“You must see this in your lifetime”

Celilo Falls Resolution in House Committee (“You must see this in your lifetime”)

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

The official legislative history of the state of Oregon is written in the state Capitol, but the final official word on the written history lies in the audio tapes of legislative committee hearings and floor sessions, because the audio provides a better sense of the intent of the speaker and of the legislation ensuing.

Linda Meanus, great-granddaughter of Celilo chief Tommy Thompson, and Elizabeth Woody of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs traveled to Salem to testify on the importance of Celilo Falls when SCR 10 was heard in the House Elections, Ethics and Rules Committee on May 9, 2007. Their testimony is thus permanently preserved as essential parts of the history of the State and Celilo Falls.

In this photograph, taken shortly before the dam at The Dalles flooded Celilo Falls, is a very young Linda Meanus and her great-grandfather, Celilo Chief Tommy Thompson.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 10, sponsored by Senator Avel Louise Gordly, had already passed the Oregon State Senate, and was to be heard and amended in House committee before being advanced to the House and Senate  floors for concurrence and final passage. The amendments were to correct a drafting error in the original bill, which had omitted the Yakama Nation, and to remove the word “perpetually” from the text:

“Whereas on March 10, 1957, the waters held back by The Dalles Dam flooded and perpetually silenced the awesome and sacred roar of Celilo Falls, severing a great spiritual connection between the Creator, Mother Earth and the Native Peoples of Oregon; and….”

“Resolved, That a copy of this resolution shall be presented to the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Tribal Council of the Nez Perce Tribe, the Wyam Board and the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.”

Then-Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley was first to testify in support of the bill.

Serving as Senator Gordly’s chief of staff, my role at this hearing was to read the amended bill into the record, so that the intent of the legislation was clear.

Whereas Wyam, the great falls of N¢ch-iwana, known to us as Celilo Falls of the Columbia River, thundered for millennia in the spiritual heart of the Northwest and was a natural wonder of the world; and

“Whereas throughout the millennia Celilo Falls was the primary place where Native People caught the giant chinook, blue-back and coho salmon that struggled upstream through the rocky barrier of tumbling waters and swift, narrow channels. The Native People¢s record of habitation proves Wyam to be one of the longest continuously inhabited communities on this continent; and

“Whereas for its thousands of years of human civilization, Wyam was one of the world¢s great market places, and a half-dozen tribes had permanent villages near the falls where some 5,000 people would gather to trade, feast and participate in games and religious ceremonies; and

“Whereas the multitudes of salmon caught at Celilo Falls helped make the Lower Columbia River among the wealthiest places in what is now the United States and fostered a blossoming of rock art culminating in the petroglyph Tsagaglallal, or She-Who-Watches, and other great works; and

“Whereas the images of the dip netters reaching from their vibrating scaffolds into the roiling river are an icon of the native Northwest; and

Whereas on March 10, 1957, the waters held back by The Dalles Dam flooded and silenced the awesome and sacred roar of Celilo Falls, severing a great spiritual connection between the Creator, Mother Earth and the Native Peoples of Oregon; and

“Whereas the silence of the dead falls is rivaled only by the silence in the hearts of the elders who remember the thunder of the falls and the vibrant community struck down by the dam; and

“Whereas the Tribes of the Columbia River and the people of Celilo Village will hold a memorial for Celilo Falls on March 10, 2007; now, therefore,

“Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:

 That we, the members of the Seventy-fourth Legislative Assembly, mourn the flooding of Celilo Falls and recognize the falls¢ great importance to the native peoples of Oregon in providing sustenance from the salmon and a gathering place for all Tribes and agree to observe a moment of silence on March 10, 2007; and be it further

“Resolved, That a copy of this resolution shall be presented to the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Tribal Council of the Nez Perce Tribe, the Wyam Board and the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.”

The word “perpetually” was removed from the bill at the request of the Tribes, and we all recognized that day in the state Capitol, that the dam at The Dalles, made of steel and concrete in the 1950’s, would not stand forever, and that the Falls, made by the Creator, would emerge again one day.

And the Friends of Celilo Falls is forming….

========

To hear the audio record of the hearing, follow these links:

http://www.leg.state.or.us/listn/

House Elections, Ethics and Rules, May 9, 2007

05/09/2007 8:26 AM

The House Committee, chaired by Representative Diane Rosenbaum, takes up Celilo at 14:05 on the tape.

House Speaker Jeff Merkley, who became a co-sponsor with Senator Gordly of SCR 10, speaks at 14:28.

Sean Cruz, representing Senator Gordly, speaks at 18:30.

Elizabeth Woody, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, speaks at 25:00.

Linda George Meanus, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, speaks at 29:50.

Other speakers follow, including Representative Vicki Berger, who related how her father took her as a child to see Celilo Falls before its flooding, “because you must see this in your lifetime.”

The Friends of Celilo Falls hopes that Representative Berger will have that opportunity again, and in the very near future.

 

Advertisements

About 1000nations

Sean Aaron Cruz is Executive Director of 1000 Nations and a co-founder of The Friends of Celilo Falls. He is the organizer of the Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival. He is co-author of Winona LaDuke's new book, "The Militarization of Indian Country." He is the father of four children who disappeared into Utah in a Mormon abduction in 1996, and the author of Oregon's landmark anti-kidnapping statute "Aaron's Law" (Senate Bill 1041), named for his late son Aaron Cruz. He writes online as Blogolitical Sean.
This entry was posted in Celilo Falls and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s