Washington State Magazine

Spring 2007

Spring 2007

In This Issue...


Bright plumage against green foliage: the grandeur and beauty of evolution :: Some have told me that evolutionary explanation robs nature of beauty. This attitude puzzles me, because all the evolutionary biologists whom I know are driven by a love for nature, and to them nothing is more exciting than to uncover some hidden aspect of a natural system. by Michael Webster

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: A Conversation about Art and Biology with Ellen Dissanayake '57 }

Ray Troll: A story of fish, fossils, and funky art :: Ray Troll '81 has a species of ratfish named after him, Hydrolagus trolli. He calls Darwin "Chuckie D" and paints pictures of him driving around in an Evolvo. This is a man who has embraced his past and paints it wildly and beautifully. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Strollin' and Trollin': A tour of Ray Troll's Ketchikan, with music unlike anything you've ever heard before. :: He draws. He paints. He writes songs and—oh lord—he sings them! Hear him for yourself as you tour the world of Ray Troll '81 via an audio slide show produced especially for Washington State Magazine Online. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Activity: Flying With the Dragon :: Know anyone with crayons? If so, we have a coloring treat for you: an Evon Zerbetz '82 original, uncolored. }

Darwin was just the beginning: A sampler of evolutionary biology at WSU :: All of modern biology and medicine is based on the theory of evolution, and every life scientist arguably is an evolutionary biologist. So where to start in exploring evolutionary biology at WSU? How about with dung beetles, African violets, and promiscuous wrens? by Cherie Winner

Zoology 61: Teaching eugenics at WSU :: Eugenics was the dark side of our understanding of human evolution. American eugenicists were united by the idea that the human race was degenerating because inferior people were breeding more quickly than those who were "well born." Zoology 61, Genetics and Eugenics, was finally dropped from the course catalog at Washington State College in 1950. by Stephen Jones

Why Doubt? Skepticism as a basis for change and understanding :: Skepticism can forestall a too-willing acquiescence to the-way-things-are; it can distance us from dogmatism and ward us away from zealotry; it can expose our mistakes. by Will Hamlin



:: SPORTS: Vaulting ambition

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Forgetting gravity :: WSU student Todd Griffiths performing gymnastics atop a stationary, then a cantering, horse. }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Music: Horace Alexander Young plays "That Kind of Girl" :: Listen to a performance by WSU music faculty member Horace Alexander Young on a track from his CD, Acoustic Contemporary Jazz. }

Cover: One Small Step for a Fish, One Giant Leap for Fishkind, 1995, pastel on paper. "Every mammal, reptile and amphibian alive on the earth today descended from the lobefinned fish that left the water 375 million years ago." —Ray Troll

Food & Forage
Geraldine Jim roasts salmon for the Plateau Conference at WSU.


Geraldine Jim roasts salmon for the Plateau Conference at WSU. Robert Hubner

Roasting salmon.


Roasting salmon.Robert Hubner

A view of the Palouse.


A view of the Palouse.Alison Meyer

Annie Yellow Bear dries and pounds camas root, Kamiah, Idaho, ca. 1890.


Annie Yellow Bear dries and pounds camas root, Kamiah, Idaho, ca. 1890.Courtesy NPS, Nez Perce National Historic Park

White camas root.

White camas root.Robert Hubner

Black camas root.

Black camas root.Robert Hubner

Foraged foods: Serving up a traditional meal from the Columbia plateau

by | © Washington State University

In a wooded spot a half-mile from Washington State University's Pullman campus, an older woman with long braids and an apron emblazoned with the words "got buns?" tended an alderwood fire. Geraldine Jim, a salmon expert from the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, used the back of a pickup truck as her staging area. She threaded the salmon halves lengthwise onto long, stripped sticks of dogwood and ironwood. While the fish roasted, she circled the fire, running her hand up the skin side to feel for doneness. She pointed out how a half-section of the fish is threaded down the stick, the thin tail end at the top, furthest from the fire. Note how the tail hangs over the top of the stick, she said, so the salmon doesn't slide down into the flames as it cooks. This is how it has been done for centuries.

Roasting salmon is a time-consuming effort. You have to go slowly, but the result is a rich, smoky, alder-flavored pink fish. Delicious even without salt. Using the right sticks is key, said Wilfred Jim, as he scraped them clean afterward. Ironwood, because it gets harder as it ages, is ideal. Some of the sticks that he and Geraldine use are 20 years old.

The Columbia plateau has always provided its residents with a rich variety of foods, and salmon has been at the heart of it, says Mary Collins, associate director of the WSU Museum of Anthropology. "That's no surprise, considering that environmentally it is extraordinarily diverse," she says. "We have everything from desert to cedar forests. And among its Native American inhabitants there has been a strong tradition of cooperation in terms of access to food resources from both trading relationships and family relationships."

In that spirit of cooperation, volunteers and organizers spent months gathering the foods to be served at the campus feast during the Plateau Indian Conference at WSU last fall. Members and descendants of many of the plateau cultures including the Cayuse, Umatilla, Nez Perce, Yakama, and Walla Walla, came together to share in the rich variety of foods that have a home in their histories.

To prepare for the meal, they dug camas root, bitterroot, and Indian carrot from around the Palouse. Some hunted and dried deer meat. Others picked and preserved berries and collected moss from the forest. The moss is a special treat, which takes some doing to prepare. It has to be cleaned of sticks and pitch and then baked for a very long time, said Sharon Redthunder of the Colville Reservation as she helped set up the meal. The final step is to cook it into a pudding, she said, lifting a lid to reveal a black, wet mass.

More than just the food, the tradition comes in the serving of it. The dishes were presented in the order of the season in which they were ripe and ready, and by the people who were responsible for collecting them. The men brought out salmon and dried venison. Then came the women serving camas roots, the bitterroot, the chokecherries and the berries.

The first course, though, is always water, said Redthunder, as the servers placed filled pitchers on a table. "It's the source of life."

So alongside huckleberry pie and roasted camas root, several hundred guests had a generous serving of tradition.

Categories: Food | Tags: Forage, Native Americans

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