The Purpose of Education and Indigenous Identity

Welcome to the Wallula Gap.

That’s the impounded Columbia River, in its old bed there. The gap between the cliffs is so narrow that the 300 foot deep flood wave from the melting ice age that pooled in Idaho and Montana and then broke out all of a sudden took over two days to pour through it, after it backed up here and a hundred miles to the west and east. Old Fort Nez Perce is off to the left, underwater. Dams will do that.


No, this marker does not mark the place. Don’t be fooled.

It was at Fort Nez Perce that the Nimíipuu (renamed the Nez Perce by someone who had never met a Nimíipuu. No, they did not pierce their noses) tried to get the first fur traders to pay for the timber they had cut off of Nimíipuu land and used to build their fort. The traders laughed at their gall, although gall it was not.


Fort Nez Perce, 1853 Source

The Nk’mp salmon of my river in the north swim through this gap to come home, over flooded Umatilla fishing stations most of the way, and eventually over nine main stem dams on the Columbia. The plutonium reactors are about sixty miles north. The tanker cars here are supplying bleaching agents to the pulp mill just off to the right, which is still harvesting Nimíipuu trees, after pretty close to 200 years now. The mouth of the Walla Walla River is to the left, and the home of the Cayuse, the Walla Wallas, the Touchets and the Sinkiuse peoples, who suffered untold tragedy so these trains could be here.


The tops of the plateau on either side of the river are part of the Horse Heaven Hills, which stretch from the Cascades to the Blue Mountains and, yes, used to be full of horses.The purpose of education in a racial state is to make sure you see this series of social transgressions as place. It is a convenient way of eliminating indigenous thinking from young minds. It is the trains they are being trained to belong to. As for “place”, in contemporary intellectual society, it doesn’t exist. That’s how successful the North American education project is. This place, for example, doesn’t exist …


… quite literally, because the grassland has been grazed off, the flatland is watered from deep wells, to grow alfalfa, peas and potatoes, and the hills are used to farm the wind. That’s pretty placeless. Plus, No Trespassing. Below is the river closer up, at its confluence with the Yakima, just to the north. Here, at least, you are allowed to walk.


What’s that on the water? Ah.


Just because. Behind that screen of trees are the freeways of Richland, the city that made the plutonium that made the Bomb. The nature you see here is a collection of weeds fed by impounded water, which have filled in the outskirts of the old Chamna Fishing camp of the Yakama, Sinkiuse, Walla Wallas and Cayuse people. The centre of the camp is an alfalfa field now. This is not the world that the first settlers here, the Oblate fathers Pandosy and Richard, saw in 1847. There was no “nature” then. You didn’t have to be put to shame by a dog.


P1840782The place is called the Tri-Cities Region. That’s not what it is. What it is has no words, because in nearly 200 years nobody has talked about it. Most of the wheat of the United States is barged on the impounded lakes of this former great river. Here’s a local resident.P1840674

Once the local residents were people. Wherever you find nature, you will find the people missing. It’s how nature is made. It’s the same with education. This isn’t history. History is about rail cars.


History. Not Moving at Wallula, Washington.

This is about your life. It is time to get out of the classroom. It is time to start living here.

4 replies »

  1. I wish I lived in your neighbourhood. I would like to help organize a road-show in which you could show these photos and tell these stories to anyone willing to listen – in community centres, churches or temples, schools or daycare centres. From a distance, I would certainly be willing to contribute money to help pay you, space rental and transportation. Are there other readers willing to help in ways like this?


    • I don’t know. I haven’t asked.

      You may have guessed, but I’m not particularly interested in telling people to look at me. I’d sure love to take people on walks and tours, though, but I can’t afford to subsidize all this.

      Thanks for the generous comment.




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