18 November 2010

Ch 24, Pt 4: "Green Butte Copper"

Legacy of the Chief,

Chapter 24: "Green Butte Copper-1924" , pt 4, conclusion

click on picture for
larger image: some of these images appear in the book for
this chapter.

Green Butte upr bunkhse

North face
of the Green Butte upper bunk house, circa 1980.

          “This is the real country of Nicolai.  He
probably climbed this very ridge looking for debae.”

          “Sheep?  Yes, we’re close to Tsedi Denyii.  It
was his favorite place.”

          “I feel close to him and all those who came before him
up here.  It’s like they’re right here with me.  Maybe they are.

          “But being up here at Green Butte or down there in
McCarthy, I still can’t help feeling like I have an intruder in
my father’s house.  I try not to let those feelings enter, but I
am always reminded of how those graves at Eskilida Camp were
disturbed.  What would keep any of these men from doing
something like that?  They have no understanding of where they
are or who we are.  We’re the Native people. but they don’t

          “I think some of them do, Cap”
        “Not in the same way we do. They have no roots.  They
are lost.  Lost men who do not know where they are from or where
they are going are desperate men.  I think any one of them would
turn on us in a moment.”

          “My Dad is one of those men, Cap.”

          “Did he raise you?  No, he did not.  Did he live in
your village? No, he did not. He

lives in the white man’s world. He always has. It is the world
of the syndicate.  It is Kennecott.”

          “Kennecott is just a name.  Don’t give it power it
does not have, Cap.”

          “Kennecott is those men who let our graves become
disturbed and even robbed.  It is the men who tried to cheat
Nicolai and Billum and who still try to take from us what is

          “Cap, you cannot create a monster like that.  It will
eat you if you let it.  Like the hex.  Nicolai’s Curse.  It
feeds on itself and its creators. Kennecott is also people like
Frank.  Frank is with us. I know he is.”

          “Frank is with Kennecott.  He works for Kennecott. He
answers to Kennecott.”

          “I sure hope you don’t let any of them hear this,

          “I only say this to you, Sla’cheen.  I would
not even say this to the other Natives, because they would only
see the hate.  We have to take part of what the white man has
brought here for ourselves.  We can’t fight them by staying away
from them.  They can try to ignore us, but we can’t ignore them.
We have to face them as one. We were born to walk together,
--you and I--so we could help our people.  Together
we have power.  If we are separated, we are doomed. Nicolai said

          “You knew all along that I would insist you come with
me to Kennecott, didn’t you Cap?”

          Johnny smiled, then knocked Cap off his seat.  Cap
leaned up on his elbows from the rough, wooden floor and laughed
at Johnny. 

          “I did not know. I only hoped.  Since McCarthy, I have
not been so sure if we could keep working together.  We’re still
here. We need to go there.  To Kennecott. It waits for us.  I
can’t tell you why, but we both have to go there.”

          Johnny helped Cap back off the floor. 

          “You didn’t hit me back, Cap.  You could have knocked
me over easily. You let me knock you down, didn’t you?”

          “I did.  No point in proving something you already

          “You’re a boxer, Cap. That’s what you are.  That
Cordova promoter wanted you to travel to the states to fight. 
You’re that good. We all know it, too. You need to go there.
You’d make us all look good.”

          “This land around us is  part of what we once were and
still are.  But out there is a strange world I do not
understand.  I choose to stay here in ‘Atna’  tuu Ts’ itu’.

          “Someday you may go out there to box.  But if you
never do, I’d sure understand, Cap.  I feel the same way about
Chittyna and Nicolai’s land of Denyii Tsedi, but a part
of me wants more than just this.  Going to Kennecott may be the
key. It may be the way to get wherever it was I want to go.  I
just don’t know where that place is yet.”

          “At one time the Great Man made me an offer to see
that I get more education. At least I think that’s what he
meant.  He mentioned it once again when we were playing
billiards at the Mecca.   He did not forget after eight years.”

          “I know.  I guess I’ve known that ever since you told
me about your billiards game with him just before you got the
railroad job. I wonder how Schee’ ya would have felt
about that.”

          “Grandfather?  He never told me in so many words, but
Stephen Birch did.  Grandfather wanted something more for me. 
He made some kind of arrangement with Birch. I just don’t know
exactly what was in the deal.  I’ve often wondered about that,
because I’m not so sure I’m up to it.  Many of our own won’t
listen to a half-white anyway.  What good could I do for them?”

          “He’s Stephen Birch, not the Great Man.  I wish
you’d stop calling him that.”

          “Birch?  He is the Great Man.  He brought the
railroad, developed the mines, changed everything.  Maybe it did
not work out that well for us, but he knows how to make things

          “That’s very white of you, Johnny.”

          “I just admire people who make things happen. We can’t
live in the past, Cap.”

          “We can’t forget it, either.”

