Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Native Americans

Houses on the Arctic
Winter 2018

Days of future past

Rapid global cooling 13,000 years ago challenged early occupants of Alaska to adapt. People used to hunting mammoths and other megafauna with big stone tools suddenly found their weapons shattering in the cold. Access to the stone they used to make them got buried under snow.

As with any climactic change, the cold resulted in a shift in fauna, requiring new tools. Early Alaskans turned to microblade technology, a technique they’d kept alive for hundreds of years along with their dominant hunting tools. Microblades made efficient use of now-scarce toolstone and met the needs of a changing climate.

“Throughout the Holocene, the importance of microblade … » More …

Greg Urquhart (Photo Robert Hubner)
Winter 2018

Peace for the wounded warrior

Since the earliest days of the republic, Native Americans have stepped up to defend the United States at higher rates than any other ethnic group.

From General Washington’s inclusion of Tuscarora and Oneida warriors at Valley Forge, through the world wars and Vietnam to today’s conflicts in the Middle East, Native Americans continue to answer their cultural calling to serve.

Traditionally, these soldiers were welcomed home with healing ceremonies that helped reintegrate them with the tribe and wider society. Compassionate medicine men, and women, used time-honored practices to mend the emotional, spiritual, and physical trauma of war.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. government banned Native religious ceremonies … » More …

Bison (Photo iStock)
Winter 2018

Bison

The day the bison herd swam across the river says it all.

About 80 of the legendary mammals, known for hardiness and stubbornness, decided to cross the half-mile wide Pend Oreille River in 1994—bulls, cows, and even calves—and all survived the crossing, recalls Ray Entz, natural resources director of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians in northeast Washington.

That same rugged strength of the wooly North American bovines—whether you call them bison or buffalo—helped the entire resilient species survive. Although bison are now the national mammal of the United States, they once balanced on the cliff of extinction … » More …

Book cover of Spirit in the Rock
Winter 2018

Spirit in the Rock: The Fierce Battle for Modoc Homelands

Book cover of Spirit in the Rock

Jim Compton

WSU Press: 2017

 

Descending a great bluff towering above an endless sea of black in early 1873, the militiamen clench their rifles tighter as they wade into a thick gray fog among southern Oregon lava beds. A deafening crack and the flash of gunpowder pierces the dense mist. War paint-clad Modoc snipers poke their muzzles out between cracks in the blackened rock and fire unseen upon their adversaries. The bewildered U.S. troops search frantically through the … » More …

Woman's dentalia cape (Courtesy Plateau Peoples' Web Portal)
Winter 2018

Fabric of Washington

Stories, photos, paintings, and belongings like baskets and tools tell the rich history of Plateau tribes of the inland Pacific Northwest, a history now shared online.

The Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, a gateway to those cultural materials, is maintained by Washington State University’s Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC) in partnership with WSU’s Native American Programs.

The materials have been chosen and curated by tribal representatives from the Spokane Tribe of Indians, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Nez Perce Tribe, and … » More …

Winter 2018

Backwater Sunday: A personal memory

The weather was freezing at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation when the Dakota Access Pipeline protests turned violent on November 20, 2016. Native Americans opposed the 1,200-mile oil pipeline on the grounds that it violated the rights of the tribe and passed through Lake Oahe, a sacred burial site and major source of drinking water. This fall marks the second anniversary of the bloody incident, which is remembered as Backwater Sunday.

 

“Look out!” someone shouts as fiery tear gas canisters streak through the midnight sky. The cell phone video careens sharply as images of smoke and military vehicles come into view. In the darkness, … » More …

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 …

Huckleberries
Fall 2018

The huckleberry

In the shadowy spaces and the sunny clearings of high Northwest forests, the huckleberry waits for an eager human or bear in the late summer. Imbued with an intense sweet-sour flavor, this coveted wild treat might peek out from its glossy leaves in a jealously-protected secret location, but it will be sought and often found.

Seekers of the huckleberry—whether they are Native Americans, more recent residents of the area, or the berry-loving grizzly and black bears—hunt incessantly for the deep purple to red fruit. Even if they aren’t pickers, any Northwesterner or visitor would still find it hard to miss the huckleberry jams, shakes, pies, … » 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 …

Charles Hudson
Spring 2018

Living the fighting spirit

Hunting and rodeoing, playing football and singing in the school choir. For Charles Hudson ’84, growing up in the ’60s and ’70s on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation in rural North Dakota also meant listening to stories from his Hidatsa mother and white rancher father. One of them was about a huge flood — and it wasn’t a myth.

Six years before Hudson was born, construction of the Garrison Dam submerged 550,000 acres of Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara (the Three Affiliated Tribes) land, resulting in Lake Sakakawea and forcing hundreds of families to flee, including Hudson’s. The tragedy only inspired his parents to triumph over it.

» More …