprivations suffered as a result of the volcano would have been overcome and the people would have returned to a normal size again. We have seen a similar situation with the Great Depression generation in America. It is important to note here, however that human beings, as a result of some change of living conditions, beginning with the eruption of volcanoes, suffered an irreversible loss of size.
Clark also recorded a story of the Coeur d' Alene people involving giants. These men had a strong odor and apparently painted their faces black. They were "taller than the highest tipis" and "when they saw a single tipi or lodge in a place, they would crawl up to it, rise, and look down the smoke hole. If several lodges were together, the giants were not so bold." Initially this description seems highly exaggerated, but again, if we know the Indian background, the story is not unreasonable.
Many tribes of the Pacific Northwest lived in pit houses much of the year. These houses were partially underground and partially above ground, thus vulnerable to Peeping Toms from the outside. So to have these giant people looking through smoke holes does not imply that they had an unusual fictional height, but only that they were sufficiently tall so that they could easily look down on these kinds of dwellings.
These stories of large people imply that Indians have a sense of historical sequence, somewhat different from Western history but nevertheless of some significance because some unusual and spectacular observations and experiences are remembered for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of years. Would the Indian accounts be "accepted" by scientists today as evidence of the existence of giants and the very recent existence of some kinds of megafauna (defined as "individuals or animals of a certain region, period, or special environment large enough to be visible to the naked eye."? In America? Absolutely not.
There is strong doctrinal bias against giving any Indian accounts credence—simply because the source is Indian. It is often hazardous for scholars to adopt a pro-Indian stances and suggest that Indian people could accurately remember anything of past events. Sometimes scholars even suggest that the Indian knowledge which does correspond to scientific knowledge was passed along by earlier scholars studying the same tribe... Some scholars have also alleged that Indian traditions and folk lore are not historical fact because "Indian traditions do not distinguish between Myth and history, nor between human and supernatural." ...It is almost impossible to get non-Indian scholars pried loose from their own cultural presuppositions to do careful interpretive work on Indian traditions.
Scholarly journals are littered with similar kinds of situations in which Indian accounts are rejected simply because they are Indian and theories are discredited because scholars are not willing to give credence to Indian accounts that seem to be accurate memories of times past. In general practice, a scholar discredits an Indian tradition and then debunks it, classifying it as a psychological quirk illustrating the primitive mind.
Considering all the fraud that has occurred in scientific circles—from Kepler fudging his data, Mendel rigging his figures, Burt writing his own reviews of his publications, and more recently, fraudulent reports in such areas as the breast cancer studies—it seems ludicrous that a scientist would call into question the veracity of others under any circumstances. Add to that sorry history the factual world view of the first Europeans who sought the Seven Cities of Gold, Prester John's palace, and the Fountain of Youth, a world view from which the Western scientific tradition has sprung, and it will be obvious that a long tradition of fantasy, Myth, fictions, and lies exists among Europeans and scientists that cannot be overlooked. Dismissing Indian accounts on the basis of predetermined doctrines, then, is not really a good idea and may prevent us from retrieving some factors about Pleistocene America that would be useful in understanding what happened over here.
What we can establish, as common ground between science and the Indian traditions, is that many creatures, including human beings themselves, were much larger during the late Pleistocene and that body size decreased measurably...
We know that these large people were not destroyed by the Indians. Many traditions suggest a state of peaceful coexistence with the tall ones. Frances Densmore reports a Sioux tradition in her classic study Teton Sioux Music which may give us some hints concerning this relationship:
"It is said that the Thunderbirds once came to earth in the form of giants. These giants did wonderful things, such as digging the ditches where the rivers run. At last they died of old age, and their spirits went again to the clouds and they resumed their form as Thunderbirds."
...But the giants could well have been
the white-skinned race which forced the Salish, Sioux, and Algonquins out of the north country
and then, if we follow Werner Muller's thesis, migrated east and
invaded western Europe, routed the Neanderthals, and are known
as the Cro-Magnon peoples.
The demise of the megafauna in almost every instance, is attributed by the Indians to an intervening act of the Great Spirit. With the tribes of the Mississippi a cause, an epidemic which also kills the giants, also, is given. The act of the Great Spirit, given by many tribes as the cause of megafauna extinction, implies some kind of natural event that was understood as an act of grace by high spiritual powers.
... So the Great Mystery made a great tent and kept it dark for ten days... Many of the Sioux believed that the event centered in the Devils Lake area of North Dakota and held the place to be sacred. It seems that the “dark tent” was some kind of traumatic climatic activity wherein the sky turned black for a significant period of time and great changes took place on the Earth.
... Donald Patten, in a highly informative and perceptive article entitled, "A Comprehensive Theory on Aging, Giantism and Longevity," raised a series of important questions about megafauna size and subsequent reduction to contemporary species size that bear reviewing...
... Patten links the propensity toward giantism with longevity, suggesting that the two phenomena seem to occur together, and that at one time animals and people grew larger than today and lived longer He points to the advanced ages of the patriarchs recorded in the Bible and references to "giants in the earth" and "mighty men" as evidence the Near East had its giantism also. Patten demonstrates in several writings that in the pre-flood era the people regularly lived unusually long lives. It thus was not uncommon for men in their seventies and eighties to be fathering children and for many generations to have shared long periods of time with each other...
...Once human longevity stabilized around four score for a life span, people began to doubt that anyone lived much longer. Even in ancient times extreme skepticism existed regarding this. Patten cites the efforts of Josephus to convince his readers that people really did live longer in ancient times. Josephus, in mentioning the advanced age of people before the flood, argued, along with many noted witnesses "that have written Antiquities... (among them Mantheo, Berossus, Mochus, Hestiaeus, Hieronymous, Hesiod, Hecataeus, Hekkanicaus, Acusilaus, Ephorus, and Nicolaus) that the ancients lived a thousand years..." Many times Indian elders have told me that in the old days people lived until they were 200 years old and, why I have no reason to doubt them. I have encouraged some of them to talk openly of these things but they are reluctant to draw the fire of skeptics.
So we are talking about a golden age when there was very little hardship, when there was considerably more species of animals living on all continents, and when there was no Ice Age. This idyllic planetary condition was remembered in a substantial number of human societies but according to Patten's theory, was shattered by the appearance of a comet or meteor composed almost wholly of ice and water that passed close enough to the Earth to disintegrate, dumping ice in massive amounts on the magnetic poles and precipitating an ungodly amount of rain on the temperate regions.
Large amounts of ice quickly formed gigantic icy mountains in areas of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres where we had glaciers, producing, as some scientists have speculated and as the Shoshones have reported, mountains of ice that reached to the sky. The impetus of this dump provided the mechanism to enable the ice to travel in all directions, most particularly uphill, at a very rapid rate of speed, accounting for the glacial "advances" and, if there were several dumps over a short period of time, the "retreats" or "stages" of glaciation as well.
Prior to the disaster, Patten suggests, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was considerably higher than our present level. With the icy catastrophe, the ocean cooled significantly, and as the temperature of the water decreased, much of the CO2 was absorbed by the colder water. Some carbonate strata were formed —limestone, dolomites, and dolostones—and more CO2 was taken out of circulation. About 50 to 75 percent of the biomass was buried, fossilized, and deposited in strata as tidal waves laid down immense beds of plant and animal matter...
Several studies have shown that carbon dioxide enhances plant growth and Patten suggests that all organisms are somewhat affected by the amount of carbon dioxide available to them. The hypothalamus gland serves as a supervisor of the hormone system and carbon dioxide acts as a stimulator for it. An excess of carbon dioxide, at least something greater than our present concentration in the atmosphere, would stimulate cerebral circulation and oxygenation. Too much would tend to act as an anesthetic. In pre-flood days, then, there was sufficient carbon dioxide present to create giantism and promote longevity. Reduction of the percentage of carbon dioxide meant slower growth and a downsizing of the fauna and flora.
We actually hear about CO2 every day but in a different context—global warming and air pollution. During 1995 there were constant alarms by scientists concerning the breakup of the Antarctic ice shelf with icebergs the size of Rhode Island breaking from the main body of ice. Our atmosphere is definitely getting warmer and having a drastic effect on the polar ice sheets. In a sense we are returning to prediluvian conditions. We never stop to think that there were once corals growing in Northern Norway and lush foliage in Alaska and Siberia. Our fossils give evidence of a much warmer Earth. And this warmer Earth had megafauna, suggesting that opportunities for maximum growth were present also. Among other factors, this warm climate has supported substantially more plant growth, which must have produced increased CO2.
The Earth's atmosphere, then, might have originally been much different and possessed maximum benign living conditions. With a maximum benign percentage of carbon dioxide during much of the planet's history, producing monstrous-sized dinosaurs could not have been difficult, given carbon dioxide's effect on growth... Perhaps the Earth, minus the tremendous amount of ice and water dumped on it, might have been a different place to... live. A collapse of that atmosphere once the dinosaur age ended and again in the Pleistocene would significantly reduce the size of animals over several generations until they were again adjusted to the present atmosphere. Every living creature would be affected and that would be why, according to the Indians, these giants are simply "gone."
Derek Ager, the dean of European stratigraphers in geology, summed up the theories purporting to explain the major extinctions of the geologic past: "Almost all the theories (including the Noachian one) that seek to explain major extinctions in the past, lead by one route or another to climatic oscillations and related matters such as the composition of the earth’s atmosphere. These in turn tend to point to extraterrestrial phenomena." Patten certainly suggests an extraterrestrial source of planetary change, but he does not rest there. He takes seriously the effect this source would have on the atmosphere and does not simply try to locate mechanical geological disruptions...
... Actually, the size of human being started to increase with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of more carbon dioxide into the air. Patten cites some startling figures: "With the onset of the petroleum age, atmospheric CO2 began to increase even more sharply. In 1957 the concentration of Hawaii (and the South Pole) was 311 ppM (parts per million)... By 1971 this had risen to 322 ppM, the rate of increase during the 1970's...steepening slightly. By extension the concentration by 1979 is between 329 to 330 ppM. The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing between .7 and .75 ppM per year."
A related factor here is how an increased percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would affect our radiocarbon dating, which has all of the megafauna clustering at around 12,000 years ago. If there was significantly more carbon in the atmosphere, the initial premise of radiocarbon dating—determining the amount of carbon 124 in vegetal and organic material—would be much different at its starting point. We could not assume, as we do today, that the percentage... was the same as what we find today... We simply have not thought about these things.
Scientists casually say that climatic conditions have changed, implying a rise or fall in the surface temperature of the planet, but then they do not think through the remainder of the problem. Since carbon dioxide is absorbed in cold water rather easily, the onset of the Ice Age...would have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere simply by decreasing the mean average temperature of the oceans. Thus... adjustments have to be made in scientific thinking regarding atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Change of atmospheric composition, then, is a reasonable solution to the question of giantism and the demise of the megafauna of the Pleistocene (geological period). Watching this process of downsizing, Indians may have felt they were being saved by the Great Spirit, they may have seen individuals of both sizes in the same area and attributed the demise of these creatures to an epidemic. Indians themselves may have been reduced in size, not through malnutrition but because of the change of atmosphere. The exposing of Mount Hood would have been a minor local event, a mere hiccup within the Ice Age disaster. But effects of the new atmosphere would have caused a permanent reduction in size that the Indians recognized.
... No advances can be made in our understanding of our planet and ourselves when scholars simply recite doctrinal beliefs as if they could verify sagging credibility. Science increasingly acts as if it were a religion by relying on authority rather than argument of evidence...
Geology and Native American History
Deloria's, in moving the discussion
now to the field of geology, is to offer evidence from the
Indian traditions that would suggest that American Indians have
occupied the Western Hemisphere for very long periods of time
and could not have been latecomers to this continent via the
Bering Strait around 12,000 years ago. In order to present this
evidence I will first look at some of Ager's critiques... and
then examine traditions recounting what the Indians say occurred
a long time ago.
Ager is among the few scholars who have suggested that some geological events may have been experienced and remembered by early human beings... [and] speculates that "it may well be that early humans first kindled their fires from the conflagrations caused by such geologically recent eruptions." And again he suggests: "... many early humans must have seen geological phenomena far more violent and spectacular than any we know in historic times, including the last great volcanicity across Northern Europe from the Auvergne to Rumania and the Explosion of Santorini which may have given rise to the Atlantis legend..." Philip King echoes this possibility in his book The Evolution of North America, a rather technical treatise which gives a comprehensive overview of the geologic history of our continent, when he notes that "... all the evidence seems to point to the astonishing conclusion that the Grand Canyon was cut largely in the two million years or so of Pleistocene and later time, or a time when men were living already on the earth. If primitive man had been living in North America, he would have witnessed the formation of the Grand Canyon."
There are indeed many traditions of human societies relating times when the Earth boiled and fumed, when, as the Hopis say, the world was destroyed by fire. If some geologists are now speculating on the possibility that people saw and remembered such events, why aren't these accounts useful in science? Here the arrogant attitude of scientists that all early people were frightened of nature and formulated fictional tales to explain the origin of things precludes scholars from using these accounts. Scholars have devised a technical language to deal with the traditions of the past and non-Western peoples, and this language is designed to cleverly divert this non scientific information into harmless categories where it cannot disrupt the doctrines we are currently supporting...
How Scientists Neutralize Native American Historiography
Three basic concepts stand in the way
of examining the traditions of Indians in a fair and intelligent
manner: "myth," and its progeny "euphemerisms" and "etiology."
"Myth" is the general name given to the traditions of
non-Western peoples. It basically means a fiction created and
sustained by underdeveloped minds. Many scholars will fudge this
point, claiming that their definition of myth gives it great
respect as the carrier of some super-secret and sacred truth,
but in fact the popular meaning is a superstition or fiction
which we, as smart modern thinkers, would never in a million
Within the broad classification of myth are two subcategories of story—line creations: "euphemerisms" and "etiological" myths. The euphemerisms is a narrative which contains some participation of the supernatural that is wholly constructed by primitives and which they insist is historically true. For decades the Trojan War was believed to be a euphemerisms until Heinrich Schliemann began to dig tells in Asia Minor and proved the conflict to have a historical basis. An etiological myth is a narrative made up to explain something which people have observed or which they wish to explain in familiar terms. Looking at various kinds of landscapes, in etiological format we simply assume that primitive and ancient people would make up a story, based on their knowledge of nature, to account for waterfalls, volcanoes, rivers, and so forth. Most of modern science is, in fact, etiological myth, since we cannot explain fossils, we cannot explain sedimentary deposition, and we cannot explain the causes of glaciation.
It is possible to separate non-Western traditions from the mainstream of science and keep them comfortably lodged in the fiction classification because most of them contain references to the activities of supernatural causes and personalities and are not phrased in the sterile language of cause and effect, which has been the favorite language of secular science. It is unfair to do so, however, when scientific writers have complete license to make up scenarios of their own which could not possibly have taken place and pass them as science and therefore as superior to other traditions.
... In the early 1970s, Dorothy Vitaliano attempted to show that some information possessed by very ancient peoples and the non-Western tribal groups, and classified as "myth," might indeed be useful. She began to match some accounts with modern geologic knowledge to create a new discipline which she called geomythology. Geomythology, according to Vitaliano, is an effort "to explain certain specific myths and legends in terms of actual geologic events that may have been witnessed by various groups of people." ... Linkage of traditions and legends with present-day knowledge might provide some additional data for scientific experimentation; it would also verify the historical basis of legend, take it out of the category of folklore, and give it some real status.
Minimally, verification would suggest that a particular group or tribe of people lived at a specific location and had been witness to a geological event. In an unexpected format, Vitaliano was stepping forward to provided substance to Ager's offhand remark about the geologic events that the ancients might have experienced. It should be apparent how useful this approach is to American Indian efforts to get traditional knowledge verified.
This knowledge of geologic and climatic events in the North American ancient past preserved by the traditions of the tribes can be a significant source of information for modern science. But it would require that scientists honestly reevaluate much of their dating of strata and abandon orthodox doctrines in instances where common sense dictates. Fresh-looking lava must reasonably be recent; processes of erosion cannot be suspended, like scientific beliefs, simply for doctrinal purposes.
If the Indian legends demonstrate the presence of people in North America, or even the Western Hemisphere, tens of thousands of years ago—or in the case of Mount Multnomah 25 million years ago—then that discrepancy should alert scientists and they should reexamine their doctrines in light of the conflicting interpretations. The idea that people have only been in the Western Hemisphere for 12,000 years is simply an agreement among scholars who neither think nor read and who have been stuck on a few Clovis and Folsom sites for a generation. I personally cannot believe that any people could remember these geological events for tens of thousands of years. My conclusion is that these are eyewitness accounts but that the events they describe are well within the past 3,000 years. It is past time that this resistance be ended and a new scenario for the Western Hemisphere be constructed.
Volcanoes provide the easiest natural phenomenon to link to tribal traditions because they are not difficult to date in the geological strata. ...Matching traditions about floods and the creation of lakes, rivers, and inland seas is somewhat more difficult. ...Flood stories are almost always linked with the concerns of fundamentalist Christians, who believe that Indian accounts of a great flood will provide additional proof of the accuracy of the Old Testament. With their cultural blinders in place, it never occurs to them that the Old Testament may very well provide evidence of the basic accuracy of the Indian story...
... All societies have these kinds of flood stories. Perhaps the belief is held that flood stories respond to a basic human psychological need and are therefore a part of the orientation process which human groups devise to enable them to live in this world. Accepting the possibilities that these flood stories speak of a planetary event, not so long ago, involving significant psychological trauma, would free minds to make progress in all sciences.
... The pervasive nature of the large floods, the wide geographical scope of their damage, and their seemingly complete destruction of the world as people have known it leads many tribes to remember the experience as a general purging of evil in the world. The tribal accounts therefore need to be "de-mythologized," not in the old Rudolph Bultmannian search for enduring religious truths, but simply to eliminate the idea of crime and punishment to allow a concentration on the physical phenomenon of an unusually spectacular and destructive flood event.
The flood stories of the seafaring Indians of the Pacific Northwest coast used the sea as the Plains tribes used the land. With a complex set of triangulation devices, these tribes—Quinaults, Makahs, Clallams, and others—went far out to sea hunting whales and seals. Therefore, over time, they experienced the terror of the sea as well as enjoyed its more placid benefits. If any groups knew and understood tsunamis and other hazardous ocean activities, these would be the people.
Their flood stories, for the most part, involve tsunami actions of unusual strength and duration. Mount Shasta legends say that the sea came inland and rose until it nearly covered this peak and then final receded, leaving behind dry land and the marshes of the northern part of the state and Southern Oregon. Strangely, no flood stories were collected by Ella E. Clark from the Oregon tribes, and my suspicion is that these tribes may not have survived the flood, or may not have been affected by it.
... We discovered almost all that Washington State Indian groups have a flood story involving the sea invading the land. The people's solution, having been forewarned, is to build canoes or rafts and attempt to ride out the storm. In many of the stories only the good people in the canoe are saved. Most of the stories involve the efforts of the Indians to survive by fixing their canoes to the tops of mountains. They then identify landmarks and peculiar geological formations on mountains as the site where the canoes were tied.
More often, this flood separates the different canoes and the tribe is scattered over a vast area before the water ebbs, leaving the people isolated from each other.
...These flood stories which involve tidal waves must be distinguished from flood stories which have rain as their primary source of water. Tribes all over the country have flood stories that feature incessant rain as the source of the disorder, and these stories, if any Indian stories, may have some relationship to Noah’s flood. Otis Halfmoon, a Nez Perce elder, told Ella Clark that "it rained for a long, long time. The valleys were filled with water, and the animals lived on the tops of the hills. Some of the animals were saved, but the big animals perished. That is why people have found the bones of big animals along the Salmon River and big hip bones near Lewiston." This tradition fits comfortably with the argument earlier concerning the demise of a major portion of the megafauna at the time of the large ice/water dump.
The rain scenario is also found on the Pacific coast. ... The Skokomish relate that the Great Spirit was displeased with the evil in the world and after having secluded the good people and animals, "... he caused a heavy rain to fall. It rained and rained and rained for many days and many nights. All the earth was under water. The water rose higher and higher on the sides of Takhoma (Mount Rainier)." The water did not subside until it had reached the snow line.
The Quileute Indians who live on the Olympic peninsula have a tradition which fits perfectly with the icy comet scenario. They experienced a storm of vicious intensity and prolonged duration. According to their tradition: "For days and days great storms blew. Rain and hail and then sleet and snow came down upon the land. The hailstones were so large that many people were killed. The other Quileute were driven from their coast villages to the great prairie, which was the highest part of their land." The storm lasted so long that the people grew thin and weak from hunger, and it was so intense that the men could not go out on to the sea to fish. Since theses people always had a ready supply of food in this area, the long duration of the storm seems to suggest we are dealing with a major climatic event. I would date this storm of rain, hail, sleet, and snow as preceding the tidal flood which divided this tribe into smaller scattered groups.
With some few exceptions, Indian flood stories are sight specific, and while they may testify to the occurrence of a planetary event, they are more probably memories of local phenomena. Their chief virtue is that they suggest some evidence that a number of easily identified tribes have occupied the areas in which Americans found them for a considerable period of time. This evidence can help amend the rather artificial boundaries which the Indian Claims Commission and other agencies have forced on many tribes.
The Indian legends also sketch out what could be a fruitful area of new research in establishing a more specific history of North America that could take the place of the present speculative chronology of "primitive man" with its endless "phases" of hypothetical occupations, the great variety of pottery types which many scholars argue show cultural development, and the interminable arguments over the use of scraping tools and spear points. The difficulties, however, are enormous because North American geological history has been stretched across a uniformitarian framework which requires countless millennia to pass between geological events, thereby trivializing catastrophic events to make them appear as slow natural processes that we can observe today.
Making Honest People out of Scientists
Obviously, from the objections I have
raised in this book, a great deal of the current popular
scientific beliefs and doctrines do not hold up to any critical
review. I hope that the next generation of scholars, Indian and
non-Indian, will force open any breaches I have identified in
the wall of scientific orthodoxy and make honest people out of
scientists who are now afraid to publish their true beliefs and
thoughts out of concern for conformity. To that end, therefore,
I will now articulate areas where I believe good research and
much difficult thinking will produce substantial breakthroughs
in the years ahead.
Photo Courtesy of M. Constance Guardino III
Apart from tribes having migration
stories as descriptive of their origins, the majority of stories
of origin suggest a creation in which people are given,
simultaneous with their creation, an awareness that they have
been created. These traditions often suggest that there was no
essential spiritual/intellectual different between people and
animals. Some tribes report that an entity should change shape
and experience what various birds and animals experience in that
particular kind of body. Thus stories relate that people and
animals married each other. Peter Noyes, an elder on the Colville
Reservation in Northeastern Washington State, told
Ella Clark: "Long ago—I don't know how long ago, the animals
were the people of this country. They talked to one another the
same as we do. And they married, too. That want on for many,
many years, and then the world changed." From the Sioux stories
of compatible spirits I felt that this "marriage" must have been
a blending of tow kinds of individual spirits.
Human beings seem to be the focal point of communication in our world. Many traditions say that we cannot do anything very well except communicator, and consequently we are chosen to be the carriers of ceremonial thanksgiving activities on behalf of all other forms of life. We are not the only primate-shaped creatures, however, since there are peoples larger and smaller than we are, and some of these other peoples at on time coexisted with us, much as Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal are now knows to have been contemporaries.
The Early Climate
This age, if we now move to a
framework of world ages, and these could be geologic ages, was a
golden age and was somehow disrupted, and planetary-wide
catastrophes followed, radically changing the nature of our
physical world. It was at this time, moist probably, that many
of the older mountain chains were created, and thereby climate
began to resemble what we have today. A feature of that world,
however, was that the atmosphere was much different from our
familiar sky today. The planet was shrouded in some kind of
water vapor canopy and, while people could distinguish light and
darkness, the canopy was too thick to produce clear images of
the sun and moon. In this scenario the Indian traditions and the
description of Genesis are mutually supportive of each other.
Another feature was the rain and snow and thunderstorms, as we know them today, were not meteorological phenomena. Instead, the Earth was covered by a mist which constantly evaporate water from the ground and precipitated it again. Clarence Pickernell, a man with Quinault, Chehalis, and Cowlitz ancestors, said that "...when the world was young, the land east of where the Cascade Mountains now stand became very dry. This was in the early days before rains came to the earth. In the beginning of the world, moisture came up through the ground, but for some reason it stopped coming." The parallel with Genesis is firm: "For the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not man to till the ground." (Genesis 2:5) "But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. (Genesis 2:6)"
Lest scientists begin to hemorrhage, these citations, in my mind, have nothing to do with the validity of any religions—Indian, Christian, Islamic, or Jewish. What we may have here is simply a description of a rather unusual planetary climate which characterized the initial state of our world—when human beings were around to experience it and how they remembered it.
This condition existed prior to the origin of the four rivers of Mesopotamia mentioned in the Old Testament. I have already noted that the Sioux spoke of a time when there was no thunder and lightning and the rivers were made by giants. We are therefore talking about a time when the Earth lacked large rivers because there was insufficient rain to provide copious amounts of water to create the flow and beds of rivers. With some exceptions, the oceans and possibly some shallow lakes, it was not possible to have flowing water in the atmospheric mist of the early days. Conceivably, this condition may suggest an explanation of some of the more geologically placid eras of the past.
