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MacDonald Scholarship Established on Rishiri

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

The “Daily Souya” newspaper, dated Dec. 11, 2012, reports that a scholarship fund named “MacDonald’s Encouragement  Study Fund” has been established on Rishiri Island.  A committee to support and manage the Fund has also been formed with Mr. Kyoji Furukawa as its first President.  Since the beginning of 2012 the leaders of Rishiri Island held a series of meetings intended to get the ground work done for devising a scholarship fund which would benefit the students of the only public high school on the island and in particular to encourage them to study English.  One or two top students will be chosen from the  English-language class and will be sent to America – to Oregon and/or Washington – to experience American life and to further encourage their English language skills.  The program hopes to nurture the type of “internationally-minded person” who will become a human asset to Rishiri Island and will help to sustain the prosperous and happy life-style of Rishiri Island.  Committee members hope that this program will encourage more students to attend Rishiri Public High School [whose student body is in decline].  We at Friends of MacDonald happily and enthusiastically go “on record” in fully supporting the “MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund” and it’s exchange program.

For those of you who are interested in assisting this fledgling program by either donating funds or hosting a student from Rishiri – or both – please contact Friends of MacDonald at amm@friendsofmacdonald.com .

Station Camp and Clark’s Dismal Nitch

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Clark’s Dismal Nitch

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson dispatched Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead the Corps of Discovery on a mission to find a water route across North America and explore the natural resources of the uncharted American West.  Little did Lewis and Clark realize that the time they would spend on the shores of the lower Columbia River would be counted among the most discouraging, dangerous, and disagreeable experiences faced during their expedition.

Imagine this: it’s early 1805, the fresh food had run out. The clothes were literally rotting off the backs of the members of the Corps of Discovery. They were traveling as fast as they could down the Columbia River, hoping to meet one of the last trading ships of the season. If they made it, they’d send a set of journals and some collections home as requested by President Jefferson. But foremost was the chance to use an unlimited letter of credit from the president, a chance to “charge” all the goods the tired explorers needed [plus perhaps get a little rum] from the trade ship.

What the Corps didn’t realize, however, was that it was about to run into some of the journey’s most treacherous moments. A fierce winter storm forced the Corps off the river and pinned the group to a north shore cove consisting of little more than jagged rocks and steep hillside. On November 10th, as the party paddled past Grays Point, they saw that the steep, forested shoreline consisted of a series of coves, or “nitches”, each divided from the next by a small point of land.  They passed present-day Dismal Nitch (also known as Megler Cove), but as the weather again worsened, the party retreated to a sheltered cove upriver from the Dismal Nitch, [approximately 600 feet north / northeast of the eastern end of the present-day “Dismal Nitch Safety Rest Area”].

Rain soaked the expedition party that night, and it continued at intervals throughout the next day, November 11, 1805.  Conditions worsened on November 12th; on top of rain, wind and cold came thunder, lightning and hail.  Clark describes their move from the unnamed cove to the Dismal Nitch:

“As our situation became Seriously dangerous, we took the advantage of a low tide & moved our Camp around a point a Short distance to a Small wet bottom at the mouth of a Small Creek (Megler Creek), which we had observed when we first came to this cove…”

The rain continued on November 13 and 14.   For only the second time in the expedition, Clark said he was concerned for the safety of the Corps. “A feeling person would be distressed by our situation,” he wrote in wet misery, as the expedition became in danger of foundering just within a few miles of its destination – the Pacific Ocean.  Finally, the storm broke and allowed the group to move on. It missed the trading ship, but eventually achieved its exploration goals. On the morning of November 15 Clark awoke to calm weather for the first time in 10 days.  Clark describes the party’s escape from what became known as “the Dismal Nitch”:

“About 3 oClock the wind lulled and the river became calm, I had the canoes loaded in great haste and Set Out, from this dismal nitich where we have been confined for 6 days…”

Dismal Nitch

Although the Corps met “near disaster” at Dismal Nitch, they arrived “in full view of the ocian” at Station Camp. [It was at Station Camp that the famous vote was taken that included all members of the party and the party decided to move the south shore of the Columbia River where they would spend the winter before beginning their long journey home: more about this later.] However, both before and after Captains Lewis and Clark established Station Camp, the site was a vital and thriving Chinook Indian village.  The Corps spent just 10 days here, but used Station Camp as a departure point for an overland trek to their first view of the Pacific Ocean and an exploration of the area. Together with nearby Dismal Nitch, Station Camp helps greatly to tell the Lewis and Clark story in Washington – and the ultimate effect the Corps of Discovery had upon the indigenous First peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

For thousands of years, the Chinook people have lived along the Columbia River and their home near the river’s mouth was strategically located to provide abundant food, such as salmon and shellfish. In addition, the nearby forests were home to game animals and the grasslands and marshes provided ample materials for making shelter, clothing and trade and household goods. The river provided a way for Chinook traders to travel to the south shore and up and down the Columbia.

