Update on “Re-storying the Northwestern landscape” (and an excuse to share more stories)

Places on this land–and the ancestral spirits of all the species that reside there– connect us in ways our rational minds cannot always account for. On the same day I composed a post about my experience riding with Henry Cultee on the Humptulips River three decades ago, the Seattle Times published a note about this very place as a wildlife refuge. I didn’t know it had even become a reserve until almost a month later.

I had not been back for a few years, as I didn’t see any reason to revisit the “no trespassing” sign at the site where Cultee’s cabin once stood– and the aura of decay in the accumulated garbage by the side of the road. But these things are gone now and a measure of the grace I experienced here in 1976 has returned.

In the midst of all the news about the bad effects humans have on the environment, it is important to remember that sometimes we also change things for the better, as in this case.

Henry Cultee told me that the traditional ethics of his people urged leaving a place as clean as one found it– cleaning up or burying all hunting debris, for instance. He remarked that those who defiled the beauty of the land “lived like whites”.

But he also introduced me to women from pioneer families who fully honored the land– as well as the land’s ancient peoples. These women would have applauded the recent action of the Grays Harbor Audubon Society in raising funds to purchase and conserve lands in perpetuity along the estuary of the mouth of the Humptulips River.

This area is now being cared for my many, including school children who participate in watchdog projects along the Chehalis River and its tributaries. Henry Cultee would have liked that as well. One time I came to visit him with two young boys in tow from Oakville. He beamed, “This is what you should be learning in school” as he showed them how he mended his nets.

Henry Cultee noted that there used to be native homes all along Burrows Road–the current site of the refuge. So did Nina Bumgartner, another Lower Chehalis elder, granddaughter of Telyuk, the native Grays Harbor representative who refused to sign Governor Stevens’ treaty since it would have removed his people from their traditional lands.

Bumgartner, who joked she had adopted so many children she had “lost count”, also told me many stories as well. She told me, for instance, how a young white baby was nursed by her grandmother alongside her six week old son (she her adoption story in the pages here), since its pioneer parents didn’t want to raise a girl in this environment. This story communicates the striking ways in which native peoples sometimes nurtured their pioneer neighbors– ways that are often unremarked in the mainstream telling of history– along with the ways in which the native people here stood for their land.

After Telyuk refused to sign the treaty, Stevens publicly tore up the “chief’s papers” he had assigned to him. Once you could see a portrayal of this incident in the mural entitled “The Belligerent Chief” in the Montesano County Courthouse.

Telyuk did Stevens one better, according to Baumgartner. When Stevens came to shake the hands of the assembled Indian elders, Telyuk refused to stand to greet him. As Stevens bent to take his hand, Telyuk informed him that he got his power from his Indian ancestors– an avenue Stevens himself was lacking.

Of all the times that native peoples bowed to the will of the US government, it is a matter of balance to remember that sometimes, whites must bend, as Stevens unwittingly did in that moment, to the power of their predecessors on this land. According to Baumgartner and Cultee both, there are spirits on this land with which whites need to become acquainted in order to survive. Sometimes this is expressed in a story punctuated by laughter. Baumgartner told me a story in which a pioneer family that took over an Indian house on Burrows Road was so frightened by the spirits there that they enlisted the assistance of the neighboring Indian family. They refused to enter their house until their Indian neighbors had lit candles in every room–so that the windows of that house “were lit up like a church”.

Joking–and balancing the dynamics of history– aside, Baumgartner, who was both a Christian and a native traditionalist saw the two of these views come together in statements like “my help is in the hills”. From her perspective, it was the land that taught us how to live with spirit. She said this as well, “if the people forget how to praise God, the trees, moving in the wind, alive and growing, do it. The ocean, rolling in and rolling in, over and over again, does it.”

To recognize such praise, one must attend to the wisdom of the land’s living beings–like the birds that the State of Washington referred to in its declaration of this site along Burrows Road as an essential habitat for them. Once a bird tapped on Baumgartner’s window in such a way that she knew she should listen. Her resulting action saved a relative’s life in an emergency she would not have known about otherwise.

Henry Cultee told me that the Bluejay that portrayed a trickster in so many traditional stories also gave cues to Chehalis men out hunting. If they followed his words, they would know whether or not they would find and take their prey.

I am heartened that this vital place that holds so many stories from the lives of all species is now legally protected forever. Those who care for it today honor the legacy of those who came before them– a legacy signed by the way the land remembers its people here.

What I learned from my personal story in which this place called to me to write about it and return to it in this way is something about the difference between large and small memory. In the large memory shared with me by Cultee and Baumgartner there is a web of life that is mysterious beyond any human control-and even discernment. We can and must act ethically in the face of that largeness. And we must also act with humility.

And then there was my personal experience–which became small when it focused only on things that had been lost. There is legitimate grieving for the terrible consequences of human actions, such as extinction of species. Not to mention the native houses that were everywhere along what we now know as Burrows Road one hundred years ago– but are gone now. Even after Washington became a state, the “Grays Harbor Indians” refused to come to any reservation that removed them from their traditional lands. The “Grays Harbor Indians” was what Indian agents called these bands that persisted along the Wynochee, Hoquiam, Whiskah, Grass Creek, Chinoise and Humptulips Rivers on the north of the harbor and on the south in places like t’sehalis, a native village we now call Westport, for which whites named all the people that lived along the Chehalis River and its tributaries. In the 1880’s, a substantial delegation led by the “Grays Harbor Indian” Chinoise journeyed to Oakville to petition the agent there to speak to the government about the fact that they still wished a reservation in their own territory.

These people never received such a reservation, but many found ways to live on their home territory nonetheless. Some bought white homesteads when pioneers abandoned them. One way or another, they worked to stay on the land of their ancestors. Thus the Cultee and Baumgartner remember the current Burrows Road was once dotted with Indian homes.

By the time I interviewed him in the 1970’s, Henry Cultee joked that he might hang up a sign on his cabin, “Population One”, since his seasonal time in the fishing shack at the place he was named for, made him the only remaining resident of this place from his ancient way of life.

It is important to acknowledge our history: to tell the stories, as a pioneer family member once put, of “those who lived here.” And there is considerable sadness in that, even as there are lessons to be learned from it. But to hold onto that grief may become an adjunct to complacency or laziness. If we act instead with courage and yes, faith, in partnership with the land, mysterious– and sometimes wonderful– things happen.

Certainly, I can do no less than follow the brave and powerful example of women like the Agnes Baker Pilgrim (see my post on her here) who would have us all reclaim the stories of the land so that we can once more ensure its well being– and that of our children.

The story of the land as a whole continues beyond any one of us– and we may honor that story as did the members of the Grays Harbor Audubon Society who raised the money to conserve and restore the land while I was all those miles away in Oregon. I want to thank them. And pass on a few old stories that give a picture of this land in a memory that endures beyond any single human lifetime.

The site of the Grays Harbor Audubon Society : ghas.org.

You are always welcome to link to this post. Note, however, it is copyright 2008, by Madronna Holden, and if you wish to copy it, please email me for permission. Thanks.

203 Responses

  1. Dr. Holden,

    Many of the experiences you describe in this essay resonate with me.
    It reminds me of what an emotional event it can be when visiting an outdoor place that has, or had special significance to me in the past.

    Since I grew up in a pristine rural environment, I have had the experience of returning there years later, to find it less pristine, and showing the signs of abuse by people without respect for those who came before them.

    When I was in the 4th grade, my class went on a field trip to a former Indian village. The entire area was protected, and off-limits to tourists or those who would remove the artifacts that lay upon the ground. I remember seeing many of stone tools, and other signs of the earlier residents. Our teachers taught us to respect these places, and leave them undisturbed.

    Since I now have a family of my own, I want to bring my son to see some of the natural wonders that I experienced as a child. Unfortunately, it is often quite a different picture that we return to twenty years later.
    I wish that I could have built my own homestead and hung my sign on a door to serve as a guardian of the nature I had the privilege of knowing in my youth.

    As you also mentioned, there have been some cases where recovery has been made, and caring people have been able to stem, and even reverse the tide of erosion to our precious natural resources.

    I hope that your memory of the Humptulips river in its glory continues to be reality for the benefit of all the members of the regional community.

  2. A very touching comment, John. Just as I was moved to return here and experience the work of those who reclaimed it, I hope you will find a similar experience to share with your son.
    I like your mention of the “guardianship” of the future: check out the guardiansofthefuture.org and their guardian circles (such a circle can consist of you and your son). We live in a complex society with many conflicting values, but the idea of these fine people (resulting from the joint statement of guardianship for our future drawn up by the Science and Environmental Health Network and the Indigenous Environmental Network) can be stated simply: find something you love and protect it for future generations.

  3. Dr. Holden,

    This is a very thought-provoking essay. All too often people forget what areas used to be like and what they stood for. Future generations were never educated on the history of the place or they simply do not care. However, it is very important for people to know the history of their roots and to protect them. Too many stories have been lost to us because people were unable to keep their homes, land or language either by force or choice.

    Respect for the land and other peoples’ cultures is not something that is usually instilled in children (as is being done with the children who run the Watchdog programs) but should be. Much of the desecration that is being done to tribal land and sacred spaces is done in ignorance. I feel that it is great that societies are getting together to protect spaces and create Watchdog groups to keep watch over the areas.

    However, sometimes creating a monument for an area creates more desecration to the site. In an ethnic study class that I took, one of my Native classmates told the story of a buffalo stone that was very important to her people. They would drive out a gravel road in the middle of nowhere and then walk to it for their religious customs. When local government officials found out about the area they decided to conserve it for future generations. They built a cement road all the way to it and a cement pathway around it. Next to this they built a public restroom and rest stop. Now this sacred rock has been covered in graffiti and even urinated on. The people that came to visit it did not know the history and did not have any qualms about what they did. Tribal members find it heartbreaking to go anymore and many have stopped their trips because of it, thereby losing much of their culture.

    As a history major I feel that public conservation can be great for reclaiming history and spreading it to others. However, I think that more thought needs to be put into where to build these places and how so that these areas do not suffer the same consequences as the buffalo stone.

  4. I appreciate the balance in this reply, Samantha. Taking care of the people who take care of the land must first a priority on our list of “protections”–and since you express a personal commitment to caring for our history and land for the sake of the future, you might check out guardiansofthefuture.org, whose “guardian circles” entail protecting something because you love it: their organization also includes both scientists and modern health professionals and the indigenous environmental network. So they have particular standards of caretaking that entail the standards that all of these share.
    One other point: sometimes history exists in the stories of (as a pioneer family member I interviewed put it) those who lived that history. In this sense, I would be interested in your response to the most recent post on this site: “Dead Bodies all the Way Down”. (On the need for honest stories of the past to guide us).

  5. I really enjoyed your stories and i think it is great that you are able to share them to us and inform us of things we may never experience. I think it is wonderfull to hear that they raised the money to conserve and restore the land.
    I think that we could learn a thing or two from the “Grays Harbor Indians”, the way that they respect and honor their land.

  6. Thank you so much for the update. It is wonderful that the land was reclaimed and is now safe as a nature preserve. This proves there is hope that much of the land and the stories can be reclaimed for future generations. I am grateful that we have Grandma Aggie and those who follow in her footsteps such as yourself who are “reclaiming the stories of the land..to ensure its well being”. I do not wish to imagine what would happen if all the knowledge was truely lost. The article shows the power of people working together no matter what their cultural background was. We can definitely learn from each other and from the land. This partnership could only strengthen the ties of people and the land.