When this world was destroyed, it was
ravaged by fire, and here we have plenty of stories about the
destruction by fire which I would take to be volcanic action of
unprecedented severity. The lava flows, already observed, are
often very fresh, as if they were still "warm" in some
locations. Our world was radically changed, but stories seem to
suggest that our species, while reduced significantly, was not
destroyed as completely as during the first flood and
It is difficult to go beyond this sequence because the different tribes have different descriptions of volcanic activity. In fact, it may be going too far to suggest this sequence. It would seem likely...that the volcanism was a onetime event. What is important to note, however, is that in both instances of these early changes in world conditions, humans either were warned by the spirits or intuited hard times coming because we survived in enough numbers to repopulate the Earth. Surveying the Indian traditions, it seems likely to me that higher spiritual entities must have warned enough people, or provided for them in some other way, to ensure the continuance of the human species. Regardless of how many religious trappings have been attached to introduce lessons of morality, these are basically, in my mind, geological reports.
Crater Lake, Oregon
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
figures...casually let fly remarks that drastically undercut
their beloved evolutionary doctrines without even realizing what
they have done. We have literally hundreds of "fossil creatures"
from the past living with us today. In fact, when we begin to
compile a list of the animals casually mentioned by scientists,
it is alarming. Where is evolution?
... [M]any living creatures today should actually be classified as living fossils, representatives of remote geological eras, because they apparently arose in remote times and however somehow survived al subsequent geological changes to persist today.
Gordon Rattrey Taylor, in The Great Evolution Mystery, notes the following: bees, bacteria, salamanders, penguins, oysters, king crab, opossums, platypus, and shark, including a large number of familiar mammals and fish have dates from around the Paleocene—12 million years ago.
It should not take a genius to recognize that the so-called antiquity of these creatures is illusory. We see hundreds of species in our modern world who are, in fact, survivors of previous Earth epochs. If we could find an honest scientist and have her or him make up a complete list of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, bacteria, and plants that "stopped evolving" millions of years ago and are found alive and kicking in the modern world, we would have a pretty good inventory of contemporary fauna and flora... It must be possible, and probably necessary to understand our situation, to collapse these millions of fictional years as much as we can and understand that our planet has a much different history than we have been told.
Dinosaurs and Monsters
The discussion of living fossils was
necessary because a number of tribal traditions describe
creatures that may have been dinosaurs. In the world view of
orthodox science, such a suggestion is preposterous at first
blush, but as we have seen, a number of fauna originated in very
early times and the crocodile and alligator apparently came on
the scene before the dinosaurs flourished. The Tohono
Oodham (Papagos) live on a large reservation in
Southern Arizona which contains peak Baboquivari. There, in
their earliest traditions, an extremely large animal,
personified as the Spirit Etoi dominated the vicinity. ...Good
authority suggests that it was some kind of dinosaur. ...In a
revival of ancient customs with their tribe members in Northern
Mexico, ...it is believed on object of particular sacredness
used in this ceremony wan an unfossilized dinosaur bone from one
of Etoi's personifications.
Again the Pacific Northwest peoples have a number of stories concerning oversized animals in their lakes and rivers. Since the current trend in dinosaur research suggests that these creatures, for the most part, were warm-blooded and had social and instinctual characteristics like mammals of today,... some of these creatures, described as animals or large fish by observers, were surviving individuals of some presently classified dinosaur species. That is to say, humans and some creatures we have classified as dinosaurs were contemporaries.
The best-known story concerns the monster, known as Ogopogo, who lives in Lake Chelan (50 miles long and 1,600 feet deep) on the east slope of the Cascades.
Why would we attempt to identify this creature as a dinosaur or comparable animal? Indians generally speak with a precise and literal imagery. As a rule, when trying to identify creatures of the old stories, they say they are "like" familiar neighborhood animals, but then carefully differentiate the perceived differences. I have found that if the animal being described was in any way comparable to modern animals, that similarity would be pointed out; the word "monster" would not be used. Only in instances where the creature bears no semblance to anything we know today will it be described as a monster.
Deloria further describes other native oral traditions and pictographic records discovered in the Great Lakes region of a monster called a "water panther." It was described as having a saw-toothed back and a benign, cat-like face in many of the carvings where it lived in streams and lakes identified by pictographs posting warnings! Similar animals were also described crossing the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers into Southwestern Missouri by the Sioux. In this case the dinosaur had "...red hair all over its body...and its body was shaped like that of a buffalo. It had one eye and in the middle of its forehead was one horn. Its backbone was just like a crosscut saw; it was flat and notched like a saw or cogwheel." Deloria suspects the dinosaur must be a stegosaurus. The dinosaurs thus easily displace the familiar, perhaps Pleistocene, megafauna and move west, where their remains are found in the Rocky Mountains today. Havasuapi Canyon in Northern Arizona at the intersection of "Tobocobe Trail" with Lee Canyon depict spectacular local fauna: a dinosaur, Diplodocus, under an extremely aged desert "varnish" covering in the lines of the figure. Found also were a fourteen feet high cow elephant striking an equally tall giant of a man with its trunk. He is in the water, a typical ambush location found in several Southern Arizona sites of remains butchered from the hunt as shown in the marks on the mammoth's bones. Also seven Ibex identified from the knobs on the horns and two deer are shown driven into the canyon. Above the canyon floor on a plateau was found an ancient megalithic fortress.
These dinosaur scenarios...make a point about the longevity of American Indians through its own prehistory. Many scholars, when reminded of it, simply say, "Oh, that old thing," as if this whole discussion had been satisfactorily explained decades ago. But it has not. Orthodox scholars simply omit any evidence that shakes the foundations of accepted scientific belief from consideration.
What are the real facts about
radiocarbon dating? Depending on the varying percentage of
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, radiocarbon dating might be
significantly affected, changing the dates from what have been
previously accepted. Today, lay people have surrendered their
trust to science and uncritically accept the results of
scientific investigations. Merely citing a few radiocarbon dates
in support of a theory by a person with academic credentials
means to the average person that in fact science has irrefutable
proof of age using this technique.
Deloria refers to several specific instances of false radiocarbon dating. The tale begins with directors of some radiocarbon dating laboratory asking the investigator what dates s/he will accept for the material they bring to be dated; then, when a figure is obtained that comes near this date, it is reported—together with tolerance values—to make the test appear honest. Lab personnel are told what date the scientists would prefer and the public is rarely made aware of these manipulations of scientific fact behind the scene.
(1) In the Antarctic Journal of the US, W. Dort wrote that freshly slaughtered seals, when subjected to radiocarbon analysis, are dated at 1,300 years old.
(2) In Science, M. Keith and G. Anderson wrote that shells of living mollusks were dated at 2,300 years old.
(3) In The Physiology of Trees, Bruno Haber wrote that wood from a growing tree was dated at 10,000 years.
The tree that was tested was growing next to an airport which had a high level of carbon dioxide from airplane exhausts.
The next generation of people working on these problems, unless they are warned, will simply build on the errors of the famous personalities of the past.
When Israel went forth from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of
Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled,
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
The hills like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
O, Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.
Modern Micmac Compared with Davenport Hunt Tablet
This is a facsimile of Verse 4 of Psalm 114. In exit Israel, as rendered in the Austrian edition of the Abbé Maillard's translation. It deals with the rolling back of the Red Sea "when the mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like young sheep." It is here chosen for comparison with the Davenport Micmac text, as certain features of the Davenport style are retained, while new features are introduced. The literal translation is: “The mountains (a) skipped (b), likewise (c) the sea (d) as beasts do (e), also (f) (g), (untranslatable particle) the hills (h) as do (i) the beasts' (j) young (k)." Note conversion of reading direction to L-R, though the heads of the animals are now wrongly oriented by Egyptian rules; old Indian residents of Maine in 1866 could still recall when the script was written both vertically and horizontally in any direction.
Resolving the Fell-Diop Disparity
I am concerned that Barry Fell has
lapsed into the typical Western European scientific attitude and
biased assumption that denies Northern African and Egyptian
authorship of written language. When Ramses III defeats the
Vandals-Sea Peoples three times (1194, 1191, and 1188 BCE), who
are Nordic-type white, blonde, and blue eyed, and settle in the
already settled (Berber) Libya. [Fell assumes being invaded and
therefore changed and built up by the "white Aryans," the so
called white Egyptians. Dr.
A. Diop, French African history scholar and
scientist-archaeologist elaborates disproved in his book,
African Origin of Civilization, an explanation for the presence
of the "Libyan" alphabet as alphabet of Nordic origin. It
survived in Libya, but died out in its northern homeland, to be
replaced by runes. Fell also guesses that the "blond Tauregs"
were from Nordic immigrants at the time of the Sea People's
Egypt's more advanced status as a nation state than its other Mediterranean neighbors. Also cite date of 1700 BCE of bronze age voyage of Scandinavian King Woden-lithi voyage to America to barter textiles with the Algonquin Indians in return for metallic copper ingot, and thus setting up a permanent trading colony. Thus Bronze Age "Europeans" were literate, educated people, who left engraved rock inscriptions, recording their Teutonic and Celtic tongues, using alphabets that survive today in "remote parts of the world" (Africa), but died out and were replaced 2,000 years ago in Europe when the Roman script became the predominant alphabet.
Diop relates the Lower or Northern part of Egypt dating back to the pre dynastic have failed to uncover the existence of a White type. The Whites of Lower Egypt were transplanted there at a well—known, precise historical epoch; it was during the 19th Dynasty, under Merneptah (1300 BCE), that the coalition of Indo-Europeans (peoples of the sea) was conquered; the survivors were taken prisoner and scattered over the Pharaoh's various construction sites between 1,300 and 500 BCE, these populations had time to spread from the Western Delta to the outskirts of Carthage. In Book II of his History, Herodotus explains how they were distributed along the coast.
Barry Fell particularly falls prey to a picture decidedly showing invading white Indo-Europeans in battle gear wearing horned, Nordic—like helmets fighting the Egyptians. He makes the common assumption the invading (Hyksos, Assyrians, Greeks, Persians, etc.) did assimilate into Egypt becoming white Egyptians, and thus gained such political, economic, religious, and technological ascendancy which black Africans could not have done, as race-culture bias From this reasoning, Fell imputes the Celtic ogam alphabet as the basis of (hieratic or non-hieroglyphic) Egyptian and evolving as the oldest language!
According to (world renowned African history) C. A. Diop, these battles did take place in Egypt, but that the Egyptians always represented them as races apart and were never influenced by them, for the simple reason that the invader's civilization was less advanced then their own. No one has ever thought seriously of proposing scientifically the influence of any one of peoples on Egyptian civilization.
Fell’s specialization is decipherment and translation of ancient languages and alphabets from pre-Columbian North American colonizers and Amerindian petroglyphs, images, and symbols, and hieroglyphs on other archaeological finds such as pottery, ancient coins, for translation and historical content. His expert work [of heretofore "mysterious, indecipherable squiggles" were variously identified] in Kufic, Tifinag, Celtic, Hebrew, Micmac, ancient Basque etc. decipherment and translations have gained international confirmation and verification from significant internationally known experts in these very specialized ancient language fields.
Historian Marilyn Riedel at Confluence
of Portage Canal and Fox River
Photo Courtesy of M. Constance Guardino III
The Difference Between European and African Researchers
The difference in the intellectual
approach of the African and European researcher often causes...
misunderstandings in the interpretation of facts and their
relative importance. The scientific interest of the European
scholar with regard to African data is essentially analytical.
Seeing things from the outside, often reluctant to synthesize,
the European clings basically to explosive, more or less biased
microanalysis of the facts and constantly postpones ad infinitum
the stage of synthesis. The African scholars distrusts this
"scientific" activity, the aim of which seems to be the
fragmentation of the collective historical African consciousness
into minute facts and details. Classical Greek and Roman
scholars bristle when specialist African(ist) historian show how
much these Northern Mediterranean ("Western") culture borrowed
from African philosophy, science, religion, and culture; and
recently, along with the Religious Right, have also attacked
Afrocentric history as oral myths that black history studies
have mistaken for "real history!"
If the African anthropologist made a point of examining European races "under the magnifying glass," s/he would be able to multiply races ad infinitum by grouping physiognomies into races and subraces as artificially as his European counterpart does with regard to Africa. He would, in turn, succeed in dissolving collective European reality into a fog of insignificant facts.
The Boabab Tree
Dr. C. A. Diop of Diourbel went back
to the boabab last year. I was quite disappointed because I
hardly recognized the signs that I easily identified during my
childhood; the bark of the boabab had developed since. A little
boy and girl passed by and enlightened me. They helped me to
locate the signs which, as a matter of fact, are riddles,
ideograms: a kettle, a sword, a goat skin, a camel's foot, a
string of prayer beads, and so on, memorializing the visit of a
great leader of yesteryear, presumably the Prophet...
It is not writing in the phonetic sense of the word, but a series of drawings. The fact that this practice dates from the post-Islamic epoch tends to suggest that it reflects ancient habits about to disappear. On the boabab, along with the prayer beads, sword, and camel's foot, there was an ink stand and even a pen; so Arabic writing was known, but it was absent from the bark of the boabab. This is similar to the attitude of Njoya, the sultan of Cameroon who, although a Moslem, utilized hieroglyphic writing, perhaps because of ancestral tradition, excluding Arabic characters, to take a census of the population of his kingdom, to transcribe all the literature, the oral tradition, and the history of his country.
Theories or theologies of Jesus as a
political and/or spiritual Messiah as these affect ones
understanding of time and history: what difference does it make
(are the outcomes or their relationships or impacts as to) how
one believes in Jesus as merely a human ("Son of Man"), and/or
(if one believes Jesus is) or the divine "Son of God?" And what
are the consequent results on the end of time in actual history
or historical sense called [any impact] messianism,
and the apocalypse? That is, what are some of the common
confusion between eschatology as messianism, millennialism, and
apocalypse? These three latter terms of traditional
Christian-Jewish belief systems upon our understanding of
history? And how does this historical view or belief and its
practice make us revolutionaries, liberators, or just supporters
of the "status quo?" in our responsibilities. As citizens
immersed by Western Judaism and Christianity in Western Jewish
Christian cultural and religious values? And as atheists,
humanists, agnostics, polytheists, monotheists, and paganists?
An evaluation and recommendation.
But this is too specialized a narrowing of argumentation for the sake of philosophy at the expense of action or function to argue here. Thus the study, debate, and elaboration of concepts of theology and liberation by knowledge elite using code words to speak to other elite derails any consideration of action, the more difficult “how to” solutions that inevitably divide people who must follow through with/upon the answer to "why do it?"
This usually academic, exaggerated, and misplaced puffery reinforces the status quo through mutual mental masturbation of homo/erotic/social/sexual elite thus preventing implemention in a functional way any institutional. group, or individual change or revolution/liberation for the people, and the environment—the despised, dispossessed, alienate, and under represented—the disposed of society. This is not encouraged by other than progressive seminaries and the well-read, interested layperson—the religious elite.
It is the people who make and do their own liberating—not the church, political, and social institutions or leaders themselves, nor even by relying only upon an "outside source" (or being) to heroically rescue themselves. How our lives are a part of and make history no matter what our beliefs, a secularization or freeing the boundaries of justice for all individuals, groups, societies, and environments whose beginnings or ethic and actions or functioning proceed from a core that is a person's faith, spirituality, and humanistic concern, whatever ones belief or theology may be. Faith or its lack is the one common denominator each one of us has, or must have, a vision in order to "keep on keeping on." In the following of ones own values, truths, and ethics comes the expectation for those around us and the institutions to test us and we to test them in this liberating process that seeks to treat others as they would like to be treated and/or to bring the "kingdom" or "reign of justice" on earth "as it is in heaven," so states the Lord's Prayer!
Knowing ones "roots" and cultural traditions may become a significantly important armor to increasing anonymity, technological employment and unemployment, cacooning and interpersonally, physically deprived social isolation, and subsequent spiritual distress upon the jobless individual, uncaring civil society, and the destroyed environment as mass culture shock and ego-centered values plummet at dizzying speeds and seemingly disintegrate the superstructure man-made artificially created "reality" from its binary delusion/illusion of their man-made artificiality by a pull of the atomic-electric plug! and into thin air! Apocalypse! The end of "big brother" time!
Ancient prophets and astrologers, Medieval and modern prognosticators, scientists and environmentalists, spiritualists and channelers, UFO abductees and sect believers, and the superstitious, facing the dying away of the last seconds of this century and the great, uncertain leap into the next predict apocalyptic evens and Armageddon!
This is another way of saying that the coming second millennium, unlike the first millennium eagerly expected the messiah to come again to end the terrible persecution of Jews and later the Christians (by 1,000 CE) in the first, may be the apocalypse or "end of the ages." Millennialism now very popular, controversial in the religious and popular, glitz-news press.
Y2K: The Year 2000 Computer Crisis
The idea of the end of time and
history is basically an attempt by Judeo Christian Moslem
religious tradition to explain to their followers why God either
allows evil in the world and therefore is evil, the problem of
theodicy. Thus, one's enemies or "sinners" will have their day
in court for punishment by a vengeful god in the hereafter if
they escaped punishment, or if not necessarily in this world,
but in "the next" at the judgment throne. On the other hand,
being martyrs for ones faith therefore guarantees a reward in
paradise, or after life. Like the early Christian masters who,
like Jesus in his willingness to, as church theologians say
"give up his life for the sins of all as a sacrifice" in our
place to a vengeful god who demands perfection is theologically
and literally biblically acceptable (Levels One and Two) as
accepted behavior demanded toward women, gays, lesbians,
children, and pole of color, disabled diseased, poor and others
who are weak, the losers; to emulate—to give until it hurts, or
to hurt is god-like and honorable behavior especially for the
strong and righteously indignant. This masochism results from a
sadistic god and plays out ever day in society between the haves
and the have not with the powerful and the weak, the influential
over the dispossessed to "prove that God will thereby take care
of them" and so not to worry in this life. This is a Level One,
literal biblical truth (faithing) interpretation, to fulfill
"for the poor you will always have with you." And sure enough,
as God promised, there they are! This is the reversal of the
Level Five premise that takes the context of the saying into
account, that questions why there are the poor, the outcast, and
conversely, on the other hand, praises the "Good (but outcast
pariah) Samaritan" who no one thought would desire to minister
to their supposed enemy. Nor would the samaritan be allowed to
minister to themselves, the pharisee, the priests, etc!
Second, regarding the end of time theology and the Heaven's Gate groups mass suicide "to get from this would to the next" shows the failure of such a Level Three, conventional, traditional, sybheic society judges. How leader-god Applewhite internalized the university's homophobia of being a gay employee. Lesbian, gay or even (hetero)sexually confused teenagers and young adults commit suicide is a condemnation of the failure of our society hatred to allow difference and diversity in people, that "human" (and god-likeness!) and sentient, living beings come in all modes, shapes, forms, colors, and sizes, and are no "evil" enemies to fearfully undermine. Dysfunctional society enforces, stigmatize, intolerance, fear, alienation and rejection. Sophisticated attitudes and measures of stealth are used socially and personally to undermine or block the way of humanity legally or illegally, by omission or commission, with a fountain pen as well as gun. So people aren't allowed to be who they are—that it is unacceptable to "be(come) who you are, meant to, or called, to do and thus become. Again, this is Level Five faithing vs. Level Three conventionality, of public polls by politicians for legislation and election strategies, etc.
This faithing system to evaluate "cults" as to whether they are inward, ego, imploding in heir purpose of self destructive behavior, and/or outward reaching and giving to others as to themselves, no matter who they are (Level 5, transcendent of category). These benchmarks to levels of maturing faithing may be used as part if the content or ethics of behavior from a universal perspective including religions, bureaucracies, groups, politics, and individuals. The processes of becoming manure can also be identified a the chronological or mental age at which these behaviors develop and usually resolved or awareness develops.
If my local Apple Macintosh consultants are correct, this computer and all those Macs made from 1975 on comply with the Y2K criteria so that if publishing this millennium edition isn’t completed by then as planned, we'll still be capable of continuing satisfactorily on January 1, 2000!
Hale-Bopp: History and Time Defined by Cults and UFOlogists
March 29, 1997:
FLASH! Saturday, Holy Week of Easter: This Monday of Holy Week,
with the presence of the comet, Hale-Bopp,
importuned a great loss of life by mass suicide of Heavens Gate
sect of followers. This death-scene was discovered in Rancho
Santa Fe, CA by a former member alerted by the group's video of
its member's plans. This is the largest such tragedy to date in
the continental US. Thirty-nine androgynous women and men, many
being older and some younger, along with their leader, Marshall
Applewhite, called "Do," of the Heavens Gate UFO spiritual group
were found in their immaculately prepared and clean six bedroom
All wore casual new T-shirts, jeans, socks and sneakers, and were lying in their bunk beds, glasses off, as if they were taking but a brief nap. Each had a purple shroud over the face and body, and a bag packed for a "rescue" journey from their “worn vehicle” bodies and this corrupted and "spaded" physical world to a "higher physical and spiritual plane" by alien space craft.
Among the dead was Thomas Nichols, brother of Nichelle Nichols, who stared as Lt. Uhura of the Star Trek series. In respect for her brothers beliefs, she appeared once on TV's Larry King Live program representing the family in eulogy to him, delivering a poem her corporation produced for children's education on space called, "Hail to Hale-Bopp," which will not return in 2,000 to 4,000 years.
When a "window of opportunity" was noted on the Heaven's Gate web page as portended by Hale-Bopp, a frenzy of inquiries crashed the site, while investigators and ultimately the FBI taking control of the page and any other internet information "to prevent a repeat" loss of life.
Such bright, gentle, and self-disciplined like-minded people were practicing ascetics in their community of 22 years including a economically successful cooperative of technological savvy and expertise in WEB page computer design and marketing. All took celibacy vows and were assigned to relate to one other in a platonic relationship; voluntary castration of some men, including "Do" took place. The women wore short hair cuts and casual attire.
In the 1970s, both Applewhite, a formerly married father of two, and astrologer-confidant Bonnie Lou Nettles, aka "Peep" and "Ti," gained national attention in 1975, when their group recruited members in the coastal town of Waldport, Oregon. Since this is just miles from the author's former residence, she remembers the great stir of public opinion, and vividly recalls the shock when 20 people mysteriously vanished from her area after this same group, (that began at the University of Oregon in 1972), came through. However, a witness from South Beach, Oregon said when he attended their recruiting meeting in 1975, he was one who didn't join them.
The earliest cult event of the Church of the Bride of Christ of Joshua II, aka Franz Creffield, also occurred in Waldport, Oregon, at the early turn of this century, and detailed in the American Weekly article of March 10, 1946 by Peter Levins, "Prophet Without Honor." Certainly, she feels, more such groups and alienated people are searching for help and answers to life’s meaning from the heavens of outer space and the cosmos where "Higher Intelligence" may literally reside. Even our government doesn't want us to know about the Roswell, New Mexico, incident by withholding their secret classified documents and conspiracy of silence, fanning theories of conspiracy even more!
In 1886, Toledo was touched by cultism when Louis Kossuth Brooks, his wife, Mary Miller, and his followers built a two-story colony house where Wright Creek goes into Poole Slough. This mysterious religious group disbanded when it ran out of food and money, according to Brooks' daughter, Anne Jane.
There was also a colony of seventh day adventists in Chitwood, according to lifelong resident and historian, Morris X. Smith.
With the November 1978, mass suicide-murder in Guyana, South America, which claimed the Lives of self-proclaimed prophet, Jim Jones, the founder and leader of the People's Temple (San Francisco), along with 914 of his followers, a US congressman, and a member of the news media—and the the settlement of Rajneesh Puram in Central Oregon—it is interesting to note that sectism is nothing new to the West Coast, nor to those first settlers of the post-Colombian colonies who desired toleration of their beliefs to practice as they would want.
Even today (1997), Eugene, Oregon, boasts the most secretive Old Testament sect in the US, run by a 58-year-old former marine, Jim Roberts, according to Peter Klebnikov in the April 7, 1997 Newsweek article, "Time of Trouble." Called "the brotherhood," followers are grouped into small nomadic cells that recruit college kids across the country who are "ready to die for him."
It occurs to Guardino this story is electrifyingly connected to her own story a familiar turf and back-yard experience of historical Portage, Wisconsin and therefore, is part of the millennium edition of this historical work these 22 plus years in its making. And immediately Riedel suggests this as a news story or letter format to introduce and preface the reader to this book and its philosophy as a teaching, liberating, healing tool (mini-sermon) on our stories and critique of the concepts of history, time, space, spirituality, morality, liberation, and sexuality—all the "biggie" Western European male value systems that run our lives ragged! We speak of in this compendium of folk, bottom-up history, which had no known handle to UFOs, cults, and our own personal experiences. In fact, we were just remarking this morning that We didn't know why we were rewriting or how we were to organizing our creative work together, but that "We just had to continue on in blind faith" to do what we both do best: to "bring 'em back alive" and to enunciate the co-author's perspective analysis and essays upon the processes and effective paradigms they both discovered in returning, reliving, and reviving history through our own liberating stories and new awarenesses of healing our nation's, and our own stories.
