On My Nightstand

Cover of The book "The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun." Photo courtesy of http://www.historylink.org/
Cover of The book “The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun.” Photo courtesy of http://www.historylink.org/

This week I began reading The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun, by Robert H. Ruby and John A Brown. I have the expanded edition published in 2006. The original publication was in 1970.
I’ve only finished the first three chapters, but I’m already hooked. I’m not originally from Spokane and, as a student of history, I’m always interested in the past that surrounds me.
The book has surprised me. In the Foreword by George Hill I learned that when people heard he was a member of the Spokane tribe, they would respond with, “So, your tribe is named after the city of Spokane.” It shocked me for two reasons; one, it’s a statement, not a question, and two, the statement was a recurring reaction. I think the statement shows how important books like this one are not only for the preservation of history for the tribe but also to educate the world about a unique culture.
The opening chapter starts at the beginning of time with the Spokane’s creation mythology. Then, with the same storytelling tone the geological record is used to explain the Inland Northwest’s unique topography. This format has been the way the first three chapters have been structured. Spokane oral histories lined up with written records of traders, missionaries, explorers and artists to tell the story of the Spokane people.
The Spokane intermarried with their guests, suffered smallpoxes, loved their horses, and their children. They were not very interested in trapping animals for trade and while they enjoyed the items the missionaries grew in their gardens the Spokane couldn’t be convinced that they needed to plant gardens of their own. There was no reason too. The women of the tribe collected the roots, fruits, and grass that went with the fish that made up the majority of their diet.
I suspect this book will make me cry. Already there have been stories about the abundant salmon runs that sustained many tribes, and the Spokane’s welcoming of traders and missionaries onto their lands. I will keep reading because I know that the dark period of damning the rivers that stopped the fish and the relocation of the tribe to a reservation awaits in the chapters to come, but that will not the end of the story.

1 thought on “On My Nightstand”

  1. Angel,
    I, too, agree that this book will be emotional. George Hill says that the Spokanes “are a people of collective heights,actions, and stories.” And this is important because we know as historians that all tribes are different. I’m looking forward to learning more about the Spokanes.


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