The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Historical Society meeting focuses on Native American heritage in Adams County


Last updated 10/4/2018 at Noon

ATTENDEES, like Bob Schoessler, of the Adams County Historical Society’s annual meeting on Sept. 30 had an opportunity to view portraits of Native American leaders, as well as browse history books regarding the heritage of the tribes. -Journal photo by Katelin Davidson

The annual meeting of the Adams County Historical Society drew a large crowd to the fellowship hall at Zion Philadelphia UCC on Sunday, Sept. 30, where attendees enjoyed a meal and presentation about the Native American history.

Attendees came from multiple communities within Adams County, as well as multiple members of the Franklin County Historical Society. The meal was served by Tee Time, following an invocation by Roy Clinesmith.

Clinesmith announced the Ice Age Floods group will be doing a six-stop tour on Saturday, Oct. 6, beginning in LaCrosse. Any individual interested in attending the tour must be in LaCrosse by 8:45 a.m. to register for the daylong event.

The featured speaker at the event was Richard Scheuerman, who presented on “Indian Summers: Stories Behind the Native American Portraits of Anne Harder.”

Scheuerman served as an educator for 44 years, and has written or contributed to multiple books. His latest book is “Hardship to Homeland.”

As a member of the sister organization in Franklin County, Scheuerman said there is a common interest between the two historical societies and sharing the stories of the residents who helped shape the future of the local counties.

As an educator, Scheuerman said he is still focused on working with young people to help them connect to the past and give them a story to carry to the future.

Anne Wyatt Harder, a local resident who painted portraits of Native Americans in the early 1900s, painted the majority of the images discussed in the presentation.

Scheuerman explained the work historical societies do is important because they work to tell stories that have not been told yet.

For Scheuerman, the interest of the Native American history in Adams County began in the 1970s. Chief Cleveland Kamiakin was a leader for tribes in the Columbia plateau and felt a true connection to the land.

There was not a reservation on the plateau, but instead there were multiple reservations in the area surrounding the plateau. Adams County sits in the middle the area, and many tribes would travel through the area and camp while going to visit members of other tribes.

Trails like the Mullin and Colville roads were not used by accident, but were instead started by area tribes.

Harder’s portraits and diaries record her interactions and memories with the Native Americans who traveled through Ritzville. They trusted her and she created a lasting relationship with members of the tribes.

Some of the greatest discoveries and surprises during research for the book included finding an audio recording of Chief Kamiakin, and also information and photos about a famous author who visited the area.

Zane Gray was a best-selling novelist in the early 1900s and visited the area on a book tour when he started considering conceiving the idea of a new book. The idea resulted in the writing of “Desert of Wheat” and it is believed that Gray stayed in Adams County for part of the writing process.

Scheuerman said during his research, a Wilbur farmer had a photo of all of the core Native American tribe leaders from the area when they attended the Wilbur rodeo, sometime between 1918-1920. He said if there was one photo he could step into, it would be this one, so he could discuss what Adams County was like in those days and discuss the history of the tribes.

In terms of Harder’s artwork, Scheuerman said he was one of the great artists of the era as she knew the people and was trusted by the tribes and had access to some of the most legendary members of the area tribes. In the 1930s, she amazed people with the emotion and detailed she captured in her portraits.

This was the beginning of the appearance of sadness in the eyes of her subjects, as they were faced with relocation from their homelands. The trauma they experienced was reflected vividly in her portraits, Scheuerman stated.

The Native Americans were pacifists and were against violence, but they retaliated when pushed, resulting in the war of 1877. After defeating three army infantries, the tribes were stopped just short of the Canadian border and then sent to live in Oklahoma.

After Chief Joseph spoke before Congress, they were allowed to return to the area but were unable to return to the lands they had lived on.

Harder understood and respected their lifestyle, and she was a forerunner in expressionist and abstract art, Scheuerman explained. She created art that told the incredible stories of people and events, and told the story of the region being one of the most important places on earth.

The meeting concluded with the election of board members, with three positions open. Karin Clinesmith announced her desire to retire from the board after 28 years of service in order to focus on another history project.

Barbara Jolly and Sue Sackmann were reelected for their positions, while Kathy Monn was elected to fill the newly vacant position. The three elected members will be serving three-year roles.


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