The new construction on the Colville Reservation’s Buffalo Lake Road near Nespelem.

I love road trips and near the end of September I took my dogs, Buddy and Golden Walks, to Lake Wenatchee State Park outside of Leavenworth. What a beautiful area! The White River is particularly wonderful this time of year: Sparkling water, bright colored leaves and trees; great little campsites. The foothills of the Cascades are the traditional home for my people and I feel blessed to be here. 

If you haven’t been following the activities of the Wenatchi Advisory Group, they have worked diligently for years to regain fishing rights in the P’squosa traditional territory and are currently working on hunting rights. With the help of historian, Richard Hart, WAG continues working toward the long term goal of regaining the land promised to them in treaties and agreements with the U.S. government. Imagine a P’squosa homeland! The first step in that direction was to achieve recognition, in 2010, of the fishing rights at the Wenatshapum Fishery, the confluence of the Wenatchee River and Icicle Creek. In 2014, the late Leroy “Chas” Williams was elected Salmon Chief for the Wenatchi. Another step toward a homeland was successfully regaining the Cashmere Indian Cemetery. The headstone blessing was June 27, 2017. Over these years, we reclaimed our traditional name, P’squosa. “Wenatchi” is what the Yakama Nation called the P’squosa. WAG is working to assert and reclaim our hunting rights, too. There is so much more to our history that we are reclaiming, thanks to the diligent work of WAG, the Colville Tribal History and Archaeology Department, the Colville Business Council and the individuals that continue the research and work. 

September is a great time to visit Leavenworth. The National Fish Hatchery celebrates Salmon Festival. They have incredible activities during the third week of September, inviting local schools to bring children to learn about our brother, Salmon. Saturday is open to the public. This year Bernadine Phillips, the Colville Tribes’ Wenatchi Cultural Facilitator, outdid herself in helping develop activities at the tribal village. She invited several Wenatchi People, P’squosa, so festival participants could learn from the true inhabitants of the area. She also helped produce a wonderful booklet for this year’s “River Ramble.” When you see her, let her know how proud we are of her and the others who worked to build a strong indigenous presence for this event and the people of Leavenworth. 

Did I say I love road trips? For those of you who don’t travel Buffalo Lake Road, (SURPRISE!) we have a new road on the reservation. Well, not new, exactly. It’s an old road, but it had five miles of washboard dirt and gravel until this year. Those miles have been replaced by one of the most beautiful strips on the reservation. Wide, smooth, well-banked corners made even more safe and beautiful with guardrails at the drop-off edges! At $5 million, we have a stretch of million-dollar-per-mile roadway. I know nothing of the costs of building road, or the details of construction, so I stopped last fall while it was under construction to ask a supervisor if we were going to get a little strip-mall with it. He was definitely happy with the contract and chuckled with me at the idea of a little mall up there on the flat stretch by the turnoffs to Buffalo Lake and Rebecca Lake. It would be a perfect spot for a little convenience store for all the business that flows through there. Lots of Colville tribal members, their friends and families camp up there in the summer and many more people come through to fish. The families living in the area would also benefit. Just a thought for down the road! 

*If you want to visit and/or camp in the state parks, you can get your Discover Pass for the parks at Mt. Tolman.

Recommended reading: E. Richard Hart: “American Indian History on Trial: Historical Expertise in Tribal Litigation,” University of Utah Press, 2018. 

“Lost Homeland: the Methow tribe and the Columbia reservation,” Shafer Historical Museum, 2017. 

—R.L. Haines

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