Dating the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake: Great Coastal Earthquakes in Native Stories Ruth S. Ludwin1 , Robert Dennis2 , Deborah Carver3 , Alan D. McMillan4 , Robert Losey5 , John Clague6 , Chris Jonientz-Trisler7 , Janine Bowechop8 , Jacilee Wray9 , and Karen James10 INTRODUCTION Although scientific recognition of the earthquake hazard presented by the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) is relatively recent, native peoples have lived on the Cascadia coast for thousands of years, transferring knowledge from generation to generation through storytelling. This paper considers the ways in which information on coastal earthquakes is presented in native traditions and estimates the date of the most recent event from them. The primary plate-boundary fault of the CSZ separates the oceanic Juan de Fuca Plate from the continental North America Plate (Figure 1). It lies about 80 km offshore and extends roughly parallel to the coast from the middle of Vancouver Island to northern California. Although recognized as early as the mid-1960’s, the CSZ was initially assumed to be incapable of producing great megathrust earthquakes. It is seismically quiet, and no sizable earthquake has occurred on it since European settlement began. As the theory of plate tectonics matured, studies of subduction zones worldwide identified characteristics associated with megathrust earthquakes. These earthquakes are most common in areas where hot, young, buoyant crust is rapidly subducted (Heaton and Kanamori, 1984). Although the rate of subduction in Cascadia is relatively slow, the subducted crust is among the youngest and hottest anywhere. Field investigations soon located geological evidence of abrupt land-level changes characteristic of megathrust earthquakes in “ghost forests” of dead cedar trees in coastal estuaries in Washington and Oregon (Nelson et al., 1995). The cedars, originally above the limit of the tides, were killed when their roots were suddenly plunged into salt water. Beneath the surface of these same estuaries, soil cores revealed layered deposits showing a repeated cycle of slow uplift and rapid submergence. Preliminary age estimates based on radiocarbon dating (Nelson et al., 1995) and treering studies (Yamaguchi et al., 1989) suggested that the most recent earthquake happened about 300 years ago. The exact date and approximate time of the most recent CSZ earthquake, 9 PM on 26 January 1700, were determined from Japanese historic records of a tsunami arriving with no reports of associated shaking (Satake et al., 1996). The year was con- firmed through close study of tree-ring patterns of ghost cedar roots (Yamaguchi et al., 1997). The magnitude estimate of 9.0 implies rupture along the entire length of the CSZ (Satake et al., 2003). Figure 1 shows the geographic extent of the likely rupture area. TRADITIONS FROM CASCADIA At the time of initial European contact, Cascadia native groups spoke more than a dozen distinct languages (Thompson and Kinkade, 1990) and lived in a complex social landscape with both similarities and differences between groups. Collection and recording of native stories began in the 1860’s, more than 350 years after the first European contacts in North America, almost 100 years after initial contact in Cascadia, and nearly 50 years after European settlement began. As a result, as much as 95% of native oral traditions may have been lost (Jacobs, 1962), and available recorded examples may not be a representative sampling of the original material. Storyteller, transcriber, and language and cultural issues all affect the story that ends up in print. Nonetheless, versions of oral traditions are preserved in hundreds of sources, and numerous stories describe shaking or marine flooding. Artifacts, dances, songs, ceremonies, and personal and place names supplement the range of information available for study. We are deeply indebted to the many informants who shared their stories and allowed them to be preserved in written form. Figure 1 shows source locations for 40 native stories from 32 independent sources. These stories represent less than a third of the known stories that refer to shaking or marine 1. Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington 2. Huu-ay-aht First Nation 3. Carver Geologic, Inc. 4. Department of Anthropology, Douglas College 5. Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta 6. Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University 7. FEMA Region X 8. Makah Museum and Cultural Center 9. Olympic National Park 10. Bainbridge Island, Washington Seismological Research Letters March/April 2005 Volume 76, Number 2 141 flooding and were selected on the basis of clarity, descriptions of phenomena notable in megathrust earthquakes, and geographic distribution. Some of these stories have been discussed in earlier studies (Heaton and Snavely, 1985; Clague, 1995; Carver and Carver, 1996; Minor and Grant, 1996; Hutchinson and McMillan, 1997; Losey, 2002; McMillan and Hutchinson, 2002). Figure 2 tabulates story elements and gives date estimates. Stories referenced in Figures 1 and 2A have been broadly grouped into three time categories: stories from which dates can be estimated, stories that are clearly historical but impossible to date, and apparently mythic stories without any clear timeframes. Historical stories cannot be distinguished from myth by style or content alone, however (story ref. 23, p. ix), and stories that appear to be mythological may be based on historical events. Stories designated as historical in the source texts are identified as historical in Figures 1 and 2A. Stories vary considerably in content and style along the Cascadia coast. At the southern end, many stories explicitly mention both earthquakes and tsunami. At the northern end, there are explicit earthquake stories and explicit flood stories, but only a few stories including both phenomena. In the middle portion of the CSZ, along the coast of Oregon and Washington, direct mention of earthquakes is rare and stories of marine floods are common. The differences likely result from differences in the collection and preservation of stories, and may also reflect differences in native cultures and lifestyles along the Cascadia coast or variations in earthquake effects. HISTORICAL TRADITIONS Nine
Great earthquakes along the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) have been taking place for thousands of years. The most recent CSZ earthquake (estimated magnitude 9) occurred on January 26, 1700. The exact date was deter- mined from historic records of a tsunami that struck Japan, and confirmed by tree-ring studies of coastal trees killed when land level changes plunged their roots into tidal water.
A search of Native American myths, stories, and traditions has revealed an abundance of accounts from Washington and Oregon that may be connected to Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes.
Finding Fault: Indigenous Seismology,
Colonial Science, and the Rediscovery of
Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Cascadia
COLL THRUSH WITH RUTH S. LUDWIN
On Ash Wednesday in the new millennium’s first year, the earth deep beneath
Puget Sound slipped. Some thirty miles below Anderson Island, just off the
Nisqually River’s delta, a piece of the planet’s crust fractured and slipped
a meter or so, and sent out pulses of energy the equivalent of about thirty-
five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. The resulting earthquake was felt from
northern Oregon to British Columbia and had major effects throughout the
region; in Seattle, the temblor damaged many of the city’s cultural icons. The
world headquarters of Starbucks shed its cladding, while at the Windows XP
operating system’s unveiling in the Westin Hotel’s Grand Ballroom, Microsoft
founder Bill Gates was interrupted midspeech by falling light fixtures. Perhaps
most frighteningly, the Space Needle rang like a titanic bell as it swayed from
side to side. Despite the low number of human casualties—just one person
died, from a heart attack—the region’s infrastructure was heavily impacted.
Only in late 2004 did the Washington State Capitol Building, whose stone
columns were shoved out of plumb, reopen to the public. Meanwhile, the
future of the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Seattle’s waterfront, sent listing by the
quake, remains among the city’s most hotly debated topics.1
This kind of thing had happened before. On 13 April 1949, a quake
with nearly the same epicenter registered a 7.1 on the magnitude scale (in
Coll Thrush is assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia in
Vancouver, where he teaches indigenous, environmental, cultural, and world history.
He is the author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place and is working
on two books: an environmental and cultural history of indigenous and newcomer
food systems on the Northwest Coast and a cultural history of indigenous travelers to
London, England. Ruth Ludwin is a research seismologist with the Pacific Northwest
Seismic Network and affiliate faculty in the Canadian Studies Center in the University
of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. She has located,
compiled, and publicized Native American and First Nations stories that describe
geologic events that transformed the Pacific Northwest’s landscape.
2 american indian culture and research journal
comparison, the 2001 event was a 6.8).2 It was felt across 150,000 square miles
of the Pacific Northwest, from northwestern Montana and the interior of
British Columbia to the southern Oregon coast, and caused a total of eight
deaths. On 29 April 1965, a 6.5 quake centered between Tacoma and Seattle
was felt over almost the same area and resulted in seven deaths.3 Combined
with smaller seismic events throughout the Pacific Northwest’s postresettle-
ment history and the enormous Alaskan earthquake of Good Friday 1964,
whose resulting tsunamis killed people as far south as California, the 1949,
1965, and 2001 earthquakes suggested that the northwest edge of North
America was an unquiet place.4
Despite this history, most residents of the Pacific Northwest, including
virtually all of the region’s geologists, believed until the late twentieth century
that they lived on a relatively stable chunk of planetary crust.5 (In this respect,
the region was quite different from California, where earthquakes are not
only a common occurrence but also where they became a central leitmotif
in what urban critic Mike Davis has called “the imagination of disaster.”)6
Beginning in the 1980s, however, this fundamental misapprehension of the
region’s geological realities was challenged as scientists and others found
evidence of massive seismic events along the coast. More than simply the
accrual of abstract environmental data, this discovery was also embedded
within a complicated set of relationships between indigenous and settler soci-
eties in the region and between the kinds of knowledge those two societies
had created in this place. Even at the twenty-first century’s beginning, the
categories of historical experience known as discovery and encounter are still
very much in play.
