The Yakama, Chinook and Wenatchi Tribes of Leavenworth, WA

Wenatchi child.If one Googles the Leavenworth area, our retreat location, one will find a consistent historical account that begins with white settlers moving into the Icicle Flats area in the later part of the 1800s to steal resources from the locals: gold, furs,land for farms, trees. Sometimes there’s a token nod to the locals. For any interested in a different and longer area history, one might be encouraged to learn something about the Yakama, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes of the area. Each of those histories speaks from its own set of eyes and experience.

The beginning of history of the Leavenworth,Washington area could begin with a segue like this:

“Leavenworth’s history does not begin with the alpine tradition of the town today, but with the proud heritage of the Yakama, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes. The Native American tribes lived by hunting the land for deer and elk, as well as fishing Icicle Creek for salmon. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful and bountiful lands in North America, the three tribes co-existed from Lake Wenatchee to the Icicle and beyond.”

In fact, the above is the beginning of history when history is written by local, contemporary business interests.

After a mention, in a token nod gesture like the above, the typical area history unfolds like this…

“…The area was eventually settled by pioneers in search of gold, furs and fertile farmland. Stakes were claimed, land was parceled out, and the Leavenworth area was soon bustling with settlers…”

…and as for the area locals, who, in fact, were born, lived and died in the area for generation upon generation, were cleared from the area over a period of about 25-30 years. Like their removal, which is not mentioned, these locals are not mentioned again.

fishing platformsHowever, history might also consider, for example, ongoing First Nation activities at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery which once claimed to be the largest hatchery in the world. Adult salmon returning to the hatchery are still important to tribal fisheries activity. The focus of the fishery is the large pool below the spillway. The character of the river here provides access to construct traditional scaffolds and fishing platforms. It is touted as one of the few remaining vestiges in Washington State offering productive fishing opportunity utilizing traditional methods.

The Wenatchis (or “P’squosa”) were not given local reservation land by the federal government but instead cleared out. It’s reported many modern day Wenatchis are found living on the Colville Indian Reservation, with 11 other aboriginal tribes, with smaller numbers living on the Yakama Reservation.

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, or simply Yakama Nation (formerly Yakima), is a Native American group with nearly 10,000 enrolled members, living in Washington state. Today, the nation is governed by the Yakama Tribal Council, which consists of representatives of 14 tribes and bands.

It is reported that many surviving Chinooks live in the towns of Bay Center, Chinook, and Ilwaco in southwest Washington. Many books have been written about the Chinook, including, Boston Jane: an Adventure.

Wikipedia offers further reading lists and many external links about these local area people as a starting place for any interested in a longer, deeper, alternative history of people in the Leavenworth area:

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