Generations before the White Explorers came, the Chinook had already developed a sophisticated, rich culture and enjoyed great success as traders. The waterway near Station Camp became a virtual trade “water highway.” During the 10 years before Lewis and Clark arrived overland at this spot, almost 90 trade ships from Europe and New England are documented to have crossed the Columbia River Bar to trade with Native Americans. These ships brought metal tools, blankets, clothing, beads, liquor and weapons to trade for beaver and sea otter pelts. By the time the Corps reached the site, the Chinook’s had moved to their winter village and this village was unoccupied. The explorers spent almost two weeks there.

Several significant events took place, including the decision to spend the winter across the river, in what is now Oregon. It was Nov. 24, 1805, and the explorers desperately needed to lead the Corps to a winter campsite, one rich with game and near friendly tribes who would trade for supplies. A majority of the Corps, including the Indian woman Sacagawea and the African American York decided to cross the Columbia River to look for such a place. Because of this poll and decision, some historians call Station Camp “the Independence Hall of the American West.” It would be more than fifty years before African Americans could vote, and more than 100 years before the right was extended to women.

Station Camp

History of “Dismal Nitch”

The Dismal Nitch area is located within the traditional territory of the lower Chinookan people.  Through common usage, the term Chinook has come to refer to all speakers of the Chinook language family who inhabited the territory from the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to The Dalles and along the lower Willamette River to present-day Oregon City.

Of the many Chinook villages along the north shore of the Columbia River, two known summer villages were located in the vicinity of the Dismal Nitch.  Approximately 1.25 miles southwest of the Dismal Nitch was Qaiitsiuk, later called Chinookville or Chenook, just west of present-day Point Ellice.  The Lower Chinook were known for their canoe-building prowess, and their vessels helped them establish their reputation as traders well before Europeans set eyes on the region.

The Lower Chinook were first described in writing by Captain Robert Gray, who sailed into the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792, and by Captain George Vancouver, who also sailed into the area that year.  By the time Lewis and Clark descended the river in the fall of 1805, the presence of Europeans on the lower Columbia River was not uncommon.

Today, the Chinook Indian Nation is made up of five separate tribes, including the Chinook, the Willapa, the Clatsop, The Kathlamets, and the Wahkiakum.  All five tribes are Chinookan speakers.

The State of Washington is developing a park at Middle Village – Station Camp, focusing on the Chinook history, as well as telling the story of the Corps’. In 2005, archeologists found abundant physical evidence to support the importance of the site as a Chinook trade village. More than 10,000 artifacts were uncovered, including trade beads, plates, cups, musket balls, arrowheads, Indian fish net weights and ceremonial items. The European artifacts are from both before and after the Corps’ visit in 1805, and attest to the vitality of the Chinook social and economic life at the site. Station Camp eventually will encompass about 280 acres and be operated by the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Station Camp http://www.nps.gov/lewi/planyourvisit/stationcamp.htm
History of "Dismal Nitch” http://www.nps.gov/lewi/planyourvisit/dismal.htm

Rishiri Island in the Autumn

Monday, October 18th, 2010

利尻昆布漁

今年は天候に恵まれず、昆布漁が少なかった。
7月中旬から始まった昆布漁。
海が凪ぎても、雨・霧。
晴れても時化る海。
晴天と凪の組み合わせが少なかった。
明日は昆布採りになるかも、で、朝3時頃から起きている漁師。
昆布かウニ漁かは、朝に決まる。
天気予報しながら、昆布の製品化で夜遅くまで作業。
夏は、体力と気合との勝負と、漁師が言っていた。

Collecting Konbu on RishiriHarvesting Konbu.   (Photo by E. Nishiya.)

Every autumn the strong winds and the ocean waves bring “Rishiri konbu” to the shores. The competition among the fishermen (and fisherwomen) is fierce.
You’ve got to gather better and more konbu than the others!
The hearty men and women of Rishiri go out to the ocean and to the beaches,
oblivious to the blustery fall weather.

Rishiri Island konbu

Rishiri Island konbu is reputed to be the best-tasting konbu in Japan!

Membership

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Through your memberships and/or donations you contribute to the building of ties between American and Japanese citizens who have an interest in history, education and people-to-people exchange. Recent membership activities have included historical reenactments, tours of historical sites and exchanges between scholars, historians and writers.