Recent scholarship on disasters such as earthquakes—along with hurri-
canes, floods, and forest fires—has emphasized the fact that although the
origins of such events are usually based in geological, meteorological, or
other environmental processes, the resulting destruction of property and
lives is shaped, and in many cases exacerbated, by human choices. Hurricanes
devastate because we place trailer parks and beachfront resorts in their paths;
rivers destroy because we build on their floodplains and denude their valleys’
slopes; fires rage in part because forest practices and building methods allow
them to. “Natural” disasters, then, are often human constructions as much as
they are “acts of god.”7
In the case of earthquakes on the Northwest Coast of North America—or
Cascadia, as we refer to the region in this article—there is a manmade quality
to the potential for disaster. Part of this is material: industrial areas are built
on soils given to liquefaction, and neighborhoods are perched on slide-prone
bluffs. Another, and less well understood, element of the manmade-ness of
Cascadia’s seismic peril is not so much material as cultural and, ultimately,
historical. All along the Northwest Coast of North America, Native American
and First Nations oral traditions include rich, explicit, and often detailed
accounts of seismic events, including ones far larger than the Seattle-area
quakes of 1949, 1965, and 2001. Cascadia is regularly wracked by some of
the largest seismic events known to humanity; this fact and the fact that the
indigenous traditions that speak to it were ignored or misunderstood until
Finding Fault 3
the 1990s suggests that knowledge of the environment, including scientific
inquiry, is grounded in the historical relationships between indigenous and
Scientific understandings of the world take place within specific social,
cultural, and political contexts as opposed to revealing timeless, universal,
neutral truths. This has been one of the most profound, and well-docu-
mented, contributions of the last generation of scholarship in the history of
science.8 The recent “rediscovery” of Cascadia’s seismicity is best understood
in this way as well: as an intellectual and cultural development within the
context of colonialism. In this article, we examine the Northwest Coast’s rich
indigenous seismological traditions; make connections between colonialism
and the production and privileging of certain kinds of environmental data
about the region’s seismic past; and illuminate ongoing issues of proprietary
cultural knowledge, environmental justice, and risk management as they
relate to its seismic future. The story of modern nonindigenous Cascadians
“waking up” to their home’s earthquake potential illustrates the legacies,
material and intellectual, of colonialism and illuminates the encounter of two
very different societies with the same place and with each other (see fig. 1).9
The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), a deep sediment-filled trench that
stretches from the north end of Vancouver Island to northern California, is
the place where the Juan de Fuca crustal plate dives beneath North America;
some of it emerges in molten form through the Cascade Range’s volcanoes
(from which Cascadia takes its name). As the location of the region’s—and
some of the world’s—largest earthquakes, the CSZ is also the site of evidence
that Cascadia is a single structural unit. Along the continental shelf’s edge,
particularly offshore from great rivers and inlets, ancient and massive
earthquake-spawned underwater landslides known as turbidites are the CSZ’s
smoking guns. Turbidite layers can be counted at many offshore locations
and suggest that when Cascadia goes, it often goes all at once. The result
is known as a megathrust quake, which can drop the coast’s large sections
several meters in a matter of seconds. Planetary processes define Cascadia as
Not long before current theories of glaciation and human migration
into the Americas began to take shape, anthropologist Franz Boas recorded
a story told by the Heiltsuk, whose territories lie at the northernmost edge
of Cascadia, that described how “in the beginning there was nothing but
water and ice and a narrow strip of shore-line.”11 In a region where highly
acidic soils destroy most vestiges of human civilization, assemblages of stone
tools and other artifacts nonetheless suggest that the region’s first peoples
arrived soon after, and perhaps before, the great ice sheets had completely
retreated.12 During those dozen millennia, the CSZ wreaked its havoc recur-
rently if not regularly; turbidite evidence points to at least thirteen megathrust
quakes on the CSZ in the last seven thousand years, with an average interval
of about five centuries.13 Meanwhile, smaller deep quakes, like the three that
shook twentieth-century Puget Sound country in the late twentieth and early
twenty-first centuries, and locally devastating surface quakes also punctuated
indigenous life along the Northwest Coast.14
4 american indian culture and research journal
Figure 1. Locations of
Aboriginal accounts of
earthquakes and tsunamis
and estimated extent of the
January 1700 event along
the Cascadia Subduction
Finding Fault 5
Cascadia’s seismicity profoundly shaped indigenous peoples’ understand-
ings of their homelands, and oral traditions collected by European, Canadian,
and American newcomers paint vivid pictures of the effects of the region’s
earthquakes on the communities that made their homes there. An elder of
the Cowichan people of the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, for example,
told ethnographer Charles Hill-Tout that “in the days before the white man
there was a great earthquake. It began about the middle of one night . . . threw
down . . . houses and brought great masses of rock down from the mountains.
One village was completely buried beneath a landslide.”15 Accounts from
peoples of the outer coast, meanwhile, speak to the tsunamis generated by
quakes on the CSZ. Louis Nookimus, also known as Louis Clamhouse, a
Huu-ay-aht Nuu-chah-nulth elder from Vancouver Island, recalled what had
happened to the people at Pachena Bay:
They had practically no way or time to try to save themselves. I think
it was at nighttime that the land shook. . . . I think a big wave smashed
into the beach. The Pachena Bay people were lost. . . . But they who
lived at Ma:lts’a:s [House Up Against Hill] the wave did not reach
because they were on high ground. . . . Because of that they came out
alive. They did not drift out to sea with the others.16
The Tseshaht, a neighboring Nuu-chah-nulth people, told a similar story:
The tide began to flow, and crept slowly up to about halfway between
the point of its furthest ebb and the houses. At this point, its pace was
suddenly quickened, and it rushed up at fearful speed. The Sheshaht
ran to their canoes [and] were all soon caught by the rising water . . .
finally, the water covered the whole country.17
The Huu-ay-aht and Tseshaht territories are near the CSZ’s northern end, but
similar stories reverberate as far south as Oregon and California. The Coos of
the central Oregon coast spoke of communities being “swept away clean,” and
the Yurok of northern California told of sinking prairies and land that would
“quake and quake and quake again . . . and the water was flowing all over.”18
As newcomers began to resettle the region in significant numbers
beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, some of them collected stories of
earthquakes and floods. Settler James Swan, for example, learned from his
Makah neighbors that the Pacific had once risen “without any swell or waves,”
which inundated the Waatch River plain all the way through to the Strait of
Juan de Fuca and turned Cape Flattery into an island. Swan found the story
to have the ring of truth:
There is no doubt in my mind of the truth of this tradition. The
Waatch prairie shows conclusively that the waters of the ocean once
flowed through it. And as this whole country shows marked evidence
of volcanic influences there is every reason to believe that there was
6 american indian culture and research journal
a gradual depressing and subsequent upheaval of the earth’s crust
which made the waters to rise and recede as the Indian stated.19
More than a century before geologists “discovered” the CSZ and the broader
implications of the region’s geology, settlers who had intimate contact with
indigenous peoples were given the opportunity to understand this compo-
nent of the place’s nature.
But if colonials like Swan showed some interest in the fact that earth-
quakes and tsunamis happened on the Northwest Coast, they were usually
unimpressed with indigenous explanations as to why such events happened.
The indigenous peoples of Cascadia, like other peoples around the world,
understood geological events to be manifestations of numinous forces in
the landscape. According to many Northwest Coast traditions, earthquakes,
especially big ones on the CSZ, were thought of as battles between enormous
birds that embodied the spirit of Thunder and great creatures, such as whales
and serpents, that dwelt in the ocean’s depths. The Oregon coast Tillamook
passed down a story about the struggles of a Whale, fished from the deep
by a Thunderbird, which thrashed about, shook the mountains, and caused
landslides. Similarly, an elder of the Olympic Peninsula Hoh people described
the aftereffects of a battle between Thunderbird and Whale:
My father . . . also told me that following the killing of this destroyer
. . . there was a great storm and hail and flashes of lightning in the
darkened, blackened sky and a great and crashing “thunder-noise”
everywhere. He further stated that there was also a shaking, jumping
up and trembling of the earth beneath, and a rolling up of the great
Such indigenous explanations for seismic events did not only appear in
stories: the Nuu-chah-nulth and the Kwakwaka’wakw, for example, painted
Thunderbird and Whale on their cedar houses and carved them on totem
poles and ceremonial screens, which created compelling images that adver-
tised the spirit forces that transformed the land and sea and empowered the
houses’ owners (see fig. 2).20 The lower Columbia River Chinook, meanwhile,
told Franz Boas stories about flocks of dancing birds who sang, “Our legs are
small but we make the ground shake,” while other peoples in the region had
their own diverse explanations. As the peoples of Cascadia struggled over
millennia to come to terms with the geological realities of their homelands,
they developed interpretations of seismic events that simultaneously reflected
and shaped their lived experiences of place. Earthquakes and tsunamis
were central components of relations between human beings and the other,
nonhuman beings who inhabited the coastal regions.21
Although the specific explanations indigenous peoples offered for
earthquakes and tsunamis differed widely up and down the coast of Cascadia
and reflected those peoples’ diversity, the explanations typically shared
one trait: they linked environmental transformation directly to the human
condition. Most notably, they commonly connected earthquakes to healing
Finding Fault 7
Figure 2. One of many images of Thunderbird and Whale on the Northwest Coast, in this case
from the Tseshaht Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island.
and illness. Among the Coast Salish peoples of the Strait of Georgia and the
Fraser River valley, for example, the CSZ earthquake of 1700 may be linked
to the arrival of the famed sxwayxwey masks that are employed in winter
ceremonials and doctoring practices.22 Four such masks later arrived among
the Kwakwaka’wakw to the north through marriage with the Comox-speaking
Coast Salish and were used in healing rituals by professionals known as “earth-
Even when seismic power was not explicitly associated with healing
and illness, earthquakes and tsunamis were understood to be moral events
reflective of relationships between and among human people and the other
residents of Cascadia. The Kwakwaka’wakw believed that quakes could result
from the activities of ancestral ghosts, who required burnt offerings as propiti-
ation for being disturbed, or from the mistreatment of domesticated and wild
animals.24 And among the Tseshaht Nuu-chah-nulth, those who “made light”
of retreating seas offended the whale spirits that could prevent humans from
drifting too far out to sea, and thus were lost.25 These connections between
earthquakes and human morals, behavior, and health attest to the importance
of propriety, order, and protocol within indigenous societies—structures that
must have seemed all the more important in a place that shook itself to pieces
every few generations. They also speak to the importance of the idea of reci-
procity in indigenous relationships with nonhuman peoples and entities, and
with the environment more generally..26
Through thousands of years of lived experience, then, the first peoples
of Cascadia had integrated the seismic reality of their homelands into their
most central cultural institutions. The Oweekeno, the Tillamook, and other
local peoples understood earthquakes and tsunamis as a fundamental part
8 american indian culture and research journal
of their lives and as a product of the relationships between the people and
their places. The argument made by today’s environmental historians of
catastrophe—that natural disasters are often in part human creations—
might have made good sense to the first peoples of Cascadia. Perhaps more
significantly from a historiographical perspective, indigenous histories of
place, represented here by seismological traditions, are akin in many ways to
the Annales approach to history with its emphasis on long-term, large-scale
processes and realities rather than the eye-blink events and tumults of human
life spans. Annales scholars such as Fernand Braudel profoundly influenced
the field of environmental history; because the search for Cascadia’s seismic
past is, at its core, environmental history, it is perhaps worth seeking out
similar millennia-long observations of the region’s past, framed within stories
like those of Thunderbird and Whale.27
The eminent Canadian geographer Cole Harris has argued that it is not
enough merely to parse the semiotics of colonialism, the imperial fantasies,
and the racist representations that have garnered so much attention from
literary scholars and others. We must also, he argues, examine the material
conditions that ultimately implemented those semiotics and make sense of
the roles that physical power, the structures of the state, flows of capital,
and technologies such as law and mapping played in turning indigenous
territories into imperial properties.28 Science was another of these forces; it
combined the material and discursive elements of colonialism and reflected
the linkages between European intellectual and imperial histories. That
Europe’s global ascendance was coeval with its own intellectual transforma-
tion is no coincidence; these two developments are the same story. As Maori
postcolonial theorist Linda Tuhiwai Smith has noted,
[t]he Enlightenment provided the spirit, the impetus, the confidence,
and the political and economic structures that facilitated the search
for new knowledges. The project of the Enlightenment . . . provided
the stimulus for the industrial revolution, the philosophy of liberalism,
the development of disciplines in the sciences and the development of
public education. Imperialism underpinned and was critical to these
The twinned histories of Enlightenment and empire made real on a global
scale the Latin adage scientia est potentia: knowledge is power.
