“… Soon we Indians were told to move north (to the Colville Indian Reservation) … (then) the people saw the River (Columbia) became a lake. It too was told to remain in one spot, just like the Indian.”
— Page 66 of River of Memory,
The Everlasting Columbia by William Layman.
— Page 61 of Last Chief Standing,
Tale of Two Cultures by Wendell George.
The history of the Entiat tribe and my great-grandfather Chilcosahaskt was little known until recently when Chelan County Public Utility District and the town of Entiat began an extensive upgrade of Entiat Park. This has led to an opportunity to record history for posterity.
My Colville Business Council delegated me to work with the PUD to design and build a display and interpretive signs for the park. We commissioned our tribal artist, Smoker Marchand, to do a metal sculpture of Chilcosahaskt on a horse. One sign will describe the Entiat tribe and the other Chief Chilcosahaskt.
In Last Chief Standing I took literary license to describe how my great-grandfather would have reflected on the meaning of the 1872 earthquake at Ribbon Cliff. Some of the tribe thought it meant to refuse to move to the reservation and others thought just the opposite.
Chilcosahaskt said, “Does this mean we will not have salmon in the future? If not, how will we survive? Maybe we need to change our ways. We must adjust to the new conditions. We cannot live using the old ways anymore. To survive we must learn what is in store for us and adapt. Is it possible? We have only to look at our ancestors who adjusted to many changing conditions. We have the ability; we have to use it — we cannot let events rule our lives; we must take control and run our own lives.”
The Entiat tribe is one of the 12 now on the Colville Indian Reservation. Although we had difficulties making this change, these tribes adjusted not only to survive but to flourish. The economy is no longer a direct line pursuit of food. Instead it is through full-time careers and paychecks. Today we use jet airplanes instead of horses and legal argument instead of guns. Battles are through negotiations and paper trails.
The new Entiat Park will be completed this fall in time for opening in 2014. A large percentage of the tribal membership can claim lineage to Chief Chilcosahaskt so this is a true heritage milestone.
Wendell George writes Go-la’-ka Wa-wal-sh (Raven Speaks). He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.