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1860s Sauvie Island
“A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by future descendants”
(a British Historian and Politician 1800-1859)
Somewhere on the island is a special tree. Maybe it is located in the “Council Circle.” Many people told us about it. One man said “they think they know which tree it is but I know where it really is.” A couple of people have told us that same story. We haven’t gone to look for it yet but we will. I’m assuming it must have been a tree used for ceremonial purposes. Our daughter in law use to go riding on the Northern end of the island and there was a ring of trees that she was told were ceremonial trees.
The Indians who lived on Sauvie Island were called Multnomahs by some and Wappatos by others. They were part of the Chinookan group
This was a tribe with a rich culture.. The elderly were honored and respected. There were celebrations and rituals for births, weddings, etc. Potlachs were held to show their gratitude for what had been given to them or to honor someone special.
They believed in their God and honored him in many ways. There were rituals for the first fish of the season, the first grain, etc., etc. Every thing on earth was respected as a gift from their God.
Young men were sent on Spirit Quests. Some say that they would go off into the mountains and fast but others say that the Wappato Indians were afraid of the forests. Maybe they found their answers in the Sweat Lodges.
When Lewis & Clark came by they saw Sweat Lodges all along the rivers edge. The lodges were made of tightly woven material in the teepee shape. The Indians would take hot rocks from the fire and place them in the lodges. Water would be brought in and poured on the hot rocks. The Indian would stay there until he had his “experience.”
There are several sites on the island that at one time were thriving Indian villages. The Indians were nearly wiped out by disease before the settlers came and the sites of their villages were chosen by the people for their new home sites.
For a time many artifacts could be found, but time, the floods and collectors have done away with anything worth collecting. The Oregon Archaeological Society has been examining sites of the Indian villages since the early 1950’s. Their publication, Screenings, is a treasure chest full of material about early life on the island.
Stephen Bonser had a claim on Oak Island. At one time this area was a popular spot for the Indians. The locals have known of a dance circle on this property for many years. It was about 20 feet wide. After one of the recent floods a ranger was checking the island for damage. He saw the first circle, walked on in a northerly direction and was surprised to find another circle. This one was 40 feet wide. He continued on and soon came to another circle that was 60 feet wide.