Narrator: Chuck Williams, Author of Bridge
of the Gods: A Return to the Columbia Gorge,
published by Friends of the Earth in 1980
Interviewer: Kathy Tucker
Date: Apr. 26, 2000
Place: The Dalles, Oregon
The following transcription contains portions of the taped interview.
[Begin Side A, Tape 1 of 2]
KT: This is Kathy Tucker interviewing Chuck Williams on April 26, 2000, and Lisa Hubbard is here listening, you can sit down in the chair if that's more comfortable, and I'm just going to check the volume, turn it up a little. Check everything. All right.
KT: Yeah, you've been interviewed a lot it seems like.
KT: It's very generous of you to let us interview you yet again today. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about yourself, how old you are and your occupation.
CW: Sure. I'm fifty-six, was born here in Oregon, I'm a photographer and writer and I own a Columbia Gorge gallery in the Dalles, uh, it's primarily what I try to do.
KT: How long have you been a photographer?
CW: I've been a photographer professionally for about thirty years. I just did nature photography for the first twenty and for the last ten I've primarily been doing people and festivals, and such.
KT: What drew you to photography?
CW: Oh, I've always been an artist all my life. I was always the school artist for the school papers and such, and the I was an engineer when I was nineteen and was in mid-level management by twenty-two and by twenty-five I said the heck with it and went in the Peace Corps and then Vista and I went camping then for seven years, and I was a painter, just kind of a hobby painter and I taught myself photography because you couldn't backpack and paint. It wasn't very compatible living in a van, so I just took up photography sort of as a substitute and now I do it pretty much full time.
KT: Where were you in the Peace Corps?
CT: Dominican Republic. But I was only in there a year and then it didn't work out either from my perspective or they didn't like me there 'cause I was too radical, and I didn't like it 'cause I had my hands tied, it was after Johnson had sent the Marines in so both countries wanted Peace Corps there but they set it up where you couldn't ever do anything, I was supposed to be doing community organizing, if I got caught talking to more than two people at once the police would break it up for being a communist meeting, so I just finally quit and went into Vista and that was just the opposite experience. I worked with Chicano gangs in El Paso and ended up the big brother of the biggest gang in El Paso, it was a really productive-- I mean it was a tense year, but ended all the gang fights and got them all GEDs and jobs, and accomplished a lot.
KT: I don't think I know exactly what Vista is.
CW: It's the domestic Peace Corps. Now it's an arm of Americorps, it's just like the Peace Corps except it's one year instead of two and you work in the United States on reservations or ghettos or something like that.
KT: That's sounds really cool.
CW: It was. I mean it was very tense. I had people trying to kill me, I had police staked out, it was a very tense year, but I accomplished more than I ever dreamed I could have, it was a wonderful experience.
KT: You are part Cascade Indian.
CW: Yeah, my dad's Cascade Indian, my mom's white.
KT: And I looked at your book and...
CW: Good. Anyone who interviews me, I won't do it 'til they read my book [laughs]
KT: That's reasonable.
CW: [Laughs] Yeah, then come back and talk to me.
KT: And so your great-grandmother was Kalliah.
CW: Kalliah, yeah. Indian Mary. They have courts and roads named after her. Her father was Tumulth who signed the Grand Ronde Treaty in 1855 and was hung a few months later by Phil Sheridan in the Army.
KT: As part of the retribution for the Cascades "Massacre?"
CW: Right, well yeah. Evidently some Klickitats, people came down from Yakama and attacked it and some got away, and Phil Sheridan, who's famous for the quote 'The only good Indian's a dead Indian,' was a lieutenant at Fort Vancouver at the time and was the head of the Dragoons and soon they came up the river to rescue 'em and so the Indians that had attacked the place took off and so The Cascades didn't flee 'cause they had just signed the treaty so they figured they were kind of exempt from it, and he needed a scape goat so he hung nine of the leaders, including my great-great-grandpa who was the head chief, and the trial consisted of Sheridan putting his finger in my great-great-grandpa's gun had been fired recently so he hung him in the spot. I guess seeing justice was so bad that my great-grandma she was only five or six at the time-- but her older sister was a teenager and the soldiers took up a collection of gold and gave it to his oldest daughter, my aunt which she saved 'til the end of her life and bought a tombstone for her husband like seventy years later [laughs], but for soldiers in that era to feel so guilty that they would help out the family of someone who-- it had to be a pretty bad injustice.
KT: Yeah. It really seems like the Cascades, and this stuff, really has been not written much about by scholars.
CW: No. Well, and when they do, there's a book over there, the one by Ruby and Brown...
KT: About the Chinook or...
CW: No, it's the one they did on he Northwest reservations, the middle one there.
KT: Oh yeah.
CW: Anyway they have a chapter in there on the Cascades and the last sentence is 'the Cascade Indians are now extinct.' In fact I was reading that and my cousin, Pat Gould you know the basket-maker...
KT: I don't know.
