Monthly Archives: September 2015

Latourell Falls

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We are having some unseasonably warm weather! So while the leaves are changing and there’s a golden glow in the sunlight, it’s still very, very hot.

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We took a trip to the gorge and found the road closed, blocking many of the waterfalls we usually go to. Latourell is beautiful and it’s a nice hike, but it’s very short and usually full of people. This day, it wasn’t crowded at all.

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We spent most of our time hanging out at some incredible basalt steps, playing eagles.

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Homeschool—Week Two

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Week Two! We’re still going strong! I decided to stay with the First People/Nomads oeuvre from Story of the World and we’ll probably stick with that for a few more weeks actually. Another new element is that I quickly learned last week that Max is not interested in doing his own thing and wants very much to be a part of the action. I’ve been rotating through beans, water beads, rice, play dough, etc. and I recently checked out some Montessori preschool books from the library, this and this. He will also paint or watch animal videos with us on the computer, so it’s working ok.

MONDAY
-Change the date on the calendar
-Spelling // watch, cedar, village, that, the, this, then, dream, coyote, wolf. Create a sentence from those, either written or spoken.
-Listen to Dream Wolf by Paul Goble
-Make puppets of the characters— boy, girl, wolf, background images.
-Put on puppet show of the story
-Play Shapes Go Fish (We call it Go Shapes!) — I printed two copies of these from mrprintables.com, colored and laminated them. I wanted to make a memory game but they are totally see-through, but Go Shapes! works pretty well.
-Animal Study — I made a lottery of little strips of paper with animals written on them. Fern picks one and we learn about the thing and she draws it in her notebook. The goal today was to talk about how we get information, and where we look: books from the shelf, checking out books at the library, internet, youtube, etc.

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TUESDAY

-Change the date on the calendar
-Spelling // water, waterfall, current, rapids, swirl, skipper, strider, crawdad, net, boots // Create a sentence
-We took a field trip with our co-op to our beloved creek. All was well until Max and I stepped in a yellowjackets’ nest and we got stung. He got one on the neck but amazingly had very little reaction and was mostly ok, although it was very painful and scary. I got stung six times and I had really bad time of it. It’s a bummer because it’s our favorite place and it’s so easy to spend a day there. I may just wait till the cooler weather comes because I don’t want to get stung again!

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WEDNESDAY

Change the date on the calendar
-Spelling // bees, experiment, test, materials, love, chemistry, guess, findings, we, are
-Science experiments — I picked three experiments the night before out of a kit and book, and made sure we had all the materials. I had Fern use her notebook to make guesses and write what actually happened.
#1 Garbled Marbles // Water beads. Fern guessed what would happen to them, which ones would grow bigger, which ones would be harder, etc.
#2 Making Snow // I used instant snow powder and she tried a few different techniques, added food coloring, different temperatures of water, etc.
#3 Making Worms // I have no idea what polymer this was but it was disgusting and smelled of beach balls. She was only mildly into it.
#4 Make Your Own // She just mixed up a bunch of stuff but I asked her to make guesses and write it all down.
-Comics Club — We host a biweekly comics club and it’s pretty fun.

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THURSDAY
I was super sick from the yellowjacket stings and we had a bunch of household errands and chores to do. It was a free day, mostly spent playing Lego and watching movies. We also made flip books.

FRIDAY
-Beach Day

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She Who Watches

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I first found out about Tsagaglalal, or She Who Watches, while at a summer camp focused on indigenous survival skills. Until I went to that camp in Eastern Oregon I never even knew of petroglyphs or pictographs, and I was lucky to be able to see hundreds of them in person. The face of She Who Watches was in a book about traditional fishing on the Columbia River and it captivated me. I made a xerox copy of that page and carried it in my wallet for years. I wished for over twenty years to see it in person. I always read about it and checked up on it and since Fern is interested I decided we’d go as part of our homeschool work.

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It’s not easy to get there, and you have to be led in on a guided tour due to some extreme vandalism at all of the rock art sites around that area. It takes a few weeks of calling and scheduling to get a reservation on a tour and I was thrilled when we finally got to go.

