Monday, June 30, 2014

Earth Oven

Many years ago, our Indian ancestors survived by harvesting wild foods like camas, wild onions, and black moss. They often spent weeks in the field digging, cleaning, and processing the foods, then they baked the foods for several days in a traditional earth oven. Nowadays, we can easily buy all our food from the supermarket, but many of us maintain the old food gathering as a way of keeping our ancestral connections alive. 

When we cook traditional foods in the ground, we have to tend the surface fires for at least two or three days. During that time, friends and family gather to visit and tell stories. 

Francis is my fellow cook. A long time ago, only women were allowed to cook the Indian foods, but the grandmothers in our family have given their blessing for us to cook. 

Sunset during one of our cooking days. 

One of the best parts of cooking food in the ground is when the elders of our family come to watch. They sit around the fires and tell stories from their personal histories. They're such beautiful people! I feel blessed to have such wonderful elders.  

This year the camas came out of the oven just right. 

A cross section of camas showing all the layers.

My niece and nephew always help with the baking. 

The brown camas just as it came out of the oven.

The black moss was flavored with wild onions. 

Wellpinit Sunset

During our pit bake this year, we experienced the full range of June weather: thunder, lightning, and torrential rain, followed by clear blue skies and a resplendent sunset.   


Yarrow amid the leaves of arrowleaf-balsamroot.

Brown-eyed Susan...


Stephen and I crossed paths through my work at Whitworth University. He recently reminded me that we first met at an Anti-Columbus Day event, though I had forgotten about that meeting. Mostly, we have shared some common experiences from our respective travels to Guatemala, but we have also had some in-depth theological and philosophical discussions where we explored that uncomfortable space between faith and disbelief, rationalism and spirituality. In a culture polarized by ideological extremes, I am grateful to share the journey with a friend who can hold all the contradictions of life with courageous non-judgment. 

Now Stephen is leaving for a year to work in Colombia. These photographs were taken a few minutes before parting ways. I'm sad to see him go, but in our language, we never say goodbye. Instead, we always tell one another, "See you later." As we each choose different paths in life, nothing is lost. We carry the wisdom and the connection forever. 

A few months ago, Stephen's t-shirt sparked a conversation that lasted several hours. His shirt depicts Monseñor Oscar Romero, the Catholic archbishop from El Salvador who was assassinated for denouncing the murder of his people. 

The back of the shirt reads:

"Resucitaré en mi pueblo."

"Que mi sangre sea semilla de libertad...
Mi muerte sea por la liberación de mi pueblo
y como un testimonio de esperanza 
en el futuro" (Marzo de 1980). 

"I will be resurrected in my people."

"May my blood be the seed of liberty...
May my death be for the liberation of my people
and as a testimony of hope
in the future" (March of 1980).

Black Moss

This year, we found large quantities 
of black moss for our yearly pit bake. 

Much of the moss grows up high, 
way beyond our reach.

Moses Road.

Wild rose during our black moss expedition. 

Our black moss crew.


When my brother and I were kids, we stayed with our dad for a few summers on the Spokane Reservation. We played for countless hours in the forests, fields, and ponds surrounding our dad's house. One day in June, we discovered a massive patch of wild strawberries growing nearby. We spent hours sitting on the ground and eating the strawberries until our hands and faces were covered with strawberry juice. This was one of my favorite childhood memories.    

A few days ago, I related this story to Patrick and Tim during our search for black moss. Perhaps an hour later, we stopped by the roadside and found a large patch of strawberries - just like my story. The wild strawberries were just as magical as I remember them. 

Foam Berries

Three of us set out to find black moss for pit baking, 
and in the process, we found some amazing foam berries. 

These berries are the source of "Indian ice cream." 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Second Day of Camas

We went back to the camas fields near Spangle for a second day of digging. 

As I was digging, a song sparrow fluttered away from my peceʔ and perched on a nearby fence-line. She scolded us, which alerted us to the presence of her nest. We looked down and found five miniature eggs hidden beneath a cluster of leaves. I took a few pictures and returned the nest to the mother bird. 

My auntie Iva arrived part way through the day and shared a hundred stories of the old days - of digging camas as a young girl, preparing the baking pits, and visiting with her grandparents. I could have listened to her all day and more. 

Sunset near Spangle.

The first batch of camas cleaned.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


The camas were as beautiful as ever in the fields near Spangle. They were a little drier than usual, but they were still vibrant and alive. For me, these plants represent tradition, spirituality, and my connection to life. They are part of my extended community in nature.  





Streaks of Rust

Between digging camas and wild onions, Tim and I stopped to visit the Benson brothers. A recent rain stained the mural with streaks of rust from the bridge overhead. The stains created a beautiful pattern over the paint that reminded me of the transitory nature of life. 

The streaks almost resemble tears.

Cain and Tim. 

Todd and a visitor.


My friend and I dug wild onions by the Spokane River. 

Some of the flowers were still pink, 
but most had already dried.

The onions were growing in the sand 
on the shore of the river.

A view of the Spokane River from above.


Solstice ceremony with my friends in Loon Lake. 
They constructed a dome on the hill 
to be used for yoga and spiritual retreats.


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