Finally, the purpose of the “end of history or of time” can be visualized in the Arthur C. Clarke movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). At the last scene is the black monolith, a metaphor of increasing human knowledge, technology, and passing time, a troubling, shadowy figure opening the beginning of the film. Humanity is curious, reaches out toward it and when it becomes space-borne, flashes into brilliant beams and exploding light sources into infinity, fading to a grand, graciously furnished home where the space and time traveler quickly ages and dies. Into the foreground of the 1987 Harmonic Convergence line-up of planets, and sun comes the shape of an arc, which gradually recedes into an unmistakable human embryo floating in the womb that somehow looks like the space traveler!
Being birthed again, reborn, rebaptized by the breaking waters of amniotic fluid, and of the blood and straining birthing pain, life recycles, renews, begins again! From the "big egg" or womb-splash, rather than a "big bang" theory comes the first female-inclusive and original, legitimate creation story! Life cannot be built out of "No-thing." Mother's egg, though deeply invisible inside of her is in a natural cycles and process of giving birth in her own time: Mother Earth time, and not by ceacarian section at the masculinist's, controlling, possessive—convenient time and baby ownership schedule!
Chronicle Reporter Finds Rajneeshpuram Ghost in the Past 1987
Someone who had never been there might never find the place—the
road markers have all been taken down.
But Rajneeshpuram is still there. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931-1990) jumped onto an airplane headed for North Carolina in an attempt to flee from federal immigration authorities. But it was September 13, 1985. Two months later the once-bustling commune was deserted, except for a handful of followers who stayed on to keep the buildings from deteriorating until the commune could be sold.
The long drive on gravel and dirt roads from Antelope to Rajneeshpuram is still just as long. But the once-formidable feeling that "something awful is going to happen if I get much closer" quickly disintegrates once you pass the first of several tiny lookout stations where Sannyasins once monitored your progress with walkie-talkies.
City Hall? Must be three or four Jeeps, modern and shiny, parked out front. Yes, these much be the caretakers. Now that you think of it, you have already passed a couple of them on the road. Their occupants were not dressed in red, orange or pink, though.
You kind of slide east past City Hall and arrive on Main Street.
Yes, it's just the way you remembered it—only not a soul in sight. An occasional tumble weed blows by, and you take a picture of it just for fun.
The buildings, though empty, are carpeted and well-kept. Yes, there's the bookstore—where Ma Anad Sheela announced to the world that she was not going to take over Wasco County by bringing in transients to vote. We all just misunderstood her sense of humor—remember?
A red-clad man appears as if out of nowhere and yells that the shops and sidewalks are private property—you are to stay on the county road.
Except for some cracks in the windows, the lookout stations stand like tiny capsules, mere suggestions of what once was.
Most of the signs of welcome have been dismantled, but parts of the marble structures remain. The ever-imposing symbol of the bird of peace is riddled with bullet holes—ruined forever.
You pass the man-made hours of work (the Sannyasins called work "worship") it took to dredge it. It sparkles in the sun.
Then you are there—in the once-promised land.
That is when you run into your first obstacle—the information center, with its huge parking lot, is closed off with a big wire fence. A herd of cattle grazes outside the fence: The information center sets isolated, yet another time capsule.
Then there is the air strip. My, must have been huge airplanes taking off from there once. It seems to never end. Yet it sits quietly nestled between two walls of mountains. And fenced off.
As you enter the city center you pass the once-bustling bus station. Buses were the main transportation across the massive commune, where buildings seemed so far and few in between. The terminal is still there, although the group of telephones that once lined one end of the parking lot are gone. ...
They still own the place and have the right to protect the buildings until they're purchased.
Back on the county road, you venture into areas that you were afraid to enter before—residential areas where hundreds of red-clad Sannyasins made their homes in mobile units. You cross over a bridge that leads to a vacant lot. A pattern of stones pressed into the ground hint that a garden must have existed once.
But no more.
The tour's over. There is nothing more to see. Only the county road remains open, since all the private roads have been blocked off. You retrace your steps as you return the same way you came. And for some reason as you pass the welcome sign "Thank you—come again" your pulse slows down to normal.
You can’t resist stopping in Antelope, 13 miles away, and taking a peek into The Antelope Cafe. Remember "Zorba The Buddha?" The red visitor caps with pictures of antelopes on them let you know you are no longer eating at "Zorba the Buddha."
Nor will you ever. Because you're safe now. Antelope's safe.
But you can't help but wonder for a moment if the whole four-year epic of the Rajneesh in Wasco County ever really happened.
It did. And we will never forget it. --Barbara Jean Guardino
Bhagwan's in Poona, Peddling His Ranch No Easy Undertaking 1987
February 22: Selling
estate is not always the easiest thing in the world to do.
But when you've got 64,000 acres, and your asking price is $28.5 million, you don’t just sell to the first party that comes along.
This is the problem faced by Joseph DeJager of Cushman and Wakefield of Oregon Incorporated Realtors.
DeJager has been dealing with a number of prospects, mostly private individuals, for the past seven months. He believes the property will be sold by mid-year, he said.
Although the property is considered to be one parcel of land which cannot be subdivided, it is possible to do minor partitions, he said. The ranch is made up of seven or eight parcels. "I would envision maybe two sales," he said.
DeJager said private parties have been interested in taking advantage of the existing structures on the property. They have proposed game ranches and "Fat" farms, he said.
So far the state has not come forward with an offer. "I feel the ranch had a great deal of potential for state use, which would be beneficial to the local economy and to the state in general," he said. He said he would prefer to see the state purchase the property, for possible use as a facility for the elderly, a correctional facility, experimental agriculture or university programs, he said.
Rajneeshpuram contains the potential for "a full array of recreational activities," since it contains an airstrip, hotel accommodations, an office and a variety of residential buildings, he said. It has two lakes and the John Day River running through it, which could accommodate water sports including sailing, windsurfing and fishing. It has places for horseback riding and other western-style recreation, he said.
Meanwhile, a relatively small cadre of Rajneesh followers are acting as caretakers to maintain the ranch. According to Moses, president of Rajneesh Investment Corporation, the land is under 24-hour watch, and as a result vandalism has been minimal. He described the limited damage as "a bit of mischief," adding that the caretakers have "techniques and methods" of knowing when visitors are on the property day and night.
The county road which runs through Rajneeshpuram is not private property, and this sometimes causes problems from a security point of view, Moses said. Occasionally people take the county road to Mitchell, a small community, he said. The county road turns into Mitchell Road, which is a very rough road, Moses said.
Rajneeshpuram receives fewer and fewer visitors over time. "Apparently it is not quite so interesting a place to see now as in the past," Moses said.
The areas other than the county road are all private property, and are "not available to the public for traversing," Moses said. The exception to this are potential buyers and public officials in the course of business.
Moses said he recently returned from a trip to Poona, India, where he visited Bagwan Shree Rajneesh. The guru talks to his followers twice a day, although his living quarters are too small for him to stage a drive-through as he did at Rajneeshpuram.
Moses said he did not know whether the bhagwan intends to stay in India. "I expected he was in Oregon to stay." he added that he was "just glad to have a chance to see him while he was in one place."
In 1997, Eugene, Oregon, boasted the
most secretive old testament sect in the US, run by a
58-year-old former marine, Jim Roberts, according to Peter
Klebnikov in the April 7, 1997 Newsweek article, "Time of
Trouble." Called the brotherhood, followers are grouped into
small nomadic cells that recruit college kids across the country
who are “ready to die for him.”
It occurs to the author this story is electrifyingly connected to her own turf and backyard experiences and the millennium edition of this historical work these 22 years. And immediately Riedel suggests this as a news story or letter format might introduce and preface the reader to this book and its philosophy as a teaching tool/mini-sermon on our concepts of history, time, spirituality, morality, liberation, and sexuality—all the "biggies" we speak of in this compendium of folk, bottom-up history, which had no known handle to UFO's, cults, and our own personal experiences. In fact, we were just remarking this morning that we didn’t know why we were rewriting or how we were to organizing our creative work together, but that "we just had to continue on in blind faith" to do what we both do best: to "bring 'em (historical figures) back alive" and for the co-author's perspective analysis and essays upon them and the processes and effective paradigms they both discovered in returning (to the NOW), to reliving and reviving history through our discoveries/new awarenesses as liberation historians.)
2001: A Space Odyssey
Finally, the purpose of the "end of
history or of time" can be visualized in the Arthur C. Clarke
A Space Odessey" (1968). At the
last scene is the black monolith, a metaphor of increasing human
knowledge, technology, and passing time, a troubling, shadowy
figure opening the beginning of the film. Humanity is curious,
reaches out toward it and when it becomes space-borne, flashes
into brilliant beams and exploding light sources into infinity,
fading to a grand, graciously furnished home where the space and
time traveler quickly ages and dies. Into the foreground of a
Harmonic-Convergance line-up of planets, and sun comes the shape
of an arc, which gradually recedes into an unmistakable human
embryo floating in the womb that somehow looks like the space
Being birthed again, reborn, rebaptized by the breaking waters of amniotic fluid, and of the blood and straining birthing pain, life recycles, renews, begins again!
Unknown to Riedel, Guardino hung up in her hallway one of her own paintings (1987) with her own poem published in 1974, called "Alpha," I hadn't really seen or studies before, until I read this last paragraph to her. I got goose bumps as I beheld a star-scape of brilliance, galactic clouds, points of light stars, and there near the middle, a human embryo enwombed, relating perfectly and synchronistically to the meme, the Jungian Architypal "group mind" which is herewith passed to you: out of catastrophic endings can new beginnings be made!
History as Story
Stories of those who have collected stories are common among the storytellers they have studied. Kuiceyetsa next told stories of three of the leading researchers who had worked at Zuni over the last 100 years:
Parsons (1874-1941) stayed here too, and when Max
was little he said she left her shoes in there, and they were
those high tops. He pretended he was a cowboy. Put those on, got
up on the bedside, and his mother's girdle was on the bed rail,
and he was sitting on it like a saddle pretending he had a
And he'd always pick up those cigarettes that she smoked. They were scented, I guess, or something, you know. And he'd always look around to see if she would drop some, and he'd just latch on to them.
Parsons would always have pancakes, and she my mother-in-law said he always said, "Pancake ready." Max would go to the door of the house and knock and say, "Pancake ready." They had it fixed, you know.
He remembers Elsie Clews Parsons. She stayed quite awhile, I guess, while she was here.
Parsons began her field research at Zuni, New Mexico, in 1915, returned as often as she could for the rest of her life and published a truly monumental series of monographs and articles about the people she had come to love.
The 71-year-old Zuni woman gave Cunningham a rather full, personal description of Mrs. Parsons:
She was a very rich lady, but you
could not guess it from the way she lived. She always dressed in
sloppy dresses. One summer she brought white shoes with her. I
thought it was funny and told her so. She became mad, so I
explained that when the rains come she would realize her
mistake. I told her that anyone who comes to Zuni should know
that it is not New York City. The roads are muddy here. After a
while she was all right.
She was a real friend of my husband and me. We always wrote to each other. She had four children, as I have, and they were born at the same times when mine were. We joked about it. Although she was very talkative, we enjoyed having her with us and she was very glad for that. She used to pay us well and we did whatever she wanted us to do. You see, she did not have many friends at Zuni. We were her best friends and we worked hard for her. I am not a Zuni and I don't know everything about the Zunis. So if there was something Mrs. Parsons wanted to know about them and I didn't know, I asked the people and they told me everything. My husband was an important Zuni and he helped me a lot. One year she asked me to maintain a diary of whatever took place in Zuni and I did that. I guess she got that published as a book.
Mrs. Parsons brought her friends to meet me. One year an artist—whose name I don't remember now—came with her. He wanted to sketch the Zuni dances, but they wouldn’t let him. I guess he drew some natural scenes and went back.
One thing which always makes me sore when I remember Mrs. Parsons is that she invited me to visit her in New York City and I promised her to do so, but never went there. One day I got a letter from her secretary telling me about here death. She knew that we were great friends and that I would appreciate her giving me that news.
Native Americans in History
"Tis now time for a
destructive order to be reversed, and it is well to inform
other races that the aboriginal cultures of North America
were not devoid of beauty. Furthermore, in denying the
Indian [their] ancestral rights and heritages the white race
is but robbing itself. America can be revived, rejuvenated,
by recognizing a native school of thought."
—Chief Luther Standing Bear
The seeds for this book were sown in
my mind during a late-summer day in 1975, by a young American
Indian whose name I've long since forgotten. As a reporter for
the Seattle Times, I had been researching a series of articles
on Washington State Indian tribes. The research took me to
Evergreen State College in Olympia, where a young woman, an
undergraduate in the American Indian Studies program, told me in
passing that the Iroquois had played a key role in the evolution
of American democracy.
The idea at first struck me as disingenuous. I considered myself decently educated in American history, and to the best of my knowledge, government for and by the people had been invented by white men in powdered wigs. I asked the young woman where she had come by her information.
"My grandmother told me," she said. That was hardly the kind of source one could use for a newspaper story. I asked whether she knew of any other sources. "You're the investigative reporter," she said. "You find them."
...The woman's challenge stayed with me through another year at the Times, the writing of a book on American Indians, and most of a Ph.D. program at the University of Washington. I collected tantalizing shreds—a piece of a quotation from Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) here, an allegation there. Individually, these meant little. Together however, they began to assume the outline of a plausible argument that the Iroquois had indeed played a key role in the ideological birth of the United State, especially through Franklin's advocacy of federal union.
...Well-organized polities governed by a system that one contemporary of Franklin's Cadwallader Colden, wrote had "outdone the Romans." Colden was writing of a social and political system so old that the immigrant Europeans knew nothing of its origins—a federal union of five (and later six) Indian nations that had put into practice concepts of popular participation and natural rights that the European savants had thus far only theorized. The Iroquoian system expressed through its constitution, "The Great Law of Peace," rested on assumptions foreign to the monarchies of Europe: it regarded leaders as servants of the people, rather than their masters, and made provisions for the leaders' impeachment for errant behavior. The Iroquois' law and customs upheld freedom of expression in political and in religious matters, and it forbade the unauthorized entry of homes. It provided for political participation by women and the relative equitable distribution of wealth. These distinctly democratic tendencies sound familiar in light of subsequent American political history—yet few people today (other than American Indians and students of their heritage) know that a republic existed on our soil before anyone here had ever heard of John Locke (1632-1704), or Cato, the Magna Charta, Rousseau (1712-1778), Franklin, or Jefferson.
The Geo Politics of Adopting the Iroquois System
The way in which the Iroquois system
existed and was adopted requires an understanding of the
context. The political events of the time that brought together
the Iroquois leaders and the mid-18th Century colonial leaders,
the dean being Franklin, who were searching for political
governing alternatives to European tyranny and class
stratification experienced in the American frontier. The
Iroquois were the greatest Indian military power in Eastern
North America between the rival French of the St. Lawrence
Valley and the English of the Eastern Seaboard. Less than a
million Anglo-Americans lived in their communities scattered
along the East Coast, islands in a sea of American Indian
peoples that stretched for inland, as far as anyone who spoke
English know, into the boundless mountains and forest of a
continent much larger than Europe. The days when Euro-Americans
could not have survived in America without Indian help had
passed, but the new Americans still were learning to wear Indian
clothing, eat Indian corn and potatoes, and follow Indian trails
and water courses, using Indian snowshoes and canoes. Indian and
Europeans were more often at peace than at war—a fact missed by
telescoped history that focuses on conflict.
So Indian peace was as important to the history of the continent as Indian war, as the importance of English efforts to ally with the Iroquois and the need for treaty councils. This brought together leaders of both cultures. Ben Franklin, for the earliest days of his professional life, was drawn to the diplomatic and ideological interchange of these councils—first as a printer of their proceedings, than as a Colonial envoy. This was the beginning of one of the most distinguished diplomatic careers in American history. Out of these councils grew an early campaign by Franklin for Colonial union on a federal model, very similar to the Iroquois system.
Contact with Indians and their ways of ordering life left a definite imprint on Franklin and others who were seeking, during the pre-revolutionary period, alternatives to a European order against which revolution would be made. To Jefferson, as well as Franklin, the Indians had what the colonists wanted: societies free of oppression and class stratification. The Iroquois and other Indian nations fired the imaginations of the revolution’s architects. As Henry Steele Commager has written, America acted the Enlightenment as European radicals dreamed it. Extensive, intimate contact with Indian nations was a major reason for this difference.
In telling this story, the authors demolish the stereotypical Western histories of Native Americans whose effective social and political organization began our earliest revolutionary models of political, philosophical and governmental organization and state craft, as Franklin, Jefferson, and others knew it as they envisioned the future, including Native American wisdom and beauty. This makes our task to relearn history in all its richness and complexity, a more complete understanding of what we were, what we are, and what we may one day become.
The First Composite Culture
The creation of this culture
began with first contact—possibly long before Columbus's
landing. Fragments of pottery that resemble Japanese patterns
have been found in present-day Ecuador, dated well before the
birth of Christ. The Vikings left some tools behind in Northeast
Squanto (?-1622), a Wampanoag, was one of several Indians kidnapped from their native land (New England) and brought to England in 1614, and returned in time to greet the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock by 1620 in English and produced the first Thanksgiving, a feast the Indians provided of turkey and many other of their own domesticated staples for the unprepared Pilgrims. He helped them survive their first winter, and acculturated them to the new land. He was therefore called a Pilgrim father.
Students may not know that following this rescue, American Indian first cultivated and contributed by the 20th Century, almost half the world's domesticated crops: corn and white potatoes, manoic, sweet potatoes, squash, peanuts, peppers, pumpkin, tomatoes, pineapples, avocado, cacao (chocolate), chicle (as in chewing gum), several varieties of beans, and at least seventy other domesticated food plants. The original cotton plant was derived from those cultivated by the native peoples, and so was rubber, too!
Several Native American medicines were used among Euro-Americans: quinine, laxatives, and several dozen other drugs and herbal medicines. The Europeans also adapted many Indian articles of clothing and equipment for their own needs: hammocks, kayaks, canoes, moccasins, smoking pipes, dog sleds, and parkas, as well as the many Indian words to describe these, and other features of the new land, half of the states of the US bearing names first spoken among Indians, and thousands of words entered English and European languages from Native American sources, too numerous to list briefly. Native Americans also contributed to the shape of Euro-American folk songs, locations for railroads and highways, dying cloth, war tactics, and bathing habits. Their contribution to American civilization so influenced the lives of Europeans in America because they were useful and necessary to sustaining life here. The intellectual contributions of American Indians to Euro-American culture have not been studied at all until very recently, and only inferred from islands of knowledge written almost exclusively from Euro-American origin, leaving blind spots that may be filled by records based on a dwindling Native American source of elder oral history.
The causes of this neglect has been scholar's ethnocentrism that relegate "primitive" people who have more "institutions as complex and histories as full as our own, according to Paul Bohannan, in a quote of Bernard de Voto (1897-1955), rails that: Most American history has been written as if history were a function solely of white culture—in spite of the fact that well into the 19th Century the Indians were one of the principal determinants of historical events. Those of us who work in frontier history are repeatedly nonplused to discover how little has been done for us in regard to the one force bearing on our field that was active everywhere... American historians have made shockingly little effort to understand the life, the societies, the cultures, the thinking and the feeling of the Indians, and disastrously little effort to understand how all these affected white men and their societies."
Hollowell added: "Since most history has been written by the conquerors, the influence of the primitive people(sic) upon American civilization has seldom been the subject of dispassionate consideration."
Relationship of Western Individualism and the "Other"
From the absolute perspective,
one is all; when you are healed, the whole universe is healed.
Thus, according to the Diamond
Sutra, the Bodhisattva ("enlightenment—being," the
archetype of compassion;) who vows to save all beings is still
under a fundamental delusion:
Any Bodhisattva who undertakes the practice of meditation should cherish one thought only: "When I attain perfect wisdom, I will liberate all sentient beings in every realm of the universe, and allow them to pass into the eternal peace of Nirvana." And yet, when vast, uncountable, unthinkable myriads of beings have been liberated, truly no being has been liberated. Why? Because no Bodhisattva who is a true Bodhisattva entertains such concepts as "self" or "others." Thus there are no sentient beings to be liberated and no self to attain perfect wisdom.
Mamana Maharshi clarifies this point:
People often say that a liberated Master should go out and preach his message to the people. How can anyone be a Master, they argue, as long as there is misery by his side? This is true. But who is a liberated Master? Does he see misery beside him? They want to determine the state of the Master without realizing the state themselves. From the standpoint of the Master their contention amounts to this: a man dreams a dream in which he finds several people. On waking up, he asks, "Have the dream people also woken up?" How ridiculous!
I am suggesting that my own world view
bias has been, (before I became a teacher, a pastor, and) an
activist, that I reach out (to motivate,) to convert other
people toward a kind of duological existence of: Me or us vs
"them" mentality. (Gradually, I first had to learn, one needs to
observe the specific kinds and examples, or stories of otherness
in the communities of people, sentient and insentient beings, as
to comparison and respect of differences and celebrating the
similarities in that "unity in diversity" which is our world,
gaining some human awareness and understanding as these
experiences bridges the fearful abyss of aloneness and
alienation, and suffering, as a process of re-creating renewed
hope and life among us. For a long time I have known, however,
that unless I have experienced what I'm speaking about, and live
the values of love-in-action I am espousing, I will not and
cannot convert others—because I, myself, have not been
converted! The natural unity of the universe is very difficult
to realize when every day, science and technology regularly
break up everything around us [values] into abstract, and
smaller, more intellectually manageable categories or pieces.
The unity of people who live this enlightened way surely have
community. If each one of us took to heart the liberating of
themselves, first, the rest of the process naturally follows. I
must confess this "power over" tendency to judge others and
myself, that something objectively "out there," a god, is
stronger and required to enforce liberation upon us as a
"disembodied power—value," in order to bring on the
“revolution,” was more of a conceptual head trip, a dreaming and
hoping for a future vision, but not based on the here and now
that we all live in the NOW, the present. That is to say, the
how of doing what we say we want can only be done by doing it,
showing it NOW, and not waiting for some heaven in the sky, by
and by. Thus, unity is not just a concept, it IS found in the
present, or must be manifest, brought to life, as life, itself.
To live life fully now, to become aware of the presence of that
Universal Mind in and a part of all sentient and non-sentient
being, let go of reconciling the hold of the unforgiveness and
making amends for the past, and the sentimental longing (or
"what-if-ing") for dreams of the future, utopia, paradise,
heaven, etc. that only derail the necessity for activism and
justice-making presence of the NOW.
How long is "now?" you may ask. One scientist says that it lasts 13 seconds, that is the amount of memory one can store. Is that not in a "twinkling of an eye?" How fleeing now passes, which many lived, life experiences highlight! As the Chinese peasant in "Teahouse of the August Moon" reminds: "Pain make man think, thought make man wise, and wisdom make life bearable!"
Distinction Between Human History and the Historical Enterprise
As a historian James M.
Washington left a legacy of his own opposition to
the historical profession that trained him. He was acutely aware
of the distinction between human history and the historical
The former is the entire story of the whole human race, and the latter represents those parts of the story historians choose to recall.
Hence, his goal was to call to remembrance the countless narratives of the victims of history, and in the process, to discover "when, where, and how we failed to love them as the Lord commanded us to do." Washington believed that by uncovering the hidden stories about black religious experience, perhaps all Americans could learn something that might prove beneficial to understanding the experience of non-blacks. Indeed, he contended that the particularity of human experience holds important insights for a broader appreciation of the human condition.
Here, in The Courage to Hope, Washington's friends and colleagues come together to attempt to give a meaning to black suffering that goes beyond the narrow bounds of racial particularities to unlock the limitless prospects of the human experience. While the point of inquiry begins with black suffering to remain at that point means that one runs the risk of privileging black pain. The danger in this is that it places one on a path which leads to the two-headed dragon of self-pity and self-righteousness. While pain certainly is relative, it is our contention that there are important lessons for all of humanity in the distinctiveness of another's afflictions. Of course, we are not suggesting it is the only light on the horizon, nor is it the brightest light. Nonetheless, black suffering is a gateway through which humankind may gain access to its own tortured soul. In sum, it is a "faint light" that leads to redemption.
The Cross in the Landscape
"No intellectual or historical mapping can fully locate the cross in the landscape of concept and of sensibility as our century closes. For participants in an overwhelming secular, technologically oriented society, this location is a 'black hole' left by mythologies and unreason out of the past. For the majority, one suspects, of 'practicing' Christians—and what does practicing entail in this context?—the crucifixion remains an unexamined inheritance, a symbolic marker but vestigial recognition. This marker is revered and involved in conventional idiom and gestures. It's concrete status, the enormity of suffering and injustice it incarnates, would appear to have faded from immediacy. How many educated men and women now hear Paschal's cry that humanity must not sleep because Christ hangs on his cross until the end of the world?" —George Steiner
James Melvin Washington was first and foremost a black intellectual Christian obsessed with the meaning of the cross in his time and in his life. He was the existential giant and spiritual giant among us for forty-nine short years because he unrelentingly brought his mind, heart, and soul to bear on the profound truth of evil in the human predicament. He not only understood that a condition for truth is to allow suffering to speak but also that the courage to hope is grounded in the heartfelt grappling with the depths of suffering. In the words of his beloved Paul Tillich (1886-1965), "there is no depth without the way to depth. Truth without the way to truth is dead."
