Dec. 8, 1992
Just down the big river, past the Bridge of the Gods, Chief So-Happy's grandchildren sell the illegal fish of a broken treaty. Forty years beneath the Columbia, before the dam that cooled the river's fire, and brought the apathy of lakes, the Salmon People drew their fish from Celilo Falls. A fault had pushed the river back and forced its rushing water down shelves and steps of rock. Here they built their platforms, each one the whole inheritance of families. Perched like Great Blue Herons on long wooden legs and crossed boards, three feet above the singing rapids and fifty feet from shore, the men would wait for the fish to jump the falls. With a quick dip and drag of the net, they divided the fish from water; dripping, gasping. Twenty dollars passed beneath a hand and a bright rose-silver salmon would appear in the trunk of a car, still twisting from the sharp in-rush of air, still awaiting the return of the river.
© Jessica Minier Mabe