  7. I think that the Grays Harbor people are a great group. They really respect where they’ve come from and have a deep love for their traditions. I believe that there really is something special that goes on between a people and the environment they value so much.
    I also think that it is great that the older people in the group want the children to be learning about how their elders do things. The elderly are a gem to any society and are a very terrific source of enlightenment, specifically when it has to do with traditions in your specific culture.
    We should learn more meaningful things in school that have to do with our families, our people, and our land.
    The environment is so beautiful and such a powerful thing to experience when you allow yourself to be open to its influence. These people are terrific for how much they honor their past in such a wonderful place.

    • Hi Allie, I do think this is a hopeful and heartening development. I agree with you about learning from elders.. and those elders are not necessarily human– the rivers have been here longer than ourselves, for instance.
      Thanks for your comment!

  8. I thought the story that Baumgartner and Cultee told about the pioneer family that took over an Indian house was a funny example that illustrated the close correlation between spirituality and the world around us. The pioneer family was so frightened of the spiritual inhabitants of the land, they had to seek help from the local Indian families. Baumgartner, who is a Christian and traditional Indian, stated that “it was the land that taught us how to live with the spirit.” I think this is a strong point that many current day religions lack. If all religions embraced the correlation between the spiritual world and the world around us(earth’s resources), it’s followers will be more likely to respect and care for our natural resources.

    • Perceptive point, Jason. Understanding the land’s spirit as in need of respect is recognition with powerful pragmatic consequences. This is a funny story–as many of the best teaching stories are. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Its like finally getting a breath of fresh air when I hear about news like this. The land becoming protected from our very selves is a relief seeing so many people today dont know how to co-exist with our surroundings. I wish I heard more about this in the mainstream news, as well as wish I had been better educated when I was younger about our effects on our surrounding environment. Its good to hear younger people are getting exposure to these kinda of things now a days. As for the Gray Harbor Indians, I dont understand how the government can just choose a spot willy nilly that pleases them and doesnt take into consideration the traditons and beliefs of a people. Some times I believe out government can be quite hypocritical.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kevin. I find this hopeful indeed– there are many hopeful things that the mainstream media misses entirely: see Hawkens’ Blessed Unrest for just how many of these there might be: http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=93-9781429532600-0.
      Your statement about the local history is well taken: actually, the spot wasn’t chosen willy nilly– it was chosen as a place that white settlers specifically did not want– that makes the process even more cynical.

  10. That is so great that it has become a protected place, I bet Henry would have really liked this. It is so important to preserve the natural environments that people hold dear to them. All natural environments hold potential to me, and deserve respect from us in how we treat them. I liked the part of how Henry told of the importance of leaving a place as clean as you found it. If everyone could live by this idea the world would be in so much better shape. People just don’t have any respect for natural beauty and sanctity anymore, and it’s truly devastating.

    • We all experience the consequences of the lack of respect you mention, Kelli. Thanks for your own personal care in this, and yes, I am sure that the spirit of this Lower Chehalis family whose members named themselves for this land would find a similar respect for the land’s spirit heartening. I also support acknowledging the presence of those who came before us on the land–such as the “talking stones” with Kalapuya words on them recently set along the Willamette River in Eugene.

  11. I can’t imagine being told to leave my home, and being relocated, or to see my home become ruined by the actions of other people. It is really great to hear, however, that now something good is happening to the land, and that it is being cared for by school children. These kids are definitely learning a lot about their earth, and hopefully about the native people who have so much history there. It is a very sad story that the native people have lost a great deal because of the treaties, but on the other hand I know that not all is lost, because of the wildlife refuge.

    I hope that my own future children and grandchildren will have room to grow, and learn about the earth. Simply being able to play in the dirt leads to so much discovery and innocent fun. I know that many of the children taking care of the refuge probably do not have many other places to do this. Being from Bend, I have seen an enormous amount of growth in the past ten years, and it is sad how much property has been sold and overdeveloped. Even when I was younger, there were areas to play on that do not exist anymore. I know that in our society, people own land and claim it as their own. However, the native people were a part of the land, sharing and caring about it in a way that we do not do today in our own lives. This is what so sad about what we have taken away from them. This is also why the protected land is a good step, because we can at least have some peace about it, especially since more people are becoming involved in protecting it.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your insightful response regarding the care of children in their own care for this particular place.
      There is both grief and peace here–and flowing from that, in the best possible outcome, healing for both the land and the people it supports.

  12. As I read through this article, it brought back so many memories for me as my parents would take us children to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to enjoy the pristine environment. I loved the clean and crisp mountaiin air and the streams filled with brook trout!

    These were special times for me having been reared in West Texas in a small, desert community. In fact, I lived only 19 miles from a small town named “Notrees”. 🙂 So, when I get the opportunity to enjoy nature, it is such a special time.

    The other thing I really enjoyed about the article was the avenue of “listening to our elders”. I believe young people today often fail to take the time to listen to their grandparents and absorb the precious memories they all have to share of their lifetime experiences.

    It is, once again, another form of education in helping us all realize what we have lost, what we have now, and what we can save if we take action together.



    • Hi Paul, thanks for taking us all away from the computers where we sit creating these responses and to the Rocky Mountains! I guess “Notrees” must have aptly named itself.
      I cannot agree with you more about the treasure of our elders–and it is a treasure we are in danger of losing if we don’t hear their stories while they are still with us.

  13. I’m glad Henry introduced you to the pioneer ladies and that they embraced these activities.

    • Yes–there is a bit of unwritten history concerning the neighborliness and cooperation of particular pioneer and native families. The community at Suquamish worked together to get the site of Chief Seattle back in native hands (it had been a park).

      • My Dad had a book, Black Elk speaks. I hope to read it when I’m done with school. He did a lot of reading about Indigenous Peoples: Chief Seattle and all sorts of people. There is a wealth of reading on his and Mom’s bookshelves.

        • Hi Tina. Black Elk Speaks is a classic from many years ago, a powerful and sad and visionary book relayed in poetic terms. You will have a good time perusing through those book shelves, I think.

  14. It is so nice to hear of good news in these times when there is so much bad news on the environment. Nice to hear about preservation anywhere it happens, we need more of this, but every little bit helps.

    Thank you, great article.


    • Thanks, Troy. In a time that has so much disheartening news, it is important to remember how our actions can inspire one another and strengthen our vision–as this incident did for me.

  15. I agree with your comments about sadness and grief. I think those emotions help us go deep and realize the value that has been lost to us, but having once realized the depth of that tragedy, we must act. There are so many amazing and wonderful projects going on to reverse the trends of carelessness, so we all need to get in touch with our spirit guides, quit being careless and plug in to something worth doing. Your life, Dr. Holden, is a perfect example of that. We all need to re-think our goals,desires and lifestyle choices, and then figure out how to dovetail our lives in service to the greater good. It may not be what our parent’s envisioned for us, and it may be something we never thought in a million years we would do, but life is supposed to be an adventure, so get with it y’all and let’s take back the planet!! ha.

  16. Dr. Holden,
    What really stood out for me is the desire these people had to stay on their land.
    Staying where there is nothing that the modern world would deem valuable, refusing economic gain and withstanding threats is a true testament of the indigenous peoples’ love and respect for the land that was handed down by their ancestors. We move when our family grows, and then we move again when our children are grown. This continual exchange of property leaves nothing for future generations to belong to or to feel a sense of value in what they have.
    The personal story you have shared with us is a glimmer of hope in a world where expectations often fall short.

    Thank you,

    Anedra Schultz

    • You are certainly welcome, Anedra. Thanks for your comment. I feel fortunate to have experienced some wonderful things in my lifetime. Hopefully the generations that follow me will have the same opportunity. That’s what I’m working for.

  17. Underlying lessons can always be found in stories of people’s past. The land and changes it endures is extremely important and I think that people should track it more. I liked how the man had population one as a sign. That is courageous, clear, and admirable. Even when you have a limited number of people that are adhering to an idea, if they are being true to what they believe then I look up to that. It is good to see that this land is now protected and that mis-steps can be repaired. It is unfortunate that sadness and other feelings of guilt are what lead people to correct their mistakes. I wish being clear minded and having some ethics education was innate, maybe we wouldn’t be dealing with so many emotional dysfunctions nowadays.

  18. In a world that mostly focuses on the bad things that occur, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that good things happen too, and in the midst of the bad things that humans are doing to the natural world, there are also many people, such as Henry Cultee and the Chehalis grandmother and many others who truly love the land and want others to love it as they do. Also sometimes forgotten are the people who actually work to reverse the damage that we have done to the planet, such as the Gray’s Harbor Audubon Society, but it’s important to remember them too, and even help them to make our world a better place.

  19. I read both parts of this post and I have comments that apply to both. As all the other people did who commented on these posts, I also really enjoyed the stories and felt bad that these areas that are so important in the histories of the Indian people have been desecrated or destroyed. I was happy to hear in part two that Henry Cultee’s land is being cared for and I laughed when I pictured him showing the school children how to mend fishing nets. I’m glad that children, even if just a few, are being given an appreciation for traditional knowledge.

    Just a general comment about the condition of spirituality in our culture. Both articles talked a lot about the loss of respect for the indigenous spirituality and value for their land. I have no doubt that that is true. But I think it is a bigger problem then just loss of respect for indigenous knowledge. I think the problem’s root is in a loss of general spirituality–any spirituality–in our society. I have met a lot of young people who say that they don’t believe in God or in a higher kind of intelligence. They believe in science and sensory proof and have lumped all of the spiritual literature into the fiction category. If someone doesn’t live their life spiritually, but only on the physical plane, why would they respect indigenous spirituality for a place that feels only physical to them? Why would they believe that an Indian person is telling the truth about a spirituality that is real to them if they have no spiritual frame of reference to create empathy? I think the problem is bigger then just a disregard for indigenous knowledge. I think the general loss of respect for spiritual reality has resulted in the problems that were explained in the posts, and in a disconnect of experience that will be difficult to overcome between those who believe that spirituality is real and those who do not.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. I wonder if you will think that the new post I just put up is connected to the issue you bring up in terms of seeing the natural world (or one’s own experiences) as flat and one-dimensional (another way of saying without spiritual depth, if that is how you define spirituality?)
      I do think that it is pretty easy to see the abuses of institutional religions–and decry them– while still searching for something with deeper meaning.
      A thoughtful point.

  20. It was nice to hear about something special, a people’s place, being preserved in a refuge, but it is sad that the people who were part of that place are missing from it. In a way it does not seem whole anymore. I am always happy to hear about a piece of land being preserved, but the human history of lands are often dismissed or forgotten because many people today want to imagine a landscape that was absent of humans. An empty landscape is what they consider most “natural” and wild, when some landscapes included a human influence for millions of years. It sounds like the State of Washington missed part of the point when they declared the land as a refuge for birds. Maybe this land should designated to provide a refuge for both the “large and small memory” of the land and include the story of the Chehalis people.

    • Wonderful point, Christina. You might like to know that the organization that sponsors the site has linked to these articles of mine on their website and there is a museum in Ocean Shores that has worked with the neighboring Quinault in getting material up about local people– in fact, there is a store and campsite run by the Quinault right next to it.
      But it would be a great idea to have some physical marker or commemorative here concerning the Humptulips people– I will write to the folks involved and suggest it. Thanks for the comment.