The Historical Shift from Premodernity to Modernity to Postmodernity
The first grand shift from
premodernity to modernity is often limned as a change from a
theocentric world to an anthrocentric world in which economics,
politics, and culture were the prime movers in history, and
humans as their agents the proper subjects of history. According
to the propagandists of modernity, premoderns had employed God
to justify superstition, irrationality, ignorance, tyranny, and
dogmatism. The flight from enlisting God as the cause forced
humanity, in the estimation of moderns, to take responsibility
for the world, for the human plight, and to change society for
the better. In their scenario a return to God as the subject
would be ruinous to human intelligence and the world.
The second grand shift, modernity to postmodernity, is depicted as a transition from an anthrocentric world to either a centerless or a polycentric world characterized by loss of the subject. According to the purveyors of post-modernity, the moderns used the myths of reason, the "universal man," and progress to promote universality. The result was that the human world became a unidimensional world, with modern historians employing their master narratives for Eurocentric purposes. History was the arena for Europeans and a few others. Africa was bereft of history. The arena of history—politics and philosophy—was occupied by males; females lived in the ahistorical world of the private sphere. For the emerging postmodern historians of the late—twentieth century, the polycentric shift had produced a turn in which all lived experience became the subject of history, even extractions like tastes, anger, cleanliness, and sexuality. Multiplicity supplanted universality; multidimensionality replaced unidimensionality; multidirectionality replaced unidimensionality; multidirectional analyses marginalized progress as a linear approach. Reality, if reality existed, by definition stretched historical categories. Postmodern approaches, then, allow historians to recognize the existence of a vast array of peoples sustaining throughout modernity a distinctly irrational belief in God as subject.
Definition of Religion
(1900-1980) in his book, Psychoanalysis and Religion, defined
religion as: any system of thought and action shared by a group
which gives the individual a frame of orientation and an object
of devotion. Further, he adds that this broad sense of religion
is a deeply rooted need in the condition of human existence.
This need as an integral part of the human condition is more
completely described in his book, Man for Himself.
But what about the specific context in which this religious need is manifest? Humans may worship animals, trees, idols of gold or stone, an invisible God, a saintly man or diabolic leaders; they may worship their ancestors, their nation, their class or party, money or success; their religion may be conducive to the development of destructiveness or of love, of domination or of sister- or brotherliness; it may further their power of reason or paralyze it; they may be aware of their system as a religious one, different from those of the secular realm, or they may think that they have no religion and interpret their devotion to certain allegedly secular aims like power, money or success as nothing but their concern for the practical and expedient. The question is not religion or not but which kind of religion, whether it is one furthering humanity's development, the unfolding of their specifically human powers, or one paralyzing them.
Curiously enough the interests of the devoted religionist and the psychologist are the same in this respect. The theologian is keenly interested in the specific tenets of a religion, her own and others, because what matters is the truth of her belief against the others. Equally, the psychologist must be keenly interested in the specific contents of religion for what matters to her is what human attitude a religion expresses and what kind of effect it has on humanity, whether it is good or bad for the development of their powers. She is interested in not only in an analysis of the psychological roots of various religions for but also in their value.
Eventually conclude on what he says as really real cf truth, and finally, on Paul Tillich's definition of religion, on reality and on truth and psychologists vs philosophers and theologians methods as ok or not.
This critique must also get into codependence as not a religious feeling that is good for one, per Fromm.
Negative Effect of Fur Traders on the Indians
Why was it that the Indian
trader passed so rapidly across the continent? What effects
followed from the trader's frontier?
The explanation of the rapidity of this advance is bound with the effects of the trader on the Indian. The trading post left the unarmed tribes at the mercy of those that had purchased firearms—a truth which the Iroquois Indians wrote in blood, and so the remote and unvisited tribes gave eager welcome to the trader. "The savages," wrote La Salle (1651-1719), "take better care of us French than of their own children; from us only can they get guns and goods." This accounts for the trader's power and the rapidity of his advance. Thus the disintegrating forces of civilization entered the wilderness. Every river valley and Indian trail became a fissure in Indian society, and so that society became honeycombed. Long before the pioneer farmer appeared on the scene, primitive Indian life had passed away. The farmer met Indians armed with guns. The trading frontier, while steadily undermining Indian power by making the tribes ultimately dependent on the whites, yet through its sale of guns gave to the Indian increased power of resistance to the farming frontier. French colonization was dominated by its trading frontier, English colonization by its farming frontier. There was an antagonism between the two frontiers as between two nations. Said Dequesne to the Iroquois,
Are you ignorant of the differences between the king of England and the King of France? Go see the forts that our king has established and you will see that you can still hunt under their very walls. They have been placed for your advantage in places which you frequent. The English, on the contrary, are no sooner in possession of a place than the game is driven away. The forest falls before them as they advance, and the soil is laid bare so that you can scarce find the wherewithal to erect a shelter for the night.
"Free Land" and Money and Lawlessness
So long as free land exists, the opportunity for competency exists, and economic power secures political power. But the democracy born to free land, strong in selfishness and individualism, intolerant of administrative experience and education, and pressing individual liberty beyond its proper bounds, has its dangers as well as its benefits. Individualism in America has allowed a laxity in regard to governmental affairs which has rendered possible the spoils system, and all the manifest evils that follow from the lack of a highly developed civic spirit. In this connection may be noted also the influence of frontier conditions in permitting lax business honor, inflated paper currency, and wildcat banking. The colonial and Revolutionary frontier was the region whence emanated many of the worst forms of an evil currency. The West in the War of 1812 repeated the phenomenon on the frontier of that day, while the speculation and wildcat banking of the period of the crisis of 1837 occurred on the new frontier belt of the next tier of states. Thus each one of the periods of lax financial integrity coincides with periods when a new set of frontier communities had arisen, and coincides in area with these successive frontiers, for the most part. The recent Populist agitation is a case in point. Many a state that new? declines any connection with the tenets of the Populist itself adhered to such ideas in an earlier state of development of the state. A primitive society can hardly be expected to show the intelligent appreciation of the complexity of business interests in a developed society. The continual recurrence of these areas of paper-money agitation is another evidence that the frontier can be isolated and studied as a factor in American history of the highest importance.
Economic Windfall, Land Companies and Rich Government Grants
The land system of the Old West
furnished precedents which developed into the land system of the
trans-Alleghany West. The squatter of Pennsylvania and the
Carolinas found it easy to repeat the operation on another
frontier. Preemption laws became established features. The
Revolution gave opportunity to confiscate the claims of Lord
Fairfax, Lord Granville, and McCulloh to their vast estates, as
well as the remaining lands of the Pennsylvania proprietors. The
640 acre (or one square mile) unit of North Carolina for
preemptions, and frontier land bounties, became the area awarded
to frontier stations by Virginia in 1779, and the "section" of
the later federal land system. The Virginia preemption right of
four hundred acres on the Western waters, or a thousand for
those who came prior to 1778, was, in substance, the
continuation of a system familiar in the Old West.
The grants to Beverley, of over a hundred thousand acres in the Valley, conditioned on seating a family for every thousand acres, and the similar grants to Borden, Carter, and Lewis, were followed by the great grant to the Ohio Company. This company, including leading Virginia planters and some frontiersmen, asked in 1749 for two hundred thousand acres on the Upper Ohio, conditioned on seating a hundred families in seven years, and for an additional grant of three hundred thousand acres after this should be accomplished. It was proposed to settle Germans on these lands.
The Loyal Land Company, by order of the Virginia council (1749), was authorized to take up 800.000 acres west and north of the southern boundary of Virginia, on condition of purchasing "rights" for the amount within four years. The company sold many tracts for £three per hundred acres to settlers, but finally lost its claim. The Mississippi Company, including in its membership the Lees, Washingtons, and other great Virginia planters, applied for two and one-half million acres in the West in 1769. Similar land companies of New England origin, like the Susquehanna Company and Lyman's Mississippi Company, exhibit the same tendency of the Old West on the northern side. New England's Ohio Company of Associates, which settled Marietta, had striking resemblances to town proprietors.
These were only the most noteworthy of many companies of this period, and it is evident that they were a natural outgrowth of speculations in the Old West. Washington, securing military bounty land claims of soldiers of the French and Indian War, and selecting lands in West Virginia until he controlled over seventy thousand acres for speculation, is an excellent illustration of the tendency. He also thought of colonizing German Palatines upon his lands. The formation of the Transylvania and Vandalia companies were natural developments on a still vaster scale.
Frederick J. Turner
According to historian Frederick J. Turner (1861-1932), the effect of the Indian frontier as a consolidating agent in our history is important. From the close of the 17th Century various intercolonial congresses have been called to treat with the Indians and establish common measures of defense. Particularism (a political theory that each group has a right to promote its own interests and especially independence without regard to the interests of larger groups) was strongest in colonies with no Indian frontier. This frontier stretched along the western border like a cord of union. The Indian was a common danger, demanding united action. Most celebrated of these conferences was the Albany Congress of 1754, called to treat with the Six Nations, and to consider plans of union. Even a cursory reading of the plan proposed by the Congress reveals the importance of the frontier. The powers of the general council and the officers were, chiefly, the determination of peace and war with the Indians, the regulation of Indian trade, the purchase of Indian lands, and the creation and government of new settlements as a security against the Indians. It is evident that the unifying tendencies of the Revolutionary period were facilitated by the previous co-operation in the regulation of the frontier. In this connection may be mentioned the importance of the school, keeping alive the power of resistance to aggression, and developing the stalwart and rugged qualities of the frontiersman.
The great cataclysmic events were
mainly over; exploding mountains, lava floods, draining seas,
the massive dragging glaciers—all this cosmic tumult, breaking
up the land and reforming it, eon after eon, had finally spent
itself. Rivers, rain, the wind and pounding surf continued to
age the earth's face; but, by and large, what we now see and
call Oregon is what finally came to rest about 10,000 years ago.
Then, as now, the Pacific Ocean drove in to crash against the high-cliffed coast while the ocean clouds drifting east paused to drench with rain the seaward slopes of what we since have come to call the Coast Range. To the east and north lay the long valley with its meander of river—though here there was a difference between then and now, for it is believed that before humans came, the valley floor was forest rather than the present open plain. Beyond, however, the land lay much as we see it today: the Cascades soaring up to the arid lava plains of the interior high country—rimrock, deep canyons and massifs to the northeast and southwest, dense with mountain peaks. From the estuaries and rain forests of the coast to the valley—lush, humid, almost tropical—to the interior with its distances and skies and tingling sage-scented air, it was a landscape of ravishing variety, as it is today.
There is one respect, however, in which it was a profoundly different place from now; it was silent. The only sounds were the sounds of the place itself: falling rain, the singing rush of rivers and avalanche's crash; the boom and hiss of surf; fire, and its roar and crackle in a forest tindered by a lightening strike; and wind, screaming through the gullies, creaking the giant oaks, whispering the prairie grass—and bird song, thunder and the cries of animals.
This was the world into which one day more than 10,000 years ago human beings stepped—Asiatics from what is now Siberia. Why they left we do not know—famine, drought, more likely hunters following their prey. In any event they crossed by an Alaskan land bridge—and probably by boat as well—to North America. Settlement appears to have first occurred in the interior, later along the Columbia and finally on the coast.
The Coming of the People
There was a time, Black Elk told his
biographer, John Neihardt, when the people were many but they
were not a nation yet. "All were relatives, but sons did not
know their fathers, nor fathers their sons, nor brothers their
sisters." If there is a beginning, it is the memory of this
primordial chaos when people had no relatives in the Indian way
and they were not yet truly people. The Sioux were at that time,
according to Black Elk, living on a great body of water,
probably the Gulf of Mexico, and in the course of events the
holy men had visions which led the Sioux through long journeys
to the Sacred Island Hill—the Black Hills of South Dakota—and
they became a people.
Cultural traditions with a scientific bent view creation as an event distant in time in which the cosmic process began its steady and mechanical progression. The mythical traditions of the east speak of a cosmic dance in which manifestations of individuality, albeit ephemeral, produce the plenitude of life which we see around us. The individual then must achieve realization that all is really one and return to the cosmic unity. Even the fundamentalist traditions which credit God with instantaneous creation and see the operations of nature a Divine Intention to produce goodness are intertwined with the progression and inevitability of things. But it is not so with Indians.
These ideas are all too abstract and general. They tell us nothing about the world and less about ourselves. Speculations must not replace experiences. Chief Arapooish, a Crow, talking with Robert Campbell (1808-1894) of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company at one of the last rendezvous, described his land: "The Crow country is a good country. The Great Spirit put it in exactly the right place; while you are in it you fare well; whenever you are out of it, whichever way you travel, you fare worse..." And he went on to tell about its marvels. The Crow country is exactly in the right place. It has snowy mountains and sunny plains, all kinds of climate and good things for every season. When the summer heats scorch the prairies, you can draw up under the mountains, where the air is sweet and cool, the grasses fresh, and the bright streams come tumbling out of the snowbanks. There you can hunt the elk, the deer, and the antelope, when your skins are fit for dressing; there you will find plenty of white bear and mountain sheep.
In the autumn when your horses are fat and strong from the mountain pastures, you can go into the Great Plains and hunt the buffalo, or trap beaver on the streams. And when winter comes on, you can take shelter in the woody bottoms along the rivers; there you will find buffalo meat for yourselves, and cottonwood bark for your houses; or you may winter in Wind River Valley where there is salt weed in abundance.
Yes, Arapooish concluded, the Crow country is exactly in the right place, and a flood of pleasant memories filled him to confirm his belief.
Our species, for ever so long, has believed that we are strangers in the world and many people have looked to the heavens for a sign that some time, in some place, they would no longer be strangers in the land. And so long as people felt incomplete and sought to find a home they had one great virtue which many of the other peoples lacked—they were able to listen to the earth. And so when they came here they waited for instructions, believing that they would be guided to the right place.
The oldest people, the Hopi, came in several migrations and brought with them the knowledge of former worlds, times, and places. Survivors of primordial catastrophes, they had endured the cold of outer space when the earth’s axis refused to turn. Tested in the trauma of a world gone mad with power, they returned to the simple task of finding relatives in order that they might live in harmony with the rhythms of the land. Four migrations around the continent they made, each time seeking to establish their roots and center their Universe. The most ancient monuments of the land testify to their travels and, blocked by the massive walls of ice in the North, they finally came to the high mesa of the Southwest where the giant canyon of light informed them of its antiquity. Not far from the center of the earth, an area that has existed in geological stability for millions of years, they planted their villages.
Other peoples, then spiritual adolescents in comparison with the Hopi clans, arrived later, also seeking to find the right place and also listening for instructions. The Iroquois and Sioux say they arrived from the direction where the sun rises; the Three Fires—the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi—traveled from the mouth of the Saint Lawrence to the Great Lakes.
The Okanagon moved eastward on a chain of islands and, looking back at the submerging lands they were leaving, steadfast in their determination to find the right place, arrived at the mouth of the Columbia and moved up its hospitable waters to the mountains where many rivulets had agreed to come together to form the mighty river.
Were some people already here? The Klamath,
living in comfort in the Cascades, watched the Okanagon arrive,
burned red from the ordeal at sea, and were bemused at the
newcomers living in tents while they busied themselves in their
stone houses. Other peoples, coming into their own lands, found
ruins and wondered where the former inhabitants had gone, why
they had not found peace in their place, and whether this place
was indeed special. The Yakima,
discovering relics of a former people, preferred to continue a
nomadic life, uncertain at the fate of any group that would dare
to effect permanent settlement. They always hurried through
these remnant dwellings on the Columbia for fear that the fate
of the ancient ones might become their own.
So over the centuries the people found their places and, like the Crow, they all knew their country was in exactly the right place. No land seemed formidable when it was designed for a particular people. The Hopi, living on the high desert mesa, received special ceremonies to enable them to plant and harvest. The Iroquois, in the Eastern forests, learned quickly that they were related to all beings in their country. The Three Sisters—Corn, Beans, and Squash—showed them how to live, and the mutual spirituality of the Sisters kept their lands fertile and hospitable. The peoples of the Great Plains learned from the cottonwood how to make tipis, and the tree became their sacred relative participating in the annual Sun Dance. It was not simply a task of living in their country as human beings. It was necessary to live as relatives.
How does one find relatives among the peoples of creation? The human being, the old ones relate, is a strange creature. The eagle's eye is stronger. The bear's arm is stronger. The swallow is able to fly. The fish is a better swimmer. The deer is much quicker. The panther can leap farther. The wasp has greater poison. The hawk is a better hunter. The snake is more in tune with the earth. The dog is friendlier. So the human being must learn from these other peoples. Watch, listen, and learn.
The peoples seem to be the same—but they are not. The Great Spirit teaches the birds to make nests—yet each bird makes a different kind of nest. The Great Spirit teaches animals to hunt—yet each hunts in a different way. The Great Spirit teaches each people to care for its young—yet each people has a different manner of instruction. The Great Spirit provides the outline of how to live; each people contributes the content of life by becoming themselves.
Simple observation was often not sufficient to teach the lessons of life.
The peoples were all related and, like relatives, they had to give and share. The humans could contribute very little, but a way was found for them to do so. One day, a long time ago, a great race was held. The race course extended from the Black Hills clear across Wyoming to the Big Horns, far South, and then farther North. It was a serious race, for the two-leggeds—human beings and birds—were racing the four-legged to determine which should feed the others. It was the most serious covenant ever established. The winners returned to the Earth and their bones became the soil and they brought forth food and the losers would feed upon them.
The two-leggeds were no match for the four-leggeds. All of the peoples joined in. Sometimes the winds aided the four-leggeds and prevented the wings from flying. Other times the day would be very hot and the four-leggeds would slow down while the two-leggeds caught up. The race was even and it lasted many, many days. But as the days passed and each member of the two groups took their turns running, the magpie devised a scheme: instead of flying, she sat on the buffalo's horn, catching a ride and preserving her strength. The racers neared the finish line and the four-leggeds, seeing the Buffalo Chief in the lead and no two-leggeds in sight, began to cheer and shout, shaking the earth with their noise. As they neared the finish line the magpie flew from the buffalo's horn and crossed the finish line ahead of him, saving the day for the two-leggeds and demonstrating that while physical strength is important, it must be used intelligently.
The Cycle of Life was established. While the two-leggeds were to feed on the four-leggeds, they were not to fear death for it provided the means of completing the bargain. The bodies of the two-leggeds, after their spirits had departed, provided the soil in which the plants grew to feed the four-leggeds. Neither group ever feared the other for they were relatives and knew that while they might receive, they were also expected to give.
There were, of course, people who forgot the teachings that they had been given. There are many ways that people can be taught. In the Cascades the people began fighting with each other and there was no harmony. The trouble became so bad that the greatest chief of all, known by non-indians as ancient Mount Multnomah, exploded, killing the disobedient people and destroying the county which had been so fruitful. The non-indians now call this ruin the Three Sisters and tell us that it is the remnant of a mighty volcano which exploded in a very remote geological era. But the Indians knew better. Mountains are people too, and when our species brings turmoil and disharmony to the Creation, eventually all the other peoples are injured also.
In various parts of Turtle Island this bitter lesson has to be learned. On the Great Plains the people began quarreling. Some said that greed began to dominate human relationships and people no longer cared for their relatives. Others said that selfishness and the determination to exclude other peoples from the bounty that was the high plains caused the trouble. Either of these faults would have violated the personality of the Great Plains and angered its spirit. On the Great Plains one must be wild and free with no artificial boundaries and no gathering of things to oneself. When the lands became soaked with blood from the quarreling of the humans, the Spirit of the Great Plains decided to punish the people.
Calling upon his relatives, the sky and winds, the Spirit of the Great Plains let forth a loud bellowing noise, and dark clouds gathered. The land shook, darkness filled the skies, and fires burst forth from the bowels of the earth. Violent thunderstorms swept the Great Plains clean of people, and heavy smoke and dust filled the air, making it impossible to see. For a long time it was as if sky and earth had merged together to prevent people from living on the Great Plains. When the air finally cleared and it was possible to see once again, in the midst of the fertile grasslands were places barren of vegetation, eternally scarred and discolored, and devoid of any ability to produce life. Only small patches of the massive Plains were in this desolated condition, and life returned to most of the area very shortly. But generations of people passing near these lands—which came to be called Badlands—saw and remembered what had happened here.
Southern California is among the most ancient parts of Turtle Island and certainly one of the most fruitful. But inland a short distance lies Death Valley, a tremendous sink much below sea level, and inhospitable to nearly every form of life. It was not always a cursed land. Not so many years ago, at least within the memory of some of the tribes, it was a happy, fruitful land. So fruitful in fact that its riches stirred feelings of greed among the people who lived there, and each wanted the valley exclusively for themselves. The medicine men warned the people to stop fighting each other but to no avail. The buzzard came as a special messenger of the spirits and warned that the land could not stand senseless killing and might punish the people. No one listened.
Finally, the mountain sheep who used the valley in the summers made a special visit to the warring tribes and demanded they make peace before the land and spirits rebelled. Still the people refused to listen. Their pride injured by the intrusion of their relatives into their raiding activities, they defined both spirits and relatives and rejected the overtures of the mountain sheep. So the spirits of the place became very angry. They blew the tops off the mountains and poured hot lava on the warriors who refused to live peaceably. The earth became spongy like jelly and shook continually, causing the warring people to flee hither and yon. Still their pride caused them to refuse to make peace.
Great cracks in the earth appeared, and finally the spirits split open a mountain range and poured ocean water into the valley, creating a vast inland sea. The people scrambled to the heights of the mountains along the lakeshore but the angry spirits pursued them there. The great inland sea dried up, leaving salt flats in its place. As the people sought refuge in the mountains each range was twisted and split into many fragments; with the demise of each range of mountains the valley sank lower and lower. Finally, satisfied that they had punished the people for their transgressions, the spirits caused torrential rains to pour down upon the valley and remove many traces of human habitation which had survived the catastrophe. Only the debris of nature was left to testify to the awful punishments that had been inflicted.
All over the continent, whenever the people lost their humility and began to mistreat their relatives, the land rebelled and rebuked them. The unusual features of the land testify to the events in the experience of many peoples. So creation, if we insist that it must include the configuration of landscapes, is also history. The water marks on Steptoe Butte in Eastern Washington remind us of the great flood that destroyed the transgressors of the natural laws. Grand Coulee, farther up the valley of the Columbia, once poured forth a tidal wave of water that flooded the central plain and created immense sandbars which now appear as small hillocks in the plains of Eastern Washington. The lava flows of Western New Mexico tell us of the rebellion of the land there also. And the yawning mouth of Crater Lake in Southern Oregon is an eloquent voice reminding us to have respect for all creatures.
Crater Lake, Oregon
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
Creation as History
It is exceedingly strange that we do
not today understand that creation is really history—the story
of how peoples found their relatives and came to know their
sacred palaces. When we get older we begin to see that creation
is history because it is the continual search for cosmic rhythms
which reminds us of our true selves. Black Elk reflected that
"everything the power of the world does is done in a circle."
And he illustrated his insight with the vivid examples that
could only come from a person who was in harmony with all of
creation and knew their ways: "The sky is round and I have heard
that the earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars.
The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests
in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun
comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the
same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle
in their changing, and always come back again to where they
were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood
and so it is with everything where power moves."
In the unique and cosmic rhythms, special events stand out and are recognized as those special occasions when earth, peoples, and the power of the world shared a unique and sometimes chastising experience.
People Become the Land
When a people have finally reached
their sacred place and come to understand its way, they begin to
take on its characteristics. "We are a part of the nature around
us, and the older we get the more we come to look like it," the
Sioux medicine man Lame
Deer (1903-1976) once remarked. "In the end we
become part of the landscape with a face like the Badlands." In
the same way, one can move around the continent and discover in
the faces of the people almost a mirror of the lands on which
they live. Photographers, perhaps unaware of the nature of
Indian life and thinking that creation is a distant event, still
continue to take pictures of older Indians without realizing
that their photographs are capturing the essence of creation
There are, of course, many other stories about the continent, and each tribe preserves its special knowledge and memories about the sacred mountains, rivers, lakes, and valleys. Almost every tribe can point out those features of the landscape which mark the boundaries of their lands and tell how the people first knew that this was their country and that it was in exactly the right place. The more knowledge one has, the more significant do the various traditions seem, for the conglomerate taken together testifies to the uniqueness of the continent.
The white man, when viewed in this context, appears as a perennial adolescent. He is continually moving about, and his restless nature cannot seem to find peace. Yet he does not listen to the land and so cannot make a place for himself. He has few relatives and seems to believe that the domestic animals that have always relied upon him constitute his only link with the other peoples of the universe. Yet he does not treat these animals as friends but only as objects to be exploited. While he has destroyed many holy places of the Indians, he does not seem to be able to content himself with his own holy places... for his most holy places are cemeteries where his forefathers lie under granite slabs, row upon row, strangers lying with strangers.
Insightful whites have intuited aspects of creation. Carl Jung (1875-1961) remarked that the dreams of American patients generally held a special messianic figure cast in the form of an Indian. Franz Boas demonstrated that by the third generation of immigrants, the people had changed facially and were beginning to look like the Indians who preceded them. D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) noted that while the Indian would never again possess the continent, he would always haunt it and it would always find affirmation in his spirit. Sociologist John Collier (1884-1968) saw in the Indian folkways the solution to many of the pressing problems of modern industrialization. And song writers have long noted that natural features have a personality of their own. It is not for naught that we romanticize "Ol' Man River." The process of creation continues and will do so until everyone has a special place to live and relatives to enjoy.
