Trade Beads at a Major Fishing Spot
Trade Beads and their history being such a major interest of mine led me to research Celilo Falls on the Columbia River, on the WA/OR border. Owen and I had an opportunity to once again visit the Maryhill Museum Site on the Columbia River located high up on the hill above the ancient area of the historic Celilo Falls, just east of the Dalles Dam.
Historically there was a village located on the Columbia called Celilo Village adjacent to Celilo Falls where Indian people had continuously lived for at least 11,000 years.
Martha McKeown, an Oregon State Historical Author, writes, “Longevity was not the area’s only significance. Prior to white contact, Celilo and the area now known as The Dalles linked a trade network that extended from the coast to the Great Plains, from what is now Alaska to the present state of California. Indians from all over the Northwest came to trade, socialize, and fish with local residents. From the south came obsidian, slaves, and shells; blankets and beads came from the north; pipestone, buffalo meat, and horses from the east; and wappato from west of the Cascades. Central to this trade network was the abundance of salmon. The arid climate of the mid-Columbia allowed Indians to air dry much of the salmon they caught for trade and later use.” The tribes who regularly traveled to the falls to fish and/or trade were the Yakima, Umatilla, Chinook, Siletz, Cayuse, Nez Perce, etc. all of them eager to have trade beads.
Today when driving on Hwy 14, on the Lewis and Clark Trail above the Columbia River, a Washington Heritage site sign has a picture of beads traded at Celilo Falls. Blue Russians, Yellow Vaselines, Hudson’s Bay White Hearts, White Dutch tiles and Bohemian red faceted glass beads all are pictured on that sign. These trade beads were an important part of the trade going on in those days from this place, Celilo Falls.
“Celilo Falls is still talked about and remembered as the heart of our homeland. It was like a mother, nourishing us, and it is remembered as a place of great peace.”
— Elizabeth Woody, Seven Hands, Seven Hearts