Thursday, September 9, 2010

CUCKOO'S NEST Design Blog Post #2

Our Resident Dramaturg, Elizabeth Pool, keeps a blog specifically for the artistic team for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  Most of her posts include "top secret" material, but she has graciously shared a few of them with us so we can let you in on a little of what inspires the designers for the show.  Enjoy!


Celilo Falls ("echo of falling water" or "sound of water upon the rocks") is the name of a large waterfall that was part of a connected series of waterfalls and cascades along the Columbia River, located on what is now the border between Oregon and Washington. (See Google map link at the bottom of this post.) This roughly 15-mile stretch of chutes, rapids, eddies, and small islands created ideal fishing sites. The falls were the sixth-largest by volume in the world, and among the largest in North America. The tremendous roar could be heard many miles away.

A half dozen tribes had permanent villages between the falls and where the dam now stands. As many as 5,000 people would gather to trade, feast, and participate in games and religious ceremonies. Wooden platforms were built out over the water and the salmon were caught with dip nets and long spears on poles as they swam up through the rapids and jumped over the falls. Historically, an estimated fifteen to twenty million salmon passed through the falls every year.

Elders and chiefs regulated the fishing, permitting none until after the first salmon ceremony. Each day, fishing started and ended at the sound of a whistle. There was no night fishing. And when a fisherman was pulled into the water during his pursuit - most who fell did not survive - all fishing ceased for the day. In later years, each fisherman was required to tie a rope around his waist, with the other end fastened to the shore. Old people and others without family members able to fish could take what they needed from the catches. Visiting tribes were given what they could transport to their homes. The rest belonged to the fishermen and their families

In the 1930s and 1940s, civic leaders advocated for a system of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. They argued that the dams would improve navigation for barge traffic from interior regions to the ocean; provide a reliable source of irrigation for agricultural production; provide electricity for the World War II defense industry, shipbuilding and aluminum production; and alleviate the flooding of downriver cities.

Congressional hearings about the proposed dams began in 1947. The government had existing treaties from 1855 with the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and the Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Cayuse, which guaranteed their right to fish in the area. Those groups were compensated 26.8 million for the loss of the falls. They retained their fishing rights, but their livelihood and a central aspect of their lives was lost. The project was authorized in 1950, work commenced on the dam in 1952, and on the morning of March 10, 1957, the massive steel and concrete gates of The Dalles Dam closed and choked back the downstream surge of the Columbia River. Six hours later and eight miles upstream Celilo Falls, the age-old Indian salmon fishery, was under water.

 This map of Celilo Falls fishing grounds shows sites named by James Selam, a former resident of the village of Skin. At Celilo and other tribal fisheries on the Columbia River, specific sites traditionally belonged to individuals and families who granted permission for others to use them.

Map of Celilo from the Lewis and Clark expedition

 Fishing over the falls

 Fishing with nets

 This information has been unabashedly Frankensteined from these very helpful websites:
Celilo Falls on Wikipedia
Destruction of Celilo Falls
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

See the location of Celilo Falls on Google maps:
Google Maps

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