It has always been this way. John Neihardt spent a great deal of time discussing the Indians tradition with Black Elk, the Sioux holy man. One day, after Black Elk told Neihardt about how the Sioux had received the sacred pipe14 which is present at almost all the tribe's ceremonial occasions, Black Elk remained silent for several minutes. Finally he turned to Neihardt and said.: "This they tell, and whether it happened so or not I do not know; but if you think about it, you can see that it is true!" And so it is with the Indian understanding of the land and the coming of people.
Scribed in Stone
Archeological research has revealed
evidences of numerous successive indigenous cultures in many
parts of Oregon. Surviving the wear of centuries on canyon walls
and cliffs are rude designs dubbed in red ochre or outlined in
Before writing as we know it, was discovered, there was picture writing—the so-called pictographs and petrographs. Pictographs are rock paintings. The images are created by crushing different minerals or materials and mixing them to get the desired color. To apply paint ancient artists usually used the most reliable tool at hand—their fingers. Petrographs are designs scratched or incised into boulders or the faces of cliffs. Their images are created by striking or abrating the surface with a harder stone. These works have lasted for centuries. Their messages stubbornly persist through howling wind and baking sun. You can find them all over the world—inside the prehistoric caves of France and Spain, or large runic or ogham stones in Scandinavia and Ireland, in the Sahara and the land of the Bushman. In America they can be found in Pennsylvania and on the Great Plains, in California and Utah. But, above all, it is the American Southwest, New Mexico and Arizona, where they are most abundant and where whole canyon walls are covered with them. There are images of humans and animals, of birds and snakes and masked Shamans, of sun and stars. Some of this rock art is of a magic, religious nature, other designs show the way to water, or out of a canyon, or where game is plentiful. Some trace the path of stars or the movement of an eclipse. Ironically, the greatest modern enemy to petroglyphs and pictographs is not erosion but the species responsible for their creation—man.
In a new study, Texas A&M University chemists Ronnie Reese, Marian Hyman, and Marvin Rowe and biologists James Derr and Scott Davis applied DNA analysis to the paints used on rock art in the Lower Pecos region, at the confluences of the Pecos, Devils, and Rio Grande rivers in Southwestern Texas. Rock art was an essential component of many ancient symbolic, religious, and artistic systems, and the materials used for preparing paints may have had special significance. In the Lower Pecos area a variety of minerals were used in Pictographs. Dark and light red, black, yellow, and orange pigments are common, prepared from iron and manganese oxides and hydroxides. White is rare. Until now, however, virtually nothing was known about the organic substances that served as binders for the pigments. Many readily available materials may have been used—blood, urine, milk, eggs, vegetable juices, or animal fats—but no chemical or biological analysis had been attempted. The Texas A & M researchers used samples from two Pecos River-style pictographs in Seminole Canyon that had been directly dated to circa 2,950 to 4,200 years ago. The site was chosen because the pictographs there have undergone severe exfoliation for more than 50 percent have spalled from the limestone wall. The pigment layer, sandwiched between the limestone and later calcite and gypsum deposits, was intact. Nuclear DNA recovered from it proved to be closely related to that of deer and bison. The binder may have been bone morrow, which would be a good source for DNA; blood is questionable since mammalian red blood cells lack nuclei (only scarcer white blood cells have them). Now that the general identity of the organic component has been established, part of the sequence that is more susceptible to diagnosis will be examined to determine which animal was used.
Burial mounds in irregular patterns mark the places where the dead, with their crude artifacts, lie buried. Along the coast, numerous kitchen middens—heaps of shells, bone and stone fragments—and miscellaneous refuse, overgrown with grass and trees—indicate the existence of prehistoric dwellings. Where US-101 cuts through such a kitchen midden, as it does at several places, varying levels or strata in the heap are revealed, denoting successive occupations of the locality.
Near Tangent is a scattered chain of prehistoric mounds, that extends from Albany to Brownsville. A number of the most important are near the point where the road crosses Calapooya River. Some mortars and pestles, arrow points, shell, stone, and copper beads have been found, together with skeletons. South of Tangent the prairie-like expanses are dotted at intervals by dome-like buttes. Formed by volcanic upthrusts, it is believed that at one time they formed islands in the waters that formerly filled this valley. Their upper strata abound with marine fossils, and about their bases are found ancient mammalian remains, including tusks and teeth of mammoths and mastodons. In the surrounding foothills petrified wood is frequently exposed by the weathering of crumbling volcanic tufs.
Stone and obsidian weapons and bone fragments, frequently discovered beneath layers of lava or volcanic ash, indicate human existence in Oregon at a remote period. Near Lake Abert, and at the base of Hart Mountain in Warner Valley, are excellent examples of pictographs and petrographs—prehistoric painting and carving.
A local legend associates Abert Rim with the retreat of an indigenous army that ended in a plunge over the cliff, at the foot of which are scattered many relics. Near The Dalles, Arlington, and Forest Grove, and in the Cascadia Caves, are diverse examples of prehistoric pictorial representations. The Linn County mounds, the Deschutes region, the Malheur and Catlow Caves in Harney County, and numerous other sites, have yielded weapons, utensils, and other Indian artifacts.
In his book, The Centennial History of Oregon 1811-1912, Oregon historian Joseph Gaston discussed Indians in the Old Oregon Country from 1792 to 1840:
Abert Rim and Abert Lake
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
When the white man discovered Oregon he found a large population of Indians scattered in groups, families and tribes over the entire country from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and from California to the Alaska line. The first comers detected no differences among these people of the forest and plain. They were all simply Indians. As time and experience brought the Indians more and more under the observation of traders and naturalists, marked differences were discovered, and such distinction as the various tribes themselves maintained and enforced. By the study of the language and dialects of these families and tribes, and by investigation of their beliefs in the supernatural and their regulation of the social and family life, scientists versed in the principles of ethnology were able to arrange and segregate this apparently heterogeneous population of wild men into such a classification as would be intelligible to students of Indian life.
Pacific Northwest Tribes
The Indians who inhabited Oregon at
the coming of the first whites were members of 12 distinct
linguistic families. Along the south side of the Columbia, from
its mouth to the Cascades, the Chinook held sway. Important
branches of this family were the Clatsop, who lived along the
river at Tongue Point and along the coast to Tillamook Head, and
the Cathlamet who dwelt a short distance farther up the river;
while numerous bands on Sauvies Island and about the mouth of
the Willamette were known by the collective name Multnomah. The
Clackamas lived in the Clackamas Valley and around Willamette
Falls. In all, some 36 tribes of the Chinook family occupied the
south shore of the Columbia, and as many others dwelt near the
The Athabascan occupied two widely separated regions. On the Clatskanie and Upper Nehalem rivers lived the Tlatskani, a warlike tribe. It is said that the early Hudson's Bay Company trappers did not dare to traverse their lands in a group fewer than 60 armed men. In Southwestern Oregon dwelt the other Athabascan— the Tututini, the Upper Coquille, the Chastacosta, and the Chetco. Also in the southwestern region were the Umpqua and the Siuslaw, who together form a separate family.
Indigenous peoples living in the Umpqua Basin when trappers and settlers first arrived included the Yoncalla, Upper Umpqua, Upper Coquille, Southern Molalla and Cow Creek Umpqua. Although the tribes spoke different languages and had different customs, their lifestyle had much in common. Fishing was an important activity. Technologies were developed to harvest their dependable food source. Walls of stones or brush in the rivers would force the salmon into basket traps or shallow water where they could be caught with dip nets.
Fishing platforms were often placed near falls where dip nets, spears (liesters) or harpoons were used to catch fish. South Umpqua Falls and Steamboat Falls were areas where fishing platforms probably existed.
During the winter, the people stayed in permanent Villages located in the lowland valleys. The cold, wet winter months were spent repairing tools that would be used during other times of the year.
When spring arrived, the Indians began to collect roots, seeds, nuts, and berries. During these months, salmon would run in nearby rivers or streams.
As summer came, the Indians moved into the uplands following the ripening plants to higher ground.
As fall approached, they would return to the valley floor to harvest acorns and fish the fall salmon runs. The fish would be dried and smoked to ensure a winter supply of food.
The Cow Creek band of Umpqua lived along the river and Cow Creek. Here they trapped deer and elk with iris-fiber snares, built weirs and funnel-shaped basket caps to catch salmon and steelhead, dug roots, drove into rivers and pulled lamprey eels off submerged rocks, gathered huckleberries, and made tea from yerba buena leaves. They lived in wood-roofed, semi-subterranean Winter shelters, and less substantial brush-built summer homes. Men visited a dugout sweat lodge daily.
In 1920, pioneer settler George W. Riddle gave an account of the Cow Creek band's manner of hunting, fishing and of their foods and how they were prepared, in a series of articles for The Riddle Enterprise:
The Cow Creek band of Umpqua as we found them were dressed in the skins of wild animals, principally in dressed deer skins, in the tanning of which they were experts. Their process in treating skins so that they would remain soft and pliable may be interesting. The brains of the deer was the only thing used. The brains when taken from the deer were mixed with oak tree moss was formed into balls and hung overhead in their huts to be smoked and dried to be used at any time. The grain and hair of the deer skin was removed with a sharp edge of a split bone after which the skins were soaked in a solution of brains and warm water for 24 hours or more. The skins were then wrung out and rubbed until thoroughly dry, then smoked until the yellow color desired was obtained. The smoke also prevented the skins from becoming hard when wet. Furs and deer skins were treated with the hair on in must the same manner.
Nature seems to have furnished the Indians with a great variety of foods such as game fish, camas, acorns, seeds of various kinds. The deer was the principal game, which before they had guns, were taken with snares. To capture a deer in this manner they must have ropes and good ones. These were made from a fiber taken from a plant—a kind of flag—growing in the mountains. From each edge of the long flat leaves of the flag a fine thread of fiber was obtained by the squaws, stripping it with their thumb nails. This was a slow process and would require the labor of one squaw a year to make a rope five-eights of an inch thick and 15 feet long, but the rope was a good one and highly prized by the owner. In order to snare a deer miles of brush fences were make across the heads of canyons. The ropes were set at openings where experience had taught the Indians that the deer would likely go. Then a great drive was organized with Indians strung along the sides of the canyon. Those making the drive, with dogs, set up a great racket crying "ahootch, ahootch," and those stationed on the ridges would make the same sound, while their wolf dogs kept up a howling. All the noise was made to direct the deer to where the ropes were located. They also set their snare ropes around salt licks and watering places.
Grouse and waterfowl were also snared by twine made from the same fiber as the ropes.
The Cow Creek Umpqua also had another method of hunting deer—with bows and arrows—and in order to approach the deer to make the arrows effective they dressed themselves to resemble the deer by covering themselves with a deer skin and the head and neck mounted to look natural, keeping the deer to the windward and going through the motions of a deer feeding. At 50 yards the Indian arrow was as deadly as a bullet.
On our arrival most of the Indians were armed with bows and arrows. The bows were made of yew, the backs covered by the sinews of the deer held by some kind of glue. The bows were about 30 inches long and very elastic. They could be bent until the ends could almost meet. The quiver holding the bow and arrows was made of the whole skin of the otter or fox and swung across the back so that the feather end of the arrow could be reached over the shoulder. They were so expert in reaching the arrows and adjusting to the bow that they could keep an arrow in the air all the time.
Chief Miwaleta's band claimed the north bank of Cow Creek as their territory. In the winter, they camped on the bank of Cow Creek Falls. The Indians' manner of fishing was more simple than snaring deer. The silver salmon came in such multitudes in the fall runs that they were easily taken at Cow Creek Falls. Dams of sticks were made across the small channels through rocks and traps with hazel rods woven together with withes forming a basket about three feet in diameter at the upper or open end which came to a point at the closed or lower end. This trap was fastened in the rapid water in the narrow channel with twisted hazel withes fastened to the poles of the dam. The salmon in great numbers would pass up by the side of the trap and, failing to get above the dam, would be carried back into the open end of the trap and the weight of the water would hold them. The Indians would work two such traps and when the river began to rise in the fall they would take several hundred in a night. When the autumn rains came sufficient to rise the river two or three feet the great run of salmon would come day and night. Crowding up under the falls, hundreds of them being in sight at one time.
The successful fishing season of the Indians depended upon the rise of the water. When the river rose above a certain stage the salmon passed over the falls to their spawning grounds. Very few of them ever return to the salt water alive. The only salmon returning are those carried by the currents of winter freshets after they become too weak to resist. The salmon takes no food after leaving salt water.
Lamprey eels were highly prized by the Cow Creek. They were a scaleless, snake-like fish which would hold to the rocks with their sucker mouth and the Indians would dive in the icy water, seize the eel with both hands and, coming to the top of the water, kill the squirming thing by thrusting its head in their mouth and crushing it with their teeth.
Hunting and fishing were the only work that I ever knew and Indian man to do, especially in providing food. The Squaws were the workers. The greatest part of their winter food was the camas—a small onion-shaped bulb about one inch in diameter which were plentiful in the lowlands of the valley. In the early morning the squaws would be out in the camas field provided with a basket—a cone-shaped affair wide open at the top, and swung across the forehead—a manner in which the Indians carried all their burdens and which left both arms free. Each squaw would be armed with a camas stick made of yew wood fashioned to a point at one end by burning and rubbing the charred wood off leaving the point as hard as steel. At the top end with fitted a curved handle, generally a piece of deer horn. Locating the bulb by the seed top above ground they would insert the stick under the root with the weight of the body, prying up the camas, which they would deftly throw over the shoulder into the basket. In this manner if the expert squaw worked all day she could bring home about one bushel. If she was the mother of a papoose she carried it along strapped on a board.
The camas was cooked by excavating a pit, filling it with wood, with rocks on top. After the rocks were sufficiently heated they were covered with dry grass and then a great lot of camas, covering them up with earth for several days; when they came out they would be of a reddish-brown color and were sweet and really good to eat.
The soap tart, a large bulb with layers of coarse fiber all through, was treated in the same manner as the camas, but was poor food.
The white acorn was used as food, but I do not think relished, and perhaps only used to appease hunger. The acorns were pounded in a mortar, the hulls separated and meat pounded into a meal. It was then spread out on clean sand and water poured over to take out the bitter taste. Then it was boiled into a mush or porridge.
The Indians had vessels or baskets made of hazel twigs closely woven and lined with a blue clay, making them watertight. To boil water, they dropped hot rocks in the water. The squaws were experts at picking the heated rock from the fires, blowing the ashes from it and dropping it into the mush pot. The cooled rocks were renewed with hot ones until the mess was cooked.
During the summer months the squaws would gather various kinds of seeds of which the tar weed seed was the most prized. The tar weed was a plant about 30 inches high and was very abundant on the benchlands of the valley, and was a great nuisance at maturity. It would be covered with globules of a clear tarry substance that would coat the lead and legs of stock as if they had been coated in tar. When the seeds were ripe the country was burned off. This left the plant standing with the tar burned off and the seeds left in the pods. Immediately after the fire there would be an army of squaws armed with an implement made of twigs shaped like a tennis racket, and with their basket swung in front they beat the seeds from the pods into the basket. This seed gathering would only last a few days and every squaw in the tribe seemed to be doing her level best to make all the noise she could, beating her racket against the top of her basket.
All seeds were ground into meal with a mortar and pestle. The mortar was made by forming a hollow in the face of flat boulders, over which was placed a basket with a hole in the bottom to fit the depression in the rock, making a kind of hopper to hold the seeds, then with a stone fashioned about two inches in diameter at its lower end and tapered at the other end to a size easily grasped with the hand, the operator would sit upon the ground with the mortar between her knees and would pound the seeds, using the pestle which was usually about ten inches long, and weighing five or six pounds, with one hand and stirring the seeds with the other, often changing hands, using the right or left for pounding or stirring the seeds with equal skill.
For the Indian to fashion one of these pestles must have required time and patience. They were formed as round, straight and true as if they had been turned in a lathe.
In 1846, as Oregon Trail emigration was reaching a fever pitch, Levi Scott and Jesse and Lindsay Applegate blazed a southern route to Oregon. Settlers in the Southern Willamette Valley were anxious to beef up their numbers, partly because they were tired of being bossed around by the Methodist missionaries to the North. The Applegate party cut down to Northern California, turned east and picked up Nevada's Humboldt River, then cut back up to Fort Hall. Jesse Applegate intercepted some migrants there, and persuaded them to try the new route. It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk. Tabitha Brown, who was 63 years old when she joined the Applegate party recounted:
We were carried hundreds of miles
south of Oregon into Utah Territory and California; fell in with
the Clamott [Klamath] and Rogue River Indians, lost nearly all
our cattle, passed the Umpqua Mountains, 12 miles through. I
rode through in three days at the risk of my life, on horseback,
having lost my wagon and all that I had but the horse I was on.
Our families were the first that started through the canyon, so
that we got through the mud and rocks much better than those
that followed. Out of the hundreds of wagons, only one came
through without breaking. The canyon was strewn with dead
cattle, broken wagons, beds, clothing, and everything but
provisions, of which latter we were nearly all destitute. Some
people were in the canyon two or three weeks before they could
get through. Some died without any warning, from fatigue and
starvation. Others ate the flesh of cattle that were lying dead
by the wayside.
The opening of the Applegate Trail marked the beginning of hard times for the Cow Creek, who soon found their game diminished and their fishing areas appropriated. Far worse than the early homesteaders were the miners who, after gold was discovered near Jacksonville, tore their way through every Southern Oregon drainage, choking salmon streams with muddy debris.
The Cow Creek signed a reservation treaty in 1853, which the government largely ignored. Settlers continued to move onto Amerindian homelands and harass the Cow Creek, who retreated into the most remote areas. Many were rounded up by the government and sent to live on the Siletz Reservation on the Central Oregon Coast and Grand Ronde Reservation in the Willamette Valley.
Without consulting the Cow Creek, the US government terminated its relations with the band in 1956. In the government’s eyes, they ceased to exist as a tribe, and thus required none of the health care or educational benefits usually provided. In 1980, the supposedly non-existent Cow Creek sued the US for treaty land stolen from them and won a $1.5 million settlement. The band put the settlement money in an endowment using the earnings for tribal social service programs. In 1982, they were once again recognized as Indians. Today they operate the Cow Creek Bingo Center near the Canyonville exit on I-5.
The Salish family, although more numerous North of the Columbia, was represented south of the river by the Tillamook (Nestucca) and the Siletz. The Yakonian, consisting of the Yaquina and the Alsea, lived on the two bays thus named; and on Coos Bay and the Lower Coquille dwelt the three tribes of the small Kusan family.
One of the most important families was the Calapooya. This numerous people occupied the whole of the Willamette Valley above the falls, practiced flattening of the head, and lived on game and roots. A dozen tribes of this family inhabited the Willamette region at the coming of non-indian populations. The Atfalati or Tualati, numbering more than 30 bands, occupied the beautiful and fertile Tualatin Valley. Other tribes of this group were the Yamhill, the Chemeketa, and the Santiam.
Southern Oregon was occupied by divisions of three families: the powerful Klamath and Modoc tribes of the Sahaptian (Lutuamian or Tule Lake), the Takelma of the Upper Rogue River, and two "spillovers" from California—the Shasta and Karok of the Hokan family.
The Karok were weavers, who created magnificent baskets for the storage of seeds and nuts, burden baskets, winnowing trays, mush baskets and food containers, and cradle baskets.
Indian Woman With Suckling Babes
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
Anthropologist Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) wrote that the the basketry of the Karok
...does not differ from that of the Hupa and the Yurok. The process is always twining, and the usual materials are hazel rod for the warp, roots of the digger or the yellow pine for the weft, and Xerophyllum grass for white overlay, bark of the maidenhair fern for black, and fibers from the stem of Woodwardia fern, dyed in alder bark juice in the mouth of the work woman, for red.
The Rogue and Illinois rivers were
home to two Takelma-speaking nations, the Takelma and the Latgawa,
both called Rogue Rivers by early fur traders. The Latgawa lived
on the Upper Rogue, in the Cascade foothills. They were fierce
and had no compunction about eating crows, ant eggs, lice, and
insect larvae. This diet made their Takelma neighbors shudder
with disgust, but not more so than the fact that Latgawa sold
Takelma as slaves to the Klamath.
The Takelma lived along the Illinois and middle stretch of the Rogue. They ate fish and eels, deer and elk, acorns and seeds, and drank a Manzanita berry-pine-nut shake. Winters they lived in pine-plank lodges. In the summer and autumn, during fishing season, they lived in brush shelters near fishing sites. The Takelma kept a close eye out for rattlesnakes—they believed that it was fatal to have a rattler strike at one's shadow. To them, an eagle's cry predicted death by arrows.
Both the Takelma and the Latgawa fought hard against intrusions onto their homeland. Applegate Trail immigrants and gold mongers on their way to California strikes feared them, and an 1850 treaty did little to calm down either side. When gold was discovered in Southern Oregon, and miners rolled through the valleys, the Takelma and Latgawa joined forces with the Klamath and Shasta, only to be defeated. In 1853 the Takelma were moved onto Table Rock Reservation.
Two years later, white volunteers, angered by clashes between the Shasta and miners, stormed the Table Rock Reservation and killed anybody within their range. The Takelma fought back hard, but their resistance cost them their own reservation, and survivors were eventually sent north to the Grand Ronde Reservation, on the Yamhill River.
The Upper Columbia River country was the home of other Sahaptian. The greater part of this family lived in Eastern Washington and the Lewis River district of the Idaho; but four tribes, the Willewah branch of the Nez Perceé, the Umatilla, the Deschutes River Tenino, and the Tyigh of the Tyigh Valley, inhabited the uplands of Eastern Oregon. The Wailatpuan branch was represented by the powerful powerful Cayuse (or horse people)62 dwelling on the headwaters of the Umatilla, the Walla Walla, and the Grande Ronde rivers. A small offshoot of this branch, the Molalla, had in times past wandered over the Cascades into Western Oregon, and lived along the Molalla River. Over the high desert country of the southeastern region roamed the nomadic Snake and Paiute tribes of the Shoshone.
Intercourse between the various nations and later with non-indians made it necessary for Amerindians to supplement their many dialects with a common language. Among merchant Indians at the mouth of the Columbia there grew up a pigeon language based upon Chinook, and later intermixed with French and English words. This language became known as Chinook jargon, and was widely used internationally, as well as by the early squatters, traders, and missionaries. When the indigenous peoples were stripped of their lands, taken as prisoners of war, and isolated on reservations, many who had not adopted Chinook jargon were obliged to learn it in order to communicate with their neighbors, some of whom were their traditional enemies.
The local customs of indigenous peoples dwelling in the western valleys and coast regions differed greatly from those of the interior. The western tribes, because of the density of the forests, usually traveled by canoe. They subsisted chiefly on salmon, roots, and berries. The opening of the salmon season in June was attended with great formality. The first salmon caught was sacred, and was eaten ceremonially in a long-established ritual acknowledging the brotherhood of all living things, and intended to propitiate the salmon and insure future runs.
Before the arrival of non-indians, coastal denizens were scantily clad. The men went entirely naked during the summer, and the women wore a skirt-like vestment fashioned of cedar bark fibers or grasses. During the winter, the men wore a garment made of skins reaching to the middle of the thigh; the women added to their wardrobe a similar garment reaching to the waist; or either might wear a fiber cape.
In his book, Oregon: There and Back 1877, Wallis Nash (1837-1926) describes the decline in native dress habits while confined on the Alsea and Siletz reservations:
[The squaw] ...was a woman of medium height, broad, and strongly built, dressed in an old dirty print gown, and with two or three rows of large beads around her neck; and three broad bands of black paint from the corners and middle of the lips to the edges of the chin-bone, and a dab of vermilion on each cheek adorned her face.
In his journal, All Quiet on the Yamhill, Cpl. Royal A. Bensell (1838-1921) describes the Indian women confined on the Siletz Reservation:
The women generally possess very small
feet and hands. Many Indian ladies would feel proud to display
as neat ankles. If an Indian runs away with another's wife and
is unable to pay for the same, the widower's friend catches the
wife's paramour and cuts his nose and ears off. I have seen
several whose nose and nears have paid this penalty.
Women are a marketable article. In case an Indian buys a wife and the buyer dies leaving a brother, the brother has a claim on the buyer's wife.
Among the Chinook, distinctions or
rank extended to burial. The bodies of slaves were tossed into
the river or gotten rid of in some other way, while the free
born were carefully prepared for box, vault, tree or canoe
burial, and were honored with rituals of mourning which included
periods of wailing during a certain length of time, cutting the
hair, and refraining from mentioning the name of the dead.
Bensell wrote in his journal that all the property an Indian possesses at the time of his death,
it is buried with him—horses, money, clothing, etc. At all funerals a certain amount of noise is deemed necessary to detract the devil's attention until the dead siwash reaches the "sackelee tyhee's ilahee [God's Land—a term introduced by missionaries]." All Indians are "quesh [afraid]" when near a burying ground after nightfall. Spirits are supposed to stalk abroad singing mournful ditties.
