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Calling the Columbia River home

A coulee legend of Sammy the salmon Part two

 

So the story goes on that Sammy made a long run up the full length of Lake Roosevelt into Canada for a quick stop near the mouth of the Columbia River where he almost ran aground, floundering where the river narrowed. Once out of that jam, he decided to swim homeward. While still in Canada, he swam his way through murky waters, gushing into the river from pipes sticking out from the river's bank. Hoping to escape the mess, he dove down to the river's bottom where the muck settled; he was making his way slowly, stirring up shiny black slit with his tail. He wondered if the black slit was natural or man-made.

Breathing underwater gave him pause. He wondered what had happened to the once pristine river. He said to himself, "I'll take a look. I'll jump as high as I can," and so he did.

Up he went. Using his keen eyesight for a glimpse at the things standing up along the shoreline, he guessed that what he saw belonged to the two-legged people. He saw the shapes of buildings with what he guessed might be hollowed out tree trunks rising above them. No, he thought, those are people things, those are tall pipes rising up to the sky. There was gray smoke billowing from the pipes. He smelled a bad stench. In that quick jump, he'd seen enough.

He gave a mighty leap down in to the river and sped away. Back in America, he swam into a secluded deep cove filled with clear, cool water. He'd found the perfect spot and took a breather there, settling down for a fishy snooze. Soon, he was having a dream.

For Sammy the salmon, dreaming was the special way he connected with his ancestors, the wild salmon of the west; and sometimes in his dream state, he was visited by many other sea and river dwellers. His dreams were known to many creatures - those walking, flying, and crawling on the earth. He was fluent in all of their languages.

And sometimes in his dreams, he remembered long-ago times when he was visited by whispering trees of many kinds and sizes, but mostly the old giants quietly told him stories in deep, song-like voices from high in the mountains far above the Columbia River. He admired their keen observations, learning what they saw happening on the earth beneath their branches. The trees named the two-leggers, "dwellers."

And again from above the river, he heard the wings of many birds, flying high and low, frequently close to the river. He listened in awe when the the eagles, ravens and hawks told him what they witnessed on earth; and he remembered that the eagles and other predators, fed themselves and their young by catching fish from the river.

As he was waking up, he heard the voice of a famous treaty rights activist, Billy Frank Jr., who, as a young man from Franks Landing, Wash., fished the Nisqually River instead of the Columbia River. Sammy thanked him for his thoughts on the importance of lifetimes for all living creatures:

"We're the advocates for the salmon, the animals, the birds, the water - for the food chain - for all of society," Frank had said. "So what you do is: you do what you can, in your lifetime, that'll go on to another lifetime, then another lifetime, and then another."

 

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