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Let Your Sunshine In

Life's Journeys

The Power of the Falls

Snoqualmie_Falls_in_June_2008

Nested in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains is a sleepy little town called Snoqualmie. Within the town is a set of beautiful waterfalls. Puget Power has an electric plant at Snoqualmie Falls that has more than a million visitors from all over the world each year. They come to be re-energized by the Falls’ splendor, spiritual power, and to learn how man has harnessed electrical power from the untamed waters. Snoqualmie Falls is a wonderful place because of the diversity within the ever-changing seasons, making it a great area to visit over and over again. It’s centrally locate, easily accessible, and free!

For centuries, Snoqualmie Falls has been a most holy place for the indigenous people of Western Washington. The cultural and ethnic identities of the Snoqualmie Indians are rooted in the surrounding area, and the Falls are one of the most sacred sites to the Snoqualmie, as well as other local Indian tribes. The descending water Falls to the earth, and the mist rises to meet the heavens. For the Indians, the ascending mists of the Falls have symbolized prayers to the Great Spirit. The Snoqualmie’s believe that individuals who dive into the waters will receive special powers from the Falls spirit. The area behind the base of the Falls was used to hide and defend the Indians from raiding parties. Several fierce battles were waged around the Falls. Snoqualmie warriors were traditionally buried around the Falls. The Snoqualmie Tribe continues to come to the Falls to receive spiritual powers, to experience renewal, and to pay respect to their buried ancestors.

As a frequent visitor to the Snoqualmie Falls, I know it as a natural landmark that draws my attention to the incredible beauty of the area. I observe the cascade of water that eternally surges over the cliffs. The volume differs depending on how much it rains or snows, and how much is diverted for generating power. While standing in the lookout tower, I notice the constriction of water affects the spray that I can feel on my face; it also controls the tremendous roar of the water falling below. The thundering sound of the waterfall can be deafening at times.

The flora and fauna are ever changing depending on the season. I love to wonder along the trails and play cat and mouse games with the big fat gray squirrels. The birds flutter from tree limb to tree limb following me. Their songs are light and airy against the beating drums of the Falls. The big excitement at dusk is when the deer mysteriously appear from their hide-a-away in the woods. They quench their thirst, nibble at the ferns, and keep a wary eye on the visitors.

The natural stand of trees surrounding the Falls preserves elegance unequaled by an artist’s brush. I feel at peace among the diverse species of trees. The sun filters through the branches and seems to dance across the floor of the woods. There are many flowers: the gardeners plant some, but others naturally grow where seeds fall, carried by the wind or birds. The beauty of the area holds a power all of it’s own, it’s like taking in a breath of fresh air. I wonder how GOD made such a wonderful place? I feel at peace here and calmness comes over me.

As I write this, Puget Power is requesting to be re-licensed. The re-licensing is causing a controversy between the Snoqualmie Indians and Puget Power. Even though the Falls are a source of electrical power for many homes and businesses, the energy produced is not enough to deny the Native Americans their spiritual rights. Electrical power and spiritual power-one moves machines, the other moves people. No one denies that electrical power is important, but so is the power of the spirit. The controversy is clear, will Snoqualmie Falls remain as one of Washington State’s top tourist attractions, or will Puget Power denude and desecrate the Falls? The proof of the power, of the Falls, is the continuation, of the magnetic draw of visitors. I know if more people come to visit the Falls, they will have a better awareness, of the Snoqualmie Indians’ plight. The Snoqualmie Falls Project (SFPP) is a coalition of Snoqualmie tribal members, church members, and concerned citizens; who seek to convert Snoqualmie Falls’ to it’s natural state. The SSPP is seeking to decommission the hydro electrical power plant and put the area on the map as a historical landmark for all the people, for all times. Their dreams are to turn the area into a sanctuary park and call it, “SPIRIT OF THE FALLS”. They have my vote and support!

@2000, by Nita Lopez