  21. It never ceases to amaze me how humans can be so useful and thoughtful (creating the nature reserve) and at the same time so idiotic and oblivious to life(s) around them. One of the things I think indigenous people have over whites, hands down, is they take the time and nurture, grow, smell, enjoy, and revere the roses (and everything else). Dominant society is too busy “stealing” time, they don’t have the time to focus on the small things that are important. This is a shame. We are depriving our selves of this joy. By slowing down and taking time out, we can enjoy life and don’t need as much to make us happy and content. That’s how I want to be when I grow up! It drives me nuts just how slow my grandmother goes, but maybe I need to slow down and not just my pace. She sees things I miss because I’m in too big of a hurry. Elders of all walks of life can teach us something, even fixing fishing nets. (My thought on that is it’s so much fun training people 🙂

    • Thanks for the same reminder that our elders give us–to slow down and be in life rather than rushing so fast we are never really present, Christy. And I am reminded of the statement Hegel made, that humans can be the best of creatures because we can also be the best. It is all a matter of choice.

  22. I hadn’t really thought about the role of storied landscapes until I had read your articles — thank you for helping to open my eyes to the vital importance this concept contributes to protecting and cherishing landscapes of indigenous peoples. Until now, I have been trying to figure out how, I could in my living, act as an example to neighbors who are interested in creating tidy suburban yards by scraping off “unsightly” native plants, partly for superficial looks, and partly to “keep away the rattlesnakes.” If they only knew these scrubby nondescript plants were actually the nurse plants for the grand saguaros. They have just killed the nursery!

    I can now better articulate why I leave native habitat around my house. I very much live in a rich storied landscape! — with the many rattlesnakes I have encountered, the red-tail hawks and owls hunting for them, the many rabbits running from them, and the parade of coyotes, peccaries, bobcats, and quail that use the dry wash as their superhighway to this and other feeding grounds. The flickers who provide the tapping rhythms, while doves coo, phainopeplas whistle, cardinals sing, and hummingbirds buzz. Rainclouds gather around the mountains I see from my window, and sunsets and rainbows explode with color. Insects from every corner divebomb my Datura blossoms when they writhe and wiggle to open at night. Are my neighbors noticing this richness too? Likely not. Through the photographs I have taken over the last (short!) eight years, I can share this storied landscape with them, so that they, too, will feel a little more connected with where they live — belonging with the land instead of just living on top of it. Thank you!

    • Thanks for this comment and sharing the ways in which you like to live in a storied landscape. It is a dulling response to our vibrant world to make our yards neat, clean and devoid of any unique interest. Good point about the nursery for saguaros! What a vitally alive area you describe by contrast with the circumscribed yards. I am glad you are keeping a photographic record of this.

  23. It is a beautiful image in my mind’s eye, the trees blowing in the wind and the ocean waves together praying to the Great Spirit. They are alive and members of our family. They have been here for so long watching us evolve, the good and the bad. I am glad to hear that some of the pioneer families lived respectfully with Henry Cultee and Nina Bumgartner. Even though some were frightened. I wonder of those who did, if it were their offspring that helped to preserve the land. This kind of unity would be most inspiring. I am sure the trees and the waves whisper the stories of the Chief Telyuk, Henry Cultee, and Nina Bumgartner, pray for them and their ancestors, but also for those who have come together to protect them.

    • Thank you for this touching response, Val. I absolutely believe that the land holds our stories– and retells them to those who listen well. I trust you had a good Thanksgiving. Happy Native American Heritage Day.

  24. This article is a powerful reminder of the struggle between pioneer settlers in the Pacific Northwest and the native inhabitants of these areas. While I have never been to the Pacific Northwest, I have always desired to go there to experience the beauty of the old growth forests. Native people in Oregon were interconnected to their land in a way the American settlers just couldn’t understand. The idea of moving to another area was inconceivable to the natives, in that they had resided in the same area for generations and were often named after the areas they inhabited. If your people have lived in an area for millennia, and someone tries to force you to live elsewhere, the idea must be like a form of death to the natives. Trying to explain that to bureaucrats and politicians, would be nearly impossible. But whites are slowly learning from their native neighbors and it seems there is a slow retreat to older worldview taking place in America. A significant portion of the population longs for the natural order of partnership worldviews, and eventually the momentum may become great enough to force some real change in America. We’ve already come a long way since the environmental advances made by the Clinton Administration, and people are starting to open their minds toward issues like global warming and resource depletion. Eventually, hopefully we can find our way back to a better relationship with our environment and the natives that originally inhabited it
    This article also reminds me of a book I read once called The Tribes and the States by William James Sidis. (http://www.sidis.net/TSContents.htm) Sidis was a prodigy and true genius who attended Harvard at the age of 10 and later in life learned to speak over 40 languages fluently. He learned to decipher the codes in the patterns of Native American Wampum beads, and discovered a language that detailed a long history of Native Americans recorded before the arrival of whites in America. His book is fascinating and shows us what North America was like before whites arrived here. He portrays the cultures of the Americas as very orderly with an entire society and governmental system that had existed sustainably for millennia before the arrival of whites.

    • I had not heard of this book, Joshua. Thanks for sharing the link. I had hoped to focus this essay more on reconciliation than on conflict.
      Perhaps you are also aware that Thomas Jefferson has written on how the organization of the Thirteen Colonies (the original US organization) followed that of the Iroquois Confederacy.

  25. How great that the Grays Harbor Audubon Society have conserved this historical area. And that it is care for by many people, especially the school children who can benefit from the rich history of the area. I hope one day to experience that area and possibly listen to the stories that the land has to offer.

  26. It’s so wonderful to see that children are being encouraged to help preserve lands and in the process are learning culture and traditions from the people who know it best. I firmly believe that the key is starting with the children – they will affect the change of the future if we simply start them on the right path and introduce them to role models who can help guide them. I’m sure it was exciting to have Henry Cultee take them aside in such excitement and show them something that was so special to him. That’s the BEST way to initiate a lifelong love of something!
    I see that stories do more than simply remind us of people and events to keep them alive in our hearts and minds. They can also serve as a record to keep the spirits alive and talking until the right person gets a hold of the story and can fix what needs to be fix or take care of unfinished business. Had the stories not persisted, the land would likely have gone to waste because there would never have been anyone to hear the stories that were told of these wonderful people and no one to realize there was a sacred land that needed their help.

    • I very much liked your sense of what such involvement in both responsibility for the environment and sharing of stories gives to children, Maria. There is much insight in your comment.

  27. So many times I get into a funk over the stories of the people who lived here before. It can leave me racked with guilt for having ancestors who took over the land that the Original peoples cared for for thousands of years. But, as you stated in the article, this kind of sadness can leave one complacent. Hopeless and stagnant because of the weight we carry now, the burden of fixing what has been broken. But to hear the stories and to learn from them and recognize that we now have the opportunity to put to use the knowledge and wisdom that was so hastily overlooked by our forefathers. To see ourselves in the cycle of time, with the power to do the best we can with the wisdom that is left. This article gave me hope, gave me the want to look for what good is happening, for what places are being protected. Thanks!

    • Thank you, Jessica. I appreciate you care–and both the grief and concern we share. You have summed up my sense of hope very well in your statement that we might “see ourselves in the cycle of time, with the power to do the best we can [to recover] the wisdom that is left”.

  28. These stories are a legacy, things I would have never known had I not read them here. There is a humility that must be felt by the newcomer, me, as people like Cultee who had so much history with the land and so much knowledge. We really have a loss if we do not learn these lessons before these people are gone and the knowledge with them. It is wonderful to hear that the areas in Washington are being protected.

    • You are right about this legacy, Bernadette. I also felt humbled to know Henry Cultee and have him share such stories that have the ability to touch our caring for the land and one another. Now you have also shared them!

  29. I really enjoyed this essay. I don’t think people today honor the land like the natives do. We take everything for granted and don’t think about the land and soil having a story of there own to tell and share with the world. I thought you story about the white family making there neighbors light candles before entering there house because of the spirits of the ancestors who lived there before them was very funny. I think that whites don’t know how to cherish what we have because would world today is centered around what you can make and change and not what is already here.

  30. Amazing stories with good news.
    Thank you

  31. I very much enjoyed this account. I like the part that somberly states:

    “…there is a web of life that is mysterious beyond any human control-and even discernment. We can and must act ethically in the face of that largeness. And we must also act with humility.”

    Beautifully and effectively put. I have heard it said that the mystery of this world lies in the seen and not the unseen. This relays the perspective communicated here very well. It has always seemed to me that one of the major differences between most so-called “organized” religions and the ancient knowledge and shamanism of indigenous societies, is that in shamanism, one does not separate the physical from the spiritual; one does not need to step out of one”s own nature as a human being. In the Judeo-christian doctrine with which I was raised, I felt that I always had to deny certain aspect of myself – from my sexuality, to my need to commune with nature, to trusting my instincts when it comes to issues of relationships and childbirth….and on and on. And I remember Black Elk Speaks as well – made me rather despondent actually, but the truth does hurt sometimes.

    • There are those who, like Thomas Berry and Matthew Fox, indicate that this repression of our physical-spiritual selves and alienation from the natural world is not the ONLY possible interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition– though it is the one that has gotten attached to institutionalized religion. Congratulations on finding your own authentic path, Hannah.

  32. Man can have a huge effect on the land which he resides on; it is so much greater to hear of land being saved when we constantly hear of the opposite.
    Constantly I feel that the Natives were horribly wronged by the act of colonization. They were not given a chance to speak on their behalf and the simple fundamental rights that founded the nation were completely hypocritical to the actions against them.
    I find it ironic that Henry Cultee would want to post a sign reading “population one”. The loneliness he must feel as one of the only people to continue the ancient way of life would be tremendous; putting the concept onto a sign would just compound the feeling in my experience.
    Though it takes only one, very courageous person to lead the way and show that everything will turn out for the better.

    • Thanks for your comment, Anthony. Of course, the statement about the “populatIon one” sign was a metaphor and should not be taken literally. Your point about it only taking one is so true: look at those mentioned in the essay on “planting a rose in wintertime” here.

  33. Uncle Henry Cultee was certainly a charactor! My grandfather was John Hayden Sr. and my mom said the 2 of them made a pact that whoever lived longer would look after the other one’s family. My grandpa died 1st so Uncle Henry would come down to the Chehalis Reservation from time to time to keep his end of the deal. I have pictures of I think it was his 100th birthday. July 4th, 1988. He kept us connected to our grandpa just by being himself.

    • It is delightful to hear this story, Elaine. Henry certainly was a character–and cared very much about keeping people connected. I didn’t hear any stories of John Hayden, but I know Henry told me about his “cousins”– including Edith Heck– on the Chehalis Reservation.

  34. I read this post yesterday morning and spent the day envisioning Native American villages, people and the “park-like” landscapes as I drove to Portland and back. Sometimes, I speculate and let my imagination show me how things may have been. My daughter and I have played that “game” since she was small. One of us would say ‘look! There is a Chinook longhouse! Is that salmon drying on the racks over there? I think I see a canoe out there!” stuff like that. It started when I borrowed a book about the Chinook people and mapped out the places where villages were believed to have been and we visited them and spend the day thinking about how life might have been. So, yesterday, after reading this article, I had an idea.

    I think that we really should have information about these ancient cultures that is easily accessible at county, state and national parks (especially because much of the land that makes up these “public parks” was taken from Native Americans through the vile Dawes Act). We shouldn’t have to guess. We have a right to know (not each and every detail so the historical areas could be protected and preserved) about the indigenous people who lived on this land for so many thousands of years. As it is now, very few interpretive signs are available (at least where I live) that highlight the stories of these First People.

    These really are important stories that people want to know about and these stories really are deeply connect to places. I loved the part at the end of this post that talked about how the story of the land honors its people and vice versa. That is exactly why I think it is important to do what we can to make those stories available to the general public. It seems like the respectful thing to do.

