Not many people alive remember Kewa, Washington, on the Colville Indian Reservation, the way William Clark Jr. does.
Past and present collide.
“I saw a land up there that I knew I was familiar with it; but I saw it when it was undeveloped,” he said. “There was no sign of civilization there. It was the bare, raw land; it was primordial.
“You could just see it; it was raw virgin land. And I knew the land very well. I see it as it is today, but I also see it as it was before. It’s the same land.”
YAKIMA, 1927 —
Colville Tribal member William Clark is born to William Stanley Clark and Geraldine Toulou. His parents were workers in the fruit industry, the evaporators, he said. They eventually found their way back to Kewa, where they started a new life in a community that had to work together to survive.
One day, William Sr. said he’d like to have a barn on 160-acre property they lived on that belonged to Geraldine, Clark said.
“One day a bunch of neighbors showed up,” he said, “and built a barn and (my dad) served them dinner. They built a barn in one day. That’s what they did in Kewa back in the (late 1920s).”
“There wasn’t much work on the reservation, about near the time the depression was,” added Clark. “While they were alive, they had a good farm going. Had cattle, new barn, good food, nice place to live, good atmosphere.”
Tragedy occurred when Clark’s 2-year-old brother died in an accident. Clark was 4. Not long after the incident, his parents broke up—an 80-plus-year-old moment he recalls like yesterday.
“One day, my mother said we were going over to grandpa’s place, grandma’s place,” he said. “There was dishes on the table, a big boiler on the table heating for Washington clothes. We’re leaving and I’m looking up the hillside and dad’s raking hay up there. That was the last time (in many years) I saw him.”
Family members told Clark his father “was a bad guy,” he recalled. “They said he was mean to me, mean to (mother).
“It takes two to make a war, a dance,” Clark added, noting he later reconnected with his father. “It wasn’t his fault.”
As a young boy, Clark contracted tuberculosis and was rushed to Cushman Indian Hospital in Tacoma. He stayed at the sanatorium for three years.
“I didn’t like it much,” he recalled. “They dumped me off there. I’m here with all these strange people, strange area. I ran away a good part of the time.”
During that time, his mother entered a relationship with another man, and his father another woman. His mother worked on the western side of the state
His grandmother, Helen Toulou, of Kewa, traveled all the way over to take him away, after his poor treatment was reported by a family member nearby.
“(The superintendent) said, ‘We’ll leave it up to you: William do you want to stay here?” Clark recalled. “No.” He thought he was probably cured anyways, he said.
His grandmother took responsibility for him, as his parents had recently divorced, he said.
“I was living with different relatives for that point afterwards,” he said. “I got around 16; I took my first job down in Oregon during World War II. They were hiring high school kids to work in the forest service.”
Clark wound up at Malheur National Forest, near John Day, Oregon, he said.
“I went down there for the summer and came back,” he said. “I didn’t go back to school right away.”
The next year he travelled to Alaska. He had dropped out of school at age 17 to go work in the fishing industry for the summer.
After that did not work out, Clark moved back to Kewa. He struggled to find home there, as well.
“I didn’t like it up there either,” he said. “I got up there and started taking orders from families, farmer agencies.”
Clark recalled an entirely different dynamic present on the Colville Indian Reservation.
“Up until 1935, we were under the agency of the farmer,” he said. “He was a God up there. The (Bureau of Indian Affairs) agent was the man in charge of the reservation and the man lived on it. Anything you wanted to do on the reservation you had to ask him. He was in complete control.
“I felt that the reservation was a prison camp. I felt like a prisoner of war. The people living there didn’t have any rights or privileges. You didn’t have any freedom there.”
“(The Reservation) was a whole lot different than it is today for sure,” he said. “Kewa was a pretty isolated little place. In order to get to Inchelium, you had to use a horse and wagon, a sleigh, or if you had a car you used a car. If you had a car, you didn’t have a road to ride on. The road that goes down from Inchelium and down to Kewa and on down to Rogers Bar was not there.
“The road the farmers used they traveled on horse and wagon, buggy, they traveled around that grade area and it was all muddy and rough. That went on for a good length of time. About eight feet wide, four feet high, you hook it up to horses, big draft animals. They would drag this on the ground and make a grade, make a road. It went from Inchelium to Nespelem. They had a nurse down there, Nurse Jones.
“Mrs. Jones was a World War I ambulance driver in the war. She was working in the Inchelium Sub agency as a nurse down there. If you went to see her and she couldn’t help you, you went to Nespelem. I rode with her one time and I swear to God she was skidding up and down the mountain the whole ride. She had a big cigarette hangin’ in her mouth, it might slide this way, slide that way, she never stopped. But there were no roads. People used to ride a lot of horse back.
