Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Spirit of the River

The Spokane River is one of my favorite photographic subjects. My ancestors depended on the river until hydro-electric dams decimated the ancient salmon runs in the early 20th Century. Even still, I feel a certain kinship with the river.

I found the following quote about the spirit of the Spokane River from one of our tribal elders (now deceased) Alex Sherwood:

"I remember this river so well as it was before the dams. My father and grandfather used to tell me how it was before the white man came, when, right below where we are standing, Indians from all over would gather every year for the annual salmon fishery. It was beautiful then, with thousands coming for many miles. You could hear the shouting welcomes as they arrived, the dancing, the singing, the trading, the games, the races, always the hearty hugs - and the fish! The fish sometimes so thick that it seemed that they filled the river. Sometimes, even now, I find a lonely spot where the river still runs wild.

I find myself talking to it; I might ask, "River, do you remember how it used to be -- the game, the fish, the pure water, the roar of the falls, boats, canoes, fishing platforms? You fed and took care of our people then. For thousands of years we walked your banks and used your waters. You would always answer when our chiefs called to you with their prayer to the river spirit."

Sometimes I stand and shout, "River, do you remember us?"

Excerpt from The Spokane River, its Miles and its History, John Fahey with Robert Dellwo, p. 50-51.

Quoted at:


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