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Have you been to Kwiltalahun Lake? | Darn Wright


Last updated 11/23/2022 at 1:48pm

Chief Moses

In 1990, Congress passed, and President George H.W. Bush signed, a bill dedicating November as National American Heritage Month, with National American Heritage Day celebrated on Friday, Nov. 25.

So it's more than proper for us to learn more about our Native American brothers and sisters.

If you do not remember going through the Kwiltalahun Lake, Washington area maybe you can remember the times you traveled to or through the Kwiltalahun-Coulee district?

Tradition has it innumerable moons before it became "This land is your land and this land is my land ..." Many called it "Turtle Island." This colossal island is a name for Earth or North America, used by some Indigenous peoples, as well as by copious current Indigenous rights activists.

But what is in a name? Or worse, what names have we bypassed? In our state's history we have changed, avoided or just discounted a nonwhite person's name.

While vacationing in the North Cascades, I picked up a copy of the April 2022 Foothills magazine and was enlightened from reading Chris Rader's "The leader of the Columbia-Sinkiuse People believed in Peace" article.

This autobiography piece motivated me to learn more about "The Sun Chief," so I tracked down a copy of Robert H. Ruby M.D. and John A. Brown's thorough book, "Half-Sun on the Columbia."

From those two resources and by Googling Chief Moses, here's my short introduction about this interesting Washington Native American.

In 1829, the Spirits brought papoose Kwiltalahun to the Turtle Island, an area we now call the Columba Basin. But before he reached "20snows," either he or others changed his name at least three times.

This Native American was born to a chief – he had six siblings and through all of them Kwiltalahun learned to be fearless, a natural learner, great negotiator, and leader. His father and chief of his tribe felt this son should learn the White man's ways.

To do this, he sent his 10-year-old to the Spokane area's Presbyterian Missionary school, which was under the parental care of Henry H. Spalding.

The chief's young son didn't want to leave his home and his freedom of their open lands just so he could be cloistered in a foreign land with a foreign langue.

Being a reluctant obedient son, he passive-aggressively got on his Appaloosa, left the chief of the Sinkiuse-Columbia tribe, and pointed his horse northeast towards the Spokane parochial Presbyterian White school, located about 100 miles away.

Apparently, this young natural leader became a favorite student of Spalding's. Being a student in a Christian school, Kwiltalahun had to have a Christian name. With this White man's mandate, Kwiltalahun became "Moses." He liked the name so much that he kept it.

On many occasions, the wilderness called out to Moses and he left this nonnative school, sometimes for days at a time, to let the spirits of the land and animals run through his body again. After Spalding and others searched for their delinquent student, he was found and taken back to the brainwashing school. But before he was let back into the classroom, he was whipped for wanting to be a free eagle.

Then, one evening, the spirits of the wild again took over his body and this time he took his Appaloosa and his newly acquired Anglo-Saxon language and headed southwest to his tribal land and never returned to the White man's school.

This man later took over his father's title of chief and was anointed "Chief Moses"

Due to his long history of being fearless, his decision-making skills, his ability to use the Queen's language, acting abilities, diplomacy, negotiating skills and his devotion towards keeping his Sinkiuse-Columbia people peaceful, Chief Moses was able to negotiate treaties.

Even with his willingness to work with the "Washington White Father," President Rutherford B. Hayes, two-faced administrators nullified those long-drawn-out treaties.

Even with the government's trickery and his foe's growing inhabitants, their military equipment, training, and to keep even more blood from running into the soil¸ Moses decreed that the Sinkiuse-Columbia people capitulate their sacred land.

And with pain in their hearts, Moses' tribe moved onto the Colville Reservation where the "fork-tongued" government "... provided improvements that included a sawmill, grist mill, cows, wagons, plows, and cash."

Chief Moses died in 1899 and his body, but not his spirit, is buried in the Okanagan County town of Nespelem.

Darn right, so when you travel to, or through, Moses Lake or Moses Coulee, think about why those areas are not called Kwiltalahun.


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