Entombment varied according to the tribe and
locality. Columbia River tribes utilized Menaloose Island near
The Dalles, Coffin Rock near the mouth of Cowlitz River, and
other islands and promontories, with canoes supported on
decorated scaffolds, and placed the toward the west so that the
departed spirit might more easily find its way to Menaloose
Illahee, or the land of the dead, which lay somewhere toward the
setting sun. Valley tribes often placed their dead, wrapped in
skins, in the forks of trees.
On April 12, 1864, Bensell, wrote that he had a prisoner in confinement named George:
This Indian, rather than starve last fall, left the agency and was found some two weeks ago near Albany and brought back. Yesterday his sister died, and he wanted to assist at the burial. I went with him. After digging a small hole, they boarded it with clapboards, then taking the corpse out of some skins in which it was wrapped. They washed it with warm water using grass instead of cloths. After a few ceremonies the body was again wrapped up, beads, money, etc. deposited with her. Then the grave was filled, the old squaws the while chanting a funeral dirge.
"Alas!" wrote Frances Fuller Victor, "nothing of one race is sacred to another..."
Behind the squaw's light birch canoe,
The steamer rocks and raves;
And city lots are staked for sale
Above old Indian graves.
Most whites of the 19th Century, with
little fear of natives or lawsuits, were careless with Chinook
and Clatsop burial. But in 1953, under the aura of renewed
tribalism, the Chinooks became very protective of relics and
artifacts. Some of these relics accidentally unearthed by men
excavating near Willapa Bay would cause Chinooks to institute a
$50,000 lawsuit against the property owners, who offered to turn
the material over to a university.
The Indians of the Oregon Coast lived in small Villages of communal type plank houses from 40 to 60 feet long and 20 feet wide. The interior walls of these great lodges, scattered in clusters along the coast, the Columbia, and the Lower Willamette, were tiered with bunks. Along the middle of the floor ran a fire pit, the smoke escaping through a gap left along the ridgepoles of the roof. Men, women, children and dogs mingled in the dusky interior. These houses were put together with lashings, and when fleas and other vermin became intolerable the houses were dismantled and the planks removed to a new location, supposedly leaving the fleas behind.
Nash describes the squalid living conditions of the Indians at the Siletz Reservation:
We... spied little shanties hidden
away in the furze and brake. Dead bushes set in a row, a few
long sticks bent around and tied together at the top, a mat or
two of old, torn rugs and bits of carpet thrown over, made up
[We saw that] dirt was everywhere, on the persons of the Indians, their clothes, their hut, their food.
The plank houses were strung along the banks
of the streams, which poured down from the coastal mountains
into the Pacific. These streams, as well as a vegetation almost
tropical in its impenetrability, isolated the Coastal tribes,
and thus, a diversity of languages developed. All, however,
lived by the land and the sea, berries and game, salmon and
shellfish. To the people of the Columbia and Lower Willamette,
the most populous of the Indians, salmon was of greater
importance and used for trade as well as sustenance. For the
tribes of the inland valleys, however, nuts and roots and game
took salmon's place. A pleasing and literally fragrant aspect of
the culture of these three peoples was their use of cedar for
almost all their material needs—clothing, shelter, utensils,
containers, and of course, their superb canoes. South, in the
vicinity of the present Klamath Lakes, the aboriginal peoples
were marsh and lakeside dwellers, subsisting on plants and
waterfowl and living in semisubterranean, earth-domed lodges.
Anthropologist Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) wrote that the character of the Klamath habitat, studded with lakes and marshes, which provided their principal food
...made the canoe an object of great importance. The Klamath canoe is simply the thin shell of a log-pine, cedar, or Douglas spruce, undercut at both ends at an angle of about 45 degrees, but less at the bow than at the stern. Both ends are shovel-nosed, that is, they are not pointed but are practically as wide as the beam of the craft.
Their neighbors to the east, in what is now
called the Great Basin, also subsisted on waterfowl and
plants—when they could be found, for the original people of the
Great Basin often faced near starvation—but these people were
few in number, mainly nomadic, and lived in little bell-shaped
huts made of willow whips. Finally there were the plateau people
of Northeastern Oregon. Horsemen by about the 18th Century, they
were a vigorous people and wide ranging, from the barren steppes
of the Upper Columbia to the high alpine valleys of the
Wallowas, living, when settled, in long tipi-type mat houses.
The Indians of river and coast were skilled in fashioning canoes. Each of these was made from a single log, their size varying from the small craft capable of sustaining only one person to the great war canoe in which as many as 60 warriors might safely put to sea. For these graceful vessels, cedar and spruce were usually preferred, though fir was also used.
The Indianhunting bow, like the canoe, was beautifully and skillfully formed. It was generally made of yew or crabapple. The string was a piece of dried seal gut or deer sinew, or consisted of twisted bark. The arrows, about a yard long, were made of arrow wood or cedar.
Household utensils included baskets or cedar root fiber or tough grasses often woven so closely as to be watertight, and stone mortars and pestles for pulverizing seeds and wild grains.
The principal art displayed was in the carvings on the house posts and canoe figureheads, and in the fashioning of woven mats and baskets. Basketry was a highly developed art form, many examples of which, richly colored with intricate and pleasing designs, today grace museums or are offered for sale in Native American curio stores.
The culture of the Northeastern Oregon tribes had undergone a definite change a few decades ago before the invasion of non-indians. Through the introduction of the horse they had become more or less nomadic people. The Paiute (Snakes), Nez Perceé, and Cayuses counted their wealth in horses, and because they were thus free to move about they evolved a culture based largely on the chase and warfare. Buckskin ornamented with dyed porcupine quills formed their dress, their moccasins, and their shelters, and skins dressed with the fur intact made their robes and blankets. Their basic diet consisted of game, supplemented by roots and berries.
The Shoshone of the Southeast plateau enjoyed a less evolved culture, owing to the nature of the barren and forbidding country. The Klamath lived here for 14,000 years harvesting wocas, or yellow waterlily (Nymphea polysepala) seeds, from the marshes and shallow lakes.
Curtis wrote that the waterlily is still used by the Klamath as a delicacy.
The extensive marshes of the region are in many places covered to the extent that hundreds of thousands of acres with the spreading leaves of this plant. "Wocas," as the plant and the seed are called, is gathered in the latter part of August and through the whole of September. Poling a canoe through the masses of leaves and trailing stems, the harvester, always a woman, pulls the nearly ripe pods from their stems and drops them into a canoe. The mature pods, having burst open, are too sticky to be taken in the hand, and are scooped up in a tule ladle and deposited in a canoe-shaped basket. At the end of the day the contents of the basket are poured into a pit about two feet in diameter and of equal depth, and from day to day the harvest of ripe pods is added. The whole is covered with a mat. At the end of the season the contents of the pits, now by fermentation a viscous mass, is transferred to a canoe, and after an admixture of water is thoroughly stirred so as to separate the seeds, which drop to the bottom. The gluey liquid and refuse are skimmed off, and the seeds are drained on mats. After more thorough drying and partially cooking the seeds by shaking them in a tray with a few embers, the woman cracks the hulls with muller and melete, and separates the kernels from the hulls in a winnowing tray, which is operated with much the same motion as a gold-miners pan. The The finished product is now ready to be thoroughly dried on mats and stored, formerly on pits, now in bags. The seeds are prepared for eating by parching them with embers in a basketry tray, a process which causes them to swell and burst.
Traditional winter pit houses were based on
shallow, saucer-like excavations, topped with broad, cone-shaped
wood roofs. These houses appeared as mounds of earth about six
feet high, with a circular pole two and a half feet in diameter
at the top, from which a ladder led down into the circular space
below. The interior was 20 feet across, with sleeping bunks and
arrangements for storing dried meats, seeds, acorns, and roots.
The whole was substantially built, the roof being of poles
covered with rushes and with earth taken from the pit beneath.
On hooks from the rush-lined ceiling hung bags and baskets,
laden with such luxuries as dried grasshoppers and berries.
Above the bunks hung the skins of deer and other game. Above
ground summer houses were framed with willow branches and draped
with tule mats.
The dress of the women consisted of a shirt or deerskin thongs to a braided belt; the men wore breechclouts of deerskin, and the children went entirely naked.
When grasshoppers were abundant the indigenous peoples scoured the valleys, gathered insects in great quantities by driving them into pits, and made preparations for a feast. A fire was kindled in one of the pits, and after the latter had been thoroughly heated the harvest was dropped in, covered with damp tules and hot stones, and baked. Prepared in this fashion the insects were eaten with great relish. They were also powdered and mixed with wocus meal in a kind of bread baked in the ashes.
The Klamath were more compliant than their southern neighbors, the Modoc, about white incursions into their ancestral lands. Little good it did them; ethnocentric whitemen generally lumped the two nations together, treating them both as arch enemies. An 1864 treaty dealt the Klamath a million-acre reservation where they were joined by some Modoc following the 1874 Northern California Modoc War with the US.
Anthropologist Edward S. Curtis wrote that the Klamath and the Modoc, especially the latter
...had their share of difficulties with immigrants and soldiers. In 1852 the Modoc slaughtered an entire party en route to California... In 1864 a treaty was negotiated between the US and the Klamath, the Modoc, and certain Shoshoneans of Oregon, established the present Klamath Reservation. As this lay entirely within their former boundaries, the Klamath were inclined to lord it over the Modoc, who were therefore removed to a subagency in another part of the reservation.
The US government terminated its
relations with the Klamath in 1954 (when there were over 2,000
tribal members) after a majority of the tribal members voted for
this termination, partly because it meant that the tribe’s
assets were divided among individual members, to the tune of
$50,000 a piece. Many recipients were taken advantage of by
unscrupulous whites who saw a way of cashing in on the Indians’
payments. Many Klamaths regretted both the loss of BIA services
and the diminuation for reinstatement. The Klamath were
reinstated in 1991 and is now based in Chiloquin,
North of Upper Klamath Lake. The tribe is reviving a culture
that was neglected for many years, and hopes to prosper
economically from their Chiloquin Casino, 22 miles North of Klamath Falls.
Such then were the original people. By the time of their contact with wasichus in the early 19th Century, they numbered tens of thousands, these divided into nearly 100 bands and tribes. Though a people of many differences, in physique and language for example, they did to some degree share a common culture. Most were animists, believing that all things, whether rock or tree, stream or star, animal or person, were imbued with spirit. All were family. Thus, for them, all the world was living. And with this living world they, in turn, lived in close communion. Weather, animals, the earth, its fruits—they mingled with these things, becoming one with them; the flesh and skin of animals; the berries, bulbs and nuts of earth; the cleansing water; the shade of trees; the warmth of fire. Unlike non-indian societies, there were no separate orders; the people, animals, matter. All were one.
All Pacific Northwest Indians believed in an existence after death, and in a soul that inhabited the body yet was distinct from the vital principle and capable of leaving the body in dreams, faints, and trances, though if it stayed away too long the body died. Other living things were also similarly endowed. So it was that a canoe builder deferentially addressed the tree from which he obtained his log, as though it were a conscious personality, and a fisherman spoke apologetically to the first catch of the season as he took it from the water.
However, by the late 19th Century non-indians would build salmon canneries near old native fisheries at places like Points Oak, Chinook, Ellice, and Tansey and near towns such as Ilwaco and Astoria. At the turn of the century these canneries on the Lower Columbia would be less numerous than in the 1880s, when they totaled some 40 in number. Chinese, instead of Indians, labored in these establishments, where historian Frances Fuller Victor observed them, armed with long, sharp knives, disemboweling and beheading salmon and pushing offal into the river at the same time. In their mercantile rush the non-colored canners would have regarded first salmon ceremonials, once so meticulously observed, a waste of time. Even Chinook under non-indian influence neglected there ceremonials, which had once meant so much to them. Victor noted that Indians of the lower river, "dissipated by the beams of civilization," had deferred to white men, profaning not only ancient burials but also recent ones in their search for plunder.
To Native Americans, dreams have an importance unimaginable to the white man. gods and supernaturals manifest themselves in dreams. Revelations from the spirits reach the supplicant through dreams and visions. Through dreams are conferred magical powers, the gift of prophecy, and the ability to cure illnesses and wounds.
For women, the Vision Quest was a natural outgrowth of the fasting and seclusion that accompanied their first menses. Since menstruating women radiated so much power as to be avoided by all, except other menstruating women or menopausal women, we might assume that something akin to religious contemplation was at least a monthly event. When a young Indian woman arrives at that natural period, common to all females between girlhood and womanhood, the fact is one of great rejoicing, feasting, and dancing. This evidence (to them) of virginity, productiveness, etc. strongly resembles the old Jewish customs.
Bensell wrote that the first salmon caught cannot be purchased by anyone:
The Indian takes the salmon's heart out and buries it. The heart is extracted with a stone knife, a few of which yet remain as having once belonged to the Stone Age.
Among Amerindian societies where women
lived in extended households, and where menstrual cycles are
believed to have occurred simultaneously, the periodic cycles
are believed to have occurred simultaneously, the periodic
retreats to a menstrual lodge may have represented a communal
growing in power and a sharing of womanly knowledge.
In her book, The Ways of My Grandmothers, Beverly Hungry Wolf, a Blood, notes the use of sage pads during menstruation:
[The women] used to pick the [sage] leaves and make them into a pad during menstruation. The pads not only absorbed the blood but they also served as medication to keep the skin from getting raw.
The powers women acquired through
dreams and visions, as well as those granted to them by their
Tamanowus (guardian spirits), were employed in various contexts.
Indian societies generally did not draw rigid distinctions
between religion and medicine, so that female herbalists,
midwives, and doctors practicing psychosomatic medicine were
regarded as religious specialists, along with those termed
shamans, whose sacred powers included prophecy and spirit
possession. Since illness and disease were traceable to
supernatural causes, the ability to cure was a demonstration of
Hungry Wolf wrote that one plant in the world of Blackfeet botany was left practically for the exclusive use of the women:
For that reason it was called women's sage.
A companion plant was called man's sage, because it was used
mainly by men. Both kinds grow all over the prairies, together
and apart. The women's sage has smaller leaves and many more
seed pods than the man's sage, which grows more bushy. They both
have gray-colored leaves and a bitter taste.
Women used this sage for all kinds of things, internal and external. As a brew it was given for colds and chest problems, as well as other ailments. Many of these practices were taught to individual women doctors in their dreams and visions.
They used this sage as a poultice for cuts and bloody noses. They used it as a padding inside moccasins, for smelly feet, or under their armpits for a deodorant.
Shamans often formed associations and medicine societies into which new members were initiated through payment, training, and the demonstration of spiritual abilities. Such societies illustrate the pragmatic bent of North American Indians. White observers missed the point when they ridiculed Pow Wows and medicine men and women for their fantastic pyrotechnic displays, shaking tents, slight of hand, and shooting-and-life renewal ceremonies. These were demonstrations of sacred power, but they were not the ultimate demonstration, which was in the successful cure, the true prophecy, or an old age free of disease. The demand for visible proofs from Indian religious leaders undoubtedly rid Indian societies of charlatans, but it opened the door to other, alien demonstrations of sacred power from Christianity's representatives.
The Pacific Northwest is the perfect
area to match Native American traditions and geological
knowledge because of its many unique geological features. Where
else can we get rivers, scablands, volcanoes, lakes, and floods
within a restricted area and all in such close proximity that
some geomyths describe the relationship between volcanoes and
rivers, lakes and earthquakes? It is the interlocking of
geological phenomenon that makes this kind of exploration
Several Northwest nations have traditions regarding a geological formation which they say once existed west of The Dalles dam on the Columbia River. One version of the geomyth suggests that Columbia River once went underground, presumably as it passed below the Cascades, finally emerging near the coast. This phenomenon is not unusual, since Humboldt River "sinks" in several places in Nevada as it moved west toward the Sierra Nevadas.
In 1921, an elderly Wishram woman, well over a century old, who could remember when Dr. John McLoughlin (1784-1857) established Fort Vancouver in 1825, told her tribe's oral tradition of this formation. The underground tunnel was frequently used by the Indians to avoid climbing the Cascades when traveling to the Pacific Ocean. Whenever a party of Indians reached this long tunnel, they would
fasten their canoes together, one behind the other, so they would not crash against each other in the darkness. Then they would pray to the Great Spirit for courage and guidance as they paddled through the long, dark tunnel.
In her book, Legends of the Earth, Dorothy
Vitaliano, expresses skepticism about this geological formation,
claiming that the sides of the present Columbia Gorge do not
indicate the possibility of any bridging structure having been
Many tribes have stories about the Bridge of the Gods and when these accounts are compared, the Wishram version seems to be the earliest. The most frequently repeated narrative suggested that rival lovers Mount Hood and Mount Adams quarreled over the beautiful maiden Loowit who was transformed into Mount Saint Helens, and began to hurl hot rocks at each other. The conflict became so intense that the bridge over the river collapsed, in effect freeing the river from its underground course and creating the present-day Columbia.
Vitaliano suggests that an earthquake was involved and dumped a massive amount of material into the Columbia to form The Dalles. Geologic evidence suggested that there was once a great landslide between Table Mountain and Red Bluffs which did block the Columbia. Deloria suspects that a couple of places along the Columbia could qualify as the location and that all versions of the geomyth refer to one or the other site.
Vitaliano had some difficulty interpreting the Indian time scale, since some of the versions suggested that the event had taken place in the time of their "grandfathers," which she dated to mean between 1750 and 1760. "But," she argued, "from the geologic evidence, the landslide could have happened as much as a thousand years ago..." The problem is that when Lewis and Clark passed by this location, large trees standing upright with their branches could still be seen some 30 feet below the water. It would seem unlikely that trees could remain for nearly a thousand years without some disintegration. Vitaliano concluded, that had the event occurred as recently as the middle of the 18th Century,
I feel certain the tradition would probably
reflect the geologic facts somewhat more closely than does a
mythical bridge. As it is, except for the implications that the
Indians witnessed some activity of Mount Hood and Mount Adams,
the Gods, like the explanation of The Dalles, seems
to be a purely etiological invention.
Bridge of the Gods
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
But would the Indians have devised a
complicated story of a dark tunnel under the Cascades and would
so many tribes have preserved their own version of the bridge
unless it had once been a prominent landmark in the region?
Surely the Indians had seen the Cascade volcanoes erupt. If we can only suggest that they marked the occasion of two volcanoes erupting simultaneously by “making up” a story about a bridge across the Columbia, which would have no connection whatsoever with volcanoes no closer than 50 miles, what possible motivation can we suggest? Combining many geological formations in an etiological myth might be a way to deal with the fact of creation. But it seems unlikely that so many tribes would put together the same basic narrative about the site unless there was some reality behind the tale.
Therein lies the difficulty in approaching the oral traditions of indigenous peoples from a Western scientific perspective: instead of postponing judgment and viewing the anomaly as a prospect for future research, conclusions are drawn prematurely, are almost always in favor of rejecting the Indians' account, and the usefulness of tradition is lost. Instead, we are given doctrinal assurances that Indians "made up" the story.
One of the two volcanoes cited in the Bridge of the Gods legend, Mount Hood, is mentioned favorably by Dorothy Vitaliano as an instance of geomythology. The geomyth is part of the splendid collection made by Ella E. Clark entitled Indians Legends of the Pacific Northwest, but the tribal origin of the tale is not given. We will take portions of Clark's narrative which deal with the geomythological points and then check Vitaliano's interpretation.
Years and years ago, the mountain peak south of Big River was so high that when the sun shone on its south side a shadow stretched north for a day's journey. Inside the mountain, Evil Spirits had their lodges. Sometimes the Evil Spirits became so angry that they threw out fire and smoke and streams of hot rocks. Rivers of liquid rock ran toward the sea, killing all growing things and forcing the Indians to move far away.
The chief did battle with the Evil Spirits by throwing rocks down into a crater on the mountain. The battle continued for many days until:
The rivers were choked, the forest and the grass had disappeared, the animals and the people had fled.
The chief knew he had failed to protect the land and sank down upon the ground in exhaustion and discouragement and was soon covered by the lava flow.
When the earth cooled and the grass grew again, they [the people] returned to their country. In time there was plenty of food once more. But the children, starved and weak for so long, never became as tall and strong as their parents and grandparents.
Ella Clark's collections of Native
American traditions, Indian legends of the Pacific Northwest and
Indian legends of the Northern Rockies, contain numerous stories
about giants, including those surrounding Mount Hood.
In a story discussing the origin of the Chief's Face, a rock formation on Mount Hood, an elder commented:
In those days [early times] the Indians were also taller than they are now. They were as tall as the pine and fir trees that cover the hills, and their chief was such a giant that his warriors could walk under his outstretched arms.
Following Mount Hood's explosion, and the people could not live near it for a long time. When they returned to the area
...the children, starved and weak for so long, never became as tall and strong as their parents and grandparents had been.
The story predicted that the people would
remain weak until a great chief came who could conquer the
It is said that the Chief's Face can be seen on the northern face of the mountain.
According to the story, the shadow of the mountain was so great that it cast a shadow that extended a day's walk to the north. The present-day Mount Hood does not cast such a shadow, so this element of the story may also testify to much earlier times than we can anticipate. Vitaliano writes that
although there is no historical record of activity of Mount Hood, the geologic evidence suggests that it may have erupted as recently as a century ago.
The key to interpreting this legend,
it seems to Deloria, is in the casual mention of the size of
things. The Indians are large, Mount Hood casts a long shadow,
and the tunnel under the Cascades is a tunnel not a bridge. The
Indians are reporting accurate facts in their story, but modern
interpreters, without telling us what limits they are putting on
the story, narrow the possible interpretations to the modern
time period and thereby lose the essence of the information
which the story contains. No present formations on either side
of the river indicate a bridge, but such evidence could easily
have been destroyed completely by the gigantic floods that once
scoured the Columbia River Valley. Almost certainly this legend
cannot be referring to an eruption within historic time, since
it would take a long time to restore the land and entice the
people to come back near Mount Hood to live.
Crater Lake has long attracted the wonder and admiration of people all over the world. Its depth of 1,932 feet makes it the deepest lake in the US. The lake formed after the collapse of an ancient volcano now called Mount Mazama. This collapse formed a caldera which is a Spanish word for "kettle" or "boiler" and is used by geologists to describe a large basin-shaped volcanic depression. This eruption is estimated to have occurred 7,700 years ago. The interaction of people and this place is traceable for at least this many years.
Geologists have done some basic work in determining when and how it exploded to leave one of America's most unique natural features. A vast scientific literature exists on this crater, but it is written in such technical geological language that the layperson has great difficulty in determining what happened. Deloria paraphrases an account published in the National Geographic, based on the research of Dr. Howell Williams of the University of California at Berkeley, which is the only readable and intelligible source he could find.
Mazama's eruption apparently begins with violent explosions that put a great deal of dust into the air, turning day into night. It calms down for a while and then produces a tremendous cloud of steam, dust and ashes. This immensely heated cloud then rushes down the sides of the mountain picking up speed as it moves, basically flattening everything in its path. Lava flows accompany this cloud, although following it somewhat, and the mountain literally covers its slopes in several directions, moving in one instance some 35 miles. The volcano basically hollowed itself out by producing the lava avalanches and releasing lava through great fissures. Suddenly the peak, which had at one time been at least a mile higher than the present elevation of Crater Lake, collapsed almost straight down into the caldera, producing the configuration we know today. Two important aspects seem to characterize this tale: the heated avalanches and the collapse of the peak into the belly of the mountain.
Ella Clark includes a Klamath story about the mountain which parallels the geological scenario quite closely and is worth highlighting. The tradition was related to a 19-year-old soldier stationed at Fort Klamath in 1865, some time before scientists would have seen the lake, much less had time to speculate on its origins. The old man who related the story said it had been passed down from generation to generation, and the soldier asked several other elderly Klamath and got basically the same scenario. It happened, according to these elders,
a long time ago, so long that you cannot count it, the white man ran wild in the woods and my people lived in rock-built houses. In that time, long ago, before the stars fell...
We are talking here about the remote past, a
time prior to some major astronomical disturbance that was also
Personalizing nature, the Klamath described Mazama and its twin in Northern California, Mount Shasta, as having spirits who lived within them, the peaks having an "opening which led to a lower world through which the spirits passed"—indicating most probably that the people had inspected the mountains on occasion and could see the inside of the peaks. The Klamath knew when the mountain was active because "when he [the spirit] came up from his lodge below, his fall form towered above the snow-capped peaks"—in other words, a cloud of some kind, impressive in its size, was seen.
To cut to the plot, the Spirit (or Chief) of the Below-World (Llao) loved the chief's daughter and demanded she marry him. This amorous overture was denied and the rejection did not sit well with the Spirit, so he threatened to destroy the people. "Raging and thundering, he rushed up through the opening and stood upon the top of his mountain." Here we have a cloud and in reality a very angry cloud.
The Spirit of Mount Shasta now intervened, conceived by the Klamath as the chief of the Above-World (Skell). A cloud of some magnitude now formed on Shasta, suggesting that it was also erupting, although the actual story seems to indicate a cloud formation of some kind moved down from the sky onto the volcano. The two mountains began some kind of combat.
Red-hot rocks as large as the hills
hurtled through the skies. Burning ashes fell like rain. The
chief of the Below-World spewed fire from his mouth. Like an
ocean of flame it devoured the forests on the mountains and in
the valleys. On and on the curse of fire swept until it reached
the homes of the people. Fleeing in terror before it, the people
found refuge in the waters of Klamath
Pelican Bay at Klamath Falls
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
Deloria has chosen this description of the avalanche because the Klamath description here fits precisely with the geological version.