Geology crystallized as a discipline in tandem with Europe’s domina-
tion of large swaths of the world. It was shaped by those encounters; Alix
Cooper has argued persuasively that European “discoveries” around the
world led intellectuals, including mineralogists and other natural historians,
to understand their own homelands in new ways, which in turn shaped how
explorers, colonists, and others saw the “new” worlds.30 Geology was central
to this process in that it offered a methodology to fuel the planet’s industrial
and economic transformation, but it also transformed historical narratives
about the earth and its peoples. In Britain, for example, geology’s profes-
sional corps emerged out of technical schools and state apparatuses designed
Finding Fault 9
to facilitate mining, although its amateur practitioners were rooted in the
upper classes whose personal fortunes grew with the empire. But if colonial
data—in the form of mining maps, ethnographic studies, and sales figures—
flowed into imperial centers through the exertions of new disciplines such
as geology, anthropology, and capitalist economics, only some data truly
counted. Colonial scientists and administrators typically ignored or dismissed
indigenous peoples’ own forms of knowledge. Out of the Enlightenment’s
certainties, new binaries were born: Europeans and their colonial offspring
had art, science, and history, while the “natives,” whether in India, the Congo,
or British Columbia, had corresponding (and, in the imperial mind, infe-
rior) categories of craft, superstition, and myth. Geologists, paleontologists,
and anthropologists often portrayed “races . . . whose existence had been
hidden from mankind” to be “like the fossil bones of antediluvian animals,”
which reinforced the perceived primitiveness of colonized landscapes and
Enlightenment theories of race, which often corresponded neatly with
older prejudices, played a key role in these formulations of knowledge, but
there was a broader dynamic at work in the relationship between imperial and
indigenous knowledges: the local question. The global movement of peoples
and things in the Age of Empire colluded with the Enlightenment’s devotion
to rationality to privilege abstract forms of knowledge and to denigrate local,
and thus seemingly irrational, modes of thought. From Spanish friars who
referred to indigenous neophytes as gente sin razon (“people without reason”)
to Anglo-American jurists who believed Indians unfit to give legal testimony,
the indigenous became synonymous with the local and the disorderly. Empires
incorporated only the most obviously utilitarian aspects of the indigenous
vernacular: how to grow maize, which streams carried yellow metal in their
gravelly beds, or where to set up a commercial fishery. As European centers
and global peripheries became linked through networks of exchange and
control, only certain kinds of information carried value in the literal and figu-
rative senses of the word. Though the agents of empire often denigrated local
and indigenous forms of knowledge, however, their denigration only thinly
masked the fact that to no small degree, those forms of practical knowledge
made the empire possible.32
Just as imperialism and the Enlightenment were linked more broadly,
geological investigations of the Northwest Coast of North America went
hand in hand with the dispossession of the region’s indigenous peoples and
the denigration, dismissal, and dismantling of their systems of knowledge.
From Meriwether Lewis’s descriptions of Northwest geomorphology to the
painstakingly detailed soil descriptions of General Land Office surveys that
facilitated homesteading, the systematic cataloging of Cascadia’s earthly
wealth was a parallel process to—or perhaps more accurately, an integral
component of—colonialism. Explorers and surveyors were the vanguards of
empire and of Enlightenment.33 Science also supported the consolidation
of Cascadia into the modern continental nations of Canada and the United
States. In Victorian British North America, the exploratory, organizational,
and consolidating phases of geological practice exactly paralleled the political
10 american indian culture and research journal
development of what eventually became Canada, while in the American
West, synthesis and transmission of geological data from beyond the frontier
helped build scientific, military, and political institutions.34 On the ground,
geological discoveries—gold along the Fraser and Rogue rivers, coal in Puget
Sound country and on Vancouver Island—inspired waves of immigration that
accelerated, often violently, the dislocation of indigenous communities.35
Although geology’s relationship to colonialism is less well understood than
that of other disciplines such as biology and anthropology, it is clear that
scientific understanding of Cascadia’s geological (and thus economic) nature
went hand in hand with dispossession of its indigenous peoples.36
At the same time, scientific understanding of how that wealth came
to be—and how the planet works—changed over time, often as a result of
Europeans’ encounters with non-European places. At the Age of Empire’s
beginning, European thinking about earthquakes involved theories that
ranged from steam pressure to the allegedly hollow nature of Earth; some of
these ideas had been in circulation since Aristotle. But as Rachel Laudan has
noted, in the eighteenth century’s last decades and the nineteenth century’s
first half—not coincidentally, the period that saw European imperial expan-
sion approach its zenith—many conceptual foundations of modern geology
had begun to take shape, often inspired by encounters with far-flung places.
And by the early twentieth century, when the straightforward imperialisms
of Victoria and Leopold had begun to collapse, European understanding of
seismic events had been further transformed by new technologies and new
understandings of human and planetary history.37 However, the greatest
transformation, the ascendancy of plate tectonic theory in the 1960s, which
coincided with the discovery of the CSZ, came late. During the same years
that decolonization swept many parts of the planet, geological science, which
had been so transformed by the experience of imperial expansion, found its
own revolutionary truth: the earth’s thin skin was a dynamic thing and places
like Europe and North America were, quite literally, on the move. In the
words of John McPhee, people had begun to “discuss continents in terms of
In late-twentieth-century Cascadia, continental velocities were outpaced
by the speed with which the region’s new geological understandings devel-
oped. Although the CSZ had been identified soon after the rise of plate
tectonic theory, most geologists imagined that it slipped slowly, evenly, and
imperceptibly—essentially, they imagined that Cascadia was relatively safe.
Then, in the 1980s, a series of events took place that challenged these basic
assumptions. First, the Mount St. Helens eruption on 18 May 1980 leveled
more than 600 square kilometers of forest, killed fifty-seven people, and
blocked commercial shipping on the Columbia River for several weeks. The
eruption also drove home the point that the CSZ’s volcanic offspring were
active, far more active than most people previously thought.39 Meanwhile,
investigations into the seismic safety of a proposed nuclear energy facility
in southwest Washington yielded additional evidence of the region’s seismic
potential. First made public in the late 1980s, a picture had begun to develop
of Cascadia’s potential for what one journalist called a “big jolt.” A subduction
Finding Fault 11
quake on the Pacific coast of Mexico that heavily damaged Mexico City and
killed more than seven thousand people drew intense public interest; this was
most Cascadians’ first glimpse of the true nature of their region.40
The story of how geologists and others proceeded to determine the
precise nature and timing of the most recent big jolt—a megathrust quake
on the CSZ—illustrates the best in interdisciplinary environmental research.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, scholars from several disciplines in at least
three countries reopened a window into Cascadia’s precolonial environ-
mental history. Sediment cores from the region’s coastal zones showed sharp
horizons between soil and overlaying sand, which suggested an abrupt and
catastrophic drop followed by a rushing-in of seawater and sand. Similar hori-
zons were found as far as eight miles up some coastal rivers. Stands of dead
trees along the Washington coast were inundated and salt-killed during the
same event. Using dates from radiocarbon and from comparisons between
tree rings in these “ghost forests” and those of neighboring old-growth trees,
scientists began to look to the eighteenth century’s dawn as the date of this
most recent great quake. The winter of 1699–1700 coincided neatly with
Japanese records of a mysterious “orphan” tsunami that had struck the island
nation in late January 1700. Based on the waves’ amplitude, direction, and
timing as they struck a series of Japanese harbors, the earthquake that caused
the tsunami was determined to be at least magnitude 9 and most likely to have
occurred on the coast of Cascadia. (It was the coast of Cascadia—the whole
thing moved as a single entity.) Tsunamis also travel at a known velocity, and
so the most recent megathrust quake on the CSZ could be dated to about 9:00
p.m. on the night of 26 January 1700. Cataclysm had come on a Tuesday.41
Although some scientists looked to tree rings, soil horizons, and Japanese
documents, other scholars, including this article’s authors, began to look
for evidence of that midwinter night’s terrible events in the histories of the
indigenous peoples of Cascadia. In conjunction with published sources and
living Native communities, they brought the stories of Thunder and Whale
into conversation with more obviously empirical data. What they found was
that these stories strengthened the case for regionwide megathrust quakes.42
Archaeologists, meanwhile, contributed evidence that not only corroborated
the reality of those quakes but also suggested that indigenous stories of great,
people-dispersing floods may be memories of actual events.43 Together, oral
tradition and archaeological evidence brought indigenous experiences of
place and history back into Cascadia’s geological story. Thus, interdisciplinary
inquiry resuscitated, and ultimately vindicated, indigenous and local forms of
knowledge while science, which in its literalism had hitherto been deficient
in its ability to grasp the metaphorical meanings of Whale and Thunderbird,
began to “catch up” with indigenous environmental knowledge.44
But beyond providing localized descriptions of seismic events and simply
corroborating what science has already proven, can indigenous seismological
traditions also be considered scientific data in their own right? More to
the point, might they be able to point us toward new scientific discoveries?
This has certainly been the case in fields such as medicine and agriculture;
whether it will be so with seismology remains to be seen—it is only in the late
12 american indian culture and research journal
twentieth century that geologists have begun to understand their inquiry into
the region’s environmental past as a historical question, rather than simply
a scientific one. Robert S. Yeats, a former Oregon State University professor
and advocate for seismic hazard education, wrote recently that “maybe the
time during which records have been kept, less than two hundred years, is
too short for us to conclude that the Pacific Northwest is not earthquake
country.” Noting that the Northwest was “the last region of the Pacific Rim
to receive settlers willing to record their history,” Yeats suggests that the
recent arrival of textuality to Cascadia has limited our ability to apprehend
the region’s past.45 On one level, this is true: writing came last to this part of
North America. At the same time, the recentness of written records does not
explain colonial science’s tardiness in confronting indigenous data. Almost
as soon as colonialism arrived in the Northwest, its agents—Franz Boas,
James Swan, and numerous others—began to collect stories of earthquakes
and tsunamis. These sources effectively push Cascadia’s written history back
several generations before the arrival of explorers like Cook and Vancouver.
