Linda Meanus: Native American Elder and author

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The granddaughter of the Chief of Celilo Falls, Linda Meanus is a beloved Native American Elder from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, an author and educator.

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Linda Meanus as an adult smiling

Part of her story was first told in 1956 by Martha McKeown in a book titled Linda’s Indian Home. The book called attention to the Columbia River tribes, their ways of living and how the new dams destroyed fishing.

Fish are sacred to the tribes. So daily fishing activities embodied tradition, culture and a way of life that were deeply impacted by the construction of the Dalles Dam. The water itself is also significant because it represents the connection between people, water and earth.

When Linda’s Indian Home was published, Ms. Meanus was a little girl, traveling to different schools and libraries, sharing the book and story, and signing her name. In 1956, she is pictured during a visit at Multnomah County Library’s Central Library location.

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Linda Meanus as a child sitting on a woman's lap at Central Library with adults and children around her

Now, Ms. Meanus has written her own book: My Name is Lamoosh, chronicles her life as she grew up with her grandmother, Flora Thompson, and her grandfather Chief Tommy Thompson. She talks about life before the creation of The Dalles Dam, which flooded Celilo Falls. The book highlights Indigenous ways of the Columbia River and provides a first-hand account of Native American history in the Pacific Northwest. 

As Ms. Meanus describes in her book, “If you have ever heard Multnomah Falls, it was ten times louder than that. It was an echo that you could feel in your heart.” 

Celilo Falls was a place where salmon flowed plentifully and tribes from different parts of the Northwest came together. 

“I was six years old when my grandma came after me to show me what the Corps of Engineers were going to do on March 10, 1957,” says Ms. Meanus. “I thought it was important to write this book and share my story. There are a lot of Native American stories, and since this is from a historical site, I thought it was important to do that. And it makes me feel good that I can contribute to the community a real life story."

The library is welcoming back Ms. Meanus with an author talk at Mamook Tokatee, NAYA housing complex on November 9. During this visit, she will discuss her new book, My Name is Lamoosh.

“Ms. Meanus is a revered and respected Elder” says Eva Red Bird, Indigenous outreach program coordinator. “She is a strong advocate for sobriety and helping Natives get clean and sober. She still goes out to powwows and dances and continues to practice tribal traditions. It’s really an honor to have her visit us.”

Stay up to date on events happening to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, or participate from home by checking out one of the always available books on the Libby app.