Still 17, he joined the Navy in Colville and took his oath in Spokane, he said.
When I got away from all I was talking to you about. The uncle, my mother’s brother. It’s kind of funny in a way. Got out of the Navy, came up to Tacoma, uncle lived in Tacoma. Hanging around his place for two three weeks. He came home from work one day, reading his newspaper in his chair, what are you doing in this house most military guys go out and get a job. I was on 30 days leave. Went to Seattle and signed off on a merchants ship. Three-four days before Christmas. Sailed military, Army transportation services for one year. Come back from the transfer station services. Went over to see my uncle there in Tacoma. “What you doing,” he said. “Going to the bar,” I responded.
“Why don’t you come stay with me and save money?” he said.
He got me drunker than I ever got drunk. First thing he said was, “move back in and we’ll have some fun. I got so drunk there.”
He was called to Spokane in March of 1945 and was sent to California for boot camp at the time World War II ended. Clark spent two years at an Oakland Navy Hospital, before completing his duty and attending the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.
In 1950, when the Korean War broke out, Clark said a typing class in high school probably saved his life. He received a recall to the Navy, to the Marines this time, he said.
“They would have shipped me to Korea,” he said. “I guess they called me three, four days in a row, ‘Where you been? I been calling your name.’
“They said, ‘Can you type?’ I said, ‘Yes.’”
He would be placed in the Medical Records section, where he would assist the processing of people coming to Pendleton, Oregon: How many shots they had, physical disabilities, parents names, religion, among other things, he said.
Clark would eventually end up in Korea. He was placed into the First Combat Engineer Battalion, Abel Company, attached to the Fifth Infantry Regiment and served eight months, he said.
He came back to the United States and reapplied for college at Puget Sound. He was accepted, attended college for a year and a half and dropped out.
“I couldn’t handle it,” he said. “My grades fell. I lost out of school. I lost my GI bill for the Korean War.”
After more than a decade, he went back and graduated.
“I got into my 40s and thought, ‘Well, I didn’t finish my classes. I have some money saved up.’ I gave up a good job and a lot of money and got my bachelor’s of arts from there,” he said.
Upon earning his degree, Clark got into real estate.
“I ended up buying three different properties,” he said. “I was heavily in debt. I had to pay them off. That’s why I couldn’t move back over (to the reservation).”
Although he didn’t live on the reservation, he found himself traveling back often to fight for his family’s blood quantum—a fight that spanned multiple generations.
I was listed 3/16ths Indian. But I was a descendant of Louie Provost. I did quite a bit of studying on that Provost case, research. I came up with some information that was irrefutable. He was Iroquois. Two families over there. One’s a Marchand, one’s a Toulou. The Marchands and Toulou family, their mother was the daughter of Louie Provost. On the Marchand side, all those people are listed as half blood or full. They were both married to Frenchmen by the way. The Toulou family had nobody listed that was more than ¼ blood. But still they were denying people the recognition of Louie’s blood. Finally had to go to the appellate court. Tribal Council proved his blood in 1982, or 83.
“What are we here for today,” judge said. The tribal judge was trying to talk and talk and talk. The decision was Louie Provost was a full-blood Iroquois Indian, and the decision was to give us more blood.
How many people were cheated that way for many years? I couldn’t go to Chemawa, Haskell unless Tribe would recognize you. As far as federal schools were concerned, you had to be a quarter blood. Hurts your pride for one thing. Makes you feel like you were kind of in between. There were some that died in my family that died with hurt pride. One family over there had 22 people that were able to be enrolled over there.
“You got me down as 3/16, does that mean I’m a second-class Indian?” I said.
The Tribes themselves. All these years of, ‘I’m not being an Indian.’ They were denying me the quarter blood that I was entitled to. I decided I was a quarter blood Indian. In 1935, the Tribe and their constitution, said in order to be enrolled you needed ¼. Born before then it didn’t make a difference, you could be enrolled with the Tribe. By the Tribe I was recognized, but I wasn’t enrolled.
My grandmother said, “He was Indian. You were always a quarter.”
My grandmother who spoke Indian, told me when I was 12 years old that Louie Provost was a full-blood Iriqois Indian. The Marchand side was recognized as descendants of Louie Provost. He was married to Julie of the Lakes, full blood. The Marchand side was always recognized as Louie Provost being a full blood Indian.
Clark Jr. said he dug into the genealogy and found that his ancestor’s siblings were listed with a higher blood quantum.
