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Early History

Fishing the Columbia

The early history of the Grand Coulee Dam area, or the Columbia River Basin is the period that the natural forces of the river could still overtake all human enterprises. The presence of the river was made in its gnashing through the land and in its physical provisions for humans, plants, and animals. The changes that occurred between the volcanic eruptions of twenty million years ago and about 1800 used no inorganic energy. All labor and energy was derived from acts of nature and raw human force. Every man who touched the river carried, towed, fished, walked, or swam himself. There were no real labor-saving techniques or devices. This was the age in which man and nature were still unified in energy. The caloric intake of the salmon came from the river, which fed the humans and allowed them to spend energy. Historian Richard White wrote, "In one sense, the expenditure of energy by human workers was as natural as the energy of the river" (13). This is the age before the invention of the steam engine, before machines were self-propelled. The river and man were in hand to hand combat in a struggle for existence. For most of the early history, all the region's biology and ecology was indigenous. The exploration and colonization of the Columbia River Basin is what eventually came to change the face of the area.

Daughter of Ice Jeffersonian Imagination Native Understanding Lewis & Clark Journals Early Explorers Private Property

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