CW: Yeah, she's a Wasco basket-maker, she had just called me up and I said 'You can't be talkin' to me, I just read that we're extinct.' The Yakama Review had an article about the Cascades, 'cause we're a real controversy about whether we're going to be enrolled there, we used to be enrolled there, my grandma, my great-grandma, nine of my ten aunts and uncles were enrolled there but my dad and one other sister weren't allowed to be so we ended up in Grand Ronde, which used to be bad, now it's a little more lucrative [laughs]. I get free health insurance, elder's pension now from our casino, but now they enroll Cascades again. So for about a three year period two out of three issues of the paper had articles about the Cascades, whether of not they're going to be enrolled so I don't know how anyone living in that area who's an expert on Indians could not have known that we still exist.
KT: They've really been overlooked.
CW: Yeah, oh totally. Well my book really-- I mean I know a lot of Indians who are Cascade would call themselves other things until my book came out and, proud to say, that's one of the effects of my book was that it really brought out the Cascades as a people.
KT: That's great.
CW: 'Cause we were kind of being lost as an entity.
KT: Did you know your grandmother?
CW: Yeah, but I was about nine or ten when she died so I wasn't old enough to ask her all the questions. My dad was the youngest of eleven so by the time I was born she was pretty elderly and so, but. So most of the knowledge I have from her is second hand through my parents, you know I remember her fine but I wasn't old enough to ask her the questions. This is kind of ironic, even though I was one of how many grandchildren, you know, since my dad was the youngest of eleven I had a lot of cousins already born, and even though I'm real light-skinned my grandma told my parents that I was the most Indian of all of her grandkids [laughs], mentally, I was the most Indian of all of her grandkids and that proved out [laughs].
KT: Yeah? Why is that?
CW: Oh, that's where my mind is and my heart, that's the world I live primarily in and think that way and such, and so that's why I ended up living more within the Indian world than anyone else in the family of my generation, so.
KT: Was there anything about you then that she noticed, anything specific?
CW: I'm not sure. I'm sure a lot of it was just ties to nature and stuff and such.
KT: Were you interested in nature?
CW: Oh yeah, just lived for it when I was a kid. Yeah my grandma, two things she loved to do was walk out in nature and play poker [laughs], those were her two favorite two pastimes.
KT: What do you remember about your grandmother as far as how she was.
CW: Well, we had moved down to California when I was in third grade so my memories of her were more from summer trips back up, I wasn't around her all the time. And I don't have-- I mean, I remember her visually real well, but I don't have a lot of memories of her actions and such to be honest [laughs], unfortunately. When you're young you don't file that away.
KT: Do you remember how you thought of her, I mean did you think of her as exotic as opposed to your other grandparents, or was it always natural?
CW: No. Yeah, it was always natural. I mean I was raised to be proud. It was kind of sad, my dad's older brothers and sisters grew up in a really rough time, and where a lot of the half-breed people lived around Skamania and whenever they'd go up to Stevenson-- it was ten miles away-- the white kids would throw rocks at them and beat them up and scream at them that they're siwashes, which fortunately has kind of died out, but it was equivalent to nigger at that time that they used towards Indians and so the traditional Indians didn't accept them because they were white educated and so there was like a whole colony there of mixed blood people that didn't fit into either culture so it was kind of a tough upbringing; I even had a couple of aunts who moved away and just totally dropped their Indian heritage, you know they just suffered every day growing up, and they just couldn't wait to live someplace where they weren't discriminated against for being Indian, and then younger ones in the family, like my dad, he was just in your face, a sort of wild person, but he was always really proud, but he was the youngest and you could see the transition going down the ages of what they put up with. He still has a lot of grief but he was really proud of it, you know.
KT: I was going to ask you how your father identified himself.
CW: Oh, definitely Indian, no bones about it. He was kind of the family's oral historian of his generation and such, which is one reason why I had such a wealth of knowledge, was that he was the one it was all passed down through, primarily the one.
KT: At he, at some point, became enrolled with the Grand Ronde.
CW: Yeah, it was when it got restored, and I helped him get restored...
KT: The Grand Ronde?
CW: Yeah, my grandma and great-grandma. When my great-great-grandpa was hanged his wife that was my great-great-grandma who was Wishkum, and all the Indians in the Gorge were rounded up and the ones north of the river were sent to Yakama, and the ones south of the river were sent to Warm Springs. For instance if there were two brothers and one of them was rounded up on the north side they'd be sent to Yakama and were called Wishwrams, and if they were on the south side of the river they were sent to Warm Springs and they were called Wascos and they'd be the same family, people who were totally, and um, most people don't understand the Grand Ronde Treaty goes up to Cascades Locks, and the crest of the Cascades in Oregon is the divider between the seated lands between the Grand Ronde and the Warm Springs, and then on the Washington side Yakama comes down not quite to the Cascades, but to the Little White Salmon and then west of there Washington's unseated lands, never been seated in a treaty, so our village is basically where those three reservations came together, so probably the majority of Cascades were sent to Yakama, but a lot went to Warm Springs. Jackson, who's on the Warm Springs Council, he's my uncle and a probably a third of the Wascos up there at Warm Springs are relatives of mine, and not many were sent to Grand Ronde because the reservation was put clear out near the ocean. The main purpose of the treaty was to get the Indians out of the Willamette Valley to open it up for development, you know for homesteaders to come in. And so it was so far away from the Cascades that virtually none of the Cascades ended up out there, a lot of our relatives did that were Clackamas, people where Oregon City is now that were very closely related to us ended up at Grand Ronde, but most of us ended up at Yakama, so.