The Klamath then decide that someone
should be sacrificed in order to bring calm out of chaos, and
two Shamans climb the mountain and jump into the caldera.
Once more the mountains shook. This time the chief of the Below-World was driven into his home, and the top of the mountain fell upon him. When the morning sun arose, the high mountain was gone... For many years, rain fell in torrents and filled the great hole that was made when the mountain fell...
The only difference Deloria could
discern between the geological explanation and the geomyths of
the Klamath, who are the descendants of the Maklak, (meaning the
people or the community) is that there is a waiting period
between the avalanche and the collapse of the mountain. At least
enough time existed for the Klamath to regroup themselves and
determine that they needed to make a sacrifice, and during this
interlude the mountain cooled sufficiently to allow the two
shamans to climb Llao's mountain and jump into whatever opening
existed, to sacrifice themselves. Skell was moved by their
bravery and drove Llao back into Mount Mazama. When the sun rose
next, the great Mount Mazama was gone. It had fallen in on Llao.
All that remained was a large hole. Rain fell in torrents,
filling the hole with clear waters. The difference, says
Deloria, is not material. Indeed, it would make sense to assume
that as the volcano cooled, rocks around the edge pulled away
from each other, bringing about the final collapse.
But did the Klamath actually see this volcano erupt? The date of the explosion is estimated at 6,500 years ago, which would place these people at this particular location, as an identifiable group, for a longer period than any group or nation of people that we know. Sandals and other evidence of human activity in the Crater Lake area have been found beneath the ash layers of this explosion, indication that some humans were eyewitnesses to the event. They can only be the Klamath to Deloria's way of thinking.
What, then, do we make of the reference to a time when whites lived in the would and the Klamath lived in rock houses? Deloria admits he doesn't know. Some Indians in the Puget Sound area are considerably lighter in complexion than the Klamath and the tradition may be referring to them. Minimally, some of the specific points preserved in the geomyth may be fruitful avenues for future research. Is the "stars fell" reference casually describing a massive meteor shower or a more catastrophic event through which the Klamath have lived? Scientists would perhaps demand that we discard extraneous information and tie down the tale. It is better to leave a few strings dangling against the day when we are given more information and can add to the oral tradition and extend its meaning.
We must, however, ask: If the Klamath account is not an eyewitness account, then how did the elder Klamaths come up with a sophisticated version of this event long before 1865, when geology was an infant discipline and was not even ready to being the complex analyses of the sequence of ancient volcanic explosions? How could they have known that Crater Lake is one of the best examples of the top of a volcano collapsing directly downward into the caldera? Most volcanoes apparently blow the top of their peaks, or, as in the recent case of Mount Saint Helens, blow out a side as well. As we move on to discuss Mount Multnomah, the question of Indian knowledge of the sequence of geological events becomes even more intriguing.
In Central Oregon, somewhat east of Eugene and Springfield, is a famous location known as the Three Sisters, plainly visible from most of Central Oregon. Geologists had visited the site since 1854-1855 when Professor J. S. Newberry of Columbia University examined the area and described it in "Report on the Exploration for a Railroad from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean," one of the many surveys done of the western lands in those day. No one, however, suspected the real dimensions of volcanic activity until the summer of 1924 when Edwin T. Hodge of the University of Oregon did extensive fieldwork there.
After examining the Three Sisters and surrounding lava flows thoroughly, Hodge concluded that the then-existing volcanic cones were located within or were a part of the caldera rim of an immense ancient volcano, and he called it Mount Multnomah, using the Indian name of the site. Hodge issued a report a year later, and his reasons for concluding that the location was a former gigantic volcano are worth noting:
...that the Three Sisters mountains rest upon the worn remnants of Oregon's greatest prehistoric mountain, Mount Multnomah; that this mountain once rose approximately a mile in height above the present snowclad tops of the Three Sisters; that the top of this enormous mountain was lost by a gigantic explosion which left one of the largest calderas in the world; and that the Three Sisters and most of the adjacent peaks have acquired their present form as the result of later volcanic and glacial activity.
In the decades since Hodge's investigation, numerous geologists have verified most of his basic findings and the geological literature is filled with technical papers describing various incidents in the history of this volcanic location. Hodge's summary of the history of the mountain will assist us in looking at the Indian tradition concerning this mountain:
Oregon's greatest mountain was born in "Stage II," or the Oligocene, when an eruption started along the Cascade fault... Beginning in the middle Miocene and continuing into the late Miocene, "Stage III," and enormous flood of basic lava poured out. As a result of this intense volcanic activity Mount Multnomah was built into a gigantic cone over 15,000 feet high... At the close of the Miocene the entire top of this mountain either collapsed or was blown off... Since practically all of the world's great calderas have been due to depatitation by explosion, we may conclude that Mount Multnomah lost its top by such a catastrophe.
The Miocene can be estimated as
between 25 million and 27 million years ago, making the mountain
quite ancient. There is no doubt, however, that the mountain was
once the highest and most impressive of all the volcanoes and
mountains in the Oregon part of the Cascade chain. So what do
the Native American traditions say about this location?
Again we turn to Ella Clark's collection and find an account so ordinary and commonplace that we wonder why it is included in the book:
Klah Klahnee, the Three Sisters, was once the biggest and highest mountain of all; it could be seen for many miles. One time the earth shook for days, and the mountain boiled inside. It boiled over, and hot rocks came out of the top of it. Flames and smoke rose high in the air. Red-hot stones were thrown out in every direction. Many villages and many Native Americans were buried by the rocks. When the mountain became quiet again, most of it was gone. Only three points were left.
This tradition comes from the Warm
Springs Reservation near Bend, not terribly far from The Three
Sisters peaks. It has no "supernatural" aspect to it and is
simply an account of an eruption of a large mountain with
remnants of its former size now seen in the Three Sisters.
However, surveying the Indian memories of volcanoes and floods, one can immediately see that the short-term duration of volcanic eruptions can lead the people to interpret the eruption as the work of a spirit, generally of the mountain, or of a number of spirits depending upon the scope of the violence—one variant of the Three Sisters suggests that the Mountain Spirit of Multnomah had three wives who got out of hand; the Crater Lake legend involves two mountains and two powerful spirits. Surprisingly, many flood stories include volcanic eruptions as part of the scenario, so that the stories suggest physical disruptions on a substantial geographical scale.
Matching the Native American tradition and Hodge's geological account of Mount Multnomah raises certain questions. How did the Indians know that the Three Sisters represented the remnants of old Mount Multnomah unless they had lived at a time when Multnomah was obviously the largest peak in the Oregon Cascades? Here we have an intriguing conflict. According to Hodge, Multnomah reached its highest elevation during the late Miocene and exploded at the end of the Miocene, which ended approximately 25 million to 27 million years ago. If anyone entered the area after the explosion, it would have been difficult to identify the ruins as representing the largest volcano in the Northern Cascade chain. Indeed, either Mount Rainier or Mount Hood would immediately be seen as the largest mountain in the chain.
Are we to believe that Indians were eyewitnesses of the event, as they seem to have been? It seems to Deloria that either we credit the Warms Springs people with residency of 25 million years, or we credit them with a geological knowledge in the 1850s far in excess of anything achieved by non-colored scientists until 1925. If the Warm Springs crossed the Bering Strait around 12,000 years ago, they had to have come to the Oregon area after Mount Multnomah had exploded and had long since begun to erode. They could not have known that this particular mountain was once the highest of all the Cascade peaks.
We have to remember that Indians did not wander the Cascades trying to explain the origins of mountains and their possible relationships. Indeed, aside from occasional hunting or religious vision quests, most of the Native Americans remained on the lower lands because there was a fear of mountain spirits and a sense of religious awe regarding mountains. And hunting and fishing are not exciting activities above the tree line. Other geomyths in Ella Clark's book make clear that many tribes did not want non-indians to climb some of the mountains for fear the spirits would take offense.
We have only one other alternative in explaining the conflicting interpretations: the geological time scale is wrong. The mountain was once the largest peak in the Oregon Cascades but the explosion was well within the memory and experience of man! Curiously, Hodge himself hints at this solution because he notes:
...the most striking peculiarity of the Three Sisters region is the obvious youth of the many volcanic floods, volcanoes, and cinder fields... these black, scorious, volcanic rocks look so young that many are convinced that they have congealed within historic time. These congealed lavas in total cover 78 square miles and form one of the largest recent igneous floods in the US.
What is it about scientists that they
observe with their own eyes the obvious youth of volcanic rocks
and yet, apparently because of doctrinal considerations, reject
their own sense perceptions and classify evidence according to a
predetermined scheme? It is this stubborn application of
abstract orthodoxy to real-life situations that makes science a
hilarious farce in many areas of endeavor. The Hodge
identification coincides with Derek Ager's constant observation
that volcanic rocks in Europe look so fresh they might still be
warm. If volcanic rocks look exceedingly fresh and have little
if any erosion, at least the erosion one might expect to happen
in 25 million years, maybe they are fresh...
This knowledge of geologic and climatic events in the North American ancient past preserved by tribal traditions can be a significant source of information for modern science. But it would require that scientists honestly reevaluate much of their dating of strata and abandon orthodox doctrines in instances where common sense dictates. Fresh-looking lava must be reasonably recent; processes of erosion cannot be suspended, like scientific beliefs, simply for doctrinal purposes.
The Indian traditions are compatible with specific geological reports that describe individual sites, such as Crater Lake and the Three Sisters. When we bring together these locations and suggest that they have a linkage, whatever sympathy we have invoked in the scientific mind quickly disappears—not because the native American version is wrong, but may well take another generation less concerned about status and more concerned to find out what really happened before we can find a more intelligent interpretation of late Pleistocene North America.
If the geomyths demonstrate the presence of people in North America, or even the western hemisphere, tens of thousands of years ago—or even in the case of Mount Multnomah 25 million years ago—then that discrepancy should alert scientists and they should reexamine their doctrines in light of the conflicting interpretations. The idea that people have only been in the Western hemisphere for 12,000 years is simply an agreement among scholars who neither think nor read and who have been stuck on a few Clovis and Folsom sites for a generation. Deloria does not believe that any people could remember these geological events for tens of thousands of years. His conclusion is that these are eyewitness accounts but that the events they describe are well within the past 3,000 years. It is past time that this resistance be ended and a new scenario for the western hemisphere be constructed.
Vitaliano cited a Nisqually geomyth in which Mount Rainier moved from the Olympic peninsula to the east side of Puget Sound because the mountains on the Olympic peninsula were growing too big and too fast and crowding Rainier out. On the east side of the sound, Rainier became a monster who devoured everything that came near and finally the Charger in the shape of the Fox subdued her, and she burst a blood vessel and died. Vitaliano noted that there have been some recent lava flows but suggested that since
a volcanic mud flow once poured 45 miles down the White River Valley to the lowlands west of Tacoma, and there spread out in a lobe 20 miles long and three to ten miles wide... It is just possible that the "rivers of blood" are the memory of that event.
The mudslide is dated at approximately 5,000
Moving Mount Rainier from the Olympic peninsula to its present location is a highly unlikely geological event. Yet four different tribes of that region repeat the story with but few conflicts in the narrative. Deloria presented Vitaliano's interpretation in an honors seminar in Oklahoma a couple of years ago, expecting the students to accept his denial of the historicity of the event.
In his view this tradition would require the Puget Sound to be located originally north and perhaps east of Mount Rainier to make it appear as if the mountain was on the western side of the sound. We would then need a major earthquake, followed perhaps by a volcanic eruption, or significant mudslide, to bring the waters back around to the western side of the mountain, creating the present configuration of Puget Sound and making it appear that Rainier was now on the eastern side of the sound. In addition, either immediately prior to the event or as part of it, the Olympic Mountains would have to be raised significantly, thus providing the motivation for Rainier to move.
A student in Deloria's seminar skipped lunch, went to the library, used his computer retrieval skills, and presented Deloria with a number of articles on the geological instability of the Seattle area. Deloria did not realize until then that a veritable industry had arisen among geologists attempting to pinpoint the possible earthquakes that had occurred in the Seattle area as the so-called Juan de Fuca plate had been encountering the North American plate over long periods of time. This line of research has only arisen since 1987 and, while an increasing number of scholars are working on the subject, it is too early to begin to devise a chronology.
Some of the geological articles bemoaned the absence of any Native American legends describing local seismic events, and it seems obvious that these geologists simply did not know the Native American literature. We can only suggest the scenario that the Nisqually oral tradition recounts, and predict that the Mount Rainier event was very early in the history of the Pacific Northwest because the reports to date have suggested a lowering of the land, not an elevation.
A number of tribal traditions describe creatures that may have been dinosaurs. In the worldview of orthodox science, such a suggestion is preposterous at first blush, but a number of fauna originated in very early times and the crocodile and alligator apparently came on the scene before the dinosaurs flourished.
The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest have a number of faunamyths concerning megafauna in their lakes and rivers.
The Clatsop believed that supernatural beings on the far side of the Pacific Ocean sent megafauna to their shores. Some people of the Central Oregon Coast had oral traditions relating to Suku who had come ashore in the belly of a whale. Thus the ancient ones observed strict taboos in cutting and processing these gifts.
Since the current trend in dinosaur research suggests that these creatures, for the most part, were warm-blooded and had social and instinctual characteristics reminiscent of mammals of today, there is no reason to hesitate suggesting that some of these creatures, described as animals or large fish by observers, were surviving individuals of some presently classified dinosaur species. That is to say, humans and some creatures we have classified as dinosaurs were contemporaries.
The best-known faunamyth concerns the monster, known as Ogopogo, who lives in Lake Chelan on the east slope of the Cascades. Lake Chelan is 50 miles long, filling a glacial valley, and reaches depths of around 1,600 feet. Originally, the Washington area, according to a grandson of Chief Wapato of the Colville, was a flat fertile grasslands prairie inhabited by grazing animals. A monster showed up and began devouring the animals, causing the Indians to go hungry. Twice they appealed to the Great Spirit, and he killed the monster, but it revived. The third time "...the Great Spirit struck the earth with his huge stone knife. All the world shook from his blow. A great cloud appeared over the plain." And when the cloud finally dissipated, the people could see that the land had been radically changed:
Huge mountains rose on all sides of them. Among the mountains were canyons. Extending from the northwest to the southeast for two days' journey was a very deep canyon between high mountains.
The monster was buried in this canyon,
which was then filled with water to form Lake Chelan, and this
lake was subject to sudden and intense wave disturbances,
leading the people to say that the monster's tail was sill alive
and causing problems for them.
Creation stories [genomyths] varied from tribe to tribe. Many of the old people believed that the Creator of this world was the Coyote Demigod, Spilyai, in whose belly lived his three wise sisters in the form of huckleberries, is clever, capricious, lascivious, mischievous, and endlessly inventive—surely one of the most human and entertaining of the gods humankind has created.
A Yakima story entitled "How the Coyote Made the Indian Tribes" sheds some interesting light on the origin of the Columbia River. A giant Beaver inhabited Lake Cle Elum on the eastern side of the Cascades. His name was Wishpoosh and he abused the people so that Coyote decided to help them.
Coyote, the transformer, and Wishpoosh got into a fight in Lake Cle Elum and caused an earthquake which made a large hole in the lake, and it began to drain. Wrestling with each other and refusing to give in, Coyote and Wishpoosh rolled down the eastern slope of the Cascades to Kittitas Valley, where the waters made a great lake. The combat continued on, Coyote and Wishpoosh, struggling with the waters rushing behind in their wake. They cut the channel for the Yakima River, created a second lake, and tore through Union Gap. The waters overflow this path and form another lake in the Walla Walla country. The fight then takes an abrupt turn to the left and the Oregon-Washington border channel of the Columbia is made to the Pacific Ocean.
Another geomyth has it that the Neahkahnie Mountain on the coast reached its present form from a single blow of the hatchet of Coyote, who built a fire on the mountainside, heated rocks and threw them into the sea, where the seething waters grew into waves that have been crashing against the shore ever since. Mitchell Point, once referred to by Indians as the Storm King, was believed by them to have been built to part the storm clouds that hurried up the Columbia.
Furthermore, it seems that Coyote took some of the Paiutes north to the Snake River during an early migration:
Ice formed ahead of them, and it reached all the way to the sky. The people could not cross it. It was too thick to break. A Raven flew up and struck the ice and cracked it [when he came down]. Coyote said, "these small people can't get across the ice." Another Raven flew up again and cracked the ice again. Coyote said, "try again, try again." Raven flew up again and broke the ice. The people ran across.
The Thunderbird was ruler of the
storm, avenger, originator of numerous taboos, and creator of
volcanic activity. Coyote in a hundred grotesque forms was the
hero of many roguish stories, emphasizing his trickery,
selfishness, and prurience, and the source of rigid taboos
regarding foods, domestic economy, and ceremonial observance.
Indians, as a general rule, have aggressively opposed the Bering Strait migration doctrine because it does not reflect any of the memories or traditions passed down by the ancestors over many generations. Some tribes speak of transatlantic migrations in boats, the Hopi and Colville for example, and others speak of the experience of a Creation, such as the Yakimas and other Pacific Northwest tribes, some of which ascribed the Creation of the original people and animals to Echanum, the Fire Spirit. Some tribes even talk about migrations from other planets.
Spilyai, as well as many other figures, animal and human, formed the subject of a large body of religious folklore. A portion of these were rescued in the nick of time from their oral sources, translated and published. Most of the lore tells how Oregon began, how the ocean, the rivers, and the lakes, the mountains and the valleys, the prairies and the deserts came to be—in the process giving us an unequaled glimpse into native spirituality in the sense of being distinct to the region and worthy of high esteem, it is this rich gift to us from those who came here first.
Great Black-Bodied Birds 1500
It probably happened somewhere on the southern coast. Exactly when it happened is difficult to say—400 to 500 years ago. One day a woman, straightening up from tearing mussels from the rock and gazing out across the sea—"the river with one bank," as the Indians called the Pacific Ocean—perhaps it was such a woman who saw it first, the great black-bodied bird with its strangely configured wings riding the swells, its beak, pole thin, jutting up at an angle from the head. As the years passed the people were to see more and more of these great black-bodied birds. One wonders if they knew that, for them at least, these were birds of ill omen, which would one day bring their doom.
Kingdom of Fu-Sang 459 CE
Chinese Miners in Oregon
It began with a myth. According to
legend there was a passage or strait on the north coast of North
America, which connected the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, that
is, that long-sought-for advantage, a direct sea route from
Western Europe to Asia. Around this central myth clustered
others. "Marine lying reached the climax and borders on the
heroic," wrote American historian Hubert
Bancroft (1832-1918). For example, somewhere on the
Oregon Coast there flourished the Kingdom of Fu-Sang, founded by
a Buddhist monk, Hui-Shen, and his disciples from Afghanistan.
Here they had created a great civilization centered on the
Fu-Sang tree and its magic powers.
Like everyone else who reads about them, Chinese historian Jack Chen was fascinated by the stories of the first Chinese who had come to North America. He discusses the legend of Fu-Sang:
Chinese records (in the Liang Shu and in Volume 231 of the Great Chinese Encyclopedia compiled by Ma Tuan-Lin) relate that Hui-Shen, one of five Buddhist priests, arrived in a country they called Fu-Sang in 459 CE, which seems to have been the West Coast of America from British Columbia southward. Although some scholars dispute this story of the early arrival of Chinese on the North American continent, the reported discovery of ancient Chinese artifacts in Victoria, BC, and in Mexico seems to support it. Hui-Shen’s party appears to have traveled down the California coast to Mexico. This tallies with the description of Fu-Sang given by Hui-Shen and with the Mexican stories of the legendary arrival of Quetzalcoatl. More recent research by the archaeologist James R. Moriarty of the University of San Diego, California, has unearthed Chinese stone anchors near Palos Verdes Peninsula and off Point Mendocino. In the latter case, the anchor was encrusted with manganese, which showed that it had been lying on the seabed for 2,000 or 3,000 years. The Fu-Sang plant that gave the country its name was evidently the century plant, a cactus-like agave commonly used for food and clothing in ancient Mexico.
Regardless of the validity of
Hui-Shen's story, and the fact that some scholars dispute this
account of the early arrival of Chinese on the North American
continent, a number of scholars are convinced that contacts
between the Far East and Western Hemisphere did in fact occur in
the first millennium.
In his book, Columbus Was Last, freelance science writer Patrick Huyghe discusses further proof of the existence of Fu-Sang, and cites Chicago patent attorney, Henriette Mertz's research and conclusions:
Mertz's interpretation of Hui-Shen's
adventure is easily the best, and though perhaps not completely
satisfactory, it is, at the very least, inspired. She believed
that the descriptions of the people and places Hui-Shen
encountered on his travels corresponded quite well with what we
know of America during the 5th Century. And though well aware
that the tale had likely been colored and condensed, Mertz
believed nonetheless that it was possible to retrace the path of
the vagabonding 5th-Century Buddhist priests. If the story
contained any truth, she said, then the places he mentioned
could be located geographically, just as she had done for the
earlier Chinese classic, the San Hai Ching.
Mertz assumed that the Buddhists had begun their journey in the south of China, the place where Hui-Shen returned to tell the story, and that it ended up on Southern California, the place they called Fu-Sang. She believed the monks landed on the coast in the vicinity of Los Angeles—Point Hueneme, to be precise. They then went east 350 miles and arrived on the Mogollon Mesa of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, the area Mertz identified as the "Kingdom of Women." She found that some 300 miles north, as per Hui-Shen's account, lay the noted black canyon in western Colorado called "The Black Canyon of the Gunnison." North of this canyon stands majestic Mount Gunnison and still farther north is the snowcapped mountain Hui-Shen mentioned, snowmass.
To the south of the Mogollon Mesa in Mexico are two well-known smoking mountains, according to Mertz, Popocatepetl, whose name means smoking, and the Volcoán de Colima. Mertz thinks Hui-Shen's "smoking mountain" in the Kingdom of Women was Volcoán, which is located near the coast. West from the Kingdom, noted Mertz, are innumerable springs, including Warner Hot Springs and Palm Springs. And right in the heart of Los Angeles are the La Brea Tar Pits, which sounds suspiciously like Hui-Shen's sea of varnish. Mertz could not pin down which California lake Hui-Shen called a "sea the color of milk," as many California lakes have dried up over time and all that now remains of them is the salt solution on their bottoms. These beds of salt and borax glisten show white under the desert sun.
Mertz believed that Hui-Shen's Fu-Sang plant was ancient corn which was sometimes pear-shaped and reddish and could be kept for a year without spoilage. Other researchers have suggested that the Fu-Sang plant might be a reference to the prickly pear or the cactus apple. Still others viewed it as a reference to the century plant, which is known as maguey in Mexico. The sprouts of the century plant do resemble bamboo and are eaten, and cloth and paper are made from its fibers. The plant also resembles a tree, as its tall branching and flowering candelabra-like stalk often reaches as much as 30 feet in height. But it does not bear reed pear-shaped fruit.
When it came to the circular living quarters of Hui-Shen's Kingdom of women, Mertz found an answer for this as well. She thought they resembled the adobe houses found among the Indians of Central Arizona. Their burrow-like entrances were just as he had described. She also thought that the dog's heads on their men might be a reference to the Kachina ceremonial masks, which were made of wood, feathers, furs, and skin and looked like cows, eagles, snakes, and dogs. They were worn by the men when praying for rain and during other spiritual occasions.
While some have interpreted Hui-Shen's Kingdom of Women with its hairy ladies and precocious children as a reference to Central America's monkeys, Mertz saw a reference to a matrilineal people such as the Pueblo of the southwest. Among the matrilineal Hopi, for instance, houses were owned by women, and their clans were related through the females. A child was born into his mother's clan and was named by his mother’s sister. Such a matriarchal system in which the women exercised control over persons or property would certainly have seemed quite odd for the Chinese.
Mertz also found a reasonable explanation for Hui-Shen's outrageous notion of snakes as husbands. Hopi men belonged to a Snake clan and considered themselves one with the snake. The Hopi legend of the Spider Woman tells how the Snake clan came to be. One day the son of a chief and the Spider Woman encountered a group of men and women who, after dressing themselves in snake skins, turned into snakes. The Spider Woman helped the son's chief catch a beautiful young girl who had been turned into a yellow rattler. He eventually married her, but the children she bore him were all snakes. Not happy with this situation, the tribe sent them away to another pueblo. The couple then had more children, but this time their offspring were human. This made the male children blood brothers of the snakes and explains how the Snake clan came to be.
Mertz even came to understand the odd nursing behavior Hui-Shen had observed. The monk said that the papooses carried on the backs of their mothers were fed by a white substance that came from the hair at the nape of the mother's neck. But Indian women customarily gathered their long hair at the nape of the neck and tied it with white ribbons. What could be more natural, said Mertz, than for a baby strapped to his mother's back to be attracted to this white ribbon? The baby with the ribbon in its mouth would look to a naive observer from a distance as though the baby was feeding.