The recentness of regional textuality, then, cannot explain by itself why stories
of Thunder and Whale are only now being brought into the discussion of the
Instead, the problem seems to be with the data. Seismic hazards researcher
Ian Hutchinson and archaeologist Alan McMillan have noted that indigenous
stories can be extremely difficult to work with because of compression, frag-
mentation, and lack of contextual detail. “Perhaps because of the difficulty
of working with such materials,” they suggest, “few academic researchers
have given the evidence of past seismic events contained in the oral tradi-
tions much credibility.”46 Most notable among the perceived shortcomings of
indigenous environmental knowledge is its alleged resistance to dating: only
rarely can stories be placed in linear, calendrical time. But a number of stories
that describe the CSZ’s megathrust quakes and tsunamis include references
to time (examples include “perhaps not more than three or four generations
ago” in a story collected in the 1860s and “about seven generations ago” in
another collected seventy years later).47 Examined in aggregate, these stories
line up with the tree rings, turbidites, and other kinds of data associated with
the January 1700 megathrust event. In other words, they might have helped
point the way to that fateful Tuesday, had researchers been more prepared or
inclined to look (see fig. 3).48
What this suggests, then, is that colonial science’s struggle with indig-
enous seismology in Cascadia comes not just from the region’s short textual
history or from the perceived “timelessness” of indigenous oral traditions.
Rather, that struggle also has its origins within colonial science: from its own
youth in this region and from its technological and disciplinary limitations
but more importantly from its preferences for certain kinds of data and for
data produced by certain kinds of people. The rediscovery of Cascadia’s
seismic potential—for the use of the word discovery certainly seems hubristic
in this context—is thus embedded in, and reflective of, the relationships
between the two different kinds of societies, indigenous and settler, that have
inhabited the Northwest Coast of North America.
Finding Fault 13
1650–1825 (1c) “This is not a myth . . . my tale is seven generations
old . . . there was a great earthquake and all the houses of the Kwakiutl
collapsed.”—La’bid in 1930
1456–1756 (3) “The masked dance . . . originated with a man . . .
who lived about 12 generations ago.”—Unidentified informant in 1936
1670–1795 (4) “. . . the mask was first obtained five generations
before her own. . . .”—Mrs. Robert Joe, age >80 in 1950
1655–1814 (6) “The tide . . . rushed up at fearful speed. . . . The
Clayoquot who thus became a chief was the great-grandfather of
Hy-yu-penuel, the present chief of the Sheshaht. . . .”—Unidentified
informant in 1860
1640–1740 (7) “These are stories from my grandfather’s father
(born c. 1800), about events that took place four generations before
his time . . . over 200 years ago” “. . . the land shook . . . a big wave
smashed into the beach.”—Chief Louis Nookmis, age 84 in 1964
1600–1775 (13) “One old man says that his grandfather saw the man
who was saved from the flood. . . .”—Unidentified informant c. 1875
1400–1715 (17) “. . . eight or nine generations from my grandfather
there was a flood.”—Frank Allen, age 60 in 1940
1690–1805 (27) “My grandfather saw one of the old women (survi-
vors) who had been left alive. She had been hung up on a tree,
and the limbs of that tree were too high up. So she took her pack
line and tied it to a limb, and then when she wanted to go down by
means of that, she fell, she was just a girl when she fell from it. Her
back was broken from it (she had a humpback thereafter). That is
what she told about the raised water.”—Annie Miner Petersen, age 73
1657–1777 (28) “. . . there was a big flood shortly before the white
man’s time, . . . a huge tidal wave that struck the Oregon Coast not
too far back in time . . . the ocean rose up and huge waves swept
and surged across the land. Trees were up-rooted and villages were
swept away. Indians said they tied their canoes to the top of the
trees, and some canoes were torn loose and swept away. . . . After
the tidal wave, the Indians told of tree tops filled with limbs and
trash and of finding strange canoes in the woods. The Indians
said the big flood and tidal wave tore up the land and changed
the rivers. Nobody knows how many Indians died.”—Beverly Ward,
recounting stories told to her around 1930 by Susan Ned, born in 1842
Figure 3. Earthquake and tsunami story elements from accounts in figure 1 and the accounts’
estimated date ranges.
After the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, it is all too clear what a subduc-
tion zone megathrust quake and its resulting tsunamis look like. The event
that claimed nearly a quarter-million lives near the Indian Ocean’s shores
on 26 December 2004 captured the world’s attention and compassion with
apocalyptic scenes of destruction and suffering. Tsunamis along the coast of
Aceh, near the quake’s epicenter, piled as high as twenty-five meters, moved
at a clip of fifteen meters per second, and wiped away entire cities. From
Thailand to Sri Lanka and eastern Africa, human choices gave shape to the
disaster’s specifics: dense communities built on in-filled shorelines, the lack of
a regional tsunami warning system, and the killing curiosity that brought many
down to the beach to watch the sea recede. The largest and costliest disaster
in recent human history, the Indian Ocean earthquake and its tsunamis have
illustrated the unthinking agency of nature at its most horrific and humanity’s
role in the specific shapes that disasters take.49
In Cascadia, geologists and other observers have closely examined
the events of Boxing Day 2004 for one very good reason: the Sumatran
14 american indian culture and research journal
Subduction Zone and the CSZ are virtually the same size and thus bear
similar destructive capabilities.50 Combined with the 305th anniversary of
the last CSZ megathrust event, the Aceh quake inspired a wide range of
public discussion about the region’s tectonic dangers, from media coverage
of “inevitable disaster” and “haughty assumptions” to public hearings on
improved warning systems and coastal shelters. Such discussions have not
been limited to the threats of the CSZ; Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer also reported
in detail what would happen if another quake struck the fault zone that runs
through that city. At last, Cascadia might be taking such warnings seriously.
Since the Indian Ocean quake and tsunamis, emergency management agen-
cies have held town hall meetings in coastal communities, while one member
of Washington’s congressional delegation, using the political rhetoric of
the day, called “nature . . . the real weapon of mass destruction.” State and
provincial disaster-management officials have also begun meeting with tribal
communities who live on the coast. As Cascadians debate what to do about the
seismic threats they now understand they face, indigenous accounts of earlier
earthquakes and tsunamis are routinely included in the discussion, not just as
colorful stories but also as incontrovertible proof.51
Recognizing indigenous seismological data, putting it to use, and under-
standing the politicized landscape in which such deployments of knowledge
take place are three separate things. Just as the development of geology
took place within the context of colonialism and just as colonial science has
struggled with indigenous knowledge, policies intended to mitigate the next
big jolt’s effects in Cascadia are still entwined with the colonial structures that
continue to shape life in the region. Just as the “discovery” of Cascadia’s past
great earthquakes highlighted differential power relations between indigenous
and settler populations, so too will efforts to prepare for future earthquakes.
As the old forms of colonialism have collapsed throughout the world,
indigenous peoples have placed new and increasingly successful demands
on the nation-states, colonial or postcolonial, in which they have found
themselves. These demands—individual and collective ownership, access to
subsistence resources, and the sacred nature of traditional territories—often
center on the question of land. In some places, indigenous communities have
taken on the role of co-managers of those territories; this is especially true
in large swaths of Cascadia. In British Columbia and western Washington,
the past three decades’ treaty-rights cases have provided a legal and political
platform from which indigenous communities exert control over the use and
management of their homelands. Treaty law in Cascadia has provided critical
precedent for indigenous land rights throughout the world.
Along with this new political ascendancy of indigenous land rights,
indigenous forms of knowledge have also arrived at center stage as a way
to understand and manage ecosystems and natural resources. During the
same years that Cascadian scientists were “discovering” their region’s seismic
potential, interest in traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) also began
to develop momentum. The 1987 publication of Our Common Future, more
commonly known as the Brundtland Report, by the World Commission on
Environment and Development gave voice to a growing sentiment among
Finding Fault 15
scholars, practitioners, and indigenous people that traditional forms of
knowledge could and should have a place at the table.52 Since the 1980s,
the collection and use of TEK has not only contributed to the growing role
of indigenous communities as co-managers of their territories but also has
brought a renewed interest in local forms of knowledge more generally, which
challenges earlier preferences toward abstract, delocalized knowledge and
further reinforces indigenous claims to territory and resources.53
But for all its potential, TEK also presents new challenges. The first,
as anthropologist Michael F. Brown has noted, is that “categories basic to
science, such as the distinction between the animate and inanimate, may
have no standing in indigenous knowledge systems.” Second, the differential
power relationships between indigenous communities and governmental and
scientific bodies has caused scholars such as Paul Nadasdy, as well as many
indigenous leaders, to question whether shoehorning TEK into bureaucratic
environmental management regimes only replicates older inequalities.
Third, the tension between bureaucratic and indigenous understandings of
expertise is compounded by the belief among many indigenous people that
using TEK out of context renders it meaningless or even dangerous. The
earthquake and tsunami traditions included in this article, for example, were
part of specific ceremonial and social settings, and, in many cases, the details
of these contexts are lost to the historical record, which calls into question
exactly how much use present-day researchers—geological, anthropological,
or historical—can really make of them.54
Perhaps the greatest concern in regard to TEK, however, is that it will not
be used to benefit the people among whom it originated, which will result in
what scientist and global justice advocate Vandana Shiva has named biopiracy:
“the creation of property through the piracy of other’s [sic] wealth.”55
Biopiracy has a long history; as Londa Schiebinger and others have docu-
mented, colonial botanizing—the search for new foods and medicines—was
often at the imperial project’s heart and routinely depended on indigenous
and other forms of local knowledge.56 In more recent eras, indigenous knowl-
edge, resources, and practices obtained through corporate prospecting have
been patented or trademarked, with the original bearers of that knowledge
then being labeled as having infringed on a corporation’s rights. Similar
concerns exist in regard to academic research; as Linda Tuhiwai Smith has
noted, “indigenous peoples are deeply cynical about the capacity, motives,
or methodologies of Western research. . . . [I]t told us things already known,
suggested things that would not work, and made careers for people who
already had jobs.”57
In Cascadia, where indigenous notions of intellectual and cultural
property are particularly strong, the relationship between researchers and
the researched have been complex and fractious, particularly regarding
TEK and resource management. Recent studies of traditional indigenous
uses of devil’s club (Oplopanax horridum) in the treatment of adult-onset
diabetes, for example, have spurred rapacious overharvesting of the plant
and a renewed commitment among ethical researchers and their indigenous
collaborators to protect certain kinds of knowledge and resources.58 South
16 american indian culture and research journal
of the border, the Tulalip tribes of Washington State are currently drafting
laws—according to some observers, the first of their kind anywhere—that will
trademark not only indigenous knowledge but also cultural resources on and
off the reservation, including plants used for medicines and other purposes.59
These kinds of on-the-ground encounters radically transform the terms by
which research, management, and exploitation—whether of resources or
of peoples—take place.