KT: What I understand about Native American families, and Native American bands, is that intermarriage and being related to a wide group of people is very common?
CW: Oh, very common, and if I went into a room of a hundred Wascos, thirty of them would be my relatives [laughs], so everyone's just related to everyone and that goes back historically in pre-contact times. We weren't a tribe like you think of a tribe. In fact of all the Columbia River Indians up to the Nez Perce are probably the furthest down river were a tribe as we think of tribes now, and even they really weren't tribes, each of the bands, Joseph's and Looking Glass, and each were separate sovereign nations, but they spoke one language, had one culture whereas each of the villages along the Columbia were autonomous and like the chief of one village would marry the daughter of the chief of the next village, and so most of your political alliances were based on marriages, intermarrying and such, so it was real common, it was real important for how you got along with other villages was through marital [trails off].
KT: Right. In your book you sort of document your grandparents' history into the '30s, what happened to them after that?
CW: Uh, well, they moved to Washougal, my grandpa died when I was about two, so that would have been '45, they had been in Washougal probably about ten years. So after they lived in Skamania during the Depression, then they retired basically towards the end of their life, moved into Washougal and lived there for about the last ten years of their lives.
KT: Where are they buried?
CW: In Washougal. Most of my family is buried-- my dad and Kalliah-- well they used to call it the Cascade Pioneer Cemetery, which made me really mad, it's the one there by north Bonneville, and then when my dad was being buried there I made them change the name to the Cascade Indian and Pioneer Cemetery...
KT: Good for you.
CW: Yeah, so it's now, 'cause over half the people in there are Indians, are Cascade Indians that's not even counting-- there's a mass grave there. When they built Bonneville Dam, what's now called Bradford Island was our people's main burial, and we didn't do burials, we did above ground cedar vaults, like down in New Orleans and such, but the Corps bulldozed all those people and threw 'em in a common grave in what's now the Cascade Cemetery and just put a common grave marker that says in jargon, it's not even Chinook, 'Here lie the ancient ones.' So there was thousands of people in there, probably half, if less now 'cause there's more pioneer people being buried there, but growing up at least half the people were Indians, probably half my family are buried in there, the Indian side.
KT: What did your father do for a living.
CW: He was an engineer. Kind of a strange background of a radical, left-wing Wasp mother who loves nature and art and a conservative Indian father who loved engineering and technology, that's why I'm a mess, that made me what I am [laughs]. Yeah, he was an engineer and was only able to go to school because of the G.I. Bill and just had a really natural, almost a genius in engineering type of stuff.
KT: Who did he work for?
CW: Different people. When I was in third grade he moved down to California, it was a lot easier for Indians to get work down there, at that time it was still pretty rough for Indians around here to get work. Plus it was just a break, getaway, so in third grade he moved for a company called Crest Key and designed furnaces and things like that, then he came back up and my folks divorced when I was in high school. He worked for Tidland Machine in Washougal and different places around here until he retired, the Portland, Washougal area.
KT: And when did you come back?
CW: I came back in the beginning of '77, and I was an engineer too. I was nineteen and did a lot of work for NASA and such, and then, I told you, when I was twenty-five I quit and went into the Peace Corps and VISTA, and then I just went camping for seven years, teaching myself photography and I'd always been involved in environmental stuff, but I became, in my travels, one of the experts on parks, and friends Friends of the Earth was my favorite environmental group and ...
KT: ... Then you came back.