    • Such signage seems like the respective thing to do indeed, Molly. Coos-Kalapuya elder Esther Stutzman has been involved in various “re-naming” projects, including the one along the Willamette River in Eugene: in Alton Baker Park, stones with Kalapuya names on them along the bike path.

  35. It is so nice to hear uplifting and hopeful stories like these. It is so easy in our present situation of climate change habitat loss, species extinction and cultural homogenization to focus on the bad and not the good. However, this essay reminds me that things are not black and white, or all good and all bad. All pioneers that settled the west were not bad, and many had reverence for the land and the native people who lived there. Just as all people are not bad today, and so many are working for justice and conservation of sacred concepts and places. Speaking for myself, it is easy to relinquish my thoughts to doom and gloom, but without a seed of hope and promise how can we get anything done? The creation of new reserves like the one where Henry Cutlee’s cabin was is the planting of such seeds of hope.

    • Thanks for your comment, Laida-there is hope in this–as in knowing that so many of us have the capacity for good that we are just looking for a change to exercise!

  36. This is such an uplifting follow-up to the first post. To return to a place you once saw destroyed and have it restored to its previous grace shows that, while we can greatly harm a natural environment, humans can “also change things for the better.” I think this is such an important notion to understand. For some time growing up, I thought that the best thing humans could do for nature was to just leave it alone and not put even a footprint on the soil. Pristine meant no people. But as I have grown and experienced and learned, I have come to realize that humans have a natural place in the environment. I would even go as far to say that to not set foot in nature is harmful in its own way because it is denying our interconnectedness with nature. So, while humans can indeed harm the environment in many ways, I do not believe that the solution is to take ourselves out of the picture completely. Rather, if we embrace our connections and see ourselves as an equal part of nature we set ourselves up to be a beacon of positive change amongst nature. Where there is power to destroy there is also power to love and heal. I love Baumgartner’s comment, “if the people forget how to praise God, the trees, moving in the wind, alive and growing, do it. The ocean, rolling in and rolling in, over and over again, does it.” Let us seek to remember to give thanks to the Creator—whichever one you might believe in—and, if we forget, to look to creation for her stories and inspiration. We may not comprehend it all, but we can let it guide our actions towards a harmonious relationship with nature so that there can be less stories of harm and more of revival and restoration.

    • Hi Kirsten, I think this is indeed an uplifting follow up– I was fortunate to come upon this news. There are so many aspects of ecosystems that have evolved in concert with the humans who live there. I too am touched by Baumgartner’s words–and by yours in terms of “setting ourselves up as a become of positive change”– I think the natural world is depending on us even as we depend on it.

  37. Wow, I was to estatic to find out that the land on the Humptulips River had been designated a wildlife refuge. And like you said we hear a lot about the damage we have done to the land it really feels good to hear that something good has happened. The traditional ethics of Henry Cultee’s people that required people to leave a place as clean as one found it would be a great step in the direction of preserving our land. We often find it hard to do things to help encourage the restoration of our land so if each of us would just do something as simple as this that would be one step in the right direction.

  38. I am so glad for this update on the earlier essay. I am glad the some of the pioneer families listened to Henry Cultee. It is nice to see that not all people were out to overuse the land. All of the worlds people need to take stock of what we have available to us. It is a time to open our eyes as some of the pioneer families did. The indigenous people of the world helped this land to develop into a place of beauty and sustenance for many. Treaties and the thinking that the resources of the area were unlimited tore down what the Native Americans had built. Well, this is one sanctuary that can’t be torn down. In this way of realizing what happens when an area is restored, maybe we will be able to educate enough people to end the suffering that the indigenous people still feel today.

  39. Much of history could be or will be lost without telling stories of a time passed. Only by passing down stories of people, places, events, etc. can we be sure to carry the thoughts and ideas with us. My grandfather used to tell me stories while I was a young child. At the time, I thought the stories were just moments of him trying to re-live something of a distant past, but now, the places he described, the people he knew, and the things he experienced will always carry over with me. It is in this way that I can relate to this essay.

    • It is truly a gift that you grandfather gave you, Andrew. Not only in the information in his stories, but in the ways of honoring and understanding our histories. The other part of this gift, of course, is that you appreciated it enough to be witness and audience to your grandfather’s stories–and thus receive the gift that he alone was able to pass on.

  40. I was happy to read of this area being turned into a reserve. I think maybe the land speaks to all people, whether they know it or not. In the United States, our national parks are places many consider sacred, even if they don’t otherwise know the concept of “sacred space.”

  41. Quote – “According to Baumgartner and Cultee both, there are spirits on this land with which whites need to become acquainted in order to survive”

    Just a side note: Anyone else get chills after reading that sentence? Well put.

    Another side note: What is a holistic point of view towards trying to save endangered species?

    It is good to hear that hope is not a waste of time when it comes to trying to fix what we have done wrong. To me, history is just a larger version of experience to the collection of consciousness of a person that we call our society. That being said (though a little corny) I feel it is a society’s top priority to keep it’s history much like it is important an organism keeps it’s experience in order to survive and progress. The other top priority of course, is learning from that experience which can be a problem due to our individual inability to hold onto memories that are not ours as well as something that is aged over time. Indeed, it is one of our greatest curses as a species: to forget.

    • Very thoughtful perspectives, Alexander. It is good news indeed that “hope is not a waste of time”.
      Interesting point on remembering and forgetting: if passing memory between generations is an essential part of what has made us human, we are also, as you indicate, the only species that can choose to forget (or deny) our own experience and that of the generations before us.
      And as for a holistic perspective of endangered species; I don’t think there is any view of this. From my perspective, caring for endangered species means honoring ecosystems (which work interdependently with all their lives in tact) building up ways to work together over millions of years. Perhaps you are indicating the differing views that some humans have of this? I would call this a balanced view– or perhaps one based on “interest-based negotiation”– beginning with what we have in common, as modeled in the Harvard Negotiation Project.

    • Well said Alexander, when I was young I thought that teaching history and historical events was a waste of time because they taught us nothing about living in the present. It wasn’t until I read some ancient Greek history about that I realized that our culture is making many of the bad decisions (meaningless wars and poor management of natural resources) that caused the downfall of Greece centuries ago.

      For that reason, I think that one of the greatest virtues of many indigenous peoples is to learn from generations of experience through the oral tradition. If our culture can also develop this type of cross-generational learning and group memory I think that we would be able to develop much healthier and sustainable practices when dealing with the environment and other people and cultures.

  42. The story that is told in this post reminds me so much of what is currently taking place in Machu Picchu, in Peru. There is a struggle beginning with two distinct sides. There are people who want to capitalize on the tourism of Machu Picchu, and build large hotels and restaurants and encourage even more tourism than is currently had. But there are many others who struggling against this concept, and are instead trying to have the site made into a World Heritage Landmark, which would actually limit tourism.

    This is an excellent example of when the ways of the Westerners need to bend in favor of the old ways. Macchu Picchu is a gift, and to be able to see such an amazing historical landmark up close and personal is an experience that should be preserved and made available to all people, not just those who were able to visit in this generation. To expand tourism and commerce in such a place would be doing a great disservice to all the generations that follow us, in exchange for little substantial gain.

    • Thoughtful point, Roman. Tourism can be problematic — as it is even in our national parks, where many have so many visitors they are being loved to death.

    • This is happening all over the world. As I mentioned below. I stayed at a bed and breakfast in Washington and the couple told me how the local people were fighting against large corporations who wanted to capitalize on the charm town. Macchu Picchu is a scared place and to industrialize such a scared place seems so crazy to me. Yes, I do believe people should be able to visit the scared place, but not in the name of profits. In the name of honoring the scared place. Great insights.

      • It is tragic that those who attracted to a place for a particular reason (its “charm” in this case) decide to own it and develop it out of what attracted them in the first place. That is the great tragedy of colonialism in the Pacific Northwest: they often destroyed the very character of the land that attracted them in their development of it.

  43. While I understand that Cultee, coming from a racial and ethnic minority in this society, cannot be considered a racist, I do find his use of the word “whites” to portray folks who may identify with settlers/pioneers or other members of the present dominant culture to be problematic. While it’s true that it’s generally been what we would currently consider white folks (since, historically, the definition of “white” has varied and changed greatly since settlers first began to attempt to “own” the various landscapes of the U.S.), creating a a dividing definition of world views based on skin color can be very dangerous, especially if one wants to foster a sense of community with all others who live on the same local land. I loved the follow-up example, right after the paragraph about Cultee’s “whites” observation – about the “women from pioneer families who fully honored the land.” Clearly, skin color or heritage is not a truly defining factor when it comes to finding like-minded folks who may help us in our struggle to (re)build a cohesive community of understanding and respectful persons who live in direct partnership with the earth and all of us who are sustained by it.

    • Cultee shared these stories with me in 1974, at which time it was vernacular to say “whites”– some academics now use the term “non-Indians”– but I think we might also check into Paul Kivel’s outstanding book, Uprooting Racism, in which he has a whole very pointed section on white privilege, entitled, ironically, “I’m not white”. Here is the link to a recent talk he gave:
      You are right that Cultee and his people experienced profound injustice at the hands of those who called themselves whites– down to the fact that his people refused to sign away their land by treaty but had it taken from them nonetheless.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It is important to consider the labels that might divide us. On the other hand, I think it important to stress that holding to a particular community/ethnicity does not imply racism toward others. In fact, being grounded in one’s sense of belonging seems to be one remedy for treating others in a degrading way.
      And a parallel point with respect to gender (how society designates those of different sexes): it is the gender definition of women that creates oppression rather than their biological differences from men. Race is likewise a social rather than biological definition. Anthropologist Franz Boas (way back in the nineteenth century) argued that there ARE no races in the human species from a scientific standpoint, since there is more diversity of any given trait that supposedly defines a race between individuals within a designated group than there is between one “race” and

  44. It is humbling to read stories of people joining together to preserve land that once was being destroyed by negligence and unconscious behavior. The world needs more organizations such as the Grays Harbor Audubon Society mentioned in this article. Their effort to preserve the estuary reminds me of a story a couple was sharing with me while staying at a bed and breakfast in Leavenworth Washington of a wealthy woman who purchased any undeveloped land that was for sale around the river to donate to the local Audubon Society to ensure the protection of the river and all the natural habitat. The pressures of capitalism and economic growth can destroy small towns because of tourism and over development. As William Cultee described the native homes all along the refuge, this couple described local people being bought out of their homes so large hotels could develop the land and alter the natural landscape in the name of big business and profits. The large corporations had no vested interest in the small town rather than to reap as much profit as possible. The money from the large corporations does not stay in the small town for the benefit of the local economy; it is shipped to the large cities in the corporate office expenses. The bottom line in the corporate office is profit, not the benefit of the local people or the local natural environment. It is inspiring to hear of the efforts of these natives to not sign treaties that do not honor their scared lands and traditions, and for the local people in Washington to join together and stop big corporations from lining the river with hotels for corporate profits.

    • Thanks for passing on this story, Angel. It is certainly true that large corporations have little motive but their own profit ijn a capitalist society. Whereas it is great to hear of money well spent to protect the earth for a change, I would like to think that communities have a chance to create their own refuge and protections of the natural world– even when they can’t compete with these in terms of money.

    • I agree with you Angel. I too love hearing stories from different folk about things that aren’t normally talked about or are an issue for everyone. Thank you for sharing the story that a couple shared with you as well. It was rather inspiring.

