Bryson Liberty: Trouble on the Seasonal Rounds [extended]

Bryson Liberty (Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla) talks about an unexpected encounter with settlers along a traditional seasonal trail.

Bio: Bryson Liberty is a tribal elder of the CTUIR. Liberty has a military background and is a published author, as well as working as a health administrator and actor. His article about fishing at Celilo titled “On the Rock” was published in Cowboys and Indians magazine in 2011. He was on “The Cellar,” “Northern Exposure,” and “Little House on the Prairie”.


One year they came down, this was maybe five or six families, it’d be oh twenty, thirty people. They were coming down, come out of the trees, heading down the trail and there was a cabin. Someone had come in the interim from when they were there last spring, and built a cabin. And they didn’t know what that cabin was. So they started down the trail, and they’re heading out this way, and four or five guys came running out of the cabin, and started hollering at them. “Get off, get out of here, get going.” And they didn’t do anything, they just kept moving, you know. And looking at these guys, what’s the matter with these guys, who are they? Where’d they come from? So pretty soon, a guy came out with a gun. Another guy. And they started shooting at them.

And my mother said, my grandma said, ‘gallop, gallop, run! Everybody run!’ So they started galloping on down the trail. These guys were shooting at them. My mother said she was running as fast as she could on this new horse that she had. She said she could hear the whistles, the bullets whining over her head. When those guys were shooting at them. She said they just galloped as far as they could until they couldn’t see those guys anymore. And when they went home they had to go a new route.

I don’t know if they went anymore after that, I don’t remember if she said that was her last trip or not. But when they’d go home from fishing for salmon and stuff they’d go back through the mountains and pick huckleberries. See so, twofold it made the trip worthwhile. But that was something you know, when she talked about those whistles. Those whistles going over her head, she didn’t know what they were and she thought those are bullets going over my head. And that’s a good thing for me that she didn’t get shot.

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