Cathlapotle Plankhouse Photo Album

Cathlapotle Plankhouse
Post Raising Ceremony

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First step is logged in building of plankhouse
By Hope Anderson - The Daily News - Longview, WA
Nov 02, 2003 - 09:35:07 am PST

Click to enlargeRIDGEFIELD -- One pole up and many more to go.

In a ceremony Saturday morning, a rough-hewn 10-foot pole was put in the ground at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refugee, the first of about 150 logs intended for a Chinook-style plankhouse that will be a cultural learning center.

The future 37-feet-by-76-feet house is one of several projects in honor of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial and is patterned after 14 Chinook homes the Corps of Discovery encountered the area in 1805 and 1806.

"This is another proud day in Chinook country," said Sam Robinson of the Chinook Tribe. "Thank you for bringing back our culture."

Click to enlargeSponsors of the plankhouse hope to see the 2,625-square-foot project finished by late next fall. The Chinook Indians, a 2,000 enrolled-member tribe, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together on the $300,000 project.

In the 1800s, the refuge was the location of a Chinook village called Cathlapotle. The plankhouse is a mile away from the actual site, because of flooding, but it still has a water backdrop with a waning moon-shaped pond nearby.

The ceremony featured several speeches and a cleansing ritual before placing the pole in the ground.

Click to enlargeA cedar-bark rope wound around the ridged cedar log -- the wood shaded like Neapolitan ice cream -- to hold bunches of sword fern, cedar and spruce boughs. Each log takes a minimum of eight hours to hand carve, tribe members said.

Three men brushed fans of the ferns and branches over the pole and then gently slapped them against their legs. They circled the pole five times in a cleansing ritual to banish bad spirits and energy from the area.

Click to enlargeThey tossed the cleansing fans into a small fire, which began to crackle like bacon on a griddle, and wisps of smoke and small ash flakes drifted over the crowd.

Lyle Deschand of La Center said he was more moved than he expected after seeing the log lowered. He has volunteered his time as a primitive technology expert and helped perform the cleansing ritual.

"The drumming and stuff could bring you to tears," he said.

Click to enlargeGreg Robinson of Moclips, Wash., and a member of the Chinook Tribe said if the plankhouse is properly constructed, the tribe could use it for ceremonies and gatherings.

"Countless generations lived, played and died here," he said.

Robinson also noted that the tribe's name oftentimes is mispronounced by using a soft "Sh" sound instead of a hard "Ch."

"It's not 'Chinook' like your leg bone, but 'Chinook' like your chin," he said to the crowd.

Charles Funk of Chehalis, a member of the Chinook Tribe, said the ceremony and building could give the tribe a boost in their efforts for federal recognition.

"It helps ... we're that much closer to recognition," he said.

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