  45. This article as well as the article “Re-storying the Northwestern landscape” draws a detail picture of the landscape in the Northwest. I was not born in America so this article really opens my eyes about the beauty and richness of the Northwest environment. I like the part about the dense array of mountain, run against the wind, “words that come through the air”. It must be fortunate for someone to have such experiences with nature. In my opinion, I think that deep inside our mind, we know that we are part of nature. If not, why everybody is so excited to camping so that they can spend time in the forest; if not, why everybody wishes to come to river so that they can sit still for hours. The problem is we-modern human beings are trapped into capitalism and materialism society. In this kind of society we must work and work to survive. Profit is number one priority. Thus, we are forgetting or trying to forget that we are part of the nature. We need nature just as it needs us. Money and social standards separate everything apart: man vs. women, human vs. nature, body vs. soul, etc. It is a little bit sad. The article also mentioned about how Indian people did whatever they can to live on the ancestor’s land. It is cruel to remove people from their root. I’m an immigrant. I understand the feeling of someone must go away form their mother’s land. You always feel like you are missing something in your heart.

    • Thank you for sharing your personal experience of the need for roots and being torn from them, Vu. I think the most dangerous form of being torn in this way exists among those who do not understand the cause of their own longing and therefore overrun other lands and peoples trying to fulfill themselves.
      I agree that deep inside ourselves we must know we are part of nature: after all, we have “grown up” as a human species in a natural cradle for over a hundred thousand years.

    • I can completely agree with you on the statement that you made about how everyone must know somewhere deep down that they are connected to nature, due to the excitement camping does cause. My family goes camping at least a couple times a summer and it is so refreshing to be out in the middle of no where WITHOUT cell service and internet. It gives us an opportunity to fully dedicate our attention to the people who are physically with us at that time and with our surroundings. I think part of the problem of modern day people, is with so many different social networks, technologies and just distractions in general, we are never giving our FULL attention to one thing at a time, or one person at a time. If we can not even give our full attention to another human being, especially someone who is important to us, just think of the lack of attention we give to our environment and surroundings..

      • As a storyteller, I found that kids who had not had experience listening to stories took some practice to be able to pay attention with the full concentration of those who had been raised with stories.

  46. Henry Cultee and Nina Bumgartner’s love of their land and people are strong testimonies to the need for our elders strength and wisdom. They teach us just as the trees and plants taught them. Traditional knowledge that is so needed today. I love reading about them and Dr. Holden’s bond with them.

    • Thank you Val. I appreciate your touching personal response. I have been blessed indeed to have the gift of these elders in my life– along with, of course, my own grandparents.
      It is wonderful that elders like Grandma Aggie conceive of themselves as “everybody’s grandma” for the sake of those who need elders (all of us) and who might not have have grown up with them.

  47. This was a very reassuring update on the Northwestern landscape, although it is still sad, I agree that we need to keep what the land once was alive by re-telling the stories. These stories are the only hope for re-storing the land because they will inspire people and put into perspective how important the land is and has been to many Natives and I would hope that it would strike a sense of responsibility to take better care of the land. I think many people don’t even realize the impact land development has on the people who live there life with a sense of “belonging to the land.” However, with hope and determination things can be turned around just like it was for Henry’s land. What a great, inspiring story, thank you for sharing. All of these stories are reminders reminding us what we have, how great it is, and that without everyone’s help it could be gone sooner than we think, and that can’t be undone.

    • I think you have a powerful perspective on the importance of keeping such stories alive, Courtney.
      And thanks for reminding us of some very important things to keep in mind: gratitude for what we have, and how we all need to care for it– for certain treasures will be gone forever if we do exert such care.

  48. I’m curious if modern Native Americans really believe in their connection with the land as their ancestors. In this article, Henry Cultee mentions that people should leave the land as clean as they found and to defile its beauty was to “live like whites.” While I lived in Arizona I happened to drive through a handful of reservations and they were honestly some of the dirtiest places I had seen, at least the highways were. You could distinctly tell where the reservation started and ended by the amount of trash built up on the sides of the roadway. It was really sad to see because even growing up I had a general idea how connected to nature the Native Americans were. I do know that many reservations are poverty stricken and maybe some of the trash is from people not from the reservation. They may not have the cleanup crews that “white” communities provide. However, I would think with the pride they take in the land that they would be out there making sure to keep it as beautiful as possible.

    • Hi Morgan, it is true that certain reservations are hands down the most impoverished places in the US–and it is also true that native peoples have been hit with many tragedies. Something else to consider: we clean things by dumping our waste in far away places so that the areas where we live look neat. In past times, waste equaled food– as in natural cycles–and suddenly there is all this material that does not dissolve and no one eats it.
      We might also consider that outsiders are not exactly respectful of native areas; the Quinault had to close their beaches because outsiders were dumping so much garbage there. And they had to block the bridge onto their land to stop the logging trucks that the BIA contracted in their name– without any of the same environmental safeguards as applied to logging in the rest of Washington State. About a decade ago, our government labeled reservations “sacrifice areas”– so that coal and uranium mines did not have to clean up their leavings– just to argue they were producing necessary energy for our country. Much of the devastation you see on the Navajo reservations, for instance, is due to such mining operations– which have left the land so polluted that the local Navajos have experienced local cancer epidemics as a result. I mention this because a friend of mine remarked on how bad the clearcuts on the Quinault reservation looked– and you could certainly tell when you hit reservation land, but it was none of the local people’s doing. As a result of their protests, management of fisheries and forestry in back in their hands and they are working to restore their ravaged lands– but to those casually driving through, it looks like the Quinault are not caring for their land.
      I also want to say that it is amazing to me (and a sign of the resilience of native traditions) that there are any traditionalists left, given the shocks that colonialism brought to native communities. It would be unreasonable to assume native people still live like they did 300 years ago; some hold to traditional ideas and some don’t– and the latter has much to do with forced attendance at boarding schools for three generations in a row, intended specifically to break the links between young people and their traditional communities. Not incidentally, this also served to break the traditions that passed down particular sophisticated non-violent child-nurturing techniques.
      Coupled with all of this, there is the problem of alcohol abuse– altogether, I would not judge native peoples by how neat the reservation looks to outsiders.
      Even those who are traditionalists partake of modern society in things like computer usage–and why not? I prefer to critique our own society’s consumerism, etc.–not to mention, its environmental racism, and ally with elders and traditionalists in support of the many environmental standards they have upheld (as noted in “indigenous peoples” and other essays in this blog). I hate to imagine what our environmental situation would be like today without the hard work of these good people.
      Thanks for asking a question that other folks just casually passing by reservations might also ask.

      • It’s such a shame that land that has been set aside for Native Americans is so mistreated even by our own government. I was not aware of them being used as dump sites further contributing to their poor upkeep. And I agree that after generations of misuse and little money that there is little incentive to work hard for no reward.

        I was really surprised to read what you wrote about some native cultures trying to break their children away from traditional practices by enrolling them in boarding schools! What is the motivation to break them from their traditions?

        • Native peoples did not impose such things on their children: this was a forced policy undertaken by the US government, whose representatives arrived in native communities to “collect” children and transport them to boarding schools where their families were often not even able to visit them. Many native peoples tried to hide their children from government officials (who were sometimes paid bounties on the number of Indian children they found), even though when government officials found this out, they penalized such families by loss of food and blankets in the areas where they were gathered away from their lands and ability to fend for themselves.
          Thanks for allowing me to clarify this. It is one of the most tragic and egregious situations in the US treatment of native peoples: this policy, by the way, effected as many as three generations. of Indian children.
          The schools classically used brutal physical punishment to attempt to eradicate native languages. On the Chehalis Reservation, children speaking Chehalis were limited to eating bread and water for punishment; those caught speaking their own language at Warm Springs were made to stand with their tongues on the steam pipes heating the schools in winter– which might cause severe burns.
          See David Adams’ book, Education for Extinction.

    • Hi Morgan, I understand where you are coming from with your question. In my opinion, there is no rational reason for the untidy appearance other than the generation of Native Americans currently living in those reservations come from several generations of people that lived under a Federally funded, managed dependency that seeks to keep these people “out of the way”. And the generations before them were forced onto those reservations against their will and their only other option was to be killed.

      I am by no means making excuses for the current generations, because anyone can strive to work for better goals. However, there is hardly incentive to work hard when someone is there saying, “Here are food stamps and cash assistance, a free place to live, schools, daycare and healthcare.” Who is going to argue with that, even if all of those services are sub-par? Only a precious few that receive the encouragement that none of the free services provide. And it doesn’t matter what ethnic background they come from. We can see the same thing in the inner cities, rural areas, anywhere in the US for that matter; poverty stricken people that qualify for enough assistance to “stay afloat”, but no one there to push them and, most importantly, encourage them to strive for something more than a free “paycheck”.

      This is a very complex subject due to the treaties between indigenous peoples and the Federal government, and I could go on and on. I just wanted to make that point in reference to your question.


      • Thanks for amplifying our dialogue here, Carol. I wonder what you think of my response to Morgan.

        • I just had a chance to read your response to Morgan and I did not know that many people outside the reservations have been using them as dumping grounds. I cannot say it doesn’t shock me, as the general attitude toward Native Americans in this world is disrespectful.

          My great-grandmother was forced into one of those boarding schools when she was a child and experienced that attempt to break-down their traditions. They weren’t allowed to speak Haida, they were given “english” names, told how to dress, etc. A lot of those programs succeeded, because a lot of the Native languages have not been taught to future generations. It was a program used to do exactly that, reprogram the indigenous peoples. Assimilation broke down thousands of years of tradition and their way of life that gave them strength.

          I am also privy to the “blood quantum” game. Many years ago I was preparing to study law, and one of my weekend seminars was “Indian Law”. The instructor pointed out the fact that the BIA, and the Federal government in general, is no “friend” to the indigenous peoples of North America, because the “blood quantum” requirement is essentially their way of stripping Native Americans of their identity and getting out of the treaties. If someone is not a certain blood quantum, that person does not “qualify” as a Native American.

          Fortunately, there are people in the Native communities that recognize this and are doing what they can to revive language and actual traditions. I hope to help bridge the many gaps between the Native people and the general masses after finishing my degree. There has been so much misinformation provided to the Native Americans and their decisions reflect that.

        • So much misinformation both to and about Native peoples, Carol. Thanks for sharing this story: she is certainly not alone in the boarding school stripping away of culture; however, it seems you keep the treasure of the stories she passed on of this experience.
          Blood quantum is also different in different tribes; one of the worst things the BIA did (Esther Stutzman jokes that the initials stand for “bossing Indians around” was take over their resource “development” and contract their health care (now tribes can apply to get the monies for this back and manage their own health care). Two tragic examples of mismanagement here are the millions of dollars of trust monies “lost” in the drilling of OK oil wells (see Linda Hogan’s Mean Spriits for a novel that reflects the oppression of local peoples during this era of the twentieth century) and the forced (and secret) sterilization of Navajo women when they delivered their babies in BIA run hospitals (still apparently going on into the 1970s: there was an investigative article on this in Akwesasne Notes during this period). Native peoples could certainly do without this kind of “help”.

      • Hi Carol,

        Thanks for your response. I agree that most people will not work and harder than they have to, especially if there is no incentive. I liked the comparison you made between Natives and impoverished people in other parts of our country. They receive assistance from the government and it is just enough to stay afloat. My personality would not settle for “afloat” and I strive to make it as best as I can. I was raised by my single mother who had two other children to take care of on an income about half of what I am making now. That woman worked miracles and stretched every dollar to make sure we were never without anything. I believe that anyone can come out of a rut if they so choose. Maybe the Natives and other impoverished people have been broken down so long they can’t see a way back up. I hear about so many programs and aid for Native Americans, are they all being used to their potential?

