Several people forwarded me a link to “Salmon People: A tribe’s decades-long fight to take down the Lower Snake River dams and restore a way of life,” a fine article on the lower Snake River dams by Linda Mapes, published in the Seattle Times on Sunday, November 29. Nez Perce Tribal Chair Shannon Wheeler and Cultural Resources head Nakia Williamson are quoted extensively, and good photos, maps, and accounts of historic uses of fish and lamprey, treaties, and the devastation of fish runs by the dams on the main stem and tributaries of the Columbia River background a rich story of current tribal efforts to reinvigorate fish runs and remove dams.
In the last 2-3 weeks I have also received links to stories on the Real First Thanksgiving, articles on early colonial-Indian relations, and the state of Indian peoples across the nation right now, this Thanksgiviving.
Some of the senders read this blog, others know that I work in the Josephy Library, or know that I have been involved with the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland, or are just sending these links and stories because they have happened on something new in their own lives and want to share it.
The new is the old Indian story, the story of European conquest and Indian—the misname that stuck—survival. New is appreciation for different ways of looking at water, fire, and the world around us—the “Sweetgrass” of Robin Kemerer. New is a retreat from bigger and more are better, and an awakening by an epidemic disease—the latest in a string that goes back to smallpox, measles, typhoid, and the 1918 Influenza. And this new old story of how Europeans “conquered” America—another imported name—in large part due to the impact of the epidemic diseases they brought with them is now highlighted in texts of our beginnings as it has never been in the textbooks and histories of the nation.
There are so many good stories I could add to this, stories of “remapping” New Mexico in Native terms, growing support for the Lakotas in their fight for water, and stories right here of the return of the Nez Perce to this homeland.
Bravo! Keep listening, and keep sending me the links to an American past that is emerging from the shadows and an Indian present that has wisdom for us today.