CW: Right, and so I was traveling for seven years and I was always sending Friends of the Earth stuff about hey this is going on in this national park, you know, and this needs that. So in '75 Brower asked me to lunch one day. My mom lived an hour north of San Francisco, so that was kind of my base of operation at the time. So he took me out to lunch and offered me the job to be the National Parks expert and so I did that, and that was a very satisfying time. I wasn't living anywhere, I'd just like spend a couple months in D.C. lobbying and the rest of the time I was out in the parks, which is a really good thing 'cause even environmental groups very rarely are out on the ground and there were a lot of controversies going around that were just because people were so removed, like in [indistinguishable] Royal the environmentalists were fighting this regulation that would granddaddy in some of the commercial fishing in the [indistinguishable] National Park, which is the biggest island in Lake Superior. Of course you talk about commercial fishing in a national park and all the environmentalists are up in arms, and when I went out there, there was about twelve old-timers, 70s, 80s, and it was just to let them keep fishing. I mean, they were not threat to the-- I mean they were a cultural resource and I was able to work it all out. But that was kind of my role was to go out on to the ground and help local groups, and no one else did it before or did it since, and so I did that until 1980. Then I'd been looking at the Gorge. I was real involved in setting up new pret greenline areas and new types of protection where they're not your traditional national park where everything's bought up and public ownership, I was one of the big promoters writing articles about that, and the Gorge was perfect, there was such a backlog from the Nixon and Ford years that there was no way there was going to be any new parks until the backlog was cleaned out. Thanks to Phil Burton from California, when I was working with Friends of the Earth, we cleaned out the whole backlog and by '80. So by '77 my dad got real sick and I was the only one that could really take care of him, I was just camping, so I moved back to our land, our allotment in Skamania moved back there and took care of my dad. And I was working on a political history of the national parks, it was one that wasn't the whitewash you normally see, it would tell about which senator was grazing cattle in Grand Teton National Park 'cause he was the Chairman of the Parks Committee, you know, and what changes need to be made, expansions and such, and I had that about three-fourths done. I had been working on it that seven years, and my van was so full of files I had no room to sleep anymore [laughs] anyway, so I came back to finish up that book and take care of my dad, and the Gorge had just been sitting' there without much going on, and '76, '77 was when the assault started on the Gorge and turned to the heavy development. So I ended up having to drop the parks book, and this book I wasn't going to do for a few years more after I got the parks done, but, it was becoming an environmental disaster and that book's what started the campaign for a national scenic area. So I dropped the parks book and still never finished it. I hope I live long enough to [laughs], I would like to. But that's when I started that book, and also the last full-blood people from our village were getting old and such, and it had to be done right away to save the Gorge, which, thanks to Friends of the Gorge, we didn't do, and also to save Cascade history while there were enough elders still alive that I could get their oral history down. So I just dropped everything and worked on that book and organized the campaign to protect the Gorge.
CW: So beginning in '77, twenty-three years now.
KT: Um, your village is on the allotment?
CW: No. The village that we're from is the one that the second powerhouse is built on of Bonneville Dam, and the allotment my grandma ... After my great-great-grandpa was hanged and then they rounded up all the Indians and sent them up to Yakama. Like most river Indians, they don't like the reservations and the river Indians, rightfully so, don't think they get equal treatment on the reservations, the tribes that are from those areas, not so much at Warm Springs, but Yakama it's much more true, have never been treated well. Like one of my Yakama friends says Indians are like homing pigeons, sooner or later the always come home to the rez [laughs]. So for us, as a river, even though Yakama was our reservation, we consider the river our reservation, and so soon as Kalliah grew up she bought some horses down in Yakama and traded horses for the land that became our allotment, and at that time Indians couldn't legally own land in Washington...
CW: ... so white people were filing homestead claims on top of her land and she had a contract with the U.S. government, you know the mail couldn't get past the Cascades, so she had a contract to meet the boat and carry the mail around the Cascades and deliver in that area and because she was a federal employee. (They) had a really good Indian agent in Vancouver at the time that cared and he got a really, and he got a bill through Congress, in fact I have a copy I think in this drawer.
KT: Could I, um, actually I wanted to ask you about that and see if I could get a copy of that.
CW: Yeah. I may have one right here. I know I had one here, but in this move I don't know where anything is, but yeah I have copies of it, and it's signed by Grover Cleveland and it held her land in trust and then it was taken in as an allotment, and it's now Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
KT: It's now a national wildlife refuge?
CW: Yeah, and we'd been saving it, I was the last one to live (there) of the family and we'd been saving it to become a park, you know, when the Gorge became a National Park Service area, and then after the Friends of the Gorge sold us out it was going to be put under the Forest Service, there wasn't anyway I was going to let the Forest Service clear-cut my ancestral land, so I got a bill through Congress that made Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge and...
KT: Maybe I could get a copy of that too.
CW: Yeah. Well, it's more famous 'cause now there are over a thousand swans a day in winter time on the lake in the refuge. But from an Indian standpoint even more important is that the wapato, which was our main starch for Indians next to salmon, it was our primary food, and it's real sensitive to cattle grazing and had been wiped out virtually everywhere in the Columbia other than Sauvie's Island, the last big patches are out there, and there was one patch in the '70s left in Rooster Rock State Park and Dave Talbot, who's the head of State Parks leased Rooster Rock to grazing, a State Park, and wiped out the wapato. So it was gone from the Gorge by 1980, but it's come back on there whole north shore of Franz Lake now, solid wapato, and I think probably [laughs] brought in swan poop from Sauvie's Island, in fact, Nelson Lilitum's a Wasco chief, who for religious reasons I consider my chief, and we were talking the other day, probably the first time in a century there's been a root feast for wapato, but we're having trouble finding elders who remember how to cook it and prepare it and such, but 'cause it was our land I can go in there and...
KT: What's the name of the wildlife refuge?
CW: Uh, Franz Lake, f-r-a-n-z- lake. It's about four miles west of Beacon Rock. When you go along Highway 14 there you see all this water on the south side, you think it's a river, but it's actually a massive lake there, and they just built a little pull out there along Highway 14 and there's a sign, no one knew it was really there before.