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At the beginning of the tour we were all standing there at the gate waiting to start when the guide stopped and said, “You know, many native people won’t go over here.” Until that point I hadn’t really considered that it might not be the best thing to do.

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At several times through the tour an enormous cargo train loudly passed not that far away. On the other side of the river is Interstate 84, which takes people and trailers along the Oregon stretch of the Columbia. The guide pointed out across the river on the Oregon side, you can see a two-lined path— the actual Oregon Trail.

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I have ancestors who were on the Oregon Trail and I’ve always felt a connection to that, like I’m somehow really from Oregon. Surely they were people who endured an impossible physical and psychological challenge to get to Oregon, which also happens to be this insanely mystical, beautiful, fertile, wild state. It’s hard not to be thrilled by that idea. But at the site of Tsagaglalal I couldn’t stop thinking about the brutality she represented, and Oregon’s own racist history.

The book that we read about She Who Watches was this one, by Willa Holmes. There is a lot to it, and the story the guide gave was slightly different than the book. But the short version is that Tsagaglalal was a well-revered Chief of the Wishram Tribe, before white settlers came down the river. Coyote came and told her about sickness and death that was coming to her people. If she believed him, she could take her place in the universe with her ancestors to avoid it. She said she would never leave her people and she agreed to stay above the river on these rocks to watch over them forever.

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When you look at what the face is “watching” now, it’s overwhelming. The Columbia River was essentially flooded to build The Dalles dam at a site that was so important to people in the area, Celilo Falls, that it is considered to be the longest continually inhabited settlement in North America. People used it for 15,000 years as a fishing and cultural hub, and of course, it got traded away for a pittance in a government deal. I understand what a hydroelectric dam means for our region in regard to coal consumption and overall energy needs, I really do. I just never grasped the reality of The Dalles dam until I went there. Many of the rock slabs covered in rock art were just placed at this site during the construction of the dam in the 1950’s, as a frantic effort to save what they could.

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It wasn’t just the train, the gated fence because of vandalism, the Oregon Trail, or the once-wild river that was turned into just a series of flooded lakes with the building of the dams. We were in a group of (I would guess) mostly white people. A group of white people paid the government to send a white guide to take us inside a place that’s sacred to thousands of native people, just so we could look at a symbol that’s meant to induce reverence for the harm white people have done. After going there, I feel like visiting these places is no different than other forms of cultural appropriation, of which I have admittedly been very guilty of. Of course it’s beautiful, unbelievably so, but it wasn’t made to be trivial. It’s not our stuff.

There’s an island in the middle of the river, Memaloose Island, and it’s been known for centuries as a place where native people are buried. Then a white settler named Victor Trevitt came through and when he died, he wanted a monument built to himself and for his body to be buried on that island. He insisted the people living there were his friends and he called them “honorable men” of the river. And he may well have been their friend on his own terms, but this disgusting monument on this island is so indicative of what it means to be a white person around here. Columbia River history shouldn’t ever involve Victor Trevitt, the real story is from the thousands of people in countless nations who have lived here for centuries.

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The book ends with this quote:

“Now those who climb onto the very rocks her feet once stepped upon, back in the mists of time, stand and look at that knowing face and those penetrating eyes. So do good and live well. She watches.”

Seeing She Who Watches is something I’ve wanted to do for most of my life. But now, I wish it was totally closed off. I wish you could go to a place far enough away and look through binoculars and maybe see it on a clear day. I think it should be given back to the nations of people whom it represents. It doesn’t belong to me, even when I feel so deeply drawn to it. If anything, going there made me feel even stronger that I need to be blunt, clear, and direct in making sure the kids see our privilege and know how to identify and fight racism against all people of color. Because it’s grotesque what vast harm has been done to indigenous people, here in Oregon and everywhere.

I’m thankful that Tsagaglalal is there, and I feel lucky that I got to see it with Fern. It’s given her such a valuable lesson in our fellow humans and what they’re capable of, both good and bad. She totally gets it when I bring up bias and racism, and sometimes has a visceral, physical reaction to it. When I told her about what Tsagaglalal represents, she let out a guttural growl, flaring her nostrils like she was ready to storm anyone who would try to harm these people. I hope she never loses that growl.

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