Looking at the Thompson family photograph yesterday led me to this unrelated Thompson photo. This is Flora Thompson, wife of Chief Tommy Thompson. A note signed by Harry Crooks indicates this image was taken at a reception in the valley, and he has sent a copy to the Dalles Museum.
Chief Thompson was chief of the Celilo. Here is the Oregon History Project account of his life, along with a wonderful portrait. Today he is probably best known for his battle to block the Dalles Dam.
Flora was a Warm Springs and many many years younger than Chief Tommy Kuni Thompson. How many wives prior to her he had had is not known, at least by me. She initially came to Celilo Village as his care taker and how long after that they married I don't know. She also apparently had been married prior as she had a granddaughter named Linda, who was featured in Martha Ferguson McKeown's books.
The tribe that Chief Tommy was of was called the Wyam-pum tribe. There are actually very few of this tribe left and what is terrible is the fact that they are NOT considered a tribe, therefore have no fishing rights. Ironic, as the Wyam tribe actually resided year around at Celilo and the others only came to fish.....
Charlott on 19th September 2018 @ 7:08am
As a purely hypothetical question, I have pondered what the total economic benefit to us has been from all the dams on the Columbia river and its tributaries as opposed to the total economic benefit of the enormous salmon runs that existed in the past and on into the future if the dams had not been built. I realize there are other reasons besides the dams that have had an effect on the salmon runs. When I see old pictures of how they used to use teams of horses to pull in nets full of salmon, it makes me realize the enormity of those runs. Any opinions?
Buzz on 19th September 2018 @ 8:16am
definitely would be an interesting study Buzz......I remember reading and hearing from father John, "who will ever use all that Bonneville Dam electricity" and then WW II came along with all the war industries devouring the electricity, etc.
the flooding of Celilo Falls was NOT our finest hour and that story contifnues......
Arlen Sheldrake on 19th September 2018 @ 9:14am
I think probably the dams allowing Lewiston, Idaho to become a seaport, has been economically beneficial to everyone, as well as irrigation capabilities. The dams were not just about electricity.
I think the fish wheels did a tremendous amount of damage to the fish runs.
I knew an old commercial fisherman who lived on Puget Island. He said, in 1925 he went to Alaska, because of poor fishing in the Columbia. That was twelve years before Bonneville Dam.
I don't think flooding Celilo was any more of a tragic event than Grand Coulee with no fish ladder and eliminating Kettle Falls.
At the time Celilo was flooded, it had become a huge area of contention amongst the Indians themselves as to who had fishing rights. And then there was Seufert Cannery. That is an entire book of history of fish wheels, harvesting and not allowing Indians to fish.
I think a lot of people are under the misconception that any Indian could show up on the Columbia River and start fishing. They had their hierarchy and traditional family sites. Some were the first and some were the last. Some got the good spring run, some got the late fall run.
When the reservations were formed, many of the so called "river Indians", refused to leave their home along the river and move to the reservation. They were not federally recognized, and therefore received no federal money. Many of them gave in, and became members of either the Yakama or Warm Springs Reservation, although they do not consider themselves either one.
Many of the "River Indians" below Hood River, were absorbed into the Grand Ronde Reservation and lost their identity and fishing rights.
Peaceful Indians were hurt in the treaty days. No treaty was made with them, because they were not trouble makers. They lost their status and identity.
Because Tommy Thompson was vocal, as is modern day writer David Lewis, some of these "river Indians" have not lost their total identity in the shadow of the larger tribes such as the Yakama, Warm Springs, and Umatilla, but it is a struggle for them.
L.E. on 19th September 2018 @ 1:44pm
I agree on the fish wheels L.E. But the runs in Alaska built up again after the fish wheels were outlawed. I'm not supporting dams or against them, but I do wonder if the loss of all that salmon was worthwhile in the long run.
