Waters Pitiless

On an outcropping looking down upon Ancient Lake I can’t imagine what anyone could do with this land. Being close to the Columbia River, it’s difficult to get there from the water. From the other direction, a traveler would have to pick her way through rocks and sheer columns to finally reach the floor, hundreds of feet below.

There is little mention of it anywhere. In the earliest survey of this portion of the Columbia River (1881), it’s not even indicated. If the native Sinkiuse-Columbia Indians used it, there seems to be no lasting evidence.

Nevertheless, a decade before the first survey, the Sinkiuse-Columbia tribe lost this land to homesteading in 1871. The Columbia Reservation was set aside for them to the north, on the other side of the river. This land was radically different from what they were used to and few, if any, made the move.

A few months later, white miners occupying the new reservation lobbied the government to either send the Sinkiuse people to another reservation or give up the mines to the miners. The government did both. The Sinkiuse were evicted from their ancestral home land in the Columbia Basin, as well as the new reservation to the north, and forced east to the Collville Reservation, where many friendly tribes had already been relocated.

By that point, the Ancient Lake and Potholes Coulee area had been open to homesteading for nearly twenty years. It’s unclear if anyone claimed it, but probably not. At least not before the mid 1910s.


‘Waters Pitiless’

Camera: Kodak Brownie Hawkeye (c1950)
Film: Kodak Tmax 100 (x-03/2000)
Process: HC-110B; 7min

Ancient Lake, Potholes Coulee, Grant County, Washington


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