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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on place-based stewardship education. Since 2001, a partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department (KNRD) has supported this newsletter and allowed us to expand class offerings through EPA funding. Further staff support comes through Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). Many thanks to our partners and to you, our readers, for your continued enthusiasm for "digging" into the natural history and culture of this part of the world.

A Pioneer River Trip

White settlers on the lower stretches of the Pend Oreille River were just starting to come in 1900. Newport was an established little village, with a population of about 200, but the farther north (downriver) one went from there, the sparser were the pioneers. Jennie and Wes Wooding and their three little boys (along with Ada and Uriah Wooding and their four girls) had come from Marysville and Seattle to take up squatters' rights, anticipating formal homesteading that would come in 1902 and allow them 160 acres for each family to develop into a home and a living. The train brought them to Newport, where they boarded a sternwheeler to take them downriver.

Sixty years later, Jennie Wooding wrote a memoir that included her trip downriver from Newport to Tiger (RM 88- RM 42) at a time when little clearing and development had been done. That memoir has been rendered by local novelist Eva Gayle Six in her historical fiction "Jennie's Tiger."


Jennie Meets the Pend Oreille River (from Jennie's Tiger)

By Eva Gayle Six

The steamboat was scheduled to leave the dock at 8:00 a.m., but inquiry determined this was more accurately the hour at which the captain and crew would leave their beds, if they were feeling well so early. Still ahead would be the loading of mail, freight, provisions, and passengers. Both the Woodings' boat, the VOLUNTEER, and another, the RED CLOUD, had prominent newspaper advertisements declaring each the fastest boat on the Pend d'Oreille. Apparently this distinction, whoever owned it, was based on performance during a staged race when crews tossed coal, wood, and an occasional slab of bacon into the boiler; and gin, whisky and beer into themselves. On more mundane occasions like the transportation of passengers and freight, pace was a lower priority. The VOLUNTEER proved to be neither the most beautiful nor the best engineered nor the safest nor the most luxurious boat on the river. She was 135 feet long and 15 feet high, plus an inconsequential little box serving as pilot house atop the second deck, and a single stack hardly taller than Wes. She had two enclosed decks. An outdoor deck surrounded the upper, passenger deck, where a spindle rail was the single attempt at adornment. Scraps of rusty tin spotted the roof of the second deck. Eventually the VOLUNTEER was fueled, the little stern wheel was revolving, and at somewhere near eleven o'clock the cracker box moved into the current of the Pend d'Oreille, headed downstream and north.

The lulling motor and the lapping water meeting the lower deck soothed the children, and Jennie was able to give her attention to the river. The VOLUNTEER went around a bend, and clamorous little Newport was behind them. The shore's clutter of rafts, broken-up rowboats, and general debris disappeared, caught at the river's first sharp bend. With the baby like a flour sack over her left shoulder, Jennie stepped onto the outside deck. It was neither cooler nor warmer than inside, and she could pretend she needed the isolation to keep Jasper asleep.

A rocky narrow beach was backed by brush in vivid yellows and reds. Up a bank that was sometimes one foot and sometimes fifty feet high were cedars, firs, pines and tamaracks interspersed with golden birches, gigantic cottonwoods, quivering aspens, and flaming vine maples. Even with a cold gray sky the colors were stunning. What the locals called rain was falling; but to Jennie, coming off four years in the high Cascades, it was hardly a haze. Waves on the river were about four inches high, and in certain gusts were topped with a rippling skim. There were the mouths of sloughs occasionally, offering a glimpse of stiller water and quieter shores. In some places cedars with their trunks patched with chartreuse moss leaned over the water. A black beard moss hung from the branches of the tamaracks. On both sides of the blue- green river, the forest was everywhere and everything. Wes's "Hanging Ear" River changed from images of grizzly mutilations to a new vision of the big cottonwood leaves. "Look, Jasper," she whispered. "Elf ears." Creeks entered every little distance, each promising yet another world of shelter, solitude and wildness. She knew Wes had placed them on a creek; she hoped it had the promise of these.

With a thrill, Jennie saw a homestead appear as they rounded a luxurious bend of the great river, the smoke from its chimney speaking as nothing else could of the nest she sought. Fences of poles with their bark still on demarcated the garden from the corral from the pens. Not a stockade to keep out Apaches and marauders, as in Arizona; not a declaration of "stay the hell off of my property," as on Puget Sound; but a charming statement that "this is where I live and love." After a while the shores opened onto meadows that went back to the hills a few miles distant on the west side. There was the natural hay Knute Slettedahl had promised, and settlers were already making good use of it. Cattle and horses stood belly- deep where it was left to pasture; high stacks of winter hay already scythed lay in gigantic log barns. Homestead cabins were tucked snug against the hills, leaving the bottom land for the cattle, who wouldn't mind an occasional flood so much. All of a sudden the rain picked up and hammered on the roof. Jasper woke. She nursed him, and he stayed awake. Jennie went back inside with the others, but by this time she was in love.

The stretch of river Jennie had traveled thus far was thinly settled, but as she went north from Cusick, population became even sparser. The settlement across the river from Cusick and Usk was the Kalispell village. Her vision of it in "Jennie's Tiger" comes from photographs in the Pend Oreille County Historical Society's archives at Newport.

They strolled unknowingly to the starboard side and were astonished to see yet another life. Two wood-frame structures and twelve tipis, some of canvas, some of reed mats, were scattered about. Women and a few men were arranging canvas over poles to make more. Children were carrying needed items to their parents. Jennie had had much experience with Indians. But these beautiful people were different from what she'd known. The women wore print blouses with close sleeves, and overblouses of yet another print, and loose raglan sleeves. Their skirts were a third print or stripe, and some wore long scarves loose in the front. But somehow nothing was inharmonious, and the garb was far more interesting than her own and Ada's dark, one-toned outfits. All the garments were as clean as Jennie's own - in fact cleaner, after travel on three coal-burning trains. Every woman had one or more pendants. Their hair was without exception done in long braids worn to the front over their chests; big, round shell ornaments hung from their ears. Little girls wore the same. The men's hair was loose, a more devil-may-care style. Some wore the commodious felt hats common to other Indians, one had a wide-brimmed straw hat, some were bareheaded. They had the sweetness and tenderness of the Owens Valley Paiutes Jennie'd grown up with, but not the defeated and unhealthy air of poverty. There was nothing of the angry and defiant look of the Apaches she'd known - and mostly avoided - in the Arizona Territory. The life of the Snohomish was so much like the settlers' that she'd hardly thought of them as another culture. These Kalispels were still living the community life that had taken centuries to build. Seeing her interest, Captain Cusick explained that they were starting a little early to set up their winter village. "They probably know something we don't about the winter coming up. Might be early snow." One tipi was so near the grassy river's edge that a person could almost step from bedroll to canoe. Sprawled in front of the tipi was a man about 25 with two little girls. His loose hair framed sharp cheekbones and a contented smile as he and the little girls watched the steamboat go by. Aboy of 15 startled, then stepped into a blunt-nosed canoe and paddled it into the river. Dressed in only a breechcloth, he raised a three-pronged spear and thrust it toward the fish he saw. With a string tied to the canoe and to the spear, he pulled in a two-pound cutthroat. With a broad grin he held the trout over his head, stepped to the shore and pulled his canoe onto the grass. His brown torso rippled with his movement. Jennie and Wes applauded, and the boy again grinned and raised the trout, showing it off in their direction. "Their name means 'River People,'" said Captain Cusick. "They're related to the Pend d'Oreilles some way, but it's the Kalispels who live here. Between the fish in the water and the deer and caribou in the hills, life is good here for them. So they're pretty easy to get along with. Even as far downriver as you live, you'll get to buy huckleberries and fish and venison from them if you want. They can paddle down faster than this boat can go, and about as fast coming back up. These summer pine bark canoes are a wonder for speed. They'll change to dugouts when the ice comes." Tommie and Billie noticed that most people were wearing no shoes. "They go in and out of the water so much they don't usually wear any. White people drown in the river all the time, but not the Kalispels. Whites' clothes are for land, and the water pulls them down real fast."

"Either keep your kids away from the river, Ma'am, or dress them for it." The boys stashed away that warning to use in later discussions of footwear.

The Woodings spent 23 years on the Pend Oreille, raising their four boys before a family tragedy drove them aw>y. Their 160 acres with good soil and a nurturing climate sent them away richer in every way than when they came.


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