KT: How many acres was it, or do you know? Roughly.
CW: I'm not sure at the moment now, probably around a thousand, something like that.
KT: Um, and you lived there when you were a child, or?
CW: No, no I moved back there in '77. No, I was born in Portland during the war, my dad was working in the shipyards and such. My mom, it's ironic, my mom was born in Dayton, and that's where the treaty was signed, that Tumulth signed, the Grand Ronde Treaty, with Joel Palmer is signed in Dayton where my mom was born and grew up, and her mom was born, and her family were pioneers into that area, and so I was growing up we'd go see my great-grandam, she lived right in the square there in Dayton and Phil Sheridan's blockhouse is right across the street from here house, talk about a schizophrenic childhood [laughs].
KT: Yeah [laughs]. Did you live in Skamania when you were young.
CW: No, no. Not 'til '77.
KT: But your cousins did?
CW: Oh, I had relatives, Stevenson River relatives and everything, oh yeah, I have family all over there. But our family land, no one had lived on it 'til I moved back there for, I don't think anyone lived there since my grandparents, since the '30s. My dad stayed there a lot after he got divorced and came back he stayed there a lot, but no one else really lived there.
KT: When you were young would you go around and see your relatives a lot?
CW: Oh yeah, yeah. We'd go up to Warm Springs and such, and Yakama, they had it timed. Actually my parents were talking in the '30s when things were really rough, they went up and lived-- we had and allotment on the Yakama Reservation, and actually in between Skamania and Washougal, I'd forgotten about that, they lived on our allotment up in the Yakama Reservation. Then when my grandma died the tribe forced us to sell it back to 'em, they wouldn't let my, 'cause we were Cascade, even though eleven of my dad's generation were enrolled at Yakama they wouldn't allow them to take, like on my grandma's enrollment card, for instance, it said 'Percent Indian, four-fourths; percent Yakama, zero fourths; percent Cascade, four-fourths,' so there was this real blatant discrimination -- So they wouldn't allow us to keep the allotment up there on the reservation, they did live up there in the '30s for a while I'd forgotten about that, and I wasn't born then, I know my family went up there. But yeah we'd have relatives up there with us so.
KT: Did you ever go fishing or to fishing sites when you were young?
CW: Not really, I mean Celilo, but not really to fish or anything like that. Just to visit.
KT: You know one thing that a lot of the in lieu fishing stuff, everything's focused above Bonneville, but what about fishing sites below Bonneville?
CW: Well, the reason is because it's a divider. 'Cause the Yakama Warm Springs have real strong treaty rights and their fish...
[Begin Side B, Tape 1 of 2]
CW: ... powerful enough militarily that they were able to negotiate stronger treaties than the Grand Ronde did. So Grand Rondes don't have that strong fishing rights in their treaty. And then the tribes that won the US v. Oregon, the Belloni Case, were from above Bonneville. So basically there's an agreement that every once in a while some Yakama's only so happy, so there's something they'll challenge, it's just been kind of an agreement that the Indians that fish above Bonneville and the whites, commercial fisherman, fish below Bonneville. And sometimes it's been pushed very legitimately to Willamette Falls, and Yakamas and people were fishing there in the mid '90s and then the water levels have been so high or low it really hasn't been good fishing for a few years. We used to go to Willamette Falls to fish, that was a very common canoeing back and forth between the Cascades and Willamette Falls was very common, and we were really very close culturally. One of my cousins, Charles Jackson, he's the Secretary Treasurer of the Warm Springs now and he's been really gettin' into the Wasco language, and his dad, Charlie Jackson, is Wasco from this area and his mom's, one of my aunts, Cascade. He was listening to some tapes done by linguist that's back in Chicago now, I can't remember his name, a real famous linguist on Native People, and he used to spend summers at Warm Springs and spent a lot of time with my family there, and so Charles is back there last summer and visited and he was playing tapes of his grandparents, and he said it was just amazing because you could tell her dialect, how different their dialects of Chinook were between he Wasco and the Cascades and said that her dialect was much closer to what we call Clackamas now, the people of the Oregon City area there. I imagine a lot of the reasons was being here you started having villages that were intermingled between Sahaptin-speaking, and Chinook-speaking people, and so I imagine the main difference was the Sahaptin influence on the Wasco dialect of Chinook or something. But he said it was really strong, the difference there.
KT: That's great that those tapes exist.
CW: Oh definitely, yeah.
KT: So besides Willamette Falls, Indians generally don't fish below the dam.
CW: No, right, yeah. And that's only a recent occurrence within the last decade.
KT: So they did fish below the dams before ten years ago?
CW: No, that's what I was saying, that only started at Willamette Falls within the last ten years, 'cause the treaties-- you have your fishing rights within the seated areas, but also usual and custom areas and so you have fishing rites at places outside the seated area that you can prove you have fished at, which was very easy at Willamette Falls to prove 'cause you can canoe right down the river and right up the Willamette [laughs], so that was real common.
KT: I guess I was curious about the Washougal River.
