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City and Spokane Tribe open access to lower falls, name new park

Carol Evans

Carol Evans speaks at ceremony naming The Gathering Place.

Both at the naming ceremony for the Gathering Place plaza on Sept. 21 and through her Council Connections cable TV program, Spokane City Councilwoman Candace Mumm uplifted the significance of the site that gives access to the Lower Spokane Falls between the City Hall and Avista buildings on Post St.

The plaza is on the Spokane Tribe ancestral lands, used for century upon century as the annual gathering place for them and for people from other tribes to trade, have contests and share the salmon harvest.

“This river, these falls, this gathering place does not belong to us. We belong to it,” she said.  “The spectacular falls have always been an attraction to our city and were the centerpiece of the 1974 World’s Fair.”

Candace recalled Chief Seattle’s words in the U.S. Pavilion, reminding visitors of the Native American understanding:  “The earth does not belong to man.  Man belongs to earth.”

Also at Expo ‘74, Chief Dan George of the coastal Salish urged people to help clean up the earth, conserve water and protect trees and fish.

Nearly a million salmon a year used to collect at Spokane Falls.  Summer Chinook kings—50 to 80 pounds—drew about 10,000 Spokanes, Coeur d’Alenes, Kalispels, Colvilles, Palouse and Columbias to fishing camps.

Early white settlers saw the encampments 200 years ago, Candace said.

Aware of that, the City Council sought a process to choose a name that revered the river and its history.

The Plan Commission, which names public places, reached out to the Spokane Tribe and others, who submitted hundreds of ideas for the name. A Salish, Spokane tribal name was chosen: The Gathering Place “snt’el’?emin’tn.”

Gathering Place naming
Spokane City and Tribal leaders at the naming of Gathering Place park.

Mayor David Condon said that today the plaza is a place for the community to “congregate, communicate and celebrate.”

City Council President Ben Stuckart said it “honors our city’s lifeblood—our river.  It is a place where everyone can reflect on and celebrate Spokane, tribal sovereignty and the return of salmon to the river.” 

Carol Evans, chair of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, said a name gives identity.  She introduced herself in her language, naming her parents and grandparents, and saying where she is from.

 “My people are inclusive and welcoming,” she said.  “When we do naming, we do it with a ceremony.

“The Gathering Place is on our historic homeland, where the Salmon Chief gathered all tribes.  Some salmon runs were so thick we could walk across the river on salmon,” she said. 

“The salmon sustained my ancestors, who fished and hunted here.  They gathered roots in the prairie and picked berries on Mt. Spokane,” she said.  “Now we live 30 miles from here.

“We did not lose connection with the land when we were relocated.  We remain connected to it,” Carol said, grateful that city leaders “see we are part of the community” and partner to clean up the river. 

Scott Morris, CEO of Avista, appreciates being in a city where he goes to elected officials with a vision and they respond, “How can we do it?”

For decades, Avista has related to the Spokane Tribe on the river, cultural issues and economic partnerships, he said.  Avista has owned the land that was transformed into a plaza as a gathering place and an access point to Huntington Park and views of the Lower Falls.

“For the 125th anniversary of Avista, we are giving this gift back to Spokane to leave a legacy,” Scott said. 

Next to the plaza is an annex building Avista has given to Mobius Science Center for its new home.

“This was and is the homeland for the Spokane Tribe,” Candace said in the Council Connections cable production, in which she interviewed several people.

“So much of their history, language, culture and traditions have been lost,” she said, noting that being part Cherokee she identifies with that loss.

Her great-great grandparents came by covered wagon in the 1870s and started a wheat farm near Palouse.  Her family moved to Spokane once it became populated.  The Anderson family farm still exists in Palouse.

Candace earned a degree in broadcast journalism in 1982 at Pacific Lutheran University and a master’s in business administration in 2010 at Gonzaga.  She was managing editor and a radio and TV news anchor and reporter with KXLY and several other stations.

A member of Whitworth Presbyterian, she said her faith encourages her to honor other cultures and faiths.

“We can learn from Native American Spirituality,” she said, noting that the gathering place was a cultural, business and spiritual center.

Candace, who had served on the city’s Plan Commission, knew it was important to have a name that revered the history, the partnership of the tribe and utility, and efforts to clean up the river.

In a Council Connections interview, Carol said,  “We were salmon and river people, sustained by salmon and the river, and living off the land. 

“When we moved to our reservation, we were surrounded by three bodies of water—Tshimikan Creek, the Spokane River and the Columbia River.  Water, rivers and land are important. 

“We do not see that this is mine and that is yours.  We’re all part of the land, environment and whole area.  Our Creator gave it to us, and we are to take care of, respect and share,” Carol explained. 

“My ancestors welcomed others, because there was plenty to share.  We never took more than we needed to sustain our lives,” she added.

“If we went to homelands of other people, they welcomed us, as we welcomed them,” Carol said. “The tradition was passed down for thousands of years from grandmothers to their children, until the wars came, and we relocated.

“For four generations, we have not had salmon.  We did not know we were salmon people.  Grand Coulee Dam was built and stopped the salmon,” Carol said.

The Spokane Tribe had to change their lifestyle. 

Some ancestors were put in boarding schools where they could not speak their language or share their customs. 

Now the tribe is working to restore the language, beginning with its 10 fluent speakers teaching Salish to small children in an immersion school.

Half of the Spokane Tribe’s 2,800 members live on the reservation, and many live in Spokane.

Spokane Tribal Business Council vice chair David Brown Eagle, who drummed and sang at the naming ceremony, is learning Salish to teach his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren the history and value of the river, the place and the people.

Candace summed up what the City of Spokane is doing to clean up the river: reducing PCBs, phosphorous and storm water flowing into it, protecting and cleaning up the shoreline and bottom,” she said.

Full interviews on Council Connection are at youtube.com/watch?v=zORYez4xqjs.

For information, call 625-6718 or email cmumm@spokanecity.org.





Copyright © November 2015 - The Fig Tree