        • Can you think of other incentives for working hard than monetary ones?
          Congratulations on having a mother such as yours. I think it is hard to imagine the crushing amount of community poverty coupled with racism and culture loss (see my note to you on boarding schools) experienced by native peoples. I am amazed at the resilience some have expressed in the face of this.
          If you were forcibly removed from your mother, for instance, I cannot imagine she would have had the same motivation to “make it”.

        • Hi Morgan,

          There are government programs to help nearly anyone that qualifies for them. Whether or not they actually “help” is another discussion all together. There is a drastic difference between a government hand-out (what our welfare system is currently structured as) and assistance programs that help people; like developing basic skills for work or get treatment for substance abuse problems, just to provide a couple examples.

          I was a single mother for 5 years and never received any type of welfare assistance. I worked full-time, paid my own rent and bills and bought our food and clothing without a single dime from the state. So it can be done. But my success has to do with a work ethic, merit and integrity.

          There are several factors that influence how and why an individual from any ethnic background may not be able to come out of a “rut” as you said. One of them, like I mentioned before, is the fact that it is a way of life that becomes learned. Another major factor, which mostly affects anyone that is not “white”, is long-held beliefs/”labels” with negative stigmas that resulted from racial discrimination (which still persist today).

          Even I can honestly say that I have experienced racial discrimination throughout the course of my entire life because of the color of my skin, and by blood I’m half Welsh, Norwegian and Scottish. The other half is Haida and those were certainly the dominant genes.

          “I hear about so many programs and aid for Native Americans, are they all being used to their potential?” There are several programs and aid for Native Americans, the same as for everyone else. But there is a general common misconception that everything is just given to you if you are Native American. I have 1 scholarship from the tribe I am enrolled with and the grand total I receive for the entire year is barely enough to cover the cost of 2 courses and a book or two for one quarter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for it and I deserve it, because I work hard to get awesome grades.

          As for the programs for Native Americans being used to their potential, I don’t believe that a lot of the programs designed by the government were used to provide potential, they are designed to create dependency as I mentioned before.

          Fortunately, there is an “awakening” happening among the Native American peoples and they are seeking a lot of changes, because the government has continued to take advantage of them in many way to this day.

          Best wishes,

        • Hi Carol, thanks for sharing your personal experience in this respect. My sense is that we should refrain from passing judgement on others: instead we might all learn from listening to one another’s stories. Thanks for telling yours.

  49. It is good to see some good done in light of all that has been done wrong. I’m glad there are institutions like the Audubon Society that have the “pull” and resources to get the job done.

    I just wonder (This one’s for you, Dr. Holden) if there are any groups/agencies/etc. that purchase lands specifically for the purpose of returning them to the indigenous people from whom they were taken?

    It doesn’t matter if the land was preserved in the name of birds, fish, or people, really; all that matters is that is is preserved. I was just curious.

    • Many indigenous peoples are setting aside monies from any economic development to buy back their traditional lands– as the people at Warm Springs have been doing for years. Other tribes throughout the NW have been designing ways to “buy back” their land in ways that include buying back settler claims that were never “proved up” to forming a corporation for that purpose (as did a group near Jamestown, on the Olympic Peninsula, in the late 1800’s)–but indigenous peoples have been doing this for themselves. I don’t know of any non-profit that buys up land to return it to native people, though I do have a friend that is returning her considerable inheritance of Wyoming rangeland to local native people (unfortunately, much to the chagrin of the rest of her family).

    • That seems like a good idea – buying up land to return to the native people who originally lived there. Personally, I would like to see the government contribute to that since they took so much land away from the native tribes in the first place. It seems like it’s about time they fix their mistakes.

  50. Storytelling is an essential form communicating the history, knowledge, values and experiences of people and events. It is a way of connecting the generations through thousands of years. I feel blessed when I read the stories of Henry Cultee and Nina Bumgartner. That they took care to share their stories and others preserved them for us to hear and learn from is a priceless gift.

  51. I was really happy to read this essay and hear some positive news. Sadly, we are doing more damage than good to the environment, but it is always encouraging to hear even the smallest step taken to care for the natural world. It is especially encouraging to hear that it is being cared for by many, including children who need to learn the importance of environmental care.

    Interesting that this land had to be bought and owned in order to be protected. That it takes legal action to protect such a place.

    I really like the traditional ethic mentioned by Henry Cultee to leave a place as clean as one found it. I know many backpackers, hikers and others who follow similar ideas, “pack it in, pack it out,” “leave no trace,” and “leave only footprints,” when they are out in nature.

    • This is good news, Isabel–and we do have little enough of it today. Folks like the Nature Conservancy are also buying up land to protect it– since (aside from public parklands) that seems to be the only way to protect certain lands under our current system.

  52. I like how this essay was beautifully tied into the central ideas in “The Fourth Annual Willamette River Blessing”. It reminds us that storytelling, as we have studied in the past weeks, is the greatest form of technology to help us come together and learn from our past, the good and bad.

    It was also nice to have the reminder to we can change things for the better and there are good things happening in spite of all the bad. I admit, at times I get frustrated and, bless his soul, my poor fiance listens to my rants about how the world in generally willing to sacrifice the natural world for short-term monetary goals.

    Reading all of these stories from the different indigenous elders really emphasizes how important it is that the upcoming generations learn a more objective perspective of history. I learned the romanticized version and I can honestly say I can see how it would lead people astray; it is no wonder the dualistic worldview is dominant, most people do not learn otherwise.

    • The dualistic worldview serves the interests of a few in the short term, Carol– even though so many of us adhere to it.
      I am glad you like the notion of the technology of storytelling. Perhaps you have some sense of this from your own ancestors. Obviously, we need to tell some stories of alternatives “short term monetary goals”– I am glad you picked a partner who is willing to listen to you express this point.

  53. It is always nice to have good news to celebrate for a change. I really appreciate what these groups are doing, buying land in order to conserve it. I don’t know if any groups are already doing this, but it would be really beneficial to animal species if these groups could get together and try to buy land in order to create wildlife corridors. That way, not only would these pieces of land be preserved, the entire ecosystem in each area would be healthier overall as animals are able to move into and out of areas as needed.

    • Actually, there are many folks working on developing such wildlife corridors (the latest YES magazine features on article on this movement). In the article, “Indigenous Peoples” here, it mentions how “Indigenous Conserved Lands” often provide corridors for supporting biodiversity these ways. An important point, Sarah, especially given climate change, ecological systems need the resilience biodiversity gives them.

    • I think that you bring up a interesting difficulty different environmental organizations have. I remember working with Environment Oregon (I only worked with them for 1 week because I had issues with some of the ethics I was taught for trying to get money) and talking to the head person for outdoor fundraising. I asked him why they didn’t team up with other organizations that have the same morals to as to build up the masses of speakers. He told me that as much as he would love to that the bureaucracy and laws surrounding activist groups makes it very difficult to champion more than one cause. I think it’s really sad that laws have made it difficult to build comprehensive plans to help the environment. I think this fact also makes the achievements of activist organizations all the more impressive.

      • I am not sure how our laws make it hard for activist groups to work for more than one issue– there are many organizations out there that might have a specific focus, but certainly work over a broad spectrum of issues– like the Union of Concerned Scientists or the Natural Resources Defense Council. I am thinking that this person expressed an unfortunate sense of a way of dealing with scare resources– which is to compete rather than share for others. I feel that we must make all the connection we can.
        And if you were objecting to canvasing, where canvassers only earn a portion (and a substantial one) of what they canvas for, I also think this is bad use of time and money for all concerned. I was recently asked to put such an opportunity for summer “jobs” on this site, and raised my objections– the one who requested this advertising never got back to me.
        On the other other hand, I am more than willing to spread the word about worthwhile projects (and there are so very many).

  54. I really enjoyed this story. Cultee is a great reservoir for knowledge and it is really amazing how much you have taken from him both through direct conversation and through introspection. I think it is important to note that many people are making strides to care for the environment, even if it is a too slow progression.

    In my college education I have had a concept repeated to me that I think is important. The concept, first given to me by my Sociology of Science and Technology class is that faith alone and science alone have limits in how much they can progress humans and something new, that is both (or neither) faith or science needs to be created to look at the world. In this essay I found this concept in the line “places on this land–and the ancestral spirits of all the species that reside there– connect us in ways our rational minds cannot always account for.” I think also there are thing about this land and the ancestral spirits of all species that cannot be accounted for by our spiritual selves. I haven’t concluded yet what this means to me and my way of life but I think this essay, while more directly doing many other things, speaks well to the importance of looking at the world through many lenses and working to understand the world in as complete a fashion as possible.

    • Some people might see the division of what we need as intellect and feeling (or compassion or personal presence), Carol. However we see this, it is important not to deny our feelings because they are not substantiated in rational terms. And certainly, science cannot be totally “objective” as long as it is done by humans, so we may as well be honest about our own subjectivity within it. In fact, this gives us additional personal resources that allow us to be fully present to our work and learning. Thanks for your comment, Caroline.

    • Caroline, I am really interested in this concept as well. I think it is absolutely true that no single subject can encompass everything that we need to understand about the world. I definitely agree what we need to look at the world from many different viewpoints and learn all we can about the world– not just through the lenses of faith or science. I also thank you for your comment!

  55. Hurray for a positive story among so many sad events! Cultee is wuite right that kids should be learning how to become stewards of the land and honor and respect it. Simple lessons go a long way in cultivating these traits.

    • Hurray indeed, Susan. The more that we face in terms of environmental crises, the more we need stories such as this to boost our spirits– as well as restore the land.

    • I totally agree with you here Susan! That is at least my aspiration as a teacher – to get our youth to recognize and consider not only the land but all of its inhabitants! We definitely need a more holistic education when it comes to our youth because they are the ones who are in the best position to develop honorable and respectful habits rather than having to alter damaging ones. I think an addition to such education is a focus on history and not just the history in textbooks but a diverse well representative history of struggles AND triumphs for ALL people. We need to focus on listening and engaging in our classrooms, and unfortunately we are not doing so just yet. We have a richness, especially in the Northwest, that often goes unnoticed, and I believe we need to be better advocates for our children by showing them the possibilities and differences present today. Recognizing who we are and where we came from, in my opinion, ignites a sense of compassion and respect for those identities, many of which are rooted in nature 🙂

      • What wonderful passion and care both of your have. I have no doubt you will make a great teacher–your students will be very fortunate, Amber. We do indeed need to provide a holistic view of history– too bad k-12 teachers generally have to do so much digging to make that happen– but congratulations on taking that on. I can’t think of anything more important than giving this particular gift to upcoming generations.

  56. What a great update! After reading the previous article, I was fairly disheartened at what had happened in that area; now, it seems like new hope has sprung forth to reclaim the land, and restore it to its former glory. I was very impressed with the fact that children were involved through their school – what an important and amazing lesson for them to learn, and take with them throughout life. Truly, this is the sort of thing that should be taught in today’s schools; rather than teaching ‘bowling’ as a means for exercise, why not learn how to restore a river bank? Or plant trees? Or just get outside and see what’s out there? Peeling kids away from their electronics is essential if they’re ever going to feel a connection to the environment; right now far too many are lost in a digital world.

    • I appreciate your thoughts, Kim. I honestly hadn’t read your comments before posting my own, then I did read yours and realized we included much of the same information! I agree with you that it is important to teach children how to interact with nature and let them spend some time outside. I think a greater respect for the environment would be fostered if people appreciated, and realized, the benefits of a healthy environment more, by spending more time in it.