Similar tensions are now beginning to appear in Cascadia in regard
to seismology. Although in some indigenous communities in the region,
seismological traditions fell dormant or even disappeared in the chaos of
resettlement, in other communities these traditions persisted into the late
twentieth century. For example, even before the Indian Ocean devastation,
Chief Robert Dennis of the Huu-ay-aht people on the west coast of Vancouver
Island had announced that his people were considering relocating their
village on Pachena Bay—the destruction of which is described above—to
higher ground and were asking for Canadian federal funding to do it. Since
the events of Boxing Day 2004, the Huu-ay-aht have also been meeting with
other Nuu-chah-nulth communities, most of whom also have shoreline settle-
ments that a tsunami would wipe out, to decide on a broader plan in regard
to relocation, evacuation planning, and community education. To make their
case, Dennis and other Nuu-chah-nulth leaders note that knowledge from
their communities has helped science understand seismological phenomena
in Cascadia. That they should benefit from the use of that knowledge is, to
them, obvious.60 And on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the Quileute
tribe has closed public access to a popular scenic beach in order to encourage
the National Park Service either to cede or purchase for the tribe about eight
hundred acres of high ground, citing the tsunami threats to their low-lying
coastal reservation. Their close relatives the Hoh, meanwhile, conduct evacu-
ation drills and seek congressional approval to change their reservation’s
boundary to include higher ground.61 Such savvy mobilizations of the settler
society’s new awareness of seismic danger, informed by indigenous traditions
and the findings of Western science, have the potential to force governments
and scientific bodies to come to terms with the political and economic rami-
fications of the use of indigenous knowledge. Anything else, particularly in
Cascadia where indigenous communities make up a significant portion of
coastal populations, would be the geological equivalent of biopiracy.
The next time that the CSZ, the Seattle Fault, or one of the other seams
that run through Cascadia shudders and gives way, the resulting earthquakes
and tsunamis will likely overshadow all the seismic events of the past century
and a half—combined.62 The most recent event on the CSZ, for example, was
one thousand times stronger than the deep quake that struck Puget Sound in
2001. The more we learn about this place, the grimmer the prognosis, which
is only compounded by the development that has taken place since the arrival
of empire in Cascadia. In a region where perhaps two hundred thousand
indigenous people once lived, now millions make their home, and where
great longhouses and elaborate fish traps were once the most complex built
structures, now highways, gas pipelines, and water and sewer mains cross the
Finding Fault 17
Seattle Fault, and oil refineries, sewage treatment plants, and populous and
vulnerable cities now cover the landscape. One study, focused only on Oregon
and using conservative estimates, predicts that a magnitude 9 CSZ quake and
its concomitant tsunamis would claim five thousand lives and do some $12
billion worth of damage—if it came in the winter, when the coastal population
is at its lowest. Add Washington, British Columbia, and northern California
into the equation, as well as other places throughout the Pacific Basin that
would surely be affected by tsunamis, and have the quake take place during a
sunny summer weekend, and the death tolls would likely be on a scale more
like that of December 2004.63
Despite the regional soul-searching inspired by recent events in the
Indian Ocean, widespread denial regarding Cascadia’s seismic fate remains
a serious possibility now that the easily distracted public eye has wandered
from the tragedy of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and their neighbors. Robert Yeats
has described the responses he received after warning other Cascadians about
the risks they face:
Telling my Northwest neighbors that we have an earthquake problem
has been like telling them about carpenter ants in their basement
or about high blood pressure and high cholesterol as a result of
high living. The reaction was, “Yes, I know, but I don’t want to think
about it, let alone do anything about it.” . . . I began to feel like the
watchman on the castle walls warning about barbarians at the gate,
begging people to take me seriously.64
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are significant forces arrayed against disaster
prevention in Cascadia. Some business leaders on the Oregon coast worry
about the effects of tsunami paranoia on the local economy, and thus are
resisting lengthy public discussion of the issue. Meanwhile, despite calls to
add dozens of new warning buoys to the Pacific’s tsunami warning system,
half of those already in existence are inoperative thanks to budget shortfalls,
while relevant federal agencies such as the National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration and the US Geological Survey are notoriously
underfunded, even as offshore oil drilling is back on the table in Canada and
the United States. For the moment, the region’s geological realities have yet
to be integrated into the administrative, economic, and cultural structures of
Beyond controlling the line between survival and death, Cascadia’s seis-
mological destiny will also reshape the region in ways we cannot predict. As
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders have shown, giant earth-
quakes typically have a “vibrating string” of social aftereffects. On a scale of
weeks and months, such events can spawn epidemics, economic decline, reli-
gious revivals, social unrest, and even diaspora. Infrastructure reconstruction
and economic revival, if they happen, can take years or decades, while over
the course of centuries—as in the case of Cascadia’s indigenous traditions—
earthquakes can become indelible parts of a region’s culture.66 Such events
can also shape societies’ encounters with each other, as in the case of the Great
18 american indian culture and research journal
Nobi Earthquake of 1891, which killed thousands in Japan and transformed
Meiji-era attitudes toward Japanese nationhood and culture, modern science,
and the West.67 In Cascadia, the land is a contingent historical force that acts
within specific contexts of power, morality, and social relationships, which
suggests that it may be time to return to the notion of reciprocity between
humans and nonhuman forces that was once so dominant in the region and
perhaps add to that a greater reciprocity between the diverse human societies
that now exist there.
In his exploration of earthquakes, science, and culture in California,
David L. Ulin has asked, “How do we talk about earthquakes? How do we
even approach them, let alone integrate them into our lives?”68 This is
perhaps one of the greatest questions that faces not only Californians, who
already have strong—if also superficial—cultural understandings of “the big
one,” but also anyone who lives in a place where the earth shakes and the
sea suddenly rushes inland. In the case of Cascadia’s seismic past, present,
and future, such questions are closely related to each other, and, at their
core, they are not just scientific inquiries. A few months after the 1906
earthquake that destroyed San Francisco, for example, a Yurok elder told
an ethnographer that “now Earthquake is angry the Americans have bought
up Indian treasures and formulas and taken them away to San Francisco
to keep. He knew that, so he tore the ground up there.”69 Settler society’s
scientists may not be ready to see earthquakes as moral events, as indigenous
people (and others) did and sometimes still do, but social relations of power
and knowledge have inherently moral dimensions, from which scientific
inquiry cannot easily or ethically be divorced. The rediscovery of indigenous
seismology in Cascadia attests to the power of interdisciplinary inquiry and
of the relationship between different forms of knowledge and their social
contexts. That we may all benefit, indigenous and newcomer alike, should
be the goal.
1. For in-depth coverage of the Nisqually Quake, see seattlepi.nwsource.com/
quake/yearlater.asp (accessed 25 August 2007). The event is also discussed in Robert
S. Yeats, Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest: A Survivor’s Guide, 2nd ed.
(Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2004), 47, 49–50.
2. Magnitude determination is based on measurement and varies somewhat
according to which quantity is measured. For details, see http://earthquake.usgs.gov/
learning/faq.php (accessed 25 August 2007).
3. The Puget Sound Lowland Earthquakes of 1949 and 1965: Reproductions of
Selected Articles Describing Damage, comp. Gerald W. Thorsen, Washington Division of
Geology and Earth Resources, Information Circular 81 (Olympia: Washington State
Department of Natural Resources, 1986).
4. The term resettlement (as opposed to settlement, which implies that the land
colonized by Europeans and others was empty) is taken from R. Cole Harris, The
Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change (Vancouver:
University of British Columbia Press, 1997).
Finding Fault 19
See table of historical Pacific Northwest earthquakes in Yeats, Living with
Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, 365–68.
5. See, e.g., early editions of Bruce A. Bolt, Earthquakes: A Primer (San Francisco:
W. H. Freeman, 1978).
6. Mike Davis, Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster (New
York: Vintage Books, 1998), esp. 32–33, 326–27.
7. See Theodore J. Steinberg, Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural
Disaster in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Stephen J. Pyne’s multi-
volume Cycle of Fire series.
8. One of the most articulate explications of this idea remains Steven Shapin
and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
9. Story-source location map from R. S. Ludwin, R. Dennis, D. Carver, A. D.
McMillan, R. Losey, J. Clague, C. Jonientz-Trisler, J. Bowechop, J. Wray, and K. James,
“Dating the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake: Great Coastal Earthquakes in Native Stories,”
Seismological Research Letters 76, no. 2 (2005): 140–48. Estimated 1700 rupture from K.
Wang, R. E. Wells, S. Mazzotti, H. Dragert, R. D. Hyndman, and T. Sagiya, “A Revised
3-D Dislocation Model of Interseismic Deformation for the Cascadia Subduction
Zone,” Journal of Geophysical Research 108, no. B1 (2003): 2026.
10. There is some debate about the exact extent of the CSZ; some of the
peoples mentioned here have traditional territories outside its most commonly cited
boundaries. Their stories, however, may well reflect experiences with events on the
CSZ. Cascadia more broadly conceived is also marked by seismic activity on additional
faults such as the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Slip Zone, a northern fault similar
in many respects to the famed San Andreas Fault in California. For information on
turbidite evidence, see Alan R. Nelson, Harvey M. Kelsey, and Robert C. Witter, “Great
Earthquakes of Variable Magnitude at the Cascadia Subduction Zone,” Quaternary
Research 65, no. 3 (2006): 354–65.
11. Franz Boas, Tsimshian Mythology (Washington, DC: Bureau of American
Ethnology, 1916), 883.
12. For the most recent synthesis, see Kenneth M. Ames and Herbert D. G.
Maschner, Peoples of the Northwest Coast: Their Archaeology and Prehistory (London:
Thames and Hudson, 2000). It should be noted that many indigenous communities
in the region believe that they were created in situ.
13. See www.activetectonics.coas.oregonstate.edu/main_pages/turbidites/
turbidites.html (accessed 25 August 2007).
14. Yeats, Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, 82.
15. Charles Hill-Tout, The Salish People: The Sechelt and the South-Eastern Tribes of
Vancouver Island, ed. Ralph Maud (Vancouver, BC: Talonbooks, 1987).
16. E. Y. Arima, D. St. Claire, L. Clamhouse, J. Edgar, C. Jones, and C. Thomas,
“Between Ports Alberni and Renfew: Notes on West Coast Peoples,” Canadian
Ethnology Service, Mercury Series Paper 121 (Ottawa, ON: Canadian Museum of
Civilization, 1991), 231.
17. G. M. Sproat, Scenes and Studies of Savage Life (London: Smith, Elder, 1868),
124–25. Tseshaht and Sheshaht are two Anglicizations of the same Nuu-chah-nulth
18. A. L. Kroeber, Yurok Myths (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976),
20 american indian culture and research journal
463; Melville Jacobs, “Coos Narrative and Ethnologic Texts,” University of Washington
Publications in Anthropology 8, no. 1 (1939): 53; Cora A. Dubois, “Tolowa Notes,”
American Anthropologist 34 (1932): 261.
