Wanapum Heritage Center
BEVERLEY, Wash. – The Wanapum (river people) once thrived along a stretch of the Columbia river, they were a peace loving tribe that did not fight wars with the U.S. government, and therefore required no treaty. Their desire for peace left them without a land base, they are virtually extinct.
Though their numbers are decimated, they persist in a rough country of sagebrush and bunchgrass, within a landscape drastically altered by the whites. Part of their story is enshrined in the small but enriching Wanapum Heritage Center.
The Heritage center installed a complete Bag End system for its presentation theater. The system was designed by CPS Electronics and features three CDS-110 full range systems for left, center and right located behind the acoustically transparent screen. TA80-IYs were used for rear surround effects, and the mainstay of Bag End’s subwoofer line, the D18E-I, provides deep base like no other can.
In the lobby sits a 29-foot canoe that Puck Hyah Toot, a prophet and religious leader carved with the Tomanawash brothers in the 1800s. The people made canoes from driftwood provided by Chiawana, the Great River of life and myth, now called the Columbia, where salmon that provided sustenance once flourished.
The collection includes leather, cloth, beaded and woven items that belonged to Martha Johnny, the daughter of Puck Hyah Toot, nephew of spiritual leader Smowhalla. Some are her handiwork, some she purchased; others are keepsakes, handed down to her or acquired through trade. There are also samples of exquisitely crafted implements, such as spoons made from mountain goat horn, bone antlers, wooden needles, delicate arrowheads and various tools made from the basalt rock prolific in the area. The items represent a portion of the collection secured in a repository located in the bowels of Wanapum Dam adjacent to the heritage center. Tule mat longhouses can be seen in historic photos and models, along with small samples of the weavings.
Wanapum’s existence was threatened when their village was to be flooded due to construction of a dam at Priest Rapids. Negotiations with the Grant PUD resulted in relocation to their current settlement just west of the dam. The PUD, Wanapum, several government agencies and the University of Washington cooperated in an “archeological salvage” operation before the flooding. A portion of this operation entailed blasting ancient petroglyphs from sites along the river and removing them to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest near Vantage.The Wanapum dreamer prophet, Smowhalla predicted the cataclysmic changes of the past 150 years. A few changes in the area are addressed in the museums’ displays, such as the introduction of steamboats on the Columbia, mining and great cattle herds introduced to supply food to teeming Northwest mining camps.