When Spokane's Huntington Park was renovated in 2014 the 12-foot Salmon Chief sculpture was installed as a reminder of the native heritage of the site. At the park, the chief can be seen raising a salmon over the river to bless it, while two Native American women on a nearby cliff can be seen hanging salmon to dry.
For thousands of years, tribal families from miles around gathered at the falls to fish for salmon. During fish runs, the eddy below the falls became a seething run of struggling salmon. Sometimes, the fish were so thick that the rocks on the bottom of the river were not visible.
A salmon tyee was in charge of the fishery and decided when and where to fish. The Salmon Chief provided a spiritual blessing over the catch and divided the salmon among the tribes to ensure everyone would have an ample supply for the winter months. The women dressed the fish and placed them on scaffolds to dry.
People from across the region traveled here to trade for dried salmon, and there was dancing, gaming and horse racing as well as fishing. As the city of Spokane grew, tribespeople continued to congregate beside the river for powwows and ceremonies. Today, the falls still hold a significant place in tribal heritage, as reflected by the sculpture depicted in this scene.
Virgil “Smoker” Marchand created the sculpture. Marchand graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 1971. He began working on steel sculptures in 1999. His works can be found throughout the region and the American West.