Saturday, June 09, 2012


Our Salish class took a field trip to see the bitterroots that grow in a place beyond Coulee Dam and Nespelem. Only four of us went, but we enjoyed the opportunity to discuss traditional culture and continue learning the language.   

En route to the root fields, we stopped at Grand Coulee Dam and could not help but notice the tragic irony of American progress. Inside the museum, the voice of Woody Guthrie crooned, "Roll on, Columbia, roll on," and all the while, the massive waters of the Columbia River, once powerful and free, now lay trapped behind the dam. Outside the museum, a plaque boasts that the dam stands "forever as a monument" and is the "key to new American frontiers of opportunity in agriculture and industry." But sometimes, the opportunity of one nation is the decline of another. The plaque depicts a buffalo, which like the salmon, were decimated by greed and the short-sighted vision of "progress" at whatever cost.  

My sister Kim and Elizabeth at Grand Coulee Dam.

But once we arrived at the root fields, I felt much relieved to be among familiar places. Despite the rain, cold, and hail, my spirit felt more alive than usual. 

I took a few pictures of the flowers, and my sister laughed. She said, "You take pictures of the bitterroot every year. How do you even tell them apart?" I laughed right along with her, but I didn't mention that the faces of the bitterroot are like old friends. It just makes me happy to see them year after year. 

Storm clouds gather over the sage.

On the way home, we stopped to photograph a group of iron statues near Coulee Dam that depict Indian women digging bitterroots. It was an appropriate ending to a beautiful day. 

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