They’re all listed as half blood, she’s listed as a quarter. Same mother, same father. Why would that be?
There was a lot of fighting about keeping us off the rolls. We appeared before the Tribal Council a half a dozen times. I finally had to go to the Indian appellate courts (at Gonzaga University). That’s when they ordered the tribe to enroll, list Louie Provost as a full-blooded Colville Indian.
As far as I’m concerned, I said, “We got it made. We made it.” It was great. I was about 12 when it started. My grandmother and her daughter started then. My grandmother had been dead for 30 years. I’m sure she would have been (happy). As far as I’m concerned, my grandmother Helen Toulou, her daughter Vivian Toulou Ferguson, those two people worked very hard on that case. In fact they had information, pictures, records, information from archives.
I went to work for my grandmother, I saw this baptismal record. Marriage and death certificate listed for Louie Provost. At the archives of Spokane. I looked at that paper. This is a very key piece of information. They were saying that the church records the Tribe was using, the Delemars Records Catholic Northwest, Louie Provost came from near Montreal in Quebec. I can’t think of the town. He came from there. They claimed that he was a French Canadian. I went down to Oregon. My grandmother told me that Louie Provost came out here in 1828, employed by the Hudson Bay Company. Born in 1805. He came out in 1820 I think it was. When he came out, he was a voyager. Freight canoes. They brought big long canoes. They carried the food, freight up to Vancouver. Supplied along the rivers. Fort Colville was one of them. All Army and Hudson Bay boats. They brought the first catholic bishop down here. A lot of French Canadians lived here in this area, intermarrying with the native people. The French Canadians were here, one of the priests, the employees brought him out here, my great-great grandfather. So I went down there to Oregon, first church established by archbishop down there. Church of the First, St. Paul Oregon, in the Willamette Valley. I went to check the records. All the records in the monastery at Mount Angel, Oregon. In town I got talking to the postmaster.
The postmaster’s book had just what Clark was looking for—information that proved there were two Louie Provosts in the area.
He happened to have a copy of this book.
“I’ll let you look at it if you want,” he said. “It’s very rare print.”
And so I look into this book and I see down in St. Paul, Oregon there were a number of baptisms there. Louie Provost was baptizing people down here in 1853, 1854, 1856. In Spokane, records say he died in 1845 and was married. That says there was two Louie Provosts in the area. The one we were talking about died in Spokane up in Colville in 1845. Eight years later they were talking. They got that confused between those two names. Still at that time, they had the Marchands listed as Indians. The Toulous, blood sister; they had us listed as nothing.
Generations, bad blood, between the Toulous and Tribe. A feud. But we got it over with. People spent a lot of money. I spent a lot of time on that damn road: in the libraries, reading books and what not. They had the facts. They can’t deny.
He recalls termination as a CIA vs. BIA battle—the Colville Indian Association versus the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“It went right down to the wire, whether or not the tribe was going to terminate itself. In the meantime, something else was going on. When they opened up that reservation, they didn’t just send over the Indians, they sent the miners, the homesteaders. They gave Indians allotments, the rest was vacant land. They took the north half away because they found gold. The Army marched them down. What they did the same time, the land is a reservation. The miners and homesteaders, they made allotments. Here’s this vast amount of land that was still under federal government control. They called it the Colville Reservation. It wasn’t under control of the Tribe. When the government thought that the tribe was going to terminate, it released it’s control of the 900,000 acres, gave it to the tribal authority. The Federal Government released its control. Then the tribe turned down termination. So the tribe needs up with 800,000 acres it never had before. They relinquished their federal control of the land.
Pretty damn smart I think. Whether it happened by accident. That’s what really happened. The government thought the tribe was going to terminate. So the government released their control. In the meantime, the government turned over the land to them.
(The BIA) were screwing us the whole time, abusing us.
I think the idea was that the BIA wasn’t treating Indians properly. We weren’t getting fair treatment from the BIA. We didn’t like the agency system. Indians were being deprived of the benefits. They felt that if they got under the BIA, they would get a share of the wealth of the reservation passed out to them based on the population. And they would be free of the government regulations. The BIA wasn’t very popular, they were very unfair, prejudicial, mismanagement. That was their feeling. That was their feeling. My grandmother had me write a letter in regards to that situation. I was in the area, Nespelem, I think (a man) got the impression that I was in favor of termination. I swear to god I thought I was going to get a knife stuck in me on the spot. So I didn’t dare breathe that I belonged to the Colville Indian Association itself. They weren’t recognizing the Provost band. She went to the grave with the idea that we weren’t enrolled, recognized. As far as I’m concerned, I did it for them. I’m not going to die with a broken heart for that crap.
