Wapato Island, Nch'i-wána

Sixty thousand people lived along this area eating salmon, wapato for time unknown. Flooded by the tide the ponds once full of this arrow-root, wapato bulbs brought up from beneath and loaded into boats. And millions of salmon came up, caught, and eaten. On dry ground where I build a fire people lived once before. Now I'd be arrested if anyone knew I slept there— a "wilderness area" empty of people full of cows. Gangs of raccoons surround my camp glowing eyes in my headlamp beam, some in trees then the moon rises. "Columbia" flowing in the distance— the word everyone has forgotten the meaning of. Was it's life so short? Columbia, the "female embodiment" of our great nation moving across the face of the earth: "Westward Progress" The only way to get here now: Park a car far away, and walk or hitch, or bike to where the dykes are built and a low floodgrove of oaks grows. Leave no car, and none will know where you sleep, or care that you are there. I lay my pillow against an ash tree willow near gnawed by muskrat birds circling layers of birds under birds sunset tallgrass silence owl. One cow lows for her calf as they come in and they don't know why I'm here. They spook in the dark and run for a barn in the distance. How long has it been since someone has slept here? Along the big river Nch'i-wána

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