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  1. Before The Anglos

From the recording Qualchan

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Qual Chan, a member of the Yakama Tribe, was a leader and warrior during the 1840s and 50s. His father, Owhi was a chieftain, and his uncle, Kamiakin was head chief of the Yakamas. Qual Chan’s people lived in family bands along the Columbia, Yakama and Wenatchee Rivers for thousands of years before coming into contact with Euro-Americans. The Yakamas, like other nomadic tribes living on the Columbia Plateau, spent most of their time food-gathering, hunting, fishing and trading. They celebrated the seasons with ritual, dancing, feasting and story-telling. While traveling during the summer months, they lived in skin or mat-covered tipis, which were portable and easy to construct. During the winter they moved into lodges that were halfway underground that had roofs made of wooden frames covered with mats. Their weapons were bows and arrows, clubs, and knives made of stone. They wore clothing made of animal skin and fur. They spoke a dialect of the Shahaptian language and believed that Whee-me-me-ow-ha, the Great Spirit, made everything and set up rules for man and nature to follow. The first rule of the Great Spirit was that people and nature were one.


In 1805, when Owhi, Qualchan’s father, was a small boy, the Yakamas were visited by strangers from the east. They had pale faces, talked in a strange language and had blankets and clothes made of colored cloth. Their tools and weapons were made of metal. One of their weapons made a loud noise that sent a metal ball hurling toward its victim. This group of strangers called themselves the Corps of Discovery. Within a few years fur traders came into the area selling these wonderful items in exchange for beaver pelts. Those new trade goods changed the lives of native people forever. Following the fur traders; missionaries, gold miners and settlers brought more change, which eventually created a cultural war that caused death and the loss of traditional native lands and way their way of living.

by Robert Singletary