CW: Um, in pre-contact times people fished there all the time. I don't know of any Indians fishing there under treaty rights in my lifetime, I don't know. And until Bonneville Dam was built there was no reason to fish there 'cause you had this great fishery with the platforms and you had a comparable situation in Celilo where you had the bay, and there are only a couple falls on the Washoughal, and there're still pretty good fish runs in there, but there have been areas where they were ruined by extensive logging.
KT: Yeah, in your book it said, yeah..'
CW: Right there was that one whole canyon closed off by...
KT: And of course it's been dammed for a hundred years now.
CW: Right. But I don't know, I mean, people obviously in pre-contact times fished there, but I think probably most of the people went up to the Cascades 'cause there you had the rapids, it was just meant for fishing so, 'til '38. Yeah, In Lieu sites they're talking about all of these are out of Bonneville, all the ones being built now aren't for compensation for the other users, we're still working on Bonneville compensation. I don't know how much you're interested in that.
KT: I looked at that at the book Empty Nets, but I don't remember everything.
CW: Well, basically we were promised in '38 when Bonneville was being built, that the corps would buy four hundred acres of new fishing sites in lieu of the ones that were flooded by Bonneville Dam, and the late '80s, I was working at Intertribe, we had gotten forty-two acres out of the four hundred in fifty years, and so that's when we forced a bill through Congress in ordered the Corps to start giving us our sites and we're getting them now, we got another half dozen or so now that, slowly, we're gettin' our four hundred acres [laughs], but there's never been any compensation for the houses that were flooded under Bonneville, that's a separate program, that's never been compensated for. Stiff people 'til they died out basically.
KT: I thought it was really interesting about the guy, is it Johnny Jackson, who is living up there
CW: He's my uncle, yeah.
KT: Is he one of your father's brothers?
CW: He and my father have the same grandfather, Johnny Stooquin.
CW: So he and my dad are, in white terms, second cousins.
CW: He's my uncle...
KT: And in Indian terms it's not like...
CW: Yeah, you're an uncle, aunt or a cousin, you don't have qualifications. He's my uncle so.
KT: So even more remote family is considered closer.
CW: Oh yeah. Fourth cousins are cousins, you know, if you're relatives you're relatives [laughs], there's no differentiation that way. But there's a much stronger differentiation if you're a stepkid or something, that is differentiated because of the blood lines and treaties, which in white culture is not differentiated as much I don't think as in Indian culture, but Indian culture everyone's a relative that you're related to.
KT: Right. Being about one-fourth Cascade have people ever seen you as different from-- I mean the Indian people?
CW: Not usually. I mean, if I'm not in the Northwest it's like oh yeah, you know 'cause it wasn't 'til the hippies came along and all these wannabes came along [laughs], everyone's running around suddenly quarter Cherokee or something. So the only time I never get that is if I'm not in this area. My family's so famous and everyone knows my relatives that everyone knows I'm Indian. In fact it was really fun, I was down at Grand Ronde, one of the first pow wows [indistinguishable] one of my Yakama aunts, who's real dark, we were sittin' there at the powwow and she says, 'Boy, Chuck, there's sure a lot of Clorox Indians around here.' I said, 'Oh, you mean like me auntie?' [laughing]. She was just shocked you know just 'cause I'm her nephew, it never dawned in her that I was light colored, you know, I'm Indian period, you know. But around the Columbia River everyone knows my family so well I never-- most of the static I get over that is from white wannabes, not from Indians. So the Indians almost all accept me, it's the white wannabes that...
KT: You think there's an element of jealousy or something, or what?
CW: Oh, it's I think since they're wannabes they must assume that I am in that category, and obviously if I was worried about that I'd shave [laughs] and get some brown contacts or something, and so [laughs], I said I don't have to be a wanna be, I am [laughs]. Yeah, there was this famous poem written about me called Chuck and it was about this blue-eyed Indian that had to carry his enrollment card around to prove he was Indian [laughs], it was in a PSU journal, uh, late '80s, by the head of the [indistinguishable], the then head of the Indian Student Organization at PSU, it was in their liter-- I gotta go back and get a copy of that, but it was a full page poem and the refrain was 'He's got his enrollment card in his pocket' [laughs], it was written about me.
KT: Do you?
CW: Yeah, oh yeah. 'Cause I get stopped if I'm buying fish out of seas-- if you're Indian you can buy fish at any time from Indians, they can only, like commercial season they can sell to anyone, but uncommercial they can only sell to other Indians, so I get carded a lot by the State Police and such if I'm buying fish so yeah, I have to carry it with me [laughs]. Not for the Indians, for the police [laughs].
KT: So you said that your book sort of brought out the Cascades.
CW: Right. It really brought us back into some prominence again 'cause we were just being kind of forgotten and such.
KT: 'Cause in your book you said that the Cascades were almost extinct, do you still think that.
