At the spring Gathering of Cascadians we shared in the telling of the history of our region, a Story of Place. Around the circle, storytellers wove this tale.
It all began long ago when molten lava from volcanoes in Idaho covered the region, later cooling to become Basalt rock thousands of feet thick.
Time passed and life evolved, millennia after millennia. Then, perhaps 16,500 years ago, Ice Age immigrants crossed the Bering Land Bridge to make Cascadia their home. The first people were here when a lake in Montana broke through the glacial Ice and released the first of the Missoula Floods. Five great floods carved the Columbia River Gorge from solid Basalt Rock.
Time passed. The first people, Native Americans, moved inland as ice finally receded from coastal areas. Chinook villages came to be along the Columbia River from the Dalles to the Pacific. Many tribes shared a common language and thriving seasonal life. They lived in harmony with the cycles of the natural world.
Scappoose and Celilo were both sites of great summer gatherings, drawing native people from the far reaches of Cascadia. Cedar canoes plied the Columbia river and hundreds of tipis were pitched on its shoreline. It was a time of rich cultural exchange. The people feasted on salmon, traded natural wealth from their region as well as their own resourcefulness, made alliances, gambled, told stories and played games.
In their winter longhouses, the Chinook shared stories from time immemorial, preserving their culture through generations and centuries. Mythic stories of how things came to be – like the tale of a great roaring monster who carved the Columbia River Gorge were told. These stories explained, in mythic terms, the first-hand experience of people who witnessed the course of natural history as a process that changed their homeland.
The Chinook people knew that every being is infused with spirit. All are equal in the great wheel of life. As keepers of the land they believed that we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children. They walked a path of intention for life to thrive in the next seven generations.
To be continued…