          “We won’t Cap.  I promise you that. Anyway, Schee’
  seemed to like Birch, but he was no fan of the
syndicate.  He was intrigued by the railroad, but not pleased
with everything it brought in.    And he seemed to be impressed
by the way they built Kennecott, while resenting all that ore
leaving without benefiting us.  So it’s not like it was a matter
of black and white for him, either. 

          “All I’m sure of is that he wanted us to remember  who
we were and do the right thing by our people, including getting
a white man’s education.  He pushed me into that, just like I
shamed you into learning how to read well.  I’m still who I
always was. I’m Johnny Gadanski, grandson of Nicolai just like
you.   I may be half-white, but I still feel 100 percent
Indian.  It’s not easy being a half-breed, you know.”

          Cap  stopped playing cards and looked at Johnny

          “I know it’s been tough for you all your life.  I
sometimes wonder how you can possibly know who you are.  Yet I
know where your heart was.  You don’t have to tell me.  I
wouldn’t be out here at all if not for you. You probably saved
me from becoming another drunk by insisting that I come along.”

young Cap

Goodlataw as a young man, c. 1910

          “Hey, Cap, you started this yourself by convincing
George Brown to hire you.  Then you followed me to Cascade
Station.  You can’t know how much that meant to me.  I almost
gave up on myself until you showed up.  You gave me the power I
needed to continue being who I am.  I enjoy challenging these
white men.  Maybe you haven’t noticed, but many of them aren’t
nearly as smart as either one of us.  I notice you keep silent
to hide your intelligence, but you’re every bit as smart as I am
and probably a lot wiser, which was why you’ve never bored me.
 I wish the women I have known were as smart as you.”

          “Smart women?  I don’t know about that, Johnny.
Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.”

          “Anyway, that fellow Frank over there at Kennecott is
one of those more intelligent white men.  He doesn’t seem to
have any prejudice in his heart. He even stuck out his own neck
to get me hired there.  That’s probably never been done before.
for an Indian.  Imagine what it would be like if the two of us
could work there--if only long enough to prove the point that we
can work anywhere in our own country--and just as well or even
better than anyone else.”

          “You’re asking a lot from Frank.  He’ll probably be
tearing his hair out when he gets your letter.   But I don’t
want the white men to feel too secure that they can run all over
us in our own country, so I guess I’m still with you on this one
as well.”

          “You better be, because we’re going.”

          “Haven’t you guys eaten yet?”

          “Harry!  Cap, look who came up the stairs to check on
us.  It’s the Chinese cook himself.”

          “I’m an American just like you.  You boys need to
eat.  I have pot roast on  stove.  Never mind me.  I fix you
dinner. You keep talking.”

          “No moose meat, Henry?”

          “It is moose meat. How you know?”

          “Henry, I’ll love you forever.  How did you get your
hands on . . .”

          “We Chinese have our ways.  You two need to eat. Hard
work in mine.”

          “Cap, you haven’t said anything!”

          “Okay, Johnny. Harry, good to see you!  Let me help.
You need Indian to fix moose meat.”

          “No Indian.  Chinese-American cook well trained.  You
just sit. I fix!”

          Cap looked out the window to the west. The far canyon
wall was now black.  Overhead the stars were coming out. 
Somehow the time had slipped by.  It was hours past dinner time.
Since the men had first arrived in mid-July, the daylight hours
had diminished considerably.  The time had arrived where it was
getting dark at night again.  It was also one of those rare
August nights when the Aurora Borealis makes an early

          As the two young men carried on their conversation
while enjoying a late dinner of moose roast, the lights began to
dance overhead, just as they had fourteen years before when Cap,
Johnny, and Charlie  sat on the grassy hill at Taral listening
to their

Schee’ ya
tell them Nicolai’s Raven Story of Creation.  The two men were
too busy eating to notice it.

          “Harry, this is great.  You make a tender moose roast
that might just put my mother’s to shame.”

          “Sla’cheen !” 

          “Well, it’s good, anyway.”

          “No need to tell Chinese-American.  Harry knows he is
good cook.”

          Harry brought over two tin cups and filled them with
hot tea.

          “I leave you now. Hot tea in pot on stove.  Dessert on
counter. Chocolate cake tonight.  Very good. Almost gone. Don’t
love Harry. Just appreciate good cook. Good night.”

          Harry disappeared down the stairs to the cook’s

          “Johnny.  No one beats your mother’s cooking.”

          “It’s not that good, Cap.  That Harry really did a
great job with this meat.”

          “Can’t say that to the whites.  Can’t admit someone
else can do it better.”

          “Harry’s Chinese.”

          “You know what I mean.”

           Cap glanced outside and finally noticed the Aurora

          “Yaykass ! It’s the Yaykass,
.  Just like at Taral, except it has come early!”

          “You mean when grandfather told us the story?”

          “Yes, that’s when I think it all started.  He told us
the story and it’s never been the same since.  Maybe it’s
Schee’ ya

View of a rock glacier on
Porphyry Ridge from above the upper Green Butte camp
--HAER-American Memory

Continue with Chaper 25: 

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