Mertz also found a myth held by the Pima Indians of Arizona to explain why Hui-Shen said that children became adults by the age of three or four. The legend of Ha-ak says that the daughter of a chief gave birth to a strange-looking female creature who grew to maturity in three or four years. But because she ate everything in sight, she was eventually killed. This event was celebrated with a great feast, and the Pima eventually built a shrine in honor of this day five miles north of Sacaton, Arizona. Mertz speculates that Hui-Shen might even have passed by this shrine and been told of this legend. And the salt plant these people ate, Mertz has identified as Anemonopsis californica, a plant with a large root and a strong medicinal scent that grows in salt-bed depressions in Southern California.
It was the desire to see and plunder such marvelous places, but in particular to find that passage to the East, that accounts for the presence off the Oregon coast in the 16th Century and thereafter of the great black-bodied birds, the ships of the explorers.
Cabrillo Explores Rogue River 1542
So as far as can be determined, the first of these was a Spanish expedition sailing from Acapulco in 1542 under the command of Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo (?-1543). Following many mishaps, including the death of Cabrillo, his pilot Bartolome Ferrelo, reached the Rogue River in the spring of 1543. Torrential storms prohibited a landing and indeed were so severe that the crew was assembled to take their death vows. Perhaps this was the first of the great black-bodied birds, which Amerindians on the shore observed with bafflement and fear.
Sir Francis Drake Explores Oregon Coast 1579
A few years later, in 1579, Spain's
great enemy, that "merry, careful" buccaneer, Sir Francis
Drake (1540-1596), searching in the Golden Hind for
the Northwest Passage—as well as Spanish treasure ships to
plunder—had sailed northward along the Pacific coast perhaps as
far as Oregon or even British Columbia. He described the area as
one of the "most vile, thick, and stinking fogs," named it Nova Albion,
claimed it for England, and left. His territorial claim was
ambiguous, because even today there is no agreement about how
far north he sailed.
After Drake, the Pacific Northwest remained largely unknown to the European world, and Russian and Spanish expeditions along the coast in the mid-1700s did but little to change that. Moving northward from Mexico, the Spanish knew more than any other Europeans about the Pacific coast, but they endeavored to keep their records secret. Their discoveries, as far as the rest of Europe was concerned, were scarcely discoveries at all.
Explorer Martin d'Aguilar Describes Oregon Coast 1603
It was, however, a Spaniard, Martin d'Aguilar, thought to have been off present-day Port Orford, who gives us our first description of the Oregon Coast:
...a rapid and abundant river with ash
trees, willows and brambles and other trees of Castile on its
Port Orford Beach
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
But he too, for reasons of weather and
currents, was unable to land. It was about this time also, that
the galleon trade between Spain's new possessions in the
Philippines and Mexico began. The course of the ships was south
of the Oregon latitudes, but occasionally some were blown off
their course. For example, the San Francisco Xavier, wrecked at
the base of Neahkahnie Mountain in 1707. Its cargo of beeswax
may still be found on the nearby beaches.
It was the last quarter of the 18th Century, however, that exploration began in earnest, navigators searching not only for the Northwest Passage but also for "the Great River of the West," sometimes called the "Oregon," now known, of course, as the Columbia.
A Land Called Oregon 1765
Out of the dim half-legend and vague
early usage comes the name now spelled and pronounced Oregon.
Only one important contribution to our knowledge of the origin of the word Oregon has been made in the past 100 years. That was the discovery that Capt. Jonathan Carver (1710-1780), American veteran of the French and Indian wars, may have appropriated the name—but not the spelling—from Maj. Robert Rogers (1731-1795), an English army officer who was commander at the frontier military post at Mackinac, Michigan (1776) during the time of Carver's journey into the Upper Mississippi Valley in 1766.
In 1938, the portage, Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce had this to say:
Rogers planned and organized an
expedition for the "Discovery of the Northwest Passage from the
Atlantic into the Pacific Ocean if any such passage there be, or
for the discovery of the Great River Ourigan that falls into the
Pacific Ocean about the latitude 50 degrees." Rogers himself
could not obtain permission to leave Canada on such a wild
dream, so he commissioned Capt.
Tute to command the expedition in his stead. Carver
was hired, at eight shillings per day, as map maker and
Reaume (baptized 1757) was chosen
as interpreter. After passing through the Fox-Wisconsin rivers
and proceeding north on the Mississippi the party were to meet
at Fort La Prairie, and there obtain supplies and guides. They
were then instructed to travel "west bearing to the northwest
and do you endeavor to fall in with the Great River Ourigan."
Finally, the party was urged to "consider the honor it will be
to you and the detachment... believe in it like a man that is
devoted to his king and brave out every difficulty and you may
be sure of success."
Rogers, suspected of treason in Canada, was unable to send supplies to the expedition at Fort La Prairie. The leaders therefore decided "that in the then unhappy condition, no provision nor goods to get any with," it was necessary "to return to Michilimachinac and give over our intended expedition." "Here," writes Carver, "ends this attempt to find out a Northwest Passage."
The only material result of the expedition was the now famous Journal that Carver wrote concerning the lands he passed through, the different indigenous tribes that he visited, and the animals he noticed. His physical description of the portage between the Wisconsin and Fox rivers is a valuable historical document, but more interesting is the human figure of the man as he reveals himself in his personal remarks and stories.
In London, 1765, Rogers used the spelling Ouragon or Ourigan in petition of proposal for an exploring expedition into the country west of the Great Lakes. His petition was not granted, but he went to Mackinac as commandant.
Carver is the first person to have used the spelling Oregon in referring to the "River of the West." In the account of his travels published in London, he first used the name with its excepted spelling in listing the four great rivers of the continent: "...and the 'River Oregon,' or the 'River of the West,' that falls into the Pacific Ocean at the Straits of Anian."
It is well to get clearly in mind the chronological sequences of Carver's book and the petitions prepared by Rogers. Carver's book, Travels Through the Interior Part of North America (1778), was based upon journals and charts he claimed to have made during his journey to the West in 1769. Another petition by Carver shows that the journals and charts previously mentioned had been and were still deposited with the Board of Trace in London, and is dated November 1773. Rogers put into writing the name Ouragon during the year before he engaged Carver, and the name Oregon, as now spelled, did not appear in Carver's original charts, but only in the printed books.
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson used it in his instructions to Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) before the army captain began his westward journey with William Clark (1770-1838).
The name Oregon, according to Harvey W. Scott, late editor of the Portland Oregonian, came very slowly into notice. It was long after the publication of Carver's book before it appeared again.
When the explorer Robert Gray (1755-1806) of Boston, in company with Capt. John Kendrick, entered the river, he called it Columbia in honor of his ship, Columbia Rediviva. This fact shows that the name Oregon was quite unknown. Neither was the name used by Lewis and Clark in the report of their travels.
John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) didn’t use the name Oregon to designate or describe the country when he presented his petition to Congress in 1812, setting forth his claim to national assistance for his undertaking, on the ground that his efforts to establish trade here under the sovereignty of the US, would rebound to the public scrutiny and advantage. Nor was the name used in the act of Congress passed in response to his petition, by which the American Fur Company was permitted to introduce here goods for the Indian trade. At this time, the name appears to have been quite unknown.
Immortalizing the name was the poet William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). The word suited the sonorous movement and solemn majesty of his verse, and he embalmed it in his poem, Thanatopsis, published in 1817. The journal of Lewis and Clark had been published in 1814-1817, and the description it contained of the distant solitudes and continuous woods touched Bryant's poetic spirit and recalled the name he had seen in Carver’s published journal. Thereafter the word passed into general usage.
The textbooks in the public schools continue to furnish our children with erroneous information that the name of the state of Oregon was derived from the word oregano, which is Spanish for the plant we call marjoram. This claim is completely disproved by all that is known of the history of the name. There is nothing in the records of Spanish navigators, explorers and discoverers that indicated that this was the origin of the name, or that the Spaniards called this country by that name.
Others have professed to derive the name Oregon from the Spanish word oreja which means ear. This was supposing that the Spaniards noticed big ears on Indians, but they left no record of this, nor had it been noticed that the ears of our Indians were remarkably large.
The name Oregon probably arose out of some circumstance which western explorations of the French. Earlier than the English, the French had pressed westward from the Great Lakes to the Red River, to the Saskatchewan, and to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. They were in search of furs and trade with Indians in the country of the Upper Mississippi. These French explorers were curious and inquired about the great distance West and the unknown Western Sea. The French had Spanish charts of our sea, and perhaps among the Indians the word Aragon was a homonym to Spain.
When Carver was on his expedition to the Upper Mississippi River country, he made all possible inquiries about the country toward the West, the Western River, and the Western Ocean and the Oregon.
Recent writers had shown that much of Carver's book is made up of unacknowledged extracts from French explorers before him, and as Carver had no scholarship, it is believed that the book was compiled in London, partly from Carver's own story and partly from records of French and English exploration.
It seems clear that the name Oregon originated in the Mississippi Valley—and not on the Pacific Coast—for there is not a line about early Pacific Coast exploration that contains the word. The name might have originated in the Mississippi Valley from French, Indian, or Spanish. Some sources associate the name used by Rogers with the French word for "storm" while others speak of the possible Spanish origin Oregon poet, Joaquín Miller (1842-1913), suggested the Spanish words oye agua—hear the water—as a source of Oregon, but this seems fanciful to some.
Bruno Heceta Explores Mouth of Columbia 1775
In August of 1775 the distinguished explorer Bruno Heceta with Juan Francisco de Bodega y Quadra located the mouth of the river, but his crew was so weakened by scurvy they were unable to man the sails and cross the bar. Regretfully, Heceta was forced to sail away. Heceta and Quadra were the first recorded Europeans known to stand on Northwest soil.
Captain James Cook 1788
Two years later an even greater
James Cook (1728-1779), searching for the river,
passed it unknowingly on a stormy night.
Geographical isolation fundamentally shaped the course of Pacific Northwest history. Far longer than most temperate areas of the world of the Northwest remained beyond reach of Europe and the rest of North America. The region's geographical isolation in turn contributed to a pronounced time lag in its historical development. The frontier seemed to linger longer, and social and economic changes that evolved over a period of decades elsewhere often were telescoped into a much briefer period of time in the Northwest or skipped entirely.
The year 1776 offers a good promontory from which to observe the region's chronological isolation. In Philadelphia, 19 American colonies formally declared their independence from Great Britain on July 4, and set forth on an unchartered political course. Only eight days later the distinguished explorer capt. James Cook (1728-1779) sailed from Plymouth, England, on his third voyage of discovery. That venture, which had important consequences for the Pacific Northwest, neatly coincided with the course of the American Revolution: the expedition's two ships—but not Cook—returned home in 1780, four years and three months after setting sail.
Cook was the most famous navigator of his day. The son of a Scottish farm laborer who had settled in Yorkshire, he was apprenticed as a youth to a grocer and a dry goods merchant. At the age of 18 he was apprenticed to the owner of a fleet of coal-carrying ships, and a career at sea followed. Cook became a military man and student of science, a careful and conscientious captain in the Royal Navy, an explorer of new lands for the British Empire, and a dispeller of geographical myths.
In his day Cook was recognized foremost for his efforts to improve the health and save the lives of men at sea. He promoted the use of sauerkraut and lemon and orange syrups to cure scurvy—a disease characterized by lethargy and anemia, bleeding gums, loosened teeth, stiffness of the joints, and slow healing of wounds. This medical advance made lengthy voyages practicable. Upon returning from his second voyage, Cook was elected a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society and received its highest award for his work of preserving the health of his crew on long voyages.
A tall and unpretentious man, he was 47 years old at the start of his third voyage. Having been around the world twice—once in each direction—he intended to retire when he completed his second voyage in 1775. But the lure of solving one of the world's most tantalizing geographical mysteries and the opportunity to collect a handsome financial reward for doing so caused Cook to set forth once again, leaving at home his 38-year-old wife, Elizabeth, eight months pregnant.
Cook's mission, as stated in sealed instructions from the British Admiralty, was to find the fabled Northwest Passage. The quest was so important in the eyes of the English-speaking world that Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), confident that the explorer would soon be sailing through the long-sought waterway, issued an order prohibiting the fledgling American navy from interfering with "that most celebrated navigator and discoverer, Captain Cook." Although Americans were in the midst of war with Britain, they should treat Cook and his crewmen "with all civility and kindness, affording them as common friends to mankind."
The nation that discovered the Northwest Passage would achieve a shortcut through North America to the markets of Asia. In other words, that nation stood to gain immense riches and power. The belief that such a passage really existed rested on a combination of hope, myth, and geographical possibility. Since the time of Columbus, explorers from several European nations had sought in vain for an entrance from the Atlantic. The British Parliament offered the discoverer a £20,000 prize in 1745—perhaps $500,000 in today’s money—and extended the offer to include ships of the Royal Navy in 1775. Cook was to seek the Pacific entrance to the passage, a quest that would take him to the last of the world's temperate coastline to be brought into close association with Europe.
Cook was no stranger to the Pacific. During two previous voyages of discovery, he had visited the exotic lands of the South Pacific, even to the Antarctic Circle. On his this voyage he sailed first to the Cape of Good Hope, then west to Australia, New Zealand, and islands he had previously visited in the South Pacific. He even had the good fortune to discover a new group of islands that he named after his patron, the Earl of Sandwich. Today they bear a familiar name: the Hawaiian Islands.
Nearly two years after leaving England, Cook reached the Pacific Northwest coast in early March 1778. A reception of hail, sleet, fog, and howling winds prompted him to name the first landmark Cape Foulweather, a promontory that juts into the Pacific Ocean a few miles north of present Newport. His was not the first expedition to reach these shores, but European contact before Cook had been sporadic, the work of discovery and exploration haphazard, and any national claims to the area exceedingly vague.
Cook's expedition was methodical in a way no previous voyage to North Pacific waters had been. The admiralty instructed him to reach the west coast of North America at about 45 degrees north latitude to avoid provoking an international incident with the Spanish, who, with expeditions launched from their base in Mexico, had established imperial claims to the lands south of that line. From that point, Cook was to proceed north but not explore the coast in detail until he reached 65 degrees. If he found the Northwest Passage he was to sail east through it. In addition, he was to remain alert for a northwest passage navigable across the top of Russia.
Cook's instructions also made clear the scientific nature of his third voyage. He was to make a careful record of the natural resources of the region and to take possession of unclaimed lands for the king of England—unclaimed, that is, by nations such as Russia and Spain, because the presence of native peoples was of little consequence in European eyes.
As his two ships, Resolution and Discovery, sailed north through troublesome and dangerous waters, Cook remained well offshore and thus missed discovering both the mouth of the Columbia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the gateway to Puget Sound. But he did enter Nootka Sound, an exceptionally fine anchorage on the west coast of Vancouver Island, which he mistook for the North American mainland. There he made contact with the native peoples of the coast. Juan Peérez, a Spaniard, was the first European to visit the area when his expedition anchored just outside the entrance to Nootka Sound in August 1774 to barter pieces of metal, iridescent shells, and beads of sea otter robes.
During the month Cook's expedition maintained at Nootka to repair its ships, officers compiled detailed accounts of Northwest Coast Indian life. Crew members exchanged trinkets with the Indians for the luxuriant pelts of the sea otter, some of which they used for shipboard bedding. The sea otter pelts acquired in almost casual fashion later proved a surprisingly valuable treasure.
The Resolution and Discovery continued north along the coast of Alaska and the Aleutian chain and entered the Arctic Ocean in May. By midsummer the expedition had advanced beyond 70 degrees north latitude when an impenetrable wall of ice blocked its way and threatened to crush the ships against the shore. Forced to retreat, the explorers turned south to spend the winter in Hawaii, reaching the islands late in 1778.
The Hawaiians were friendly and accommodating hosts, but they had a passion for anything they could pry loose from Cook's ships, especially iron golds, even down to the long nails that fastened a protective sheathing to the ship's hull. Finally, when Cook could tolerate the stealing no longer, he and an armed guard went ashore at Kealakekua Bay on February 14, 1997, in an attempt to recover a stolen boat or secure a hostage. The Hawaiians became enraged when they heard that another party of crewmen had killed a chief. They hurled stones at the English, who responded by firing into the crowd. When Cook's men paused to reload their weapons, the Hawaiians rushed forward with knives and clubs, killing five expedition members including Cook.
The survivors sailed north once again, but the Arctic ice defeated their quest for the Northwest Passage. As they headed for home along the China coast, they made the fortuitous discovery that sea otter pelts from Nootka Sound were worth a fortune in Canton. The crewmen came close to mutiny because of their desire to return for more pelts, but their officers prevailed and the two ships sailed for England.
Captain Cook's third voyage failed to locate the Northwest Passage—a route that indeed existed, as the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) proved in 1906, but it was so ice choked as to have little practical value. Cook's expedition nonetheless added new lands to the British empire and new knowledge about the North Pacific Coast. Publication of the expedition's official records in 1784 gave the Pacific Northwest for the first time a clearly defined place in European imperial and commercial systems. But even before that date, news about the expedition had set in motion a commercial rush to exploit the fur resources of the Northwest Coast. In short, Cook's ship initiated the region's role as a resource-rich hinterland open to exploitation by more developed parts of the world.
Cook's third voyage clearly illustrates the geographical and historical remoteness of the Pacific Northwest from Europe and the settlements on the eastern seaboard of America. For the English-speaking world, the Pacific Northwest remained a blank sheet of paper at a time when American history already recorded the battles of Lexington and Concord and the Declaration of Independence.
Cook's third voyage served as a training school for mariners who would subsequently return to the Pacific Northwest, some as captains of fur trading vessels and others as explorers. Best known among the explorers who sailed with Cook was George Vancouver (1757-1798), who during a voyage of discovery for the British government in the early 1790s explored and mapped many sites on Puget Sound—including the body of water itself, named for his lieutenant, Pierre Puget (1620-1694). Another crewman of note was John Ledyard (1751-1789), an American, who in 1783 published an account of the voyage and encouraged fellow countrymen to pursue the North Pacific-China trade.
Most important, Cook's third voyage ended the previous pattern of sporadic and haphazard European contact with the Pacific Northwest and its native peoples. As an increasing number of fur traders from several nations cruised the coastal waters, it became obvious that a new era had dawned, one that was especially ominous for the Northwest's first inhabitants: the Indians.
Cook was followed in 1778 by John Meares who deemed it no river at all and so named its estuary Deception Bay and its northern promontory Cape Disappointment.
George Vancouver Surveys Northwest Coast 1792
Finally, George Vancouver,
commissioned by the British admiralty to make an official survey
of the Northwest Coast, passed by the mouth of the river in the
spring of 1792. He too denied the evidence—gulls,
earthen-colored water, drifting logs and cross-currents. "Not
considering the opening worthy of more attention I continued our
pursuit of the Northwest," wrote Vancouver, one of the world's
great maritime explorers.
At fault was Vancouver's skepticism. He believed the Great River of the West and the Northwest Passage to be no more than sailor's yarns, thus finding it particularly appropriate that he sailed from England in search of both on April 1. However, if Vancouver failed to find the Columbia, he did prove later that the Northwest Passage, which cartographers had mapped and mariners had sought for 400 years, did not, after all, exist.
But the Columbia again and again resisted discovery. How at last it was discovered is a roundabout tale indeed.
The Pacific Triangular Trade 1787
The merchants of Boston, like
merchants elsewhere, were anxious to trade with the Chinese but
were prevented by the simple fact that they produced little the
far-off Chinese wanted. By now, however, these merchant circles
had heard of the great profits made by irregular traders,
Russian and British, selling Northwest furs to the Orient. Why
not join them in the pickings? Thus was born the Pacific
In October 1787 captains John Kendrick and Robert Gray were sent out by their backers from Boston with a cargo of buttons and beads, blue cloth, and bits of iron and copper. Arriving on the Oregon Coast ten months later, they bargained with the natives for the pelts of sea otters, sold these in the Orient, brought tea and perhaps some silk and spices, after which Gray, the first American merchant sailor to circumnavigate the globe, set sail for Boston.
The Columbia became an object of great national pride when she sailed into Boston harbor in 1790. A swarm of American fur traders and whalers followed Gray's lead, making the long voyage from New England ports, rounding Cape Horn, and fanning out into all parts of the Pacific.
Gray was a trader who came late to the North Pacific. Like all latecomers to any frontier, he found the field of opportunity considerably narrowed. In fact, his name would be relatively unknown had it not been for his second voyage in 1791. Undiscouraged, he returned to the North Pacific to trade for pelts. In the process, Gray discovered the harbor on the coast of Washington that bears his name and, on on the morning of May 11, 1792, the majestic river he named for his ship: Columbia's River, a spelling soon modified to a more familiar form.
A few weeks before this day, so crucial to American expansionism, Gray, like Vancouver, was off the Oregon Coast. Like Vancouver, he too noted at latitudes 46O 53' a great flow of muddy water fanning from the shore. Passing on to the straits of San Juan de Fuca, Gray encountered Vancouver and informed him of his belief that these muddy waters might well signify the mouth of the Great River of the West. The eminent navigator was not about to entertain such notions from this unknown American trader. No "reason to alter our opinions," wrote Vancouver.
But Gray was not about to alter his opinions either and started out to confirm his belief and find his river.
At four in the morning on May 11, Gray arrived at the river's mouth. Then, more than now, the Columbia River bar was one of the most treacherous on earth. They waited, for hours they waited, until there came that right convergence of currents, tide and wind. Gray gave the command and the prow of his ship, the Columbia Rediviva, its figurehead holding before her the escutcheon of the republic, crashed through the breakers into the waters of the Great River of the West, which from then on would be known as the Columbia.
Gray's discovery did much to encourage other American fur traders, who used the Columbia as a winter haven and who, by the end of the century, controlled the sea otter trade. Of more universal significance is the fact that this rather offhand happenstance of a discovery was, outside of Arctic regions, among the last major coastal geographical features of the world to be revealed. But more immediate and long lasting in its consequences is that, with Gray and his discovery (although his men explored only 30 or 35 miles upstream), the presence of the US was for the first time established in western America as well as on the Pacific, a presence on which the US would later base its claim to possession.
William Broughton Describes the Oregon Country
After a week or so trading with the Indians, Gray left without investigating the interior into which the river led. This was carried out several months later by Lt. William Broughton (1762-1821) who, as Vancouver's second in command, had arrived to verify Gray's discovery. Broughton spent three weeks on the river, proceeding as far as the mouth of the Columbia Gorge. The log of this small boat voyage provides us with our first real description of the Oregon Country. It was, Broughton wrote, "The most beautiful landscape that can be imagined." And he goes on to describe the wooded islands and water meadows, the sand spits, bluffs and beaches, the river banks thick with wild lavender and mint, the groves of alder, maple, birch, willow, poplar, oak, the long slopes of fir. He remarks as well on the wildlife—flights of duck and geese, brown cranes, white swans, the otter, beaver, deer and elk. Finally, there were the mountains, in their perfect white repose, supreme above it all.
Boit and Broughton Describe the Native Oregonians
Broughton, like the Americans before
him, was quite taken by the indigenous population. John Boit of
Gray's crew had written "The men at Columbia's river are
straight limbed, fine looking fellows, and the women are very
pretty." Broughton found that they surpassed other tribes in
their "paints of different colors, feathers and other ornaments,
and in all instances they were civil and often helpful. One old
chief was so much so that Broughton named the stretch of river
that passed his village (in the vicinity of present-day
Vancouver) "Friendly Reach."
There was, however, one disquieting feature in this Edenic scene. All up and down the river, on bluff and sand pit, and trestled high beyond the reach of animals, stood the funerary canoes, great and small, which held the dead. With their black prows silhouetted somberly against the sky, they were a kind of prefigurement of what was to come, the disease, killing and heart sickness that would go on for a century and end by almost obliterating the native peoples from the face of their lovely earth.
Such then was the penetration of Oregon from the sea. The next would be by land. The idea had originated with the American Philosophical Association, and to promote it, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) had contributed $12.50 each. It was Jefferson, however, who finally followed through, who persuaded Congress to fund an Expedition across the continent to the Northwest Coast. To head the expedition he chose his secretary-aide, Meriwether Lewis. Lewis, in turn, chose William Clark, an army comrade, to share the command.
and Sermons (1): An Online Ministry of Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel
Early Words and Sermons (2) Early Words and Sermons (3)
Introduction by Rev.
Marilyn A. Riedel I II
Oregon History Online: Volume I Volume II
Volume III Volume IV Volume V
Volume VI Volume VII Volume VIII
Volume IX Volume XOregon History CD Edition
1870 Benton County Oregon Census A-ICensus J-RCensus S-Z
1870 Polk County Oregon Census A-M1870 Census N-Z
Wild Women West: One-Eyed CharlieWestern Warrior Women
Black Pioneers Settle Oregon CoastYaquina Bay Oyster Wars
Wolf Creek SanctuaryRogue River CommunitiesGolden Campbellites
Murder on the Gold Special: The D'AutremontsTyee View Cemetery
Eddyville CemeteriesOlex CemeteryApplegate Pioneer Cemetery
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Glenwood, Harlan, Chitwood CemeteriesElk City Pioneer Cemetery
Eureka CemeteryToledo Pioneer CemeteryGuardino Family History
"So Be It" Autobiography by Mariano Guardino
Dobbie-Smith Genealogy "Aunt Edie" by Harriet Guardino
Dobbie Obituaries and Letters
Historic Oregon Coast AlbumHistoric Grants Pass Oregon Album
"The Great Pal" by Harriet Guardino