(My grandmother) got involved with the CIA.
CIA–they were terminating the BIA rule over the Tribe. They felt that they weren’t getting anything that they shouldn’t have been getting. They felt that the BIA was not fairly representing them, through the agency or the farmer or the council. They were getting the short end of the stick. So they said we’ve had enough of this, we want to bail out, get our share, and let what’s gonna happen happen.
I’ve discovered by reading through the records myself that I’ve found the rules: 200,000 acres of the 1 million acres, available for miners and homesteaders. There was about 800,000 acres left, held in government control.
Timber companies, lumber companies; big chunk of it.
Clark never married, in part because of his issues with his identity, he said.
One of the reasons I’m single is that I came to this idea of, “Do I marry a white woman or an Indian person?” That bothered me quite a bit. I didn’t know how seriously I took it.
I had a lot of turmoil in my own life, my own mind about Indian blood. Where do I stand? Do I look like an Indian? Act like an Indian? Think like an Indian? All this time I kept hearing this in my mind: “Your mother’s a half-breed.” Finally I started acting along the Indian mind. I’m at more peace. I admit I’m very ignorant of Indian ways.
Currently, Clark Jr. identifies with the Native American Church, he said.
Father Pat Twohy comes up to Tacoma, Native American Church. Mass. Reason I go to that mass. I go looking for Indians in the congregation to see if there’s any Indians there. When I saw one I tried to get acquainted with them. Turns out she’s a Blackfeet. Kateri Circle. Circle supporting St Kateri. Promoting this. I did a little carving for them. They had the episcopal type cross. They wanted something more native, so I offered to do it, had training in art. I carved a cedar post. Carved the whole thing, made the whole thing out of cedar. Cross itself is made of mahogany. The figure on the cross is native. Braids on him. I got a look on his face. He looks a little fierce he looks a little tough. Changed it. They liked it. I liked it. I had spiritual help on that. I felt I had people helping me, guiding me, pulling me. We carry it in all the time. Eagle feather. Eagles. I made a bird there, kind of like an eagle. The idea is that the bird is God. The great spirit. That bird is there hovering over the Indian hanging on that cross.
They have a Kateri Circle, St Kateri Katowisa, She was a Mohawk Indian. She became a Mohawk Indian by no choice her own. She was adopted by her uncle. Her dad’s brother. Her dad’s brother was a traditional Indian. She was not getting married to anybody. She got to liking the Indians. She started getting picked on by the Tribe. She went to the mission. She had smallpox herself. She was marred, scarred, vision, crippled, ill and disabled. She devoted her life to praying, immolation of herself, punishment of herself, wanted to become a nun, wouldn’t take her in as a nun, at the age of 24 her strength came out, as she died her body straightened out, scars went away, complexion went back, the last word she said was, “Jesus, I love you,” and she died as a beautiful young lady. She had a lot of followers for many, many years. The church finally recognized her about two years ago. Catholic hierarchy recognized her. She had a worldwide following. Going back and meeting these people—Mohawks back there—I described Louie Provost; they said he came here, he was a Mohawk Iroquois.
He attributes his long life to the decisions he made to change his life for the better.
“You gotta decide how you’re going to live: How you’re going to work, how you’re gonna eat, how you’re gonna behave. That’s one.
Faith. You gotta have faith. Whether that’s in whatever religion. You gotta have faith in God. And you have to make decisions along those lines.
Another thing is, I have some medical problems now. (My doctor attributes longer lives as follows: “20 years ago, we didn’t have medications, procedures, medications we have today.” He said, “We can keep you going a lot longer. The medical skills have improved.”
At the same time, you’ve got to eat properly, think properly, believe differently and knock off all the destructive habits, drop them, none of it. I used to drink. Get in fights. I got in a street fight downtown one time. As a result of a fight I thought I was going to kill somebody and that scared me. If I killed somebody or got myself killed, I’d lose all my friends and my self-respect. I made a decision to go to church the next day. And I’ve been going to church ever since. I wasn’t reading the Bible much. My grandmother said, ‘Have you ever read the Bible?’ I read it three, four times. So I started reading the Bible. The Bible has a lot of good information, good rules on living and how to live and how to treat yourself and other people. The main thing is, you have to make these decisions yourself. Never use the negative attitude, it’s never gonna work.”
The Last of the Old Ones series features 11 Colville Tribal members ages 80-100, for which 199 total remained as of Jan. 1, 2015 according to Tribal Enrollment. These members represent about 2 percent of the 9,500 tribal population.