When I visited the site of Kettle Falls while researching Hiking Washington’s History, I had read the description by Mourning Dove of her family’s visits to the “roaring waters.” The traditional fishing site, where many tribes gathered in the summer to catch salmon, is now buried under Lake Roosevelt, created by the damming of the Columbia River.
Last winter, I met Lawney L. Reyes at an authors’ night at Island Books. He was clearly the oldest author there, and I bought his book, White Grizzly Bear’s Legacy. Just a month or so ago, I met his nephew on a bike ride in West Seattle, and returned to the book.
Reyes, too, wrote about Kettle Falls, where his people, the Sin Aikst, once fished. The Sin Aikst are now known as the Lakes tribe and have been absorbed into the Colville Confederated tribes. Reyes describes the tribes gathering in June. “As a boy, I would stand in wonder as the chinooks, some more than a hundred pounds in weight, leaped the churning falls…. I still recall the roar of the falls and the voices of the people shouting instructions to each other. I’ll never forget the beauty of the hundreds of tepees of the different tribes. They lined the shores of the river close to the falls. There were horses and people everywhere.”
Kettle Falls was once the center of Sin Aikst culture. Reyes quietly and poignantly tells the story of the loss of this food source and history when the dam was completed in 1942.