Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Merritt Nichols

I recently made contact with Gerrie Asleson, a distant cousin from the Nichols family, and received a photograph of my ancestors Merritt Nichols and Anna Miranda Siloway. Merrit was born in 1817 and died some time around 1900, so this photograph has to be more than 100 years old!

Thanks Gerrie for sharing this piece of our family history.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Peace

On Saturday, His Holiness Katok Getse Rinpoche performed a prayer for world peace on the summit of Mount Spokane. As part of the observance, I spoke briefly about the history of the Spokane Tribe. Those who attended the event were very moved. For my part, I felt honored to participate.

During the ceremony, I had the honor to sit with His Holiness and Lama Lakshey Zangpo Rinpoche.

His Holiness and I sat together after the ritual. He spoke to me through an interpreter and asked me questions about the spirits of our ancestral tradition.

The translator Tenzin Weigyal, His Holiness Katok Getse Rinpoche, and Lama Lakshey Zangpo Rinpoche.


For two days and nights we kept a fire burning on the ovens. Then after fifty one hours, we finally opened the pits.

The food turned out beautifully.

Whitney continued to help with the process.


The morning after the thunderstorm, a beautiful morning dawned.


After the first night of cooking, a thunderstorm rolled across the Wellpinit meadow and nearly washed us away. Pretty much everyone disappeared for dry ground, but Whitney stayed behind to help us cover the ovens with a tarp.

As much as it rained, I'm glad to say the ovens stayed warm and dry.

Earth Oven

After cleaning the roots and gathering moss, we prepared the food for cooking.

Francis built the fire for the oven.

The rocks were heated to red-hot temperature.

The moss was washed.

The food was placed into cloth bags and packed between layers of wet vegetation.

The oven is buried and cooking.


Before we dug the pit for our camas, we made a visit to the woods to gather black moss. We used a long pole to retrieve the moss from the trees. Black moss, which is actually a lichen, is a traditional food.


After gathering the roots, we brought them to my aunt's house for cleaning.


I've been off the grid for more than a week, mostly because I dedicated myself to remembering our traditional practices.

Last Monday, a few of us traveled back to Spangle, WA to gather camas. After Culture Week at the Wellpinit school, my friend and I agreed to make another pit oven so that I could see the process from beginning to end. Of course, it makes no sense to make an oven without food to cook. The trip to Spangle would provide the necessary ingredients for our project.

As we gathered, the drizzle just about drenched us, but we stayed long enough to get the roots we would need to cook in the oven.

Whitney in the camas field.


My friend Francis.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rhonda's Graduation

Yesterday Rhonda graduated from Spokane Falls Community College with her Associate of Arts degree. She is now continuing her studies at Whitworth University and hopes to obtain a degree in social work.

We are all very proud of her!

The family took this photograph after Rhonda's graduation.


June 16th was my wedding anniversary.

Rhonda and I have been married for 16 years, but we first met 20 years ago. It's strange to think that I've known Rhonda for more than half my life! We were first introduced by mutual friends who were convinced we were meant for one another.

Our first meeting took place in the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Francis, which is now a Mexican restaurant. In honor of our meeting, we had our anniversary dinner in that same room.

IEL Graduation

Once again, we attended the IEL graduation and marched in our academic regalia. For the fourth year in a row, I took pictures with my colleagues who work in the same assignment. This year, I worked with Jessica and Carole.

Jason Moses

Jason Dean Moses

My cousin Jason Moses passed away this week at the tender age of 34 years. He leaves behind a grieving wife and seven year old daughter. Jason and I spent much of our childhoods together during camping and hunting trips on the Spokane Reservation. It's always hard when our family members pass away, but especially someone as young as Jason. He will be greatly missed.

Jason is pictured above with his father Paul.


During the same hike in which I encountered the vultures, I also saw three deer. Of course, the deer make regular appearances in meadows and roadside fields, but these particular deer behaved in a strange way. I made all kinds of noise, but they made no attempt to run. In fact, two of the deer walked parallel to me at a distance of only 40 or 50 feet. One of the deer stopped to sneeze and scratch his ear with his back foot, while the other even walked toward me to get a closer look.


About a week ago, I hiked along the Spokane River and stumbled into a committee of red-headed vultures. A few of them perched atop the living trees, but most seemed to prefer the skeletal remains of dead trees. It would seem they even prefer death when selecting a place to roost for the night.

Only rarely do I encounter vultures in this part of the world, but suddenly I stood face to face with a whole colony, numbering at least twenty five members. Others may have remained hidden in the nearby trees.

The vultures definitely noticed my presence, but they must have known I intended no harm. They allowed me to photograph the group while only one or two kept a wary eye in my direction.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pit Opening

On Thursday morning, my uncle Francis opened the pit ovens. He carefully removed the surface dirt and dug down to the wool blanket separating the various layers. Then he removed much of the hay by hand, and gave some to the observers as a demonstration of the heat. Even after the fire cooled, the hay was still quite hot to the touch. Finally, he removed the bags of moss we had buried three days before.

The moss shrinks during the cooking process. The bags start out large and full, and eventually cook down to flat sheets or cakes.

My auntie Iva and I had the opportunity to separate the moss from its cooking bag.

The moss turns jet black and the onions turn sweet as candy. Many of the young people don't like moss, or maybe they don't try it because of its appearance, but I love it. In the picture above, the heat rising from the moss fogged my camera lens.

Francis demonstrated a handmade flute.

Aftger removing the food from the pits, we enjoyed a wonderful community dinner. We all had a great time.


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