Spring is a time of emergence, the beginning of a new year. We anticipate the return of abundant life, grateful that there are animals and fish to sustain us as winter gives way. I learn that the first grizzly emerged from his hibernation in Yellowstone National Park on March 7, the same day the first grizzly emerged from his sleep last year. A press release from the park advises that males appear first—females with cubs emerge in April and early May. I love imagining the females sleeping in, having extra time with their cubs.
The smelt (Columbia River eulachon or candlefish) have returned from the ocean running up the Columbia River, taking to the smaller rivers like the Grays, the Cowlitz, and the Lewis along the way. Each year we watch bald eagles line the cottonwood trees when the smelt pass along the Grays, but this year, we were driving in the bottomland along the Columbia and came upon six or eight eagles sitting on snags in the water, fishing. Fifteen or twenty more sat in the trees nearby, it was like we’d stumbled into a party.
Sea lions trail the fish up river, graceful and strong in the water, taking loud breaths when they surface and dive. We hear them bark off and on during the day like pups. On one of the recent warm days, they rafted together on a sandbar nearby and barked into the night like rowdy teenagers. The Mountaineers just released Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology Poetry, a beautiful book edited by Elizabeth Bradfield, CMarie Fuhrman, and Derek Sheffield, that describes this region from the coast into Canada with more of these wondrous details. A mini-essay of mine, as well as poems by Laura Da’ (Eastern Shawnee) and Rena Priest (member of Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation) Washington State Poet Laureate, are among the Native voices included.
I appreciate these markers of life proceeding, the great blue herons coming back to stand on their nests at the far end of the island or Tundra swans cooing to each other, but there are human gatherings as well.
The Southern California Osage meet on April 29this year; the Northern California Osage get together on May 20.
Today, we learned the “Killers of the Flower Moon” will have a limited release on Oct. 6, with wider release on Oct. 20. We’ve been waiting for a long time to see this film of such importance to the Osage, a project created with so much involvement from tribal members.
While we wait, spring brings Native church meetings, and redbuds bloom. It’s late March and the Inlonshka isn’t far away. Osage sewing machines are whirring, colorful shirts fill the rooms of many Osage families, while ribbonwork takes shape.
On May 9, Debra Earling’s long anticipated novel, The Lost Journals of Sacajewea will be released from Milkweed Press. Debra Earling’s first novel, Perma Red, published in 2002 and re-released by Milkweed Press in 2022,is one of my favorite novels. Earling (Bitterroot Salish) is one of the Native writers and women I most admire for her wisdom and generosity.
Sacajewea is one of the Native women most Americans would recognize. Earling has written an account of her life and travels with Lewis and Clark that considers the trauma that her life held, as well as her strength. The excerpt I’ve heard Earling read powerfully places us in that foreign world.
Milkweed Press writes, “When her village is raided and her beloved Appe and Bia are killed, Sacajewea is kidnapped and then gambled away to Charbonneau, a French Canadian trapper. Heavy with grief, Sacajewea learns how to survive at the edge of a strange new world teeming with fur trappers and traders.”
I’ll be interested to hear what Osages, who are related to Nathaniel Pryor, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on the Corps of Discovery think of The Lost Journals, how it amplifies their understanding of Charbonneau and those momentous times.