Water in Fire Country

The Okanogan River (left) Entering the Columbia

At the mouth of the Okanogan River, which begins with snow melting on the rocks above my house in mid-winter, water is privately owned, whether flooding the old Hudson Bay Company potato fields in the background right above, or the southern flats of the Colville Federated Tribes’ Territory (foreground left). That’s the way things work in this stretch of my valley: the bounty of the earth is transformed into individual wealth, which is then leveraged for profit. The only land-based health comes through the process of flooding you see above, which is called wilderness, a term to indicate the romance that silences native land in the West. Strangely enough, fires on private land alienated from water, are fought with public funds, just as the use of fear and public funds were used to fight imagined native aggression in 1858 and 1891 at the site in the image above. When there is talk of wilderness in this valley, it is talk of the dispossession of people and water, which are the same thing.

Where the Mountains Become Water

In my country, the rivers are born in the mountains. Here is born the Missouri, the Columbia, the Fraser and all their ancestors and all their daughters.

This particular mother is the Cascades: a sea bed melted in the deep earth and lifted into the sky by a younger sea. Look at its wave break in a crest of foam.

This is one of the old ones of the Columbia, the Washaptum. Here, the mountains become water again. Note how they turn to eggs of stone. Look how the current is the flick of a salmon’s tail. Look how the sun comes in waves. This is the wave trough. It is like the call of a whale.

Look how the water and the rock braid together in these depths. This is the deepest floor of the sun.

Look how water and sun and stone and sea mingle and part and mingle again in these depths. That’s how it’s done.

Since the beginning of civilization, long before the pharaohs, Owhi’s people, the Pisquouse, came here to meet the salmon the mountains were calling out of the distant Pacific where they fed on the sun. This is the power song. This is where fish make people.

Come, they called.

Come and be born.

These are the eggs of humans, as the mountains make them.

This is a man rising from the stream to breathe his sun.

This is what he sees when he looks back to his birth. This his mind and heart. These are his children’s children’s children’s children, calling for him to help them be born.

This is what we do here in Cascadia.

We are being born. Sometimes it means writing stories about all of this on our ancestral rocks, just as the pines do. Here the fish are born from the mind that is born from minding the fish.

Everything else is the dying. Does this sound fanciful to you? OK. What about this?

Poisoning the earth down the road from my house, in the Columbia Headwaters at Head of the Lake.

Maybe you like your royal gala apples with poison. When Woody Guthrie, the Traitor, sang his song, “Roll on Columbia…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20ZffI6by3A
This is the impounded river: a chain of shipping locks full of southern, warm water salmon-egg-eating-fish.

… he bragged that the Columbia River, the great salmon river of the world, would live on in the electrical grid, translated into pure energy. That’s part of that above. Here’s some more, on the Okanagan Lake Shore:

That’s what these stones …

… look like after Woody’s betrayal. Let us love each other again.

Let us be the children of the mountains again.

Reports of Father Pandosy Starving in 1846 Are Greatly Exaggerated

He’s the Boy from Marseilles, the French Oblate Priest who came on the Oregon Trail and started two of the first missions in Washington Territory, singing the whole time. His first was at the Chamna summer village at the mouth of the Yakima River. Reports were that he was starving. I think it’s fair to say that those were actual reports on the degree of racism within the speakers, because I was just there today and even now, with the delta gone, the river impounded, the salmon extirpated, the deer shot to bits, the shore full of radioactive sludge from the plutonium reactors upriver, the sturgeon slaughtered for fun and steaks (that would be like slaughtering T-Rex for steaks, so, yeah, duh), and so on, still, still, it’s a garden of plenty. There are birds, so many you can’t hear yourself think, and ducks and geese, loons and fish and bass boats and ant lions and pelicans and Mexican fishermen,  and look who found me in the middle of the day in the lone cottonwood on the island, in a grove of ingrown locusts and russian olives, despite everything.

P1840674 Owl on Bateman Island

No, what Pandosy’s supervisors were saying was that those darned Oblates and their obsessions with poverty and self-sacrifice were just going to go Indian and betray the White cause, or at least their political access to it. And so Pandosy did. He stopped a war with his friends the Yakamas and was hounded out of this rich land and away from its people by the U.S. Army, led by the future leaders of the Confederate Army and manned by a bunch of vigilantes it took the post-civil war army thirty years to get under control. Just an example of why it’s important to write history from what you’ve seen with your own eyes. In this case, look into the eyes of an owl and say it is not so.

Blood of the Earth

I live in the country of the Columbia River, above the lake that spills into one of its tributaries, the Okanogan River. In this country, there are many rivers like the Okanagan, such as the San Poil, the Kootenay, the Spokane, the Methow, the Wenatchee, the Snake, the John Day, the White Salmon, the Willamette, and the Young. That is just one small list of many rivers of energy pouring into one great stream that flows out to sea. Each draws the energy of a piece of land, some of them almost four billion years old, others countable in the tens of millions, together into one flow that pours straight into the Pacific, without a delta or a single shoal, only an underwater bar that brings the desert to the mouth of the sea. Today, I was in the John Day. It looks like this:

redhill

Heart of the Earth, John Day River Valley

And look what I found growing out of this old volcanic ash:

bitter2That’s right, bitter root, the most important foodstuff in this country. And she was blooming…

bitter3These are the blood of the land. Together, they flow into the water, and out of the water comes …

,,,our hearts, here in the Columbia Country, the red fish, in this case the Sockeye of N’kmp, that have gone home to Siberia and have come home to the Columbia. This is more than the maple trees of the East. This is everything.