First Peoples

After the Mountains are Levelled, What Then?

In a land made by water in the mountains …

Moses Coulee

… we’ve managed to straighten it out…


… and flatten it out.


The poles of power, representing human arms, are all that reaches up. Like the farms above, they too are framed by gravel.

Sweet Pea irrigation system. Pasco

The rails of human power, representing a human walking across a gap, are all that remains of distance.


And mountains broken into gravel. If we go east to Soap Lake, we can see the power of gravel at its greatest intensity. Here’s an old industrial loading yard, betrayed by history, still proudly bearing WWII on a pole. That’s a fine art installation, that covers most of the US-Cascadian history not covered by the image above.

Soap Lake Air Raid Siren

Now, look how the same gravel can be used to make a beach inviting!

You can see the crowds, I think.

The natural lake bottom and shore is black muck. People wade out from this beach to smear it on themselves for its healing properties. It looks like they are covered with tar. Gravel, as you can see, helps with that. Note how the one non-angular construction in this entire series is made from angles cleverly arranged. While adults (at the picnic table) might enjoy shade from the sun, the kids are given the shade of metal and angles. They have to get used to it somehow. The adults? They are here in retirement, looking for that sun. Oh, here it is, a day’s drive to the south:

John Day Painted Hills

This is a park to be observed. It’s gorgeous, but frustrating. You want to become the hills, but you can’t. They’re totally off limits, and what would you do with them anyway? Level them? Plant them in peach trees?

John Day Fossil Bed

No. Simply, there is nothing you can do. It was just a bad idea.

Sorry. Oh, there is one thing. In his bitter exile in Northern Washington, Chief Joseph would ride off to Soap Lake, just as he used to do to Lolo Lake on the Camas Prairie in Nimiipu’u Country, where he went for one last camp before surrendering his ancestral lands, and from which he was leveraged into war instead. Soap Lake is, I think, key to the social puzzle of Cascadian history.

Especially when linked to Ktlil’x above So’yoos.

There are waters, in which one can step into the sun. They are the ones that hold the way forward.

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