My Name is LaMoosh by Linda Meanus

Review by Luanne Clark

I always get each member of my family a book for Christmas and I often find the perfect gift in the Holiday Catalog from Inklings. This year was no exception. My Name is LaMoosh was a perfect fit for my dad. He was raised in the 1940s in Klickitat, a little town about 30 miles west of Goldendale. One of the stories he’s fond of retelling is about going to The Dalles for appointments and entertainment, and about the adventure of taking the small car ferry from Dallesport to The Dalles, across the Columbia River, before the bridge was built in 1953. He watched the Indigenous People fish from the scaffolds at Celilo Falls before the area was inundated by The Dalles Dam and has collected photos and artwork of the area throughout his life. 

My Name is LaMoosh was a hit with my 88 year old father. In fact, several times during the festivities he had to be reminded to set the book aside— it was his turn to open another gift! My Name is LaMoosh is a fascinating, simple book written by an elder of the Warm Springs Tribe who grew up at Celilo Falls. The reading level is middle grades but can be enjoyed by everyone. It’s full of photographs of the area and the residents of Celilo Village. The book includes fact boxes that provide historical, cultural, and environmental context for Linda’s  personal story, along with a thought provoking set of discussion questions for a readers group. And all of this information is filtered through a living connection to the land and river that formsthe foundation of her culture.    

Linda’s book is personal and relatable.  She was raised by her grandparents next to the falls where her grandmother taught her about root digging and huckleberry picking and the nuances of trading. When her Grandma Flora bought her first car, she went to a dealership in The Dalles and actually traded enough salmon that she came home with a used Studebaker! Her grandpa was the Salmon Chief of Celilo Village and from him Linda learned gratitude for  the gifts of the Creator and the importance of maintaining spiritual balance. She tells about learning how to bead as a young girl, and the preservation of their fish, roots, and berries. Through engaging  personal anecdotes she answers questions about celebrations and rites of passage, as well as telling her own story. In her lifetime, Linda has become the first person of her family line to complete high school. After life interruptions, and as a middle-aged woman,  she graduated from Portland State University with a degree in Indigenous Studies. Today she shares her knowledge about traditions, food, history, and the language of the Columbia River Gorge Indigenous People. She speaks to many groups across the American West, but she especially enjoys interacting with school children. “I just feel that’s part of what I want to do: be a grandma to a lot of these kids, like my grandma was to a lot of kids. We need more of that. We need more grandmas to share their stories.”

Thank you, LaMoosh. I’m glad you’re sharing your stories.