For more than 10,000 years, Celilo Falls, near The Dalles, Oregon, was the gathering place for thousands of Native Americans as they fished its annual runs. The creation of The Dalles Dam in 1957 inundated the falls, and the slack water lake that replaced them became a sorrowful reminder to many Americans.
Maya Lin’s artwork will take the shape of a simple wooden arc. It begins as a gentle ramp spanning 300 feet that takes the viewer from land to a point cantilevered over the water. Text set in the ramp will chronicle the history of the falls, from a geologic description of its formation, to accounts of its existence in both mythic and oral histories of the tribes who inhabited the area, to Lewis and Clark’s accounts, to the poignant testimonies of the tribes who protested the dam. The final text, at water’s edge, will describe the lost sound of the falls.
Maya Lin’s inspiration for this work comes in part from the iconic fishing platforms where Indians, using lines, spears and long-poled dip nets, risked their lives to catch the life-sustaining salmon from the turbulent waters.
Site planning will begin in fall 2007, with completion of the site targeted for 2009.