19. James G. Swan, Diary, January 1864, Manuscripts, Special Collections, and
University Archives, University of Washington. Interestingly, to date, no paleoseismic
evidence of subsidence or tsunamis has been discovered at Waatch Prairie.
20. Franz Boas, “Traditions of the Tillamook Indians,” Journal of American Folklore
11 (1898): 23–38 and A. B. Reagan, “Myths of the Hoh and Quileute Indians,” Utah
Academy of Sciences 11 (1934): 17–37.
“Pictographic painting, the coat of arms of Shewish, Seshaht Chief. . . . The
figure at the base . . . represents the mammoth whale upon whose back the whole
creation rests. Above the whale are seen the head and wings of the giant . . . Thunder
Bird.” Illustration by J. Semeyn, from A. Carmichael, Indian Legends of Vancouver Island
(Toronto: The Musson Book Company, 1922), 32.
21. For references to many of these stories, see Alan D. McMillan and Ian
Hutchinson, “When the Mountain Dwarfs Danced: Aboriginal Traditions of Paleoseismic
Events along the Cascadia Subduction Zone of Western North America,” Ethnohistory
49, no. 1 (Winter 2002), 41–68; Ruth S. Ludwin et al., “Dating the 1700 Cascadia
Earthquake”; R. S. Ludwin, C. P. Thrush, K. James, D. Buerge, C. Jonientz-Trisler, J.
Rasmussen, K. Troost, and A. de los Angeles, “Serpent Spirit-power Stories along the
Seattle Fault,” Seismological Research Letters 76, no. 4 (July/August 2005), 426–31.
22. Keith Thor Carlson, ed., Coast Salish-Stó:l ̄o Historical Atlas (Vancouver:
University of British Columbia Press, 2001), 10–11; Edward S. Curtis, The North
American Indian, vol. 9 (1913; repr. New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970), 37–38; Claude
Lévi-Strauss, The Way of the Masks (Vancouver, BC: Douglas and McIntyre, 1982), 159.
23. Franz Boas, Kwakiutl Tales (New York: Columbia University Press, 1910),
27–32; Franz Boas, Ethnology of the Kwakiutl (Washington, DC: Bureau of American
Ethnology, 1921), 951–56.
24. Franz Boas, “The Nootka,” Second Annual Report on the Indians of British
Columbia (London: British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1891), 613;
Boas, Kwakiutl Tales, 123.
25. G. M. Sproat, The Nootka: Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, ed. C. Lillard
(Victoria, BC: Sono Nis Press, 1987), 124–25; Edward Sapir, “A Flood Legend of the
Nootka Indians of Vancouver Island,” Journal of American Folklore 32 (1919): 351–55.
26. For discussion of reciprocity between Aboriginal societies and their envi-
ronments in British Columbia, see Nancy M. Turner, The Earth’s Blanket: Traditional
Teachings for Sustainable Living (Vancouver, BC: Douglas and McIntyre, 2005).
27. For an overview of Annales approaches to history and their impact, see
Peter Burke, The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School, 1929–1989 (Palo Alto,
CA: Stanford University Press, 1990). For one of the most well-known examples, see
the 1992 University of California Press reprint of Fernand Braudel’s Civilization and
Capitalism, 15th–18th Centuries. For two examples of North American environmental
history that draw on the Annales tradition—one from the first years of the field’s
modern development and one that has been published recently—see William Cronon,
Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill and
Wang, 1983) and Brian Donahue, The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial
Concord (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007).
Finding Fault 21
28. Cole Harris, “How Did Colonialism Dispossess? Comments from an Edge of
Empire,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94, no. 1 (2004): 165–82.
29. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples
(London: Zen Books, 1999), 58.
30. Alix Cooper, Inventing the Indigenous: Local Knowledge and Natural History in
Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
31. See Michael A. Bryson, Visions of the Land: Science, Literature, and the American
Environment from the Era of Exploration to the Age of Ecology (Charlottesville: University
Press of Virginia, 2002), 3–31.
Colin Scott, “Science for the West, Myth for the Rest?: The Case of James Bay
Cree Knowledge Construction,” in Naked Science: Anthropological Inquiry into Boundaries,
Power, and Knowledge, ed. Laura Nader (New York: Routledge, 1996).
32. See James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human
Condition Have Failed (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998); David Wade
Chambers and Richard Gillespie, “Locality in the History of Science: Colonial Science,
Technoscience, and Indigenous Knowledge,” Osiris 15 (2000): 221–40.
33. Gerald Holton, “On the Jeffersonian Research Program,” Archives
Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 36, no. 117 (1986): 325–36; Kathleen Tobin-
Schlesinger, “Jefferson to Lewis: The Study of Nature in the West,” Journal of the West 29,
no. 1 (1990): 54–61; cadastral survey field notes and plats for Oregon and Washington
(Denver, CO: US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 1982).
For the application of Enlightenment ideals to indigenous territories in the region,
see Daniel W. Clayton, Islands of Truth: The Imperial Fashioning of Vancouver Island
(Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2000).
34. Suzanne Zeller, “The Colonial World as a Geological Metaphor: Strata(gems)
of Empire in Victorian Canada,” Osiris 15 (2000): 85–107; John R. Hensley,
“Transacting Science on the Border of Civilization: The Academy of Science of St.
Louis, 1856–1881,” Gateway Heritage 7, no. 3 (1986–87): 18–25.
35. See Robert E. Ficken, Unsettled Boundaries: Fraser Gold and the British-American
Northwest (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2003); E. A. Schwartz, The
Rogue River War and Its Aftermath, 1850–1890 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1997); David Burley, Senewélets: Culture History of the Nanaimo Coast Salish and the False
Narrows Midden (Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum, 1989); Morda C. Slauson,
From Coal to Jets (Renton, WA: Renton Historical Society, 1976).
36. See Cultures of Natural History, eds. N. Jardine, J. A. Secord, and E. C. Spary
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
37. For an exhaustive catalog of European ideas about earthquakes and their
causes, see Erhard Orser’s Historical Earthquake Theories (HEAT) at www.univie
.ac.at/Wissenschaftstheorie/heat/heat-1/heat000f.htm (accessed 25 August 2007).
Transition example: Peter Gould, “Lisbon 1755: Enlightenment, Catastrophe, and
Communication,” in Geography and Enlightenment, eds. David N. Livingstone and
Charles W. J. Withers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 399–413; Theodore
E. D. Braun, The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755: Representations and Reactions (Oxford:
Voltaire Press, 2005). For a comprehensive account of the origins of modern geology,
see Rachel Laudan, From Mineralogy to Geology: The Foundations of a Science, 1650–1830
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).
38. John McPhee, Annals of the Former World (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and
22 american indian culture and research journal
Giroux, 1998), 34. For discussion of the history of plate tectonics theory, see H.
W. Menard, The Ocean of Truth: A Personal History of Global Tectonics (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1986); Naomi Oreskes, ed., Plate Tectonics: An Insider’s
History of the Modern Theory of the Earth (Cambridge, MA: Westview Press, 2003).
39. For an account of this process of rediscovery, see Yeats, Living with Earthquakes,
esp. 3–4. See also Linda Roach Monroe, “Scientists Fear Big Jolt Can Happen in
Oregon,” The Oregonian, 26 February 1987, E1.
40. T. H. Heaton and H. Kanamori, “Seismic Potential Associated with Subduction
in the Northwestern United States,” Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 74,
no. 3 (1984): 933–41; Brian F. Atwater and Wendy C. Grant, “Holocene Subduction
Earthquakes in Coastal Washington,” Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 67,
no. 44 (1986): 906; Yeats, Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, 54–57.
41. A. R. Nelson et al., “Radiocarbon Evidence for Extensive Plate-Boundary
Rupture 300 Years Ago at the Cascadia Subduction Zone, Nature 378 (1995): 371–74;
K. Satake, K. Wang, and B. F. Atwater, “Fault Slip and Seismic Moment of the 1700
Cascadia Earthquake Inferred from Japanese Tsunami Descriptions,” Journal of
Geophysical Research 108 (2003): 2325; D. K. Yamaguchi, B. F. Atwater, D. E. Bunker, B.
E. Benson, and M. S. Reid, “Tree-Ring Dating the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake,” Nature
389 (1997): 922–23; C. D. Peterson and G. R. Priest, “Preliminary Reconnaissance
Survey of Cascadia Paleotsunami Deposits in Yaquina Bay, Oregon,” Oregon Geology 57,
no. 2 (1995): 33–40; Brian F. Atwater, The Orphan Tsunami of 1700: Japanese Clues to a
Parent Earthquake in North America (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005).
42. T. H. Heaton and P. D. Snavely, “Possible Tsunami along the Northwestern
Coast of the United States Inferred from Indian Traditions,” Bulletin of the Seismological
Society of America 75, no. 5 (1985): 1455–60; John J. Clague, “Early Historical and
Ethnological Accounts of Large Earthquakes and Tsunamis on Western Vancouver
Island, British Columbia,” Current Research 1995-A (1995): 47–50.
43. Ian Hutchinson and Alan D. McMillan, “Archaeological Evidence for
Village Abandonment Associated with Late Holocene Earthquakes at the Northern
Cascadia Subduction Zone,” Quaternary Research 48 (1997): 79–87; Diamond Jenness,
The Faith of a Coast Salish Indian (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum,
1955), 33; Oliver N. Wells, Myths and Legends of the Staw-loh Indians of South Western
British Columbia (Sardis, BC: privately printed, 1970), 19; Oliver N. Wells, The
Chilliwacks and Their Neighbours (Vancouver, BC: Talonbooks, 1987), 88–92; Charles
Hill-Tout, “Report on the Ethnology of the Southeastern Tribes of Vancouver Island,
British Columbia,” in Maud, The Salish People, 157; Dorothy Kennedy and Randy
Bouchard, Sliammon Life, Sliammon Lands (Vancouver, BC: Talonbooks, 1983), 154; T.
F. McIlwraith, The Bella Coola Indians (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1948), 2:
504; Susanne Storie, ed., Oweekano Stories (Victoria: British Columbia Indian Advisory
Committee, 1973), 59; E. Y. Arima et al., “Between Ports Alberni and Renfrew:
Notes on West Coast Peoples,” 164; Ella Clark, Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953), 323; Elizabeth Colson, The Makah
Indians: A Study of an Indian Tribe in Modern American Society (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 1953), 47.