Buzz on 19th September 2018 @ 2:03pm
A description of Flora by Martha McKeown:
"It was Flora who welcomed her guests. she came to the door of the low, weather-beaten house under the high, overhanding cliff....and said, I am Mrs. Chief Tommy Thompson. Won't you come in?" Flora was the youthful, slender, erect figure beside Chief Thomason, who whether in beautiful ceremonial garb or at her household duties in a simple, worn, work dress, with a double strand of wampum at her neck and dangling coin earrings, is a woman of rare distinction and intelligence."
From the book "In Defense of Wyam" by Katrine Barber
L.E. on 19th September 2018 @ 2:09pm
Buzz....what about the rivers below Bonneville? Like the Bear, Willamette, Washougal. Why didn't those fish runs build back. I grew up along a creek in Washougal, that my dad can remember large steelhead runs. Now there is nothing. Paper mIlls? Dikes? Depletion of water for city use?
L.E. on 19th September 2018 @ 2:14pm
I have a membership to JSTOR, so I was able to read this article. I am not sure how to pass it along to the readers here. It is a 1966 interview with Fora Thompson.
Oregon Voices: Flora Cushinway Thompson
Oregon Historical Quarterly
Oregon Historical Quarterly
Vol. 108, No. 4, Remembering Celilo Falls (Winter, 2007), pp. 680-685 (6 pages)
Published by: Oregon Historical Society
L.E. on 19th September 2018 @ 3:37pm
No mention of sea lions devouring salmon?
Kenn on 19th September 2018 @ 4:43pm
How long have sea lions been known to inhabit the Columbia?
nels on 19th September 2018 @ 6:08pm
Kenn and Nels, we know there were a multitude of seals in the River when Lewis and Clark came through. They talk about them at Celilo, the Washougal River they named Seal River and the rock off of Cape Horn, they Phoca Rock. Were any of those, Sea Lions?
From what I have been able to find....I still don't know.
Researching Columbia River’s Historic Sea Lion And Seal Populations
L.E. on 19th September 2018 @ 6:46pm
Great article on the history of salmon predation by sea lions, LE. I thought that became a much bigger problem when all the fish were directed through a single narrow fish ladder, but he explains there have always been areas where passage was delayed which provide opportunities for sea lions, seals, etc.
I've also heard some questions about the magnitude of the effect of the fish wheels on the salmon population. In that era, like today, there was a mix of actual data, anecdote, "common sense", and politics (who's getting who's fish) which with time has been simplified to "fish wheels destroyed the fish runs". Some of the regulation was done by initiative petition. I would love to see a more data centered analysis of this long complicated history.
Arthur on 19th September 2018 @ 7:40pm
Charlott, this is one of my favorite photos. Makes me chuckle every time I see it.
Yakama received the largest amount and no mention of Tommy Thompsons group.
L.E. on 19th September 2018 @ 9:36pm
Yakimas always seems to win. Just like when they attack the people at The Cascades and poor Chief Chenowith and his VERY Samm tribe were the ones to pay.
I stand by what I said that Wyams lived at Celilo all year around and should be recognized as a tribe and given their due fishing rights.
Charlott on 20th September 2018 @ 7:38am
Just thought of something else to ponder. The Fraser River has no dams and the fish run is nothing like it used to be
L.E. on 20th September 2018 @ 4:44pm
As I stated originally, I am aware there are reasons put forward other than dams for the decline in the salmon runs. Here at the mouth of the Columbia river the arguments are relentless-sea lions, terns, cormorants, ocean warming, gillnetters and recreational fishermen, indians, agricultural runoff, etc. etc. etc. But it seems to me the judge who is making his decisions on the solution to the problem concentrates on the dams. Guess I should have asked for any hard data and not opinions. LOL
Buzz on 21st September 2018 @ 7:51am
Here is an online version of the book "Linda's Indian Home" by Martha Ferguson McKeown, with many photos of Flora and Chief Tommy Thompson, taken by Archie MKeown.
L.E. on 23rd September 2018 @ 9:25pm
Chief Tommy would often come into my Dad's shoe shop, usually on a Saturday, and sit and visit with my Dad for some time. He always was a gentlman and would shake my dad's hand before he left the store.
Dwaine (Spike) Goodwin on 13th December 2019 @ 11:40am