    • Great point, Kim– for that matter why not get physical activity of all types in this way rather than going to a gym?

  57. It was really nice to read this essay after having just finished its precursor, “Re-Storying the Northwestern Landscape.” How wonderful it is to see good things happen and people learning about the environment, stewardship, and culture. I think it is great that school-children are being involved in this effort. It is important to teach environmental values and an appreciation, respect, and understanding of different cultures to children as a part of the education process. Much can be learned about respect and understanding for others and nature by learning the history of indigenous peoples and landscapes.

  58. Dr Holden, I enjoyed the story of a reclamation of a place previously harmed by humans. I especially admire the people’s determination to remain attached and live on the land that they feel they are a part of. Back in 2000, near my hometown of Ashland, OR the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument became a reality, giving legal protection to an area of incredible beauty and biodiversity. At the time I was 12 and remember being shocked that people wanted to farm, develop, and run cattle on a place that already had so much natural life. I never did hike or see the area for myself until I hiked pilot rock just a few months ago. The view from there is spectacular and made me appreciate the work that was done to protect it, and others like it in nature. The ever persistent quest to develop new lands to accommodate our ridiculous human numbers and lifestyles is the biggest thing that I fear in my lifetime. I hope that the efforts to conserve and protect areas that have meaning for humans and non-humans alike out pace those of developers and others looking to exploit the Earth for profit.

    • Thanks for sharing this heartfelt stance, Mark. If more of us had perspective on the “ridiculous” character of particular human actions, we might use that to make better choices. You do have reason to fear, but also to hope– look, for instance, at how many think as you do here. Your own values and choices make a difference: we need all the good will and good acts toward our shared earth we can muster at this point.

  59. Reclaiming the area is wonderful and this is something that has been going on on the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge here in WA for a few years (maybe longer but I have only lived here a few years). They also have school children come in for field trips to help out and learn about the area and the valuable services it provides. I think that in order for our society to change its worldview, allowing children to learn about different views is the best way. I don’t want my children to follow in my beliefs because I am their mom; I want them to make up their own minds but I hope that I can present them with all the tools and knowledge they need to make educated and compassionate decisions.
    I also really liked what Baumgartner said ““if the people forget how to praise God, the trees, moving in the wind, alive and growing, do it. The ocean, rolling in and rolling in, over and over again, does it.” I think that says a lot about thanking the earth for what it has given us, because when you thank the earth you are thanking the creator.

    • Very nice perspective, Brandie. The Nisqually Refuge is a magnificent place–and also magnificent is the inspiring struggle of Nisqually elders like Billy Frank jr. for the fishing rights and the rights of the fish in Northwest rivers.

  60. It has been very heartening this week to see that some of the dams in Washington are being demolished.




    Restoration of the land and its inhabitants requires ongoing education, awareness, and instilling a deep sense of intimacy with the land in our children and adults. Western worldviews are changing it would seem and there may be some light at the proverbial “end of the tunnel.” But we still have a long way to go to reclaim much of what has been destroyed, and we will never get back what we have lost forever, like extinct species.

    We should all celebrate our successes in reshaping our culture, but we should also mourn the centuries of misuse. Let us not forget the most recent tragedy of the Gulf oil spill.

    • Indeed, let us not forget this oil spill as the US government is hastening to give out more drilling permits…
      It is encouraging that we are freeing our waters and encouraging the return of the salmon.

  61. Though I have the feeling that such a novel would be really schlocky, trying to reach too far, I think it would be interesting to read a novel in which Americans (especially the government representatives), instead of being so overwhelmingly arrogant (as presented in the stories about Stevens), learned the ways of the native peoples and figured out how to live peacefully with them from the beginning. It makes me sad that the American culture is only just starting to learn to appreciate the wisdom offered by the indigenous cultures across this continent. I wish history had gone otherwise. Better late than never, I suppose, though we’re still waging and uphill battle.
    I’m really glad that your relationship with this land has such a happy turn of events.

  62. After having finished the story before this, “Re-storying the Northwestern Landscape” it was really nice to hear what had happened to the land. It is nice to hear and see things that are going on around the world to help bring nature a little bit back to the way that it used to be. Events like the removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River are an amazing step in the right direction.

    • Justin,

      The removal of the Condit Dam is a very hopeful sign for the region, hopefully a trend can be set with such events that help restore the land, water, and air.

    • Justin I agree after reading this story it is really nice to hear that things are slowly changing in this world. Hopefully more area’s on this earth with either be left untouched or given the chance to change back to how they used to be. Most modern individuals don’t understand how important it is to have natural area’s untouched by humans that are free to thrive.

  63. Dr. Holden,

    Thank you for a wonderfully insightful story. It is always hopeful to see land protected, especially in areas of such cultural significance. The interim time between your initial stories and the eventual preservation is an example of, and shows just how much of the rest of the world is degrading. I am proud of the people that stayed on their land after declining the Grays Harbor Treaty and how they fought to stay on the land of their ancestors. That is so important. I wish more stories like that could be told as well. Thank you.

  64. These stories keep tradition alive, they hold richness to areas that can be shared. I know when I go fishing on the Deschutes River I remember stories herd at each fishing whole, it makes me feel closer to the fish, the fishing spot and so I try hard to pick up my trash as well as others.

  65. It’s always nice to hear stories of redemption. I enjoyed hearing that the land in the stories of the previous article is now being taken care of by children as well as interested groups.
    However, one point that struck me as both interesting and disturbing in the paragraph describing the “whites” yielding to the “power of the predecessors” was the continued use of the racial description of “whites”. It certainly heIps me understand how people of color feel being called “black” or “red”. Being called “white” had never before made me feel uncomfortable, being lumped together as one color. I think, in the context of this story, and in the context of this class, it is properly used, but certainly caused me to pause and take some time to think about our “white” ghostliness.

    • I understand your response, Bev–and would point out that the term “whites” here was self-description on the part of the pioneers learned from the latter. So those old stories are full of “whites” and sometimes, “red men” as well as Indians.

  66. I think that it is great that the members of the Grays Harbor Audubon Society raised the money to conserve and restore the land that is awesome. I think that today we realize the importance of saving certain parts of the world but we should do this for the whole world instead of just parts of it. It was nice to hear how helpful the natives were with their pioneer neighbors. I was also surprised to hear that some of the pioneers took on the thinking of the natives. I wonder why the native’s values were lost and not passed on through more generations of pioneers. You are right all we hear in history books is how brutal the Native Americans were to the pioneers but in fact that was not the case very sad.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Christi. I think that there at least three reasons why we don’t hear more of these stories. After the large wave of pioneers came into this area, many native peoples were forcibly moved onto reservations where they did not have contact with the larger pioneer population; moreover, we don’t tend to share such oral traditions in our culture and those who kept these memories of sharing were not those who tended to write our history. As they put it, “The winners write history and the rest of us just live it.”

    • Ya when I read your comment I think about the saying “keep your friends close but keep for enemies closer.” This is so true. In addition, we must love our neighbors and love those we hate. I think the natives are a great example of this. Even though many natives might have been scared of incoming pioneers they still were helpful.

      To answer your question. I think that history is a prime example of survival of the fittest. There has to be a dominant gene/race or group. In this case, European Americans were the ones that overpowered others. Then instilled fear among their people to hate other races. If people believe the natives are savages than they were more likely to take their land and find a reason to validate/support their actions. The mind is a powerful tool. What may seem like a generalization may turn into a stereotype/racism or hatred. Therefore, it makes it hard for the values of the natives to be passed down to Europeans when so many alread had the belief they were savages and not human.

      • Well, I kinda agree with your idea that We must love our neighbors and love those we hate. We do obtain knowledge and idea from our neighbors but also potentially we might get these from people we hate because each people used to grow up from different paths. Each family have different culture even though people live in same planet.

  67. Very important point Christi! (White) history taught in the US is very one sided in many instances.. Two examples I can think of are–Custer’s Last Stand and The Cherokee Trail of Tears. The Cherokee people are still angry at Andrew Jackson for his role in this and many will not even use a five dollar bill–all these generations later.

    • I would just like to say that those two examples had nothing to do with pioneers. They were the US Army. Yes i have heard how Native Americans raided farm land, wagon trails and forts but those were only a few tribes. Just as some pioneers such as the British and early French pillaged Natives American lands.

      • And we might add, further, that the army in these early days often moved against pioneers as well. Perhaps some of you have heard of the Martial Law Controversy in Washington Territory, in which the first territorial governor, Isaac Stevens, rounded up and arrested certain pioneers for “colluding with the enemy”. Their crime? Sharing Thanksgiving dinner with them. When the local militia (which also consisted of pioneers) refused to arrest, he asked the territorial militia to go after them, and when the courts dismissed the charges, he declared martial law so the court decision did not count.
        There have been some bad actors on all sides– such as those who attacked wagon trains dressed up as Indians–who were really non-Indian bandits, but wanted to pass the blame off on Indians so they would not be identified. This was actually fairly common.

    • One of the best books in this regard is the “Lies my Teacher Told Me” series, which also documents the problems with textbook choices in K-12.

  68. I knew that Native Americans at times helped out the pioneers. Sadly some reasons were for greed or hatred towards another tribe. I was amazed by the telling of how on white baby was nursed by native women. Yes times were hard but would not be able to give up my daughter. I liked how at the end it say holding on to grief may lead to complacency or laziness. We shouldn’t dwell on the bad things but we should remember and grow from it.

    • Balanced perspective, Francisco. Thanks for sharing it.
      Hearing the story of this woman (she was one of the kindest women I have met) and how she inherited the “love of children” from her grandmother, I was touched indeed. I think stories such as these are important to keep. By the way, it is her words that are on the sidebar here about how if humans forget to praise God, the trees and ocean will do it.
      Any community suffers a great loss if it dismisses its elders– I have met so many amazing elders of all traditions (that includes non-Indians).

  69. It’s hard to understand how spirits or the spirit is in nature? Is it possible that irritational science might take place? Read these quotes below and let me know what you think. If we can believe that nature is alive and can talk to us than maybe there is some truth in shape shifting and other unexplained circumstances in science or that science ccan’t explain.

    Check out the quotes below!!!!

    “Some mythical creatures, have their origin in tradition and some might be living in distant past. However each culture is associated with a multitude of such creatures, many of them being humanoids. Literally, there are thousands of legendary humanoid creatures that might have in real or believed to be lurked upon our planet but we shall tell here the tales of the most popular ones integrated in various cultures.”

    1. Gog and Magog

    Source: From the website smashing lists titled “30 Famous Humanoid Creatures”

    “Gog Magog appear in the Qur’an, Book of Genesis, the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation. They are variously presented as supernatural beings, demons or national groups that lurked upon the land. Gog and Magog occur widely in mythology and folklore and their existence is accepted by many religions including Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The widely accepted belief both in Christianity and Islam holds that “He of the Two Horns” (a great and righteous ruler) or Two Ages (one who impacts on two ages) travelled the world in three directions, until he found a tribe threatened by Gog and Magog, who were of an “evil and destructive nature” and “caused great corruption on earth.” The people offered tribute in exchange for protection, he agreed to help them, but refused the tribute; he constructed a great wall that the hostile nations were unable to penetrate. They will be trapped there until doomsday, and their escape will be a sign of the end: “The War of Gog and Magog” would precede the return of Jesus. “

    • Hi Brianna, I am sorry that this website appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with this essay as far as I see.

