The Confluence Project

Searching for the Sacred Today: The Confluence Project

© Richard Wasserman, 2011

Although there is little hope that The Dalles Dam reservoir will be drained and Celilo Falls once again revealed, a new arts, culture, and environmental project is being developed by artist Maya Lin. Lin, the creator of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., has been working with communities all along the Columbia River to create a series of six “teachable places” along the river that will weave together the thousands of years of Native American communities, with the changing natural environment, and the impact of development along the river from Lewis and Clark on to the present day. The project at Celilo Falls is the last one to be completed.

As stated on the Confluence Project web site:

"Through art and place, the Confluence Project strives to increase awareness of how we treat each other and the Earth, with a strong, positive emphasis on envisioning the future—for the next seven generations and beyond. We draw on the emotional power of art as a catalyst to inspire the future preservation of our cultural and natural resources.[1]"

Hear Maya Lin and tribal leaders talk about the Celilo Falls Confluence Site:

While the benefits of industrial progress are recognized by all involved, whether supporting or opposing The Dalles Dam, questions about the eminent domain cost-benefit balance sheet gnaw at the memories of Native Americans. Charles Hudson sums it up:

"A lot of people look at it clinically: It happened right before the modern era of tribal rights, NEPA, the Endangered Species Act, … modern laws [that] would have blocked it from happening. That’s one way of looking at it, that it’s a victim of its times, but I don’t think that Indian people see it quite that way. I think Indian people are still apprehensive about the fact that somebody has given themselves the authority to do this thing. Irrespective of what laws did or did not exist. These go beyond the laws of species and water, these are acts of desecration and greed that really transcend those explanations."

[1] Confluence Project, “Confluence Project Journey Book,” 2014. Accessed February 18, 2016.