FOM, through the story of Ranald MacDonald, encourages American students of Japanese and Japanese learners of English to engage in the adventure of cultural exchange. Foreign language and cultural studies enrich the citizens of both countries and further mutual understanding between peoples.

FOM provides a window to learning about a unique trans-pacific heritage by conducting lectures and seminar programs, exhibits at public libraries and museums, and participation in ongoing efforts to interpret and preserve the history of the Pacific Northwest.

We invite you to join us! Establish your new annual membership, gift membership or donation in the appropriate category:

Family or Individual Membership [$15.00 annual]
International Family or Individual Membership [$20.00 annual]
Corporate Membership [$100.00 annual]

Please contact:

Friends of MacDonald
c/o Clatsop County Historical Society
P.O. Box 88
Astoria, OR 97103

Or

amm@friendsofmacdonald.com

MacDonald Appears in Recent Books

Tuesday, October 18th, 1994

MACDONALD APPEARS IN RECENT BOOKS

Robert Brown and the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition.  Edited by John Hayman, Univ. of British Columbia Press, 1989.  204 pgs., $31.95

One of Ranald MacDonald’s ventures after he returned to land and the Canadian Northwest was his membership on the Vancouver island Exploring Expedition led by Robert Brown.  Brown’s journal of the exploration, a 4 1/2 month criss-cross of the island as far north as Comox, reports the discovery of the Leech River gold fields and of a coal seem on Browns River.

The book, Volume 8 of the Recollections of the Pioneers of British Columbia, includes numerous references to Ranald as well as a picture of him and Frederick Whymper, the expedition artist, coming spectacularly downriver on a raft.  Whymper’s illustrations of expedition activities and landmarks are used lavishly in the book.

Ranald’s own original journal of the expedition, scratched out over his weeks in the field, is in the Provincial Archives of British Columbia.  It supplements some of the official reporting done by Brown in his account.

The editor refers to MacDonald as “undoubtedly the most colorful and entertaining of the group … At forty, he was the oldest of the explorers, but his persistent high spirits made him, according to Brown, a popular member of the group”.  One rainy night, Brown quotes MacDonald as saying, ” ‘ … the devil was whipping his wife’ and, if we may judge from his frequent allusions to that gentleman, he appears to be on terms of considerable intimacy …”

In addition to giving readers as account of life on the island as the expedition found it in 1864, this book gives us a rare glimpse of Ranald as seen by his contemporaries.

An Ocean Between Us:  The Changing Relationship of Japan and the United States, Told in Four Stories from the Life of an American Town.  By Evelyn Iritani.  Wm. Morrow & Co.; 272 pgs., $23.00

Evelyn Iritani, daughter of a second-generation Japanese-American father and a born-and-reared-in-Japan mother, has covered Asian-related economic, political and cultural matters for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer since 1987.  Her book reflects both her birth and her vocation; it is a first-hand look at the impact of the Japanese presence in Port Angeles, Washington, and reaction to it.  Her “Four Stories” are about four situations involving Japan-U.S. relations, the first of them telling of the “drifters” enslaved by the Makah Indians (later) rescued through the efforts of the Hudson’s Bay Co. in 1834.  She expands on the bewhiskered and fanciful fiction that Ranald MacDonald shared school-days with the trio by stating that he “befriended the Japanese sailors and traded English lessons for schooling in Japanese.”  (In fact, of course, Ranald briefly attended John Ball’s school, held from November 1832~February 1833; the three Japanese youngsters were students of Cyrus Shepherd in the fall of 1834.)  Another reference to Ranald says he departed via “rowboat” from the whaler in which he had sailed to Japan; Ranald described his craft as “custom-built” for the captain, with sails and a mast.

However, Iritani’s personal insights and interviews with contemporaries make her book well worth reading.

*****

Gates Ajar — FALL 1994 – TV Video Popular in Japan

Tuesday, October 18th, 1994

Nagasaki TV Video Popular

The KTN TV/Nagasaki documentary celebrating the life of Ranald MacDonald was “well received” when it was broadcast to Japanese listeners this spring, reports FOM Chairman Mas Tomita.  The documentary, produced by the station, was filmed at Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and various Canadian sites as well as in Japan.  FOM hosted the film crew at dinners in Portland and Astoria.   M. Yamamoto, director of the film, discussed the project at South Nagasaki Rotary Club meeting.

[Mr. Yamamoto sends FOM members “best regards” and “thank you” for your help during the filming trip.]

*****