pages fly away 12

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs is made up of three tribes: the Wasco, the Tenino, and the Paiute.  They are some of the last to speak the Chinook Jargon, a pidgin trade language that originated in the Pacific Northwest.  Historically, their economy has been heavily dependent on fishing, but Iin 1964, a resort was completed, and in 2012, the Indian Head Casino was opened, with five hundred slot machines. 

I didn’t really know what I was doing there, just poking around more than anything.  I wasn’t about to drive around with a dream catcher dangling from my rearview mirror, trying to crash ceremonies.  If invited, I’d do anything.  If not, I’d try to remain unobtrusive.

High upon a dry hill, beneath three tipis, was the name Warm Springs.  I drove into town, past the tribal headquarters and community center.  A restaurant in a trailer was selling Indian Fry Bread.  A sign advertised an upcoming suicide awareness walk.  There were some murals outside the Warm Springs Market, one of an elder, a woman, in a traditional basket hat and glasses.  There was another of a younger woman, wearing the same style hat and a jingle dress, clutching a flowered bag in front of her.  Then there was a hoop dancer, in a green shirt and headband, keeping five hoops aloft on his outstretched arms.

The hoop dance is popular with many tribes across the states, performed both in competitions and for healing.  The story is that a magical boy invented the dance, using the hoops to mimic animals and tell the stories of humankind.  Later, drums and flute were added, and the modern incarnation, created by Tony White Cloud in the 1930s, went on to incorporate multiple hoops, sometimes as many as twenty-eight at one time.

On another side of the market, there was a larger mural, that of a young man holding a frame drum, turning to face the distant snowcapped mountains.  All around him life was abounding, a salmon was leaping from a stream, two mule deer stood beside it, a bald eagle hovered overhead, a coyote snuck through the tall grass, two wild horses danced in the wind.  This is a vision of what life could be, not what it had become.

From the town of Warm Springs, I drove up to the northwest corner of the reservation and got on to highway 35, right at the base of Mount Hood.  Mount Hood is the highest peak in Oregon, with twelve glaciers and snow year-round.  A road crew was painting new yellow stripes down the center of the road, and I noticed it just in time and stayed far right.  Returning the Kia with yellow tires, along with all the mileage I was already racking up, would be hard to explain.

It wasn’t far from there to the Colombia River.  When I reached the town of Hood River, I got on the 84 west and went down to Cascade Locks, a system of canals and gates once used to navigate the dangerous rapids, and parked beside the Bridge of the Gods.  It was late afternoon by now and time to find a campsite.  Google Maps directed me back in the direction I’d just come, to a place called Wyeth Campground.  The owner was walking around with a clipboard when I pulled in and directed me to an open spot.  I set up my camp and then took a long walk to get my bearings and stretch my legs.

It had been a long day and I was exhausted, yet a tight wire of adrenaline was still buzzing in my brain.  I got in my tent early that night and waited for the sun to rise, tossing back and forth, and listening to the wind blow through the trees.  The only other sound was the pounding of my heart.

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s