A Weekly Offering of This n That

Rainy Day is my alter ego. She is the little angel that sits on one shoulder and whispers in my ear to forgo that 6" piece of triple chocolate fudge with the four scoops of ice cream on it; she is also the little devil who sits on my other shoulder and convinces me that I can eat just one bite of each and be satisfied, and then laughs with such great abandon when in fact, I eat the whole thing, she falls off my shoulder. Mostly, Rainy Day helps me see the humor in living and, mostly, she encourages me down the right path. Not necessarily the straight and narrow one (how fun is that?) but the path that offers the most adventure and fun.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Life Saving Acts of a Generous People

The Cayuse people were, as noted in several journals, a tall, clean, and proud people. They were also rich, and generous when they wished to be. And at all times, they were shrewd businessmen. They owned vast herds of horses, and traded or sold many horses, but never the best. The best, they kept.

They considered both horse and dog as sacred. The coyote was sacred, and they thought the dog descended from coyote, so it was also sacred. It was anathema to kill and or eat either dog or horse in their villages. When Marie and the men began to drag themselves out of the mountains and into the village, they were fed, and placed in warm tipis. They were so hungry, they didn't care what they ate, but soon, they wanted either horse or dog, as the salmon was too rich.

It is well documented that on the 12th January 1812, the Cayuse moved their village about 15 miles down the Umatilla River, leaving the Astorians where they were encamped to recuperate. No reason was given for the move, but I wonder if it was so the Astorians could now kill and eat the dogs and horses they purchased, and not break the taboos of the village. As it was no longer a village, the taboos would not be in effect. And to think that we called them savages!

Though still weak, the men recovered enough that they were able to again be on the move. On the 23d of January, they had made it to the Walla Walla village of Wallula, at the confluence of the Walla Walla River and the Columbia River where they crossed the Columbia to the north bank. No mention, that I found, of why they went down the north bank, unless it was the Indian Road, with the south bank being to difficult for whatever reason (perhaps it was harder to get down the cliffs to water? I don't know).

They met several tribes as they walked and rode downriver. All were poor in comparison to the Cayuse, and some were extremely generous, even though they had little to share. Others had turned thievery into high art, and took great pride in stealing what they could, and if caught, shrugged it off.

It was still winter, yet the journals I read commented on how mild the air felt, how warm the sun, how wonderful to be out of the bitter cold and the snow. (I live in this part of the country, and believe me, January can be bitter cold, even if there isn't snow, so I'm guessing this was possibly one of those exceptionally warm years. Ice storms are not uncommon along the river in the winter, and yet not once was one mentioned.)

As they progressed west, eventually Mt. Hood, Oregon, made her appearance. It must have looked much as this photo taken before the dams turned the river into a series of lakes.
I often wonder what they thought when they came to the Celilo Falls, or the Great Falls of the Columbia, a major fishing area for all the tribes. I remember the falls, before The Dalles Dam flooded them. I still cry when I think about it, but that's not Marie's story, that's mine. Through the Freedom of Information Act, reports (and I assume others) have now seen the documents that confirm some of the dams were built where they were precisely to force the Indians out of their traditional and treaty-granted fishing rights. The Indians did not move. They are still here. This photo shows lone fisherman during the final fishing season at Celilo Falls.

The Astorians went slowly, though Hunt was in a hurry to get to Fort Astor, allowing the weaker to travel with them. By the time they reached the village of Wishram, the last of their horses were either sold or stolen, and everyone, and what supplies they still had, were loaded in canoes. On the 10th of February, the winds through the Columbia Gorge let up enough that the party at last was underway on the final leg of their journey, in canoes.

Next week:  The Pacific Ocean.

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