28 Apr 2015

Raymond Carver on Toppenish Creek

Raymond Carver on Toppenish Creek

Author: Ann Olson  /  Categories: Arts, Campus  / 

You may already know that Raymond Carver, world famous poet and “reviver” of the American short story, grew up in Yakima and graduated high school there in 1956, but did you know he often drove the back roads of this valley as a teen-aged hunter, not necessarily licensed? Carver’s story “Sixty Acres” centers on boys who have crossed fences, hunting ducks illegally on Yakama land—just west of Heritage University, down Fort Road where it crosses Toppenish Creek.  His story, however, is not about the teen poachers caught red-handed, their pockets full of ducks, it’s about Lee Waite, the fictional Yakama land owner who catches them and the complexities he faces as one man held responsible for defending Treaty rights 100 years after the Treaty.  Waite shows how it feels to be designated (by his children, mother, neighbors, and ultimately, by the Creator according to Yakama oral tradition) to protect the land’s living resources—the water, the salmon, the deer, and yes, even the ducks—from historically immigrant intruders.

Carver’s setting is just outside Ft. Simcoe near the site of the 1855 Battle of Toppenish Creek where Waite’s ancestors fought (and temporarily won) against white invasion, and Waite is forced to repeat this history on an absurdly smaller, contemporary scale.  He takes his gun to confront illegal hunters, finds two scared-to-sobs white-boy poachers (recalling the young Carver) and—verging on paternal in his forgiveness—lets them go.

Carver wrote this back in 1964, but as our daily news includes global immigrant vs. indigenous conflicts and sometimes violence in the name of protection or retaliation, this story contains a nuanced lesson about living in peace.

For a virtual Google Earth Tour of more Yakima Valley sites with Carer connections, including "Sixty Acres," click on this link (use Play Full Screen feature along with scroll bars.


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2 comments on article "Raymond Carver on Toppenish Creek"

Mary James

5/3/2015 5:34 PM

This blog entry reminds all of us to be mindful of our status of guests here on the Yakama People's lands. Thank you to Ann Olson for this reflective work! I am going to revisit Raymond Carver's writing as a result of this blog entry!


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