44. Dorothy Vitaliano, Legends of the Earth (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1973); Luigi Piccardi, “Active Faulting at Delphi: Seismotectonic Remarks and
a Hypothesis for the Geological Environment of a Myth,” Geology 28 (2000): 651–54;
Finding Fault 23
Robert L. Kovach, Early Earthquakes in the Americas (Cambridge: Cambridge University
45. Yeats, Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, 2, 8.
46. Ian Hutchinson and Alan D. McMillan, “Archaeological Evidence for Village
Abandonment Associated with Late Holocene Earthquakes at the Northern Cascadia
Subduction Zone,” Quarternary Research 48 (1997): 79–87.
47. Swan, Diary, 57; Myron Eells, “Traditions of the ‘Deluge’ among the Tribes of
the North West,” American Antiquarian 1, no. 2 (1878): 70; Boas, Kwakiutl Tales, 122.
48. Brackets by story numbers group stories from a common geographic locale;
symbols are as in figure 1. The “Whale” motif is enclosed in quotation marks to cover
a variety of sea monsters that appear in the stories. Date range estimates used the
following assumptions: a “generation” is no fewer than fifteen and no more than
forty years; events before age five are not remembered; the maximum life span is one
hundred years; flood survivors were “old” when interviewed; and an “old” person is at
least forty. From R. S. Ludwin et al., “Dating the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake.”
49. Multiple news outlets reported on the mysterious “primitive sixth sense”
that told Andamanese and other tribespeople living on islands in the Indian Ocean
to move away from the coasts before the tsunami’s arrival. E.g., see “Knowledge of
Natural World Saved Primitive Tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands from Tsunami,”
The Hindu (New Delhi), 5 January 2005.
50. Information on the US Geological Survey’s press conference comparing
geological structures in Indonesia and Cascadia can be found at soundwaves.usgs.
gov/2005/03/outreach.html (accessed 25 August 2007).
51. For examples, see Richard L. Hill, “Cautionary Tales of a Catastrophe,”
Oregonian, 25 July 2007, http://www.oregonlive.com/oregonian/stories/index.ssf?/
base/science/118531952745660.xml&coll=7 (accessed 30 July 2007); Tom Paulson,
“New Findings Super-Size Our Tsunami Threat,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7 February
2005, http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/211012_tsunamiscience07.html (accessed
9 February 2005); Larry Lange, “Tsunami Would Be Disaster to Seattle,” Seattle
Post-Intelligencer, 8 February 2005, http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/211158_
tsunamiseattle08.html (accessed 9 February 2005).
52. Nancy J. Turner, “Traditional Ecological Knowledge,” in The Rain Forests
of Home, eds. Peter K. Schoonmaker, Bettina von Hagen, and Edward C. Wolf
(Washington, DC: Island Press, 1997), 275–98.
53. See Sarah A. Laird, ed., Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge: Equitable
Partnerships in Practice (London: Earthscan, 2002); Doreen Stabinsky and Stephen B.
Brush, eds., Valuing Local Knowledge: Indigenous People and Intellectual Property Rights
(Washington, DC: Island Press, 1996); Darrel A. Posey and Graham Dutfield, eds.,
Beyond Intellectual Property: Toward Traditional Resource Rights for Indigenous Peoples and
Local Communities (Ottawa, ON: International Development Research Centre, 1996);
Paul Sillitoe, Participating in Development: Approaches to Indigenous Knowledge (London:
54. Michael F. Brown, Who Owns Native Culture? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2003), 205–8. For discussion of the “violence” done to indigenous
knowledge in nonindigenous contexts, see Roy Ellen, Peter Parkes, and Alan Bicker,
eds., Indigenous Environmental Knowledge and Its Transformations: Critical Anthropological
Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2000). For the perils of “co-management,” see Paul
24 american indian culture and research journal
Nadasdy, Hunters and Bureaucrats: Power, Knowledge, and Aboriginal-State Relations in
the Southwest Yukon (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004). For
discussion of the social context of indigenous knowledge, see Julie Cruikshank, The
Social Life of Stories: Narrative and Knowledge in the Yukon Territory (Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press, 1997).
55. Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge (Boston: South
End Press, 1997), 2.
56. See Londa Schiebinger, Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic
World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Londa Schiebinger and
Claudia Swan, eds., Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern
World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).
57. Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies, 117–18 .
58. See Trevor C. Lantz, Kristina Swerhun, and Nancy J. Turner, “Devil’s Club
(Oplopanax horridum): An Ethnobotanical Review,” Herbalgram 62 (2004): 33–48.
59. Krista J. Kapralos, “Copyrighting Culture: Tulalips Assert Rights to Stories,”
Everett Herald, 15 April 2007, http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20070415/
NEWS01/704150722/-1/extras01 (accessed 25 August 2007).
60. Susan Lazaruk, “Coastal Island Band Considers Move to Avoid Future
Tsunami,” The Province, 26 January 2005, A9; Mark Hume, “B.C. Natives Fear Tsunami,
Seek to Move,” Toronto Globe and Mail, 26 January 2005, A1, A7.
61. See Rachel La Corte, “Quileutes Block Beach Access in Push for More Tribal
Land,” Seattle Times, 24 November 2006, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/
localnews/2003445301_dispute24m.html?syndication=rss (accessed 25 August 2007).
62. See Yeats, Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest; John E. Armstrong,
Vancouver Geology, eds. Charlie Roots and Chris Staargaard (Vancouver, BC: Geological
Association of Canada, Cordilleran Section, 1990); John Clague and Bob Turner,
Vancouver, City on the Edge: Living with a Dynamic Geological Landscape (Vancouver, BC:
Tricouni Press, 2003).
63. See, e.g., the official reports on CSZ and Seattle Fault scenarios published
at www.pnsn.org/NEWS/PRESS_RELEASES/SCENARIOS.html (accessed 25 August
64. Yeats, Living with Earthquakes, vii.
65. Sandi Doughton, “Talks to Focus on State’s Tsunami Readiness,” Seattle Times,
9 February 2005; Hill, “Oregon Girds for Inevitable Disaster”; Charles Pope, “Politics
Could Sink Revamped Tsunami Warning System,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7 February
66. Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders, Earthquakes in
Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Seismic Disruptions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2004).
67. Gregory Clancey, Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity,
1868–1930 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).
68. David L. Ulin, The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault
Line between Reason and Faith (New York: Viking, 2004), 7.
69. Kroeber, Yurok Myths.
III. Reflections onthe Rock By Dr. S. Kounosu
Now what about Rocks and Dreams? Rocks have Spirit and in Sweat Lodge the heated Rocks give Energy —. “Organ Flow” in Reich’s theory —.
Why a Rock? Rock was a Spaceship which carried the Spirit. Rock meant a long, long “Endurance”. It had to “survive” the testing journey. It was frozen at times, and burned at other times. Rock saw and heard everything. Rock was a deep thinker. Rock felt cold, heat and pains but was not permitted to say anything. It was the carrier of a secret message. Rock’s spirit had to be silent for thousands of years, that is, until you come and read it off. Dream may be the only way the Rock is permitted to tell something to you.
Or another explanation is that the fallen Star was broken up into many small pieces. Just like the fragments of a Holographic image, you carry a part of the Rock and others carry other parts. You meet and find the pieces. When you put the pieces together, you get the message. Your Dreams are fragments of the message. they tell you to look for other pieces. Ask people around you — though you have to trick them to tell you without ‘rationalizing” what Rock they have in their heads —.
I look for my piece of Rock in my head. Maybe something there that I do not understand. anyway, I do not know what I am giving you. Hopefully you can make sense out of the pieces. Don’t ask me whether you are right or wrong. I am only an assistant of yours. You are the boss, authority — meaning the carrier of the Rock Bundle —. So you stand up and reach for it.
Rock is not silent because of fear. Rock cannot be intimidated. rock is “Assertion” by its presence, and needs not to assert any more than it already is. Rock is silent because it is listening, feeling and thinking, or even having its own Dream. Rock is also “Acceptance”. It witnesses the history of People. It may be sad and standing alone, but withstands anything and survives. Rock talks alone, but withstands anything and survives. rock talks with wind that passes it by and gets wet in rain, that is his romance. It looks at trees growing from a distance and remembers them like old men remember little girls growing up to be women. Bears sleep under it and climb up on it, like children do their grandpas. It remembers all that.
What about Electricity that holds the Rock together? Or the momentum flow that makes up its mass and its Existence? Concreteness of Rock is actually relational. It comes from the dynamics of supporting network. Shall we talk about Existence that generates time? Or super position of Two Way Time that generates Existence? Fire interaction makes up a Rock. That’s OK. But from that where do we go?
Exercise #2 Rocks
Divide into groups, ask for a member of each group to come forward or stand to select a talking rock. Instruct the group to introduce themselves and then to begin to pass the rock around the circle. The person holding the rock speaks. The rock is passed until all have spoken. The question to be addressed is:
“What can a rock teach us?”
After 40 minutes regroup. Ask participants,
“What did you learn from this experience?”
“How do you feel about it?”
All over the globe, indigenous people are coming forward to insist on the right to continue traditional science, (i.e., the Done and Environmental science, Australian aboriginals and Both Ways research). We aim to create a place for our science within a drastically altered environment because we understand that this is crucial to the survival of our children and grandchildren, whom we will no longer abandon to the unfeeling, unnatural, unspiritual processes of western science as it is contemporarily practiced. Native science in western scientific terms may open the door to non-Native scientists and people to embrace the love, passion and life-enhancing power that is the rightful heritage of all humanity. Perhaps this is the lesson of the Indian, the rock and the fire which unites us.
Presented to The Faculty of the Florence Heller Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
by Pam Colorado
Table of Contents
Section One: Native American Alcoholism,
Section Two: Scientific Thought And
Section Three: Dine’ Alcohol Policy,
An Historical Analysis……………………………….66
Section Four: No One Makes You Drink……….150
The Politics of Alcohol Recovery…………………….162
AIM, The War Against Alcoholism…………………..173
Native American Alcoholism, An Introduction
Section one introduces the current relationship between Native Americans and alcohol/substance. This section explores both the social dimensions and the impacts of substance use/abuse among Native people. Several points are made:
1. Alcohol and substance abuse are the leading cause of death of Native people.
2. The prevalence, incidence is so great that it cannot be explained by theories based on individual deviance or pathology.
3. Despite efforts to combat alcoholism, the problem is increasing geometrically.
4. Substance abuse threatens the survival of Native Americans.
Section one concludes with a statement from an elderly Northern Cheyenne man. This man, a child at the time of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, spells out an interpretation of the changes alcohol has wrought among the People. He suggests that an answer to the problem may lie in re-discovery of the “Good Way”, that is, a way which is based on traditional tribal values and practices. The question is raised, why is the “Good Way” the answer and how can it be found?
A cold summer night on the northern plains of Montana
Winds come, fiercely whipping the squat tarpaper house where six children and three adults sleep
Four rooms crumbling plasterboard, rotting floor boards
backed up toilet and sink. Windows too few for air and too small
for light frame reality for this Native American family.
