The confluence of the centuries should be like the joining of two rivers. As they merge, the memories of countless moments and places
should fold one unto another, and form a deeper, broader flow of
As the 19th Century merged into the 20th, my father was a young man. He lived his whole life on the Nisqually River. He was born in a wooden longhouse to parents who had lived on the same river throughout their lives. The heritage of the Nisqually has been passed from generation to generation for thousands of years. As my father
grew, he learned to fish, hunt and gather everything from cedar bark to a multitude of wild fruits and vegetables. He learned the legacies of stewardship.
As he aged, things began to change. More and more non-tribal people settled here and over-exploited the natural resources. Settlements bloated into towns and then cities. Trails swelled into roads and then super highways. Old growth forests disappeared. Waterways were dammed. Pollutants poured into the rivers and belched into the air.
People moved here by the thousands and then the millions.
I must ask myself, what kind of world will my sons inherit in the years to come?
Researchers tell us that the ocean will rise several inches over the next 50 years, and that its temperature will increase
by several degrees.
There’s a hole in the ozone layer. Exotic species of predators are invading our waters. We’re told that there will be another million people here over the next 20 years and ground is still being lost to urban sprawl.
At the close of the 20th Century, I am striving to help teach my sons all I can of our heritage. I’m doing this because I know it is their link to their traditional home on the Nisqually, and their very existence as Indians.
As Nisquallies, they will walk the same path their grandfather and I have walked. They respect the environment of their world. They know that sustenance comes from the land. They understand the value of long-term vision. They realize the value of passing their heritage along to their children. They know what it is to be Indian, and to work hard to help others understand our values. If non-Indians can learn to value the heritage of this land, and to teach these things to their children, there is hope that my grandchildren will see a better life at the confluence of centuries to come.