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Washington state history

Fall 2018

A river rolls on

After thousands of years of use for food, transportation, and trade, the Columbia River’s dynamics have changed, resulting in unforeseen consequences and deeply mixed emotions.

 

Once there were Five Sisters. Because they loved to eat salmon, the sisters kept a dam at the mouth of Big River to prevent the fish from swimming upstream. Every night they feasted on a wonderful, fat salmon. This didn’t suit Coyote, who thought that the salmon need the people and the people need the salmon. Or maybe he was jealous and wanted some of that fat salmon for himself. So Coyote tricked the sisters to get into their … » More …

Marmes Rockshelter
Fall 2018

The curation crisis

More than 8,500 years ago, a group of people used a rock shelter at the confluence of the Palouse and Snake Rivers as a base camp. When rediscovered in the early 1950s, the shelter amazed scientists, including Washington State University archeologist Richard Daugherty, with its wealth of artifacts—and the age of its human remains. Named after the property owner at the time, the Marmes Rockshelter was soon inundated by waters from the recently closed Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake. Although a levee had been built by the Army Corps of Engineers to keep the shelter dry, the Corps neglected to take into account the … » More …

Irrigated water in the Columbia Basin. Photo Zach Mazur
Fall 2018

Three economists on the Columbia river

Retired Washington State University economist Norm Whittlesey is sitting at his kitchen table with two other retired economists, Walt Butcher and Ken Casavant. They are reminiscing about the collective 150 years they have worked on and around the Columbia River.

“We used to catch steelhead on the Snake River before the dam,” says Whittlesey. “I’ve got a picture of Walt with, what, a 25 pounder?”

Walt Butcher chuckles and says, “That fish might be up to 25 pounds by now.”

Casavant adds, “It’s been growing, even after being eaten.”

With a sweep of his hand across a map of the Columbia River watershed on the … » More …

Protest on Trial cover
Summer 2018

Protest on Trial: The Seattle 7 Conspiracy

Protest on Trial cover

Kit Bakke

WSU Press: 2018

 

It’s December 1970, and surprise witness Horace “Red” Parker is mumbling his way through his testimony. The prosecutor has to keep telling the self-made activist infiltrator to speak up. The defense attorney keeps objecting to Parker’s constant inferrals of what the defendants must have been thinking as they organized the anti-Vietnam War protest they’re on trial for. Which, as Kit Bakke points out, is ironic, because … » More …

Peace-Weavers cover
Winter 2017

Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast through Cross-Cultural Marriages

Peace-Weavers cover

Candace Wellman ’68 

WSU Press: 2017

 

Clara Tennant Selhameten was born the daughter of Lummi tribal leader in what became Whatcom County, and eventually married John Tennant, the son of a famous Methodist minister around 1859. Tennant established the first permanent farm in the region, on Lummi land. In later years, she and John traveled as missionaries and built many churches. It was clear that the couple were true partners in both spiritual … » More …

Hang Them All cover
Spring 2017

“Hang Them All”

Hang Them All cover

George Wright and the Plateau Indian War

Donald L. Cutler ’76

University of Oklahoma Press: 2016

 

Questions about the viciousness of Col. George Wright’s month-long war against Indian tribes of the Upper Columbia Plateau typically are filtered through a lens of historical and cultural context.

The cruelty of Wright’s tactics during the Plateau Indian War of 1858 are undeniable. He hanged 16 Indians, including some who had surrendered after being told … » More …

Winter 2016

Main Street, USA

Standing on the beach at Smokiam Park, I dip my hand in the lake. The water is soft, slippery, almost squishy feeling. It’s full of sodium carbonate—washing soda. It’s a tiny lake, and on its southern beach is Soap Lake, a town experiencing a little renaissance.

 
Locals credit Washington State University’s Rural Communities Design Initiative for assisting their town of 1,500 in the eastern Washington scablands with improvement efforts. Soap Lake declined from fame and modest prosperity to a near ghost town but has recently rediscovered its pulse.

“Smokiam” is a Tsincayuse word that means “healing waters,” so maybe the sense of … » More …

Hop King cover
Winter 2016

Hop King

Hop King cover

Ezra Meeker’s Boom Years

Dennis M. Larsen ’68 

WSU Press: 2016

The demands of craft brewing in the last few years, along with declining European hops production, has driven the price of hops up as much as 50 percent, creating a windfall for growers in Washington. It’s not the first time in state history that hops brought a grower financial success.

Puyallup Valley pioneer Ezra Meeker first started planting hops as a cash … » More …

Summer 2014

Gallery: Gustav Sohon and the Mullan Road

Gustav Sohon (1825–1903) was an artist, interpreter, and topographical assistant. Sohon executed some of the earliest landscape paintings of the Pacific Northwest. One of his first assignments was with Lieutenant John Mullan, who was surveying the country between the Rocky and Bitterroot Mountains for the Pacific Railroad Surveys led by Isaac Stevens.

 

Read about Mullan in our feature “Lost Highway.”