| Boundaries Contents
by Jack Nisbet
Jack Nisbet is the author of The Mapmaker's Eye, Sources of the River, Purple Flat Top, Singing Grass, Burning Sage and Visible Bones. His newest, The Collector, is due out in October.
The 1900 Washington State census lists William Morley Manning as a 23-year-old assayer in Stevens County. Manning had been born in Ontario, Canada, but by 1897, at the tender age of 20, he had filed U.S. citizenship papers in Idaho County, Idaho. The following year he enrolled in the University of Toronto's program for mining engineers, although there is no evidence that he ever received any kind of degree.
It's pretty obvious that Manning was lured to the North Columbia country by the promise of mineral wealth -- Stevens County, which at that time covered the entire northwest corner of the state, encompassed several rich mining districts. But the region also boiled with a host of unresolved Indian land issues, and Manning plunged into them when he sought permission to build a tramway through Colville tribal member Alex Herring's allotment to the First Thought Mine. Alex Herring was to receive $150.00 for his consent, and apparently developed some kind of relationship with the young entrepreneur. Over the next couple of years, possibly beginning with his connection with Herring, Manning purchased several personal items from family descendants of the recently deceased Chief Joseph on the Colville Reservation. This was not an unusual thing to do; in the first decade of the 20th century, Joseph was a famous figure, and headdresses and clothing articles that had belonged to him were on display in many towns.
By 1905, Manning was part of the Mining and Geology Committee of a newly formed historical society in Spokane, and had developed a serious interest in collecting Native American artifacts. One of his purchases was a beautiful 12-foot sturgeon-nosed canoe from Masseslow, a well-known Kalispel leader who at the time was fighting a protracted battle with the U.S. Government over a separate reservation for the Kalispel people. "This canoe was made for me in 1905 by totally blind Chief Massalaw of the Boundary (Kalispel) tribe, Pend d'Oreille River, Washington," wrote Manning in a brief note. "Ends bound with birch bark and sealed with pine pitch." The following summer Manning bought "buckskin moccasins & other clothing from Kalispel Indians at 4th of July celebration" in Cusick.
Bill Manning became a naturalized U.S. citizen in Stevens County in 1906, and within two years had been elected county engineer. Working out of Colville, he traced roads and boundary lines on the Spokane Reservation. For one assignment he surveyed a new access to the Turk Mine that passed right by the house of William Three Mountains the Younger.
Born in 1864, Three Mountains the Younger was the son of a well-known Spokane leader of the same name, and part of a family band that had long been established on lower Latah Creek in what is now the city of Spokane. After white settlers began to jostle for land around Spokane Falls, Three Mountains the Younger had moved downriver, where he eventually carved out a farm eight miles upstream from the mouth of the Columbia. "There was a distinctive rock in the river there, we called it Detillion Rock," recalls Spokane elder Pauline Flett, "with the old A-frame Presbyterian Church nearby. William Three Mountains's house was just a stone's throw from Detillion Rock." There Three Mountains served as an important leader and tribal judge for many years.
Around 1910, William Three Mountains had to sign legal papers on the proposed Turk Mine Road that would pass through a corner of his allotment. Not surprisingly, that was about the same time that Bill Manning began to buy artifacts from him. Manning listed one as a
Bow of iron wood, back lined with deer sinew firmly attached by fish glue. Both ends so fashioned as to form when strung a cupid bow. 36" long. Five plain, wooden or target (Bird) arrows attached. Very old, obtained from Chief Three Mountain of Spokanes.
Manning also admired the weaving and beadwork skills of Mattie Three Mountains, William's wife. On one visit he purchased Mattie's moccasins right off her feet.
Woman's buckskin moccasins, bought from wife of Chief Three Mountain of the Spokanes, who were at the time, wearing them. Solid beaded design in blue, green, yellow, old rose and purple. 7 1/2" long. Beaded on front and outside only.
Manning had a special interest in Columbia Plateau culture flat twined bags, and purchased several of outstanding quality. He was also an active member of the Shriners Club, and during this period commissioned the weaving of a Shriner's emblem onto one side of just such a traditional flat bag.
All in native hemp and wild rye with two native hemp strings at top for handles....This bag was made for me in 1907 by an old, totally blind Indian woman, the widow of a chief of the Spokanes. She was shriveled and bent into a tiny being and was one of the few old timers left who knew the art of weaving on the out side layer of a double weave fabric without carrying the design to the inside except on the edges.
Manning's brief note does not mention the name of the weaver, or whether she might have been related to William or Mattie Three Mountains.
In 1916, the Spokane Historical Society, precursor to the Eastern Washington Historical Society and the current MAC, or Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, mounted a display of "curios" on the third floor of City Hall.
W. M. Manning, who has loaned to the historical society the largest single exhibit, said much can be gathered in the way of historical material from the Indians if an effort is made before it is too late. He spent several years in collecting his exhibit.
Manning valued his collection at $1200. Over the next few decades he removed certain items, including a council pipe that belonged to Chief Joseph, for his own use. The original display moved several times on its way to the present MAC facility. But the bulk of Bill Manning's "curios" remained intact to form the initial core of what today has grown into the largest collection of Plateau Culture artifacts in the world.
Manning himself moved to Helena, Montana, in the 1930s, and during World War II served as the technical advisor for the mining branch of the War Production Board. In 1944, while inspecting a mine in the Garnet Range, he suffered a heart attack and died within a few days. His collection of tribal material had remained in Spokane the entire time, and Joel Ferris of the Eastern Washington Historical Society officially purchased them from Manning's widow, Gertrude, in the early 1950s, for a price of $750.00.
Although Manning had the vision to realize the importance and artistry of the Plateau cultures that surrounded him, he was a man of his time. During his surveys on the Spokane Reservation he collected items from a tribal grave. This kind of "pot hunting" is extremely offensive to all native peoples, and some still view Manning as a robber. As the Eastern Washington Historical Society began to include tribal members in the administration of their archival collections, curators began to sort out the items that Manning did not purchase legally from their owners. All of these questionable artifacts, plus others that had spiritual or ceremonial connections with specific tribes, have been repatriated to their original owners.
The remainder of the W. M. Manning Collection will be on display at the MAC beginning July 19, 2008. Anyone who wants to understand the depth and beauty of tribal culture in our region, as it was represented during a time when most white people were doing their best to stamp it out, should pay a visit to this exhibit.
Mattie Three Mountains on the Spokane Reservation in 1941 from a photograph in the archives of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Illustration by Emily Nisbet.
Jack Nisbet Homepage