      • I think Brianna is probably referring to the pioneers who wouldn’t enter their house because there were spirits in it. Though I don’t think the reference to Gog and Magog is relevant to that. Maybe she is referring to the spirits in nature generally? Though, it seems a stretch and I don’t think that is what the Natives mean when they speak of the spirits and life of the land.

  70. It is great to see the land is protected and mistake can be repaired. Some feelings of guilt lead people to repair their mistake. Well, it is better than doing nothing. However, I feel that people should act without feeling any guilt. I mean it should be taken as a matter of course. The story reminds me the issue capitalization versus maintain the original condition in special place (around world heritage site). Some people want to capitalize for tourists, because tourists give huge economic impact on countries. However, there are many issues behind capitalization, such as environmental issue. Once people break original shape it is very hard to repair so we need to think about it before we take any actions.

    • Great point about acting responsibly “as a matter of course” rather than because of guilt.
      Your example of the “capitalization” of potential tourist sites brings up a parallel issue as to whether we want to honor the natural world for its own intrinsic worth–or because of the profit it brings to us (including doing away with our sense of guilt?)

  71. Very touching. I agree that it is so important to tell and retell the stories of the past. To learn from the elders and heed their warnings and wisdom. Change is hard to accept. Land should not be taken from anyone. It is good to see people restoring and taking care of the land. Maybe it can be an inspiration to others who would do the same.

    • Thanks for your comment, Summer. I think we very much need this kind of inspiration– and my acting on it, we can inspire others in turn.

    • Hi Summer.

      I agree with you, telling the stories of the past is crucial. The stories often will have lessons from the past that we can learn from and implement in our current lives so we don’t make the same mistakes.
      Inspiration is usually what leads the way! Hopefully, as you say others will be inspired to do the same and make a difference.

  72. This story gives me hope. It was very nice to see that the land had been restored to it’s previous state. The other thing that stood out to me in this was how the school children were participating in the watchdog projects. That is so important that the young are getting involved early and will be able to continue the work as they grow older and will have a much deeper appreciation for the land and hopefully that inspires the newer classes coming in.

  73. What a powerful story. During my upbringing many elders told me stories about the ways of our people; those stories carry me through when I am faced with a challenge in life. Often times I can remember when I was a child and an elder caught me doing something I wasn’t suppose to be doing, there was always a lesson in the consequences.

    I fear the stories I know will one day be lost, as the world progresses and becomes farther and farther away from nature the stories we tell or are told will become less likely to be understood.

    For local students interested in learning more about local natives and why they tell stories here is an upcoming event:
    Earth and Spirit Council: Workshop – Why We Tell Stories with Baba Wague Diakite
    March 10, 2012 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
    Location: First United Methodist Church, 1838 Southwest Jefferson Street, Portland, OR
    Cost: $50 Registration at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/227640
    Contact: Larry Hawk, 503.789.3557, hawk@earthandspirit.org
    Website: http://www.earthandspirit.org

    Diakité’s workshop, Why We Tell Stories, will introduce participants to his home country of Mali and discuss the importance of storytelling as a tool for imparting knowledge. He will tell short stories and then open up the workshop to a writing exercise entitled “Flexing Your Mind: Collaborative Storytelling”. More information about Baba Wagué Diakité is available at http://www.ko-falen.org.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Danielle! And as long as you continue to hold your inherited stories close to you and retell them to others in your family, they will not be lost.
      If you get a chance to read and respond to the “folklore and oral tradition” page here, it would be great to get your feedback.

  74. It is wonderful that in some ways we are turning full circle. The experience of seeing the Humptulips River in a state of decay and disorder after a 30 year absence is exclipsed by a different story; that somewhere along the way the story of the land was honored and placed again in stewardship.

    “Of all the times that native peoples bowed to the will of the US government, it is a matter of balance to remember that sometimes, whites must bend, as Stevens unwittingly did in that moment, to the power of their predecessors on this land. According to Baumgartner and Cultee both, there are spirits on this land with which whites need to become acquainted in order to survive.” This is an impactful quote to me which nudges me to remember to bow to the spirits of this land and act in a responsible, balanced manner.

    • Thank you, Justin. It is an important personal choice to “bow to the spirits of the land and act in a responsible, balanced manner.” And perhaps in this statement, you have gone a distance toward answering the question in your comment before this in response to “re-storying…”

  75. For me, the importance of this essay is that it reminds us that yes, there is hope for the future. Yes, the site on the Humptulips river had been degraded.. but we can look to the future to see it restored as it should be, and hopefully it will, if it doesn’t already, maintain a strong plant, fish and wildlife population throughout the reserve.

    Hopefully this is indicative that there are people listening to the land, and in this particular case, they heard the cries of the land and thus did what they needed to do to try to restore it to its former splendor.

    I would also like to think that as time goes on and more people are becoming environmentally aware, this idea of conserving land and resources for its own sake (such as establishing a essential bird habitat), rather than solely for local humans’ benefit, is taking hold and becoming more pervasive. It does seem to me that more and more people I meet along the way believe in this idea and understand the intrinsic value of nature. A good sign for the future? I hope so!

    • Thanks for sharing your own hope for our future, Jillian. I think you are right that more and more people are becoming aware of our place in the natural world and reliance on it– and this can only be hopeful. It also sounds like you are helping to spread the word, both in your work and your community.

    • Jillian, there is hope for the future I agree with you, but the change needs to start now rather than later simply because there are those who care and wan to see our planet grow and give our future generations something to live by. By conserving as much as we can we will create that safe location to live and prosper as a whole. Great points Jilllian

      • And great balance: we do need to start the change and healing we need NOW– and there is also hope for the future as we move in this direction along with so many others.

    • I agree, this does exhibit a positive step toward the future and I think the future of the environment has become more of an urgency to many people. As we begin to value nature more and more, we will hopefully place more energy on preservation and conservation of natural resources. This may also go hand in hand with defining a system of reciprocity for western society to learn about.

      • Once again, reciprocity is an important concept here– after all, it is the basis for ethical systems throughout the world, not to mention the physical laws of the natural world. Thanks for your comment.

  76. Dr. Holden,

    The words of Henry Cultee were impressing, in how traditional people urged leaving a place as clean as one found it. In my opinion we are doing the opposite with the pollution and destruction of lands. We have done more harm to this land than good, even now as we are beginning to preserve land and protecting it from outside influences we still have a long way to go to reverse the damage we have already done, but a great way to understand it and help fix our wrongs is by following the traditions of the natives because they are the ones who know this land better than us. Yet the one thing we can do is tell the stories to understand the past and avoid the mistakes in the future. There are still people who care and have helped recover the land as well being able to stem and change the wearing down of the land to our precious resources. As I now have family my goal is to have them understand the beauties of the land and help this world by introducing a person who cares for it as much as I do, as Henry told the two boys you towed, “ This is what you should be learning in school” as he showed them how he mended his nest. I believe that this is something we should learn in school because the younger you learn it the more you will love it and grow with it. Again, thank you for sharing such wonderful stories with us, not only does it give us a glimpse of what is out there but how to embrace it.

    • You are right about the responsibility and power of passing on these stories, Moises. It is great that you are setting family goals of “understanding the beauties of the land”. We also need to teach our children practical skills and knowledge, such as where our food comes from, to enable them to make good decisions when they assume maturity in our community.
      Thank you for such a generous response– the way traditional stories go, it is up to the audience to embrace and pass on those stories– so give yourself some credit for the quality of attention with which you have read these stories.

    • I agree that a great way to avoid mistakes in the future is ultimately learn from the past! Traditional stories that are passed down the generations are an excellent way to preserve this type of knowledge and understanding (who doesn’t like a good story?)

      • Who, indeed, doesn’t like a good story–and those cultures able to learn from the past by collecting and passing on their wisdom in story are those that seem to have the longest track record of survival.

  77. This is a great update to “Re-storing theNorthwestern Landscape”, I am very glad to hear that the land is now a reserve. I think it is important to see what good we can do as humans to counteract the bad. The natives helped the pioneers when they first moved her, it almost seems like a small way to give back to the Chehalis people from the ancestors of the pioneers.

    • Thanks for your comment, Gina. We might note that this is not Chehalis (tribal) land, but it is cared for in a public trust.

      • It is in public trust but at least we are trying to make a step in the right direction by protecting tribal lands. Many tribes not recognized by the government are trying to gain their rights as a tribe, and maybe when they do these public lands can more easily be returned to them, and in better condition than they might have been.

        • Good point, Rachel. There are also those (like the Wintu) who have specifically chosen NOT to be legally recognized by the US government, since they feel their tribal identity transcends. That also, however, makes it more difficult for them to gain their rights in certain arenas.

    • I was surprised to hear the natives helped the pioneers, especially with caring for children. The natives were such caring people and the more I learn about their beautiful hearts the worse it is to hear about all the terrible things that the white men did to hurt the natives.

  78. I really enjoyed reading this essay, I really enjoy when we go to sun river and get to walk by the parts that are wildlife reserve lands and see them every could years how they have changed. Its always nice to see that some parts of this earth can be saved and restored to their natural state.

  79. I enjoyed reading about a real example where humans are making a positive impact on the environment. We hear so many stories now about animals becoming endangered and ecosystems changing. Both my parents work in the environmental field so I have grown up hearing about all the bad things humans do to this land. It is to hear once in a while about the landscape that is actually being changed for the better. I think people are finally starting to realize the mistakes of our kind. Although we cannot go back and erase all the damage that we have done, it is a good start to try and preserve some of what we should leave untouched.

    • Great, Sara. I agree that we need positive and hopeful stories– especially since those may be seldom reported. I have suggested this to another commentator here, but check out YES magazine (you can look at it online)– there is much good news throughout it that can act as inspiration to us all.

  80. The preservation of culture is just as important as the preservation of the land, especially since in many cultures the two are linked. As an archaeology student I have heard many of my professors talk about digs they have done on Native American sites here in the Northwest. If they know the tribe that created the site they hire as many of the tribe members as they can to help with the digging. They also invite the tribal elders to come by the excavations at any time to oversee what is going on. One of my professors is particularly moved when they come, because they usually do so in traditional clothing and to see them in old houses is like seeing an image from the past. The way he puts it is that he is helping them to regain their culture. Admirable as this might be I think the wording needs to be a little better. We are trying desperately to redeem ourselves and helping them to regain what our foolish ancestors destroyed. I hope that the sentiment of restoring what we destroyed will also carry over into our treatment of the land.

    • Great point about the preservation of culture and land, Rachel– although i like to use the word “survival” in place of “preservation”, since I have worked more with living people and “preservation” can connote a stagnant museum piece. culture and land are living things.
      I do think your professors’ sharing of their “digs” with local native peoples is an important first step in the right direction: the right for native people to be involved in this way is just beginning to be recognized. It was not until the 1970s that the right to the remains of their ancestors was legally protected.

  81. A few places come to mind to me when I read this story. Whenever i venture back home (Wallowa/Blue Mountains), I usually take a trip to some of these places either by myself or with one other person. I can’t explain why, but being in that environment just puts a sense of peace and relaxation on me. I would hate to see beautiful places like that destroyed. I also noticed a great point in this article. Our school “adopted” a couple of the highways near town, and we would go pick up trash once in a while. I think it’s a good idea for schools to implement that in many places, especially where it would be good for kids to learn about how much people actually waste and what it does to our environment.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal response to this essay, Miles–and helping to care for your part of ‘home”.
      I agree that the earlier we teach children intimacy with and responsibility for caring for the land, the better off both they and we are.

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