Category Archives: Conversations

The Third Question

A conversation with writer Donald Cutler about his morally vigilant exploration of Col. George Wright’s 1858 campaign, and how to reckon with its dark and complex legacy.

In Donald Cutlers’s new book, “Hang Them All,” George Wright and the Plateau Indian War, we first meet two men and a lie at the end of a crumbling ribbon of asphalt in Four Lakes, Washington. The first is George Wright, the once-exalted military hero, and the one whose name is etched in the ten foot high granite monument surrounded by gopher holes and broken glass. Wright died in 1865. The other man is Cutler himself, who has come to the site of this historic battlefield out of curiousity for what happened here a century and a half ago, and leaves with two questions: Who was George Wright? And what do Native Americans think of this monument which was heralded, at the time, as a peace memorial?

As he describes in the preface to his book, the falsehood etched upon the monument—that the 700 soldiers under Wright’s command defeated a force of “5,000 allied Indians”—is a clue to a larger truth. It is the victors that get to write history in stone, and the gross exaggeration of the size of the Indian force (Cutler’s research finds there were, at most, 1,000 opposing warriors) serves only to embellish Wright’s image among the “pioneers” as a peacemaker. It does not address his cruelties and, in that way, it is the crumbling asphalt and shards of glass that, in Cutler’s scene, are the more revealing details.

Donald Cutler, “Hang Them All,” Part I

Don Cutler on “Hang Them All,” Part II

This is not history that is easily swallowed, nor easily written.

Continue reading The Third Question

The Birth of “Bearing”

A conversation with Spokane artist and dancer Ildikó Kalapács about a sculpture that calls us to look at the human experience in the wake of warfare.

Ildikó Kalapács’ vision for “Bearing,” a life-sized sculpture that gives form to the human burden of warfare, does not arise from a single moment, or memory, or place within her consciousness. Yet it does carry some weight of her history.

Ildikó Kalapács
Ildikó Kalapács

“I grew up in Hungary during the Cold War era. My grandparents were in the Second World War. And they experienced the German takeover, and then the Russian takeover, and then the socialist era. So they, especially the women, were very, very tough. Under the harshest conditions women always had to figure out how to get what they wanted, for themselves, but mostly for their families.”

She had been “brooding” about this phenomenon, and its extrapolation to the aftermath of armed conflicts globally, when she walked into her back yard in Spokane, Washington, and began molding a figure out of wax. From there it evolved to a table-top sculpture, a tenth the scale of the full-size bronze that will be cast and then unveiled for public display on a bluff overlooking the Spokane River. Continue reading The Birth of “Bearing”

Lindell’s Lens

Lindell Haggin’s passion for birds fueled her commitment to  environmental activism. Now, her vivid photography adds an exclamation point.

Interview with Tim Connor

As much as anyone I know, Lindell Haggin proves the point that you don’t have to shout to be effective.

A few of her favorite birds, from our audio interview (left column):
(1) Common Moorhen
(1) Common Moorhen
(2) Great Blue Heron
(2) Great Blue Heron
(3) Northern Rough-Wing Sparrows
(3) Northern Rough-Wing Swallows
(4) Song Sparrow
(4) Song Sparrow
(5) Sharp-shinned Hawk
(5) Sharp-shinned Hawk

I’ve known Lindell for 25 years and one of my favorite memories is being with her, years ago, on a bitterly cold day in late December as we were stalking birds (with binoculars) in a stream-side thicket. She’s been an Audubon Society member for most of her life and our purpose, that day, was to identify and count birds, by species, as part of Audubon’s annual, Christmas bird count.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but our most colorful songbirds are either absent in winter or, like the Washington state bird, the American Goldfinch, save their more colorful attire for the spring mating season. But the Ruby-crowned Kinglet wears its namesake, neon red crown (a mohawk, actually) year-round and we were following one, just for fun, really, as it darted from branch to branch. Kinglets barely sit still and not everybody would enjoy chasing them through a maze of young willows. But we did and, because I was clumsy and new at this, Lindell was smiling and joking as she was guiding me through the brush with whispers and gestures.

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

“One of my favorite birds is the Chickadee. It’s got a great deal of personality. Ounce for ounce, Chickadees probably have more nerve than many larger birds, including the Bald Eagle, because they will take on just about anyone, and anything.”

–Lindell Haggin.

It was Lindell’s passion for the beautiful, intimate experiences that nature provides that drew her into being an activist. She was a member (and for her last six months, the chair) of the Spokane County Planning Commission during some of the most contentious years (2002—2005) of the county’s epic land-use battles. One irony of Spokane’s “Near Nature, Near Perfect” advertising slogan is that it would be a complete farce were it not for the persistent work of people like Lindell and her husband, Bart, who’ve devoted countless hours to resisting irresponsible and environmentally destructive development. I remember sitting in a stuffy meeting room ten years ago, as Spokane’s county commissioners, in order to placate developers, were arrogantly thumbing their noses at state law and the county’s own comprehensive land use plan. Lindell was there to testify on behalf of the Neighborhood Alliance. She delivered an unflinching protest and, when she finished, you could hear a pen drop. Actually, I think it was my pen.

On a somewhat deeper level, Lindell answers what, for me, is an elemental question about what it takes to convert love and passion into necessary civil confrontation. In short: How do nice people do hard things? Continue reading Lindell’s Lens

Partners in Sunshine

Cherie Rodgers and Larry Shook talk about the day they arrived at City Hall to shine a piercing light on Spokane’s most expensive secrets.

The first-ever meeting between Spokane City Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers and former Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard Guy was not supposed to happen.

Or at least it wasn’t supposed happen this way—with a journalist in the room, furiously taking notes.

The end result was Larry Shook’s timeless story for Camas MagazineJudge Guy Meets Cherie Rodgers.

But how, exactly, did it come about?

That’s one of the questions I put to both of them in an interview earlier this month, which you can listen to here.

Continue reading Partners in Sunshine