NESPELEM – When researcher William Layman, Ph.D, moved to Wenatchee in 1979, he was already enamored with the Columbia River.
As a kid, growing up in Ohio, he saw a photograph of Celilo Falls, he told the Colville Business Council in CBC Chambers, Dec. 5.
“I wanted to see that river,” he said. “To me, the river was like a beautiful necklace with each bead connected to each other, and each bead was a very, very special place on the river. Kettle Falls. Rock Island. Celilo.”
But, said Layman, when he came, the river he found was different than he had imagined.
“It was as though somebody had taken a big pair of scissors and cut the chain,” he said. “All of the record of these places had been disseminated to various archives, institutions throughout the United States and Canada. I took it as my job to bring that necklace back together as best as I could.”
As part of that effort, Layman authored three primary works about the river, including “Native River: The Columbia Remembered,” “River of Memory: The Everlasting Columbia” and “The Atlas of the Canadian Columbia.”
On Dec. 5, Layman presented the Colville Tribes with his body of work, including both his finished books pertaining to the Colville Tribes and Colville Tribal traditional territories as well as supporting documentation he had collected over the lifetime of his work on the Columbia River.
“I kind of regarded myself as a site-guardian,” said Layman. “I don’t give out information about these sites to many people. It’s been an honor over these years to play this role of bringing this material together along with the original base material. I’ve come to a point in my life where I wanted to follow through on an intention I had in the very beginning to give these back to the Colville Tribes.”
Much of the collection that Layman provided was based on previous work by Harold Cundy, who between 1927 and 1937 captured via sketch over 57 different sites of rock images (pictographs and petroglyphs) across the region.
Cundy traveled across the region for his work as a flour salesman for the Wenatchee Milling Company and Centennial Flour Mills, and when he traveled he would ask locals about rock images, according to Layman.
Cundy’s pen and ink drawings included work duplicating the images at Rock Island where as many as 600 panels containing up to 30 elements each were found.
Rock Island was the first dam built on the Columbia River, and by the time it was built, Cundy had 36 drawings of the island’s petroglyphs.
To highlight the importance of the collection, Layman presented pictures of Cundy’s documentation and notes for a site near Tonasket that was destroyed in the 1980s when, said Layman, “a man called Adelin Fredin to tell her he wanted to paint over the site, because in his view it was a dangerous place. He said it was a portal and if you entered the portal it would suck you in and you could never leave the portal.”
Fredin called the sheriff, but six months later the man called again and then painted over the rock images.
“Without documentation such as these, we wouldn’t have any record at all of that,” said Layman.
Along with Cundy’s work, which Layman called “a base record,” Layman’s work included additional site files and research documentation.
“If you go into anyone of these site files, you see a whole world,” said Layman. “It’s almost as though the boxes it is contained in, should be done by an artist because it is all sacred material.”
In gratitude for his gift, CBC presented Layman with an honorary Pendleton blanket.