August 11, 2014

The “Real” Indian Shirt Story

 

I’d always intended to post an article someday about the connection between my Northwest novel and the original White-Pioneers-Meet-American-Indians story from the Bigelow House Museum in Olympia. I never dreamed I would post it as a video. But here it is—and it’s fun: Washington State Historical Society Program – The Indian Shirt Story.

If you’d prefer to watch me read and sign books in person, come on along to one of my author events scheduled for fall. I’d love to see you there.

Shoalwater Tribal Library (Tokeland, WA) September 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Cooper Point Village Book Club (Olympia, WA) October 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Orca Books (Olympia, WA) October 24, 2014 at 7:00 pm

 

 

 

May 12, 2014

A White Girl Remembers Billy Frank

 

There is delicious irony in the fact of Billy Frank, Jr., lying in state this past weekend literally within a stone’s throw of the first American pioneers to settle on Puget Sound. For five hours on Saturday, friends and admirers of the most famous—and arguably most beloved—American Indian elder in the Pacific Northwest paid their respects not 50 yards from the graves of old pioneer settlers in Tumwater’s Union cemetery. Those pioneers were the vanguard of the huge wave of Oregon Trail emigrants who would soon displace and marginalize the indigenous people of Washington, changing their world forever.

Somewhere, Billy is grinning. “Goddamn,” he says. “We’re still here.” (more…)

February 6, 2014

George Washington Underfoot

 

When it is it acceptable to tread on the face of George Washington? The senator from Samoa thought the answer was “Never.”

“This is terrible,” he said, hanging back in the foyer of the Washington State Governor’s Mansion while the rest of his tour group moved on. “So disrespectful—walking over George Washington. This is an important man, a man who fought for freedom. He shouldn’t be here on the floor where people step on his face.” (more…)

January 13, 2014

Kam Wah Chung

 

From the outside it doesn’t look like much. Given its location, standing alone in a city park in the small eastern Oregon town of John Day, the stout little structure might be mistaken for some kind of shuttered concession stand—a place to buy hot dogs and soft drinks in summer, when the park swimming pool is open. Except for the hand-lettered sign overhead saying Kam Wah Chung & Co., and the fact that its address is on Canton Street, you’d never guess that this building— just blocks from the Grant County Fairgrounds—once stood at the center of one of the largest “Chinatowns” in the American West.

When gold was discovered not far from John Day in the early 1860s, Chinese immigrants flocked to eastern Oregon just as they’d rushed to the California gold fields a decade earlier. In 1887 two Chinese men, Ing Hay and Lung On, bought the existing Kam Wah Chung store in what was then a flourishing Chinese frontier community. They would own and operate their idiosyncratic business—part general store and part traditional herbal dispensary—in its original building for more than 50 years. (more…)

October 15, 2013

John Day Fossil Beds

 

I’m not supposed to admit this, but there was a moment during my visit to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument—as the trail petered out unexpectedly in an eerie blue landscape of columns and spires, where nothing but scattered tufts of grass looked even slightly familiar—when I thought, a little uneasily, of the classic cult cowboy/dinosaur film The Valley of Gwangi. (more…)

September 5, 2013

Interview with a Salmon

 

salmon interview 2

 

A salmon returning in late summer to the Columbia River where he was born clears up a few misconceptions about the Northwest’s most iconic fish.

 

Heather Lockman: May I just say…? You’re a gorgeous fish.

Wild Salmon: Oh, gosh. Thank you. It’s hard to tell, but I’m blushing.

HL: There’s a lot of talk these days about the “iconic” Northwest salmon. How does it feel to be an icon of the Pacific Northwest?

WS: Well, that’s more of an honorary position than a real title. It doesn’t come with prize money or anything.

HL: It puts you in famous company, though. Mount Rainier, Starbucks, the Space Needle… (more…)

July 30, 2013

Father Blanchet’s Catholic Ladder

The Bible is a tough book to sum up in front of an audience—especially if the listeners don’t share the speaker’s language. So you have to give Father Francis Norbert Blanchet his due. Newly arrived on the Northwest frontier in the late 1830s, faced with the task of conveying the Word to American Indian people, the French Canadian missionary devised an ingenious teaching tool he dubbed “the ladder of history.”  His prototype was a heavy stick carved with notches and symbols marking the most dramatic moments in the Judeo-Christian chronology. Later he transferred the concept to paper, drawing his ladder in India ink. The result was a portable timeline designed to help Native people grasp the Catholic view of the world. (more…)

July 17, 2013

Radical Wobblies and Porcelain Plates

Of all the radical American labor unions of the early 20th century, the loudest and most militant was the organization that called itself Industrial Workers of the World, whose membership was more familiarly known as the Wobblies.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the Wobblies were mainly loggers and lumber mill workers—most of them single and transient, a lot of them immigrants. Encounters between the IWW and conservative local authorities were strident and sometimes violent. To the middle-class population of many small logging and lumber towns, the Wobblies were nothing but trouble. Bolsheviks and anarchists, in the view of the timber companies. Unpatriotic firebrands who sought to undermine industry and the American way of life. (more…)

June 20, 2013

The End of the Oregon Trail

 

We’re all about the Oregon Trail out in this part of the country. Or at least, we used to be. Within two miles of Washington’s state capitol there are nine separate monuments, large and small, to the Oregon Trail or the hardy pioneers who came west in covered wagons.

There are statues and street names, tablets and markers, a bronze bas relief of a wagon train, even a concrete Art Deco bridge that commemorates, among other things, the “First American Pioneer Settlement in Washington.” In the 1940s and ’50s the restaurant at one end of that bridge was known as the Oregon Trail Café, though today it’s a Tahitian-theme biker bar with karaoke on Saturdays. We aren’t as sure now as we were back then how we feel about those brave pioneers and that Manifest Destiny stuff. (more…)

April 29, 2013

Sentimental for Hippies: Olympia’s Species Parade

It’s a cross between Earth Day and Mardi Gras—without the booze or the plastic beads, and with specific instruction for butterflies, aardvarks, and polar bears not to throw candy into the crowd. That, of course, would be littering. And encouraging  kids to eat sugar. And supporting Big Corporations running factories in faraway places. The annual Procession of the Species in Olympia, Washington—which paraded through the streets of downtown for the 19th time last Saturday—is not about any of that. (more…)