CW: Well no, and in a way I kind of regret saying that, because I meant extinct as full-blood people, I've got one uncle that's full-blood and there are people that are still full-blood, but not full-blood Cascade. So in a way I kinda regret probably saying that, 'cause I was thinking in the pure, more pure, full-blood Cascade, I think my uncle Clef's the only one left that I know of from that village. There may be some others 'cause a lot of people didn't really identify themselves, and my book, like I said, made it in vogue to be Cascade again so a lot of people who identified themselves as Yakama or Warm Springs then 'Well, I'm really Cascade,' and they would come up, 'Hey Chuck, I'm Cascade too' and I get that a lot and such that really didn't identify themselves that way until my book came out.
KT: Is there any kind of organization?
CW: No, we've actually thought a lot, some of us have talked about forming, not as a tribe in recognition, but as a non-profit group. One of the things that bugs a lot of us is that our remnants of our culture, artifacts dug up from my village, for instance the corps did, end up at Yakama or some place. We've talked a lot about setting' up a nonprofit and try to force the court to give us one of the buildings out on Bradford Island for a Cascade museum and run it more as a cultural heritage group. And I was working on that on, got sick and almost died three years ago, I was actually into the death rattle and fifty thousand dollar hospital [indistinguishable].
KT: What was your illness?
CW: It was the type a bacterial pneumonia that killed Jim Henson of the Muppets.
CW: I remember he died I was like how could someone that rich living in the city die of pneumonia, but it's not your normal vi-- it's a bacteria, and from the first symptoms of death's two to two and a half days, you just think you have the flu and you're dead. I was actually into the death rattle, I got to the hospital and they said another hour they couldn't have saved my life.
KT: And you didn't have insurance?
CW: No. So I was still recovering from that. And I just got well and I had a big show at the Yakama Tribal Museum and I was heading out of town and a drunk driver hit me in a big red Cadillac going about sixty miles an hour in town and they hit and they never caught her, a hit-and-run and totaled my car and left me on crutches for a few months, and it's just been one-- now my mom's dying, I'm commuting to take care of her and such.
KT: I'm sorry.
CW: Yeah, it's ok. So I just my whole lifes is coming apart financially here. While people like Friends of the Gorge get hundreds of thousand of dollars in grants to fight protection, so that's what really gripes me [laughs].
KT: Yeah. Well how many Cascades do you think there are now that sort of identify themselves that way?
CW: Oh hundreds probably.
CW: Yeah, yeah, uh huh. A lot of people.
KT: Do you ever get together?
CW: Um, well, my family gets together every year the last Sunday of July, we get together at Beacon Rock, which is our home land and such, and [speaks a Native word], I don't know too much of our language, but that was our word for Beacon Rock was [speaks Native word again]...
KT: Do you know how to spell that?
CW: Oh, I use it in my book there, but I don't know too much of our language, 'chuck,' that's Chinook jargon for river, so a lot of the rivers around here are wild and scenic rivers so on a lot of the reservations that's my nick name, is Wild and Scenic Chuck, neither as wild or scenic as I used to be [laughs]. So we get together and there's usually a hundred people there of which at least a hundred of which half are Cascade, these are all the descendants of Kalliah, and summits other Tumulth descendants will come, but it's primarily descended from Kalliah, we see about a hundred of us. And then there's a lot of, do you know Louis Pitt?
KT: No, I don't know people really.
CW: Louis Pitt and Lillian Pitt, she's a famous Wasco artist, they're Cascade...
KT: That name was familiar.
CW: Yeah, she's a really famous artist, picture of her around here somewhere. Yeah, her niece, Liz Woody, is a famous poet, and they're Cascade, they're not all Cascade, but they're part, about a quarter Cascade and it says Cascade on their Warm Springs enrollment cards.
KT: What do you guys do when you get together?
CW: Eat salmon [laughs]. Eat salmon and talk, yeah.
KT: The book, Empty Nets, identified Chief Johnny Jackson as a Cascades chief.
CW: Right, yeah, he's, Johnny's a friend of mine, my uncle, and that could be disputed but I think it's a great political it gives him so much more credibility and he does really good work on environment, I mean he's out there with the crazy white environmentalists, he's on the board of the Columbia Gorge Audubon Society, and he's only probably the only Indian I know that's on the board of a grassroots environmental group [laughs] probably in the whole country.
KT: He sounded really neat from the book.
CW: Oh yeah, he's and interesting guy. And it's a great political, you know gives him so much more credibility and he uses it for good, so I would never dispute him. But his dad's Cascade and his mom's Kilickitat and both of our fathers the Yakamas refused to enroll at Yakama and since his mom's Klickitat she enrolled him in Yakama as a Klickitat, so he ended up enrolled up there. But his dad was going through the same thing my dad where they wouldn't enroll him there, so.... Yeah, he's a real hell-raiser, it's good I'm proud of him [laughs].
KT: So have you spent much time in Washougal?
CW: Quite a bit, but not a whole lot, drive through it, you know, when I lived at Skamania I drove through it all the time.
KT: Did you know any other Cascade Indians who lived there?
