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by Jay Miller, Ph.D


Quilomene Bar’s distinctiveness was urged on me by Isabel Arcasa (Bragg 2011), Colville elder extraordinaire and mainstay of the Nespelem community, in the late 1970s. This reflection is a tribute to her kindness and aid almost forty years ago, as well as a way of putting faces and people along this stretch of the Columbia: a face on a place. She had good reason to be sensitive to the Vantage area because of the treatment of her mother Elizabeth there as a young widow. Escorted to Chelan by an uncle, she met and married Isabel’s father, who provided her with a better life. Elizabeth was herself the daughter of the chief at Entiat, and as such was first married into the dynastic family of the Split Sun line of Moses Columbia ~ Sinkyuse chiefs holding the hereditary name title referring to an ‘eclipse’ (Ray 1960, Ruby and Brown 1965). According to my chapter in the Plateau handbook,

The Sinkyuse (or Columbias) were east and south of the Big Bend. Their main village was at the mouth of Rock Island Creek, and their resource domain was transected by Grand Coulee, Moses Coulee, Moses Lake, and the Potholes region. There were distinct subgroups at Quilomene Bar on the southwest, where a separate subdialect was spoken (the Quilomene band, sn¯әl¯әlmínxw), and at Creston in the northeast. The central location of their territory and the siting of their winter villages along its borders put them in contact with all the other Middle Columbia River Salishans [as well as Sahaptin like the neighboring Wanapums] (Miller 1998: 253).

Because the Sinkayuse network was so extensive, they had access eastward and involvement with Flathead and Sahaptians. After acquiring horses, they led bison hunts onto the Plains, which encouraged the development of a confederacy of Middle Columbia tribes under the leadership of the family of Split Sun (sәq′tałk′wúsm, also known as Half Sun and Shooktalkoosum). Salishans living along the rivers draining the western Cascades developed trade and marriage networks with Coast Salish, such as between the Skagit (Southern Coast Salish) and the Chelan. Their hunting of mountain goats and other alpine mammals was important for the regional trade. The Wenatchee [~ Pskwaws] traded through formal partners with Kittitas and Snoqualmies (Miller 1998: 253).


The presence of the Sinkyuse and their task leaders on this land is apparent in present-day place names, which favor Moses himself at Moses Coulee and Lake (Kinkade 1981). The tribe occupied an extensive region, abounding in natural resources and well as introduced needs for gardens and horse pastures (Spier 1936, Kinkade 1967, Scheuerman 1982, Miller 1989, 1990). Aside from fords, horses were brought across the Columbia during low water in the Fall, when they were moved to protected winter meadows. Moses himself ranged as far east as Montana, where Blackfeet killed his father and older brother, in well organized bison hunts relying on horses. To the west, he went to the coast, especially Fort Vancouver on the lower Columbia, bringing back trade goods and livestock. Though he ranged throughout the region, he seems to have had a personal preference for the western or right bank of the Columbia, with his birthplace variously given as Wenatchee Flats to Vantage. His father was said to have been born in Moses Coulee, where there was a tribal garden.

Quilomene Bar was of an older order (Nelson 1969, 1973), however, as the name itself indicates {sn¯әl¯әlmínәxw}. In Interior Salish, {-q’wl-} is a word root meaning ‘to roast,’ or, as Mattina (1987: 166, 296) says, ‘barbeque’. In Salish, repeating, doubling, reduplicating this root indicates a plural ‘barbequings’. The root {-min-} refers to a ‘skewer, spit, stick’ supporting whatever is being roasted, such as meat and fish, especially salmon along that shore of the Columbia. Game meat was also brought there to be roasted, and − given the present evidence in the 2014 drawdown of pestles, fire cracked rocks, and cooked animal bones − pounded into flour or pemmican.

It is this visible evidence that suggests that the place name derives from this human activity rather than something in the landscape that looks like skewers. By tradition, native places come from the land it(her)self and the actions of Coyote or another transformer in mythic times. In other words, the bar was “ordained” as a place favoring barbeque skewer from ancient times. Humans are not powerful enough to name aspects of nature; and only can name other humans because of past communal and family efforts passing on these designations.

Isabel noted that the Quilomene Bar dialect had longer endings on some of their words. Its position on the better watered west bank of the river provided easier access to hunting in the Cascades foothills, as well as the desirable sockeye fishery at Wenatchi. Indeed, the likely explanation for the Quilomene dialect is that it was an intermediate link in a linguistic chain transitional between Columbian and Piskwaws speech communities. Both spoke downriver forms of Interior Salish, but with different inflections and a few tell tale words.

Bragg, Lynn
  2011 More Than Petticoats ~ Remarkable Women of Washington. Guilford, CT: Morris Book Co.

Kinkade, M. Dale
  1967 On the Identification of the Methows (Salish). International Journal of American Linguistics 33 (3): 193-197.
  1981 Dictionary of the Moses-Columbia Language. Nespelem, Wa: Colville Confederated Tribes.

Mattina, Anthony
  1973 Colville Grammatical Structure. University of Hawaii, Ph. D. Dissertation.
  1985 The Golden Woman: The Colville Narrative of Peter J. Seymour. University of Arizona Press.
  1987 Colville-Okanogan Dictionary. University of Montana Occasional Papers in Linguistics 5.

Miller, Jay
  1985 Salish Kinship: Why Decedence? Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages. August 15-17. Vancouver, BC.
  1989 Mourning Dove: The Author as Cultural Mediator. pp. 160-82 in Being and Becoming Indian: Biographical Studies of North American Frontiers. James Clifton, ed. Dorsey Press.
  1990 Mourning Dove ~ A Salishan Autobiography. Miller, Jay, ed. University of Nebraska Press.
  1998 Middle Columbia River Salishans. DC: Handbook of North American Indians, Plateau, 12: 243-270.

Nelson, Charles M.
  1969 The Sunset Creek Site (45 KT 28) and Its Place in Plateau Prehistory. Washington State University, Laboratory of Anthropology, Report of Investigations 47.
  1973 Prehistoric Culture Change in the Intermontane Plateau of Western North America, pp. 371-90 in Explanations of Culture Change: Models in Prehistory. Colin Renfrew, ed. London: Gerald Duckworth.

Ray, Verne
  1960 The Columbia Indian Confederacy: A League of Central Plateau Tribes, pp. 177-89 in Culture in History: Essays in Honor of Paul Radin. Stanley Diamond, ed. Columbia University Press.

Ruby, Robert, and John Brown
  1965 Half-Sun on the Columbia: A Biography of Chief Moses. University of Oklahoma Press.

Scheuerman, Richard, ed.
  1982 The Wenatchi Indians: Guardians of the Valley. Fairfield, Wa: Ye Galleon Press.

Spier, Leslie, ed.
  1936 Tribal Distribution in Washington. General Series in Anthropology 3.

POSTED: 11 APL 2016