Earlier evening, after work, the Family gathered at the Tongue River, built fire, heated rocks and took Sweat.
The Way of the Sacred Sweat
Water – the Gift of Life, is poured on the Grandfathers, lava rocks, now radiant with heat and mingle with prayers into the steam – the Breath of Creator
Outside Sweat Lodge, Thunders rumble ominously and cedar is burned
the storm retreats held back through ancient understanding.
Inside Sweat, the Family gives thanks for – a day of life, a husband being sober again, a child recovering from illness and a
prayer for Mitakeoysin (all the Relations).
Eleven relatives sit down for boiled venison and Wonder Bread.
Thanks is given, again and again, especially for the food.
Oldest son, age fifteen, is proud, night before last,
he got the deer.
Plentiful coffee and Kool Aide
reservation water, too brackish to drink alone,
its depredation visible oily slag on the top of drinks.
teasing and laughter conclude the Feast.
Now its two A.M.
heavy winds and driving rain pound against the house.
Lightening flashes; thunders roar and I awaken with a start.
Heart pounding, gnawing fear returns.
I cannot sleep for thinking…my sister, face lined with
pain and bitterness
a sespair which speaks of some final surrender.
Struggling for answers, tears slip down my face
as I beg Creator’s pity on this Family.
There was such hope
Just four years ago, the Family left Boston,
two advanced degrees, won at such a cost, and worth it too
This time the tribe stands threshold of new life.
Coal, black gold!
Harvard degrees wielded to extract a successful contract
energy conglomerate, the first negotiated by a tribe on its own.
Now there is a way to feed and shelter the People.
yet my sister and family perish.
Today! Assassin! In your sights, my brother-in-law falls
to his knees.
Mind clouded in Whiteman’s poison, he steals from his wife
for the next bottle…
The baby stirs, lying next to me on the cot.
Water drips in and within seconds, soaks through the
the bed is moved repeatedly to avoid the leaks.
A new home
BIA has been promising one for ten years
but it is a four A.M. promise
Exhausted and hungry, the baby and I fall into sleep.
Voices Upon the Water
Submitted To: The Southeast Alaska Regional Training Program
Prepared By: Pam Colorado Ph. D.
136 Davis Avenue
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Since its inception, the Southeast Regional Training Program has committed itself to responding to identified needs of substance abuse workers within this region. Traditionally, the prograrm has concentrated on the provision of counselor certification training in the eight courses contained in Level I and Level II. Additionally the program has seen the need for and offered non-certification related training courses in such areas as Advanced Counseling Skills, Working With Youth, and Supervision.
It has been the philosophy of the program that village-based counselors have unique training needs above and beyond the certification areas and within the realm of limited resources, the Regional Trainer has attempted to respond to those needs.
The unique setting of village-based training, viewed in contrast to residential, centrally located 3-5 training workshops implies special strategies that, in this writer’s experience, require above all else, a respect and recognition of the village milieu in which the training is offered. In terms of participation and methodology, village-based training becomes literally that — training of the community.
The extensive time in preparation, recruitment, course design, materials development, and evaluation methodology that is part of any successful manpower development activity takes on new meaning when applied to village settings, where such activities as appropriate resource development of local resources, attention to local customs, trainer credibility, and community involvement are of at least equal importance as the aforementioned activities.
In recognition of these special circumstances, the Southeast Regional Training Program embarked in FY 85 on a specialized research project which would begin to identify in more specific terms, the special needs of village-based counselors. This document was intended to provide direction and focus for further activities in the areas of training development and delivery.
We have been most fortunate in securing the services of Dr. Pam Colorado Morrison of Juneau as the principal investigator. Pam’s sensitive professionalism and her dedication to the creation of a useful and appropriate document has succeeded in giving to u a place to start. As in recognition of the unanimity of concern in all of the respondents to the study, it becomes clear that the commitment to assisting the village worker is present throughout the system.
It remains now for us to collectively continue this effort and to expand our resources in a manner that is the most helpful in the creation of training strategies that respect the integrity of the community, assist the workers in their exceptionally difficult task, and relieve the suffering created by substance abuse.
John M. Sullivan
Section I, Introduction………………………….2
Section II, Selecting the Design …………..3
SectionIII, The Biculture Research Design…10
Section IV, Findings………………………………….14
Section V, Recommendations……………….24
Section VI, A Talking Circle…………………..27
(The Triangulation Of Data)
Section VII, Bibliography……………………….40
Thank you, Matt Felix and the SOADA staff, for sharing your thoughts, time, offices and for your encouragement.
David Bond, Arlene Dangell and James Jack of SEARHC, thank you for the many hours of discussion, for the wealth of information, direction and guidance to this effort.
A special thanks to you, the traditional People, Austin Hammond, Cyrus Peck, Richard Dalton, George Jim and Deborah Dalton, who gave so much of your time and energy to this project. To you I would say, that I have tried to “get it right”, to hear, interpret and reflect your words in a way that will be helpful to the People and to the professionals who work in Native alcoholism. If I have left anything out, or said too much, I hope that you will call the error to my attention.
To Richard Dalton and Austin Hammond, who were there at all hours to take my calls, clarify a point or instruct me in some matter of this report, I thank you.
To the staff at the Southeast Regional Training Program, I am reminded of the many long phone calls, and complicated arrangements that this project necessarily involved. For your persistence, patience and hard work in meeting very tight deadlines with you, thank you.
Finally, I give thanks to the traditional Indian Elders and Medicine People who have given so much to my own training and education.
Pam Colorado Morrison, Ph. D.
September 1985, Juneau, Alaska
Southeast Alaska Regional Training Program Study on the Training Needs of Village-Based Counselors.
The field of alcoholism is undergoing a fundamental shift from the present medical based counselor model to a more holistic approach. This shift is marked by great stress in the system. Nowhere is the stress more evident than in the question of village-based versus urban-based counselor training needs.
While nearly everyone agrees that the role of the village-based counselor differs from its urban counterpart, few have been able to specify what the differences are or more important what these differences mean in terms of practice and training.
Based on this issue, the Southeast Alaska Regional Training Program initiated a research project to provide a functional analysis of village-based counselors. The purpose of the research was to answer the following questions:
1. What are the functions of village-based counselors?
2. What do counselors think of certification?
3. What are the community specific historic elements used to address substance abuse?
4. What important activities are not occuring? Why?
5. What healing elements are available to communities that may be useful to counselors?
6. What is “community development”?
7. What is the distinction, if any, between village-based and urban-based counselors?
Selecting an appropriate research design was a great challenge. The Southeast Alaska Regional Training Program needed information that was reliable and valid in two cultures, Native and non-Native, and it wanted the research to be helpful to the communities involved in the effort. Finally, the data needed to produce directions, postures and positions that would really work in both cultures as well as in the interface of the cultures. These needs were confounded by the fact that social science is undergoing a shift in paradigms, at least in so far as multi-cultural inquiry is concerned. Until the last two or three years, cross-cultural research has merely been an extension of western domination; that is, the stretching and pulling of western science across to other cultures, especially Native.
The results have not been fruitful for anyone. Western scientists became frustrated with the degrading of science which necessarily occurs when it is stretched beyond its capacity to make meaningful interpretations or predictions, and Native people have generally resented intrusion of yet another form of ideological control. Furthermore, except as informants, Native people have had very little say in matters of alcohol research within the village or community.
Therefore, the need to find a design that would work became paramount. Reviewing the literature became an essential but in the end, rewarding task, which led to the selection of the new “Bicultural Research Design.”
Native Science and Participatory Research
University of Calgary
Faculty of Social Welfare
Paper presented at the Participatory Research Conference, University of Calgary, May 3, 1988
Until the present time, we have had to stretch Western science so far that knowledge about Indian culture seems unreal. Research has been perceived and presented as mono-cultural, thus not accepted by the Indian community. All peoples including Native Americans have science or a way of coming to knowledge; each tribe has its specific methods, but for the purposes of introducing the concept of Native science and exploring its relationship with Participatory Research, we will deal in generalization about “Native” metaphysics.
Reflecting on the implications of two sciences, it is clear that a bicultural research model recognizing both Indian science and Western science needs to emerge. Newly evolved Western research methods such as ethnographic research, content/issue analysis, and the framework of Participatory Research can be drawn upon to complement of meet Indian science and culture.
Traditional Indian science must be articulated in contemporary terms to permit scholarly exchange growth and to empower Indian people in the scientific arena. Further, an integration of Western and Indian ways of thinking must occur if we are to develop research strategies and outcomes which are acceptable and respected by both cultures. (“Integration” refers to a blending of research findings, not the domination or extension of ideological control by one culture’s science).
A bi-cultural research model must be both valid and reliable; strengthen traditional Indian science and enhance cross cultural communication and understanding, while at the same time promoting the growth of both sciences. This paper will present an epistemological foundation of Indian science and will explore the possibility of creating a scientific, intercultural, infrastructure by the use of Participatory Research as a rosetta stone or translator.
Only Three Words
A presentation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Columbia University, 1994
Apela Colorado, Ph.D.
Only Three Words
“…so, the old man asked, Which part of the Pipe do you think is most important?…. The Stem because it’s the living part….”
I am Opispheyiehawie, Turtle clan of the Oneida Nation. I am able to speak today because, my Grandfather who was the sole remaining traditional person in my family, gave me a message. It was the winter of 1961; my Grandfather was dying of cancer, yet, in the midst of a blowing snowstorm, he travelled thirty five miles to talk with me. The message consisted of only three words but through those words, our traditional mind, culture and science embraced me.
What is Indigenous Science?
It’s good to be here because New York State and Southeastern Ontario are Iroquois traditional homelands. Much earlier in our history, possibly 15,000 years ago, we originated from the South. But long before that, we originated from the Stars and the first woman. Our Creation history contains detailed information of that first epic journey and tells us how the first woman and nature conspired to make life on this Earth.
Movement has always been key to the identity and science of Iroquois peoples. In fact, the Thanksgiving prayer, central to our lives and ceremony, completes each stanza or round with the verse, “those who move about the face of the Earth”. The movement is not random. It is sequential and orderly because the balance of life depends on our doing it right. Doing it right means moving/acting in accordance with the great cycles of life recorded in complex calendrical systems; oral history; menemic devices, songs, dances, chants and art.
Just like Western science, indigenous science relies upon direct observation; there are tests to insure validity and data is used for forecasting and generating predictions. Individuals are trained in various specialisations for example, herbalists, weather specialists, mental health and time keeping. Unlike western science, the data from indigenous science is not used to control the forces of nature, instead the data tells us ways and means of accommodating nature. Other critical distinctions include the following: