Indians in the Gorge

We spotted a biplane soaring over the Vista House.
The view is amazing anyway, but I like the addition of the biplane.

The Cherokee Nation puts an earnest effort into maintaining the integrity of Cherokee culture around the country, and into keeping the Cherokee diaspora united. I’m glad the Cherokee government makes connection a priority, because there are many Oklahoma Cherokees who believe that one loses legitimacy if they don’t live in Oklahoma. I often hear them say, “Come home!” For some it is meant as a heartfelt invitation, and for some it is a criticism of my choice to live elsewhere. I have no plans to move to Oklahoma at the moment, and appreciate being accepted as Cherokee with my limited access to Cherokee culture.

One new program Chief Baker’s administration came up with is to have sister communities. The administration makes the matches, and informs the groups. Our Mt. Hood Cherokees were matched with the Stilwell Library Friends group in Stilwell, Oklahoma. The Stilwell Public Library obviously isn’t a Cherokee organization. However, the location is within the fourteen Cherokee counties in Oklahoma, so based on demographics, most of the members of the library group are Cherokee. They are an active group and recently completed a fundraising project to build an addition onto the library. I’d like to think that our groups were matched because we are both active and enthusiastic.

The Nation then supports the pairing further, by sponsoring an annual visit both directions. I blogged about my opportunity to visit the Cherokee Nation for the first time last summer. While in Oklahoma I attended a conference and saw historic sites, and I also had the chance to meet multiple members of the Library Friends group. They looked out for me, gave me rides, and made sure I made it to a traditional country Oklahoma potluck with barbecued bologna. Yes, that is a thing.

We have also had three visits from our sister community so far. Last weekend was the third.

Still a small group, but on this day it’s larger than average.

Susie and Regina gave a great presentation about the introduction and history of loom weaving among the Cherokee, during our monthly meeting. It was a very popular talk and got the attendees excited about weaving. I’m doing a happy dance in my mind because our little group has been fragile in membership attendance for so long, but lately there have been a bunch of brand new faces at meetings. I always hope for a fabulous presentation on the days when new people show up, so they’ll see how much fun it can be, and make time to come again. I got my wish this time!

After the meeting, a group of us piled into cars and made our way into the Columbia River Gorge. The visitors were denied waterfall viewing last year because there were wildfires and the roads were closed. This year we could see the burned trees beside the highway, and along the paths to the waterfalls. The authorities were not joking: the fire was dangerously close last year.

We stopped first at a large parking lot sponsored by the Portland Women’s Forum. It was a great gathering point because it offers magnificent views of the Gorge toward the East, and of the Vista House perched on a cliff along what used to be the main highway here on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.

While we stood there, a red biplane came buzzing through! It was a delight to watch it circle the Vista House and then fly away. See the two photos at the top of this post.

Cherokees in the Gorge
The magical postcard view from the Portland Women’s Forum parking area.
The Vista House. It was originally built as a rest stop for people traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Now it’s a tourist location with history, a small museum, gift shop, site interpreters, and unbeatable 360-degree views of the Columbia River and the state of Washington across the river.
A site interpreter explains some of the marble carvings inside.
Tourists enjoying the view from the wrap-around balcony.
Even the bathrooms are photo-worthy. When was the last time you took a photo of a bathroom because it was so pretty?

Much of the Historic Highway road remains closed due to wildfire damage, and we would have to skip some waterfalls. However, what highway remains open does pass three of them: LaTourell Falls, Shepperd’s Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Queen of them all – Multnomah Falls.

At LaTourell Falls, we were delighted to see a bride and groom having their wedding photos taken. The scene was really dramatic, in that sheltered waterfall cove carved out of thousands of basalt columns and electric green moss. I was not able to resist taking wedding photos myself, though I do not know the couple.

Regina captures a shot at LaTourell Falls
This couple was staging some dramatic wedding photos.
I mean. Really dramatic.

The path at Shepperd’s Dell Falls is still closed because of fire damage. Luckily there is a bridge that crosses the canyon and allows a view of the falls for the intrepid and determined.

I tried to capture a creative shot of Shepperd’s Dell Falls between posts on the bridge.

Next we hiked down a steep hill to get a good look at Bridal Veil Falls. Yes, we asked ourselves whether the bride and groom should have been here instead. But I think they made a good choice because the canyon was a little more cramped at Bridal Veil and there were more tourists lounging around having lunch with a waterfall view.

Susie at Bridal Veil Falls
Crepuscular rays light up the canyon
Tourists pose for photographs that really can’t fail with the backdrop available.

For the grand finale, we went to Multnomah Falls. After we parked, David told us that this waterfall was not the most popular tourist destination in Oregon. Instead, it’s the outlet malls in Woodburn. The people that choose outlet malls over this are insane. Truly. Off their rockers. I mean, look at this:

The glorious Multnomah Falls
Susie and Regina in front of Multnomah Falls
Regina and Susie on the bridge over the falls.

The next day our Oklahoma visitors went to the coast, but I did not join them. I did see a facebook photo of them in jackets with hoods on the chilly beach. I know they were both looking forward to being chilly for a weekend, to escape the Oklahoma heat, so I am happy it turned out that way.

9 thoughts on “Indians in the Gorge

  1. A very interesting post, Crystal …

    It really helped me learn about the existence of a Cherokee government and it’s cultural significance.

    Absolutely stunning landscape and hope I get a chance to explore this beautiful place.

    My cousin and family lives in Oklahoma and that could be one reason 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

    1. Sreejith, it is wonderful as always, to hear from you. I have to laugh, now that you commented on my post. Not THAT kind of Indian, the other kind…. ha ha ha! It reminds me of one of my Cherokee friends here who is occasionally interviewed by media as a “local Indian.” His Indian identity is, of course, indigenous North American. But he is also a comedian, so when he begins talking, he uses an Asian accent, as though he were an Indian from India. He lived and traveled all through South and Southeast Asia for many years and perfected the accent. Once he has confused or startled the interviewer, he then switches to his authentic speaking voice. So funny.

      I hope you are able to explore North America someday too. Either Oklahoma or Oregon, or many other places are worth a visit. If you end up anywhere near me, I insist you stay at my home and use my services as tour guide. There is much to see here, as you can tell by this post. I definitely plan to visit your coastal paradise one day too. One of my very best friends is Sri Lankan, and is always begging for a visit. On a map it’s so close to where you are…but possibly the travel between countries could be a hassle and I might split up the two vacations. That is, whenever I make it back to South Asia.

    1. Derrick you are so much fun. It feels like a true friendship, doesn’t it, when you get excited about my Cherokee ancestry and you and I have never met. Nevertheless, I count you among my friends and I’m grateful for your presence here in my online village. Your interaction and comments are steadfast as a counter to my unpredictability, ha ha.

    1. Oh, it’s fun to think that you guys were so close! I’ll be close to you in a week. My girlfriend and I will be attending some of the plays at the Shakespeare Festival. Can you believe I’ve never done that before?

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