CW: No, sure didn't. 'Cause Indians had pretty much disappeared from there. But one of the things that happened after the diseases in the early 1800s, and particularly, shortly pre-treaty, people kinda, a lot of the Cascades gathered at the Cascades, like as our numbers came down they kind of grouped together. The only other one I knew really well was my Aunt Maggie, who there's a picture of her and one of her dad in the book, and she was one of the last full-bloods from our village and she passed away right after my book came out. I always called her Aunt Maggie 'cause she helped raised my dad, but she wasn't a blood relative, but she was there in Washougal and I drove her and chopped wood for her a stuff, and just pick her mind when I was doing my book, I spent a lot of time with her, but there's not very many Indians around Washougal anymore.
CW: Yeah. I sure never have-- there was a group of people that lived there where Stiegerwald Lake is now, they were I guess called the Washougallys or something, which is where the name Washougal came from. When Lewis and Clark went through there the chief there was Soto who had red hair, just like my great-great-grandpa had red hair too. I think after diseases, I don't know of any really Indian settlement in Washougal for years. I think the paper mill and stuff like that just kinda pushed people out. In the Gorge it was still a lot wilder so I think they just moved up river to the Cascades. they were really hit by diseases bad there, so. Most of the French-Canadian trappers had Indian wives, but they weren't necessarily from the Northwest, McCloughlin had an Indian wife, but a lot of 'em were Iroquois and different, you know, from back from where they came from, or something. In fact, actually, Kalliah's second husband, who's the great-grandfather of a lot of my relatives around here was French-Canadian and Cowlitz, he was from a mixed family.
KT: Ok. Let me look through and see what else I wanted to ask you. Oh, you said your father was a oral historian and then you did research.
CW: Right, I took what I had learned, passed it down through aunts and uncles and my dad, I took that as a basis and then researched it, in an academic way and it was amazing how accurate it was, just incredibly accurate, yeah.
KT: Really? I've heard that about...
CW: Yeah, mind boggling, and the mythology of the Gorge too, I mean people, like the Bridge of the Gods and stuff, you know, it probably wasn't an arch bridge but you could walk across the river there, it was only seven hundred years ago. Most of the stuff out of mythology has turned out to be true, you know, inland seas and things like that, it's all panned out, so yeah, it was very accurate. For instance, my great-great- grandpa Tumulth who signed the treaty had red hair and the family mythology was it was from, [quick sigh] boy I haven't written about this for so long, but it was a Spaniard or something that had shipwrecked and I was able to track it down, it was like the nationality was wrong but everything else checked out, he was French or something, I can't remember right now. But anyway there was a shipwreck, and I was able to find out the dates, and they say Soto was evidently descended from him too, and so, and so it was incredibly accurate.
KT: So that was probably pretty satisfying for...
CW: Yeah, ironically the least accurate stuff that had been written by white people. For instance, Jim Atwell, he's passed a way, he was one of my neighbors in Skamania, he was a nice old guy but had a good imagination, and Henry Strong and Ivan Donaldson, I don't know if you're familiar with these names, but Henry Strong did that Stonehenge on the Columbia and he live down the crick from me, and then Ivan Donaldson did that fishwheels on the Columbia, and they both were such proper, quiet, elderly men that, you know, they would never trash anyone. But when I was working on my book they both kind of told me very gently that Jim Atwell had a good imagination, check out anything that, you know, and he had in there. I also found it two other places, of eyewitness accounts of Kalliah, of her burial on Memaloose Island, I mean they were very detailed the boats and everything and I just kind of assumed it was right and my dad says 'Well you better, I don't think so,' you know, 'cause she's buried at Cascades [laughs], not Memaloose. Clifford, on of my elders still up at Yakama, was raised by her and so I called him up and he said 'I was a little boy and I had to help embalm her, so I'll never forget. No, that never happened, she's buried in the Cas-' here I found three eyewitness accounts of her burial and it never happened and so, so that was actually the least accurate [laughs].
KT: Did you find that you put stuff in your book that you would have changed if you were going to do it now, or?
CW: No. I would use some different words, like say the thing about the extinct, I don't use prehistoric anymore, I use pre-contact or something, you know, something I hadn't thought that much about, but it's like history didn't exist 'til it was written, you know, I don't use prehistoric [laughs], just things like that. In terms of accuracy not really. But no, I'm surprised, because when you do something that massive you're bound to make some mistakes, I just assumed, no one's ever called me eve on a single thing. There's a photograph there that I inherited from one of my uncles and it'd been purported as being from this one photographer that lived in Stevenson and I gave him the caption, I gave him the plug there and it turns out it was taken by a photographer here in The Dalles, Edward Omstead and so, that's the only really blatant mistake I know of in the book.
KT: That's really good.
CW: Yeah. I went through it, so thoroughly, in fact I didn't publish it 'til I could find nothing new, when I had exhausted every book or written thing and then went thorough all of their references, and I didn't three and a half years basically of research on that and when I could never find any reference to anything, I just ran out of all references, was when I went through...
KT: I liked it, it's really nice the way you combined history with personal history and it's nice.