|Lowell School, 1922. Photo from the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture|
He told me how, as a boy, maybe eight years old, he was haunted by a series of terrible and realistic nightmares. In his dreams, he was a Spokane Indian boy his same age, forced to attend a white-run school. He had never been to Spokane and had no connections to our area. In his dreams, he was constantly disciplined at this school for things like speaking his own language and not being a good student. Sometimes he would be beaten in his dreams and wake up screaming. Often he would be locked in a basement cell without food or water for days at a time.
The dreams became so bad, he told me, that he underwent therapy. It went on for several years, and he was terrified to go to sleep at night. Finally, in one particularly awful dream, he was beaten and thrown into his basement cell--and in his dream, he died there. The school principal walled up the cell with his body inside.
The nightmares went away as he became a teenager, but he never forgot about them. It sounded to me like he still carried scars from those years. Then, in his thirties (I think?) he ended up moving to Spokane.
One day he ended up driving through the Vinegar Flats neighborhood. This is a quaint part of Spokane along Hangman Creek just before it flows into the Spokane River. It is a traditional worker's neighborhood that also includes some of the little commercial farmland still being worked within city limits. And before the arrival of the white invaders, it was the traditional sinter season campground of the Upper Spokane band of Indians. Anyway, the man was taken aback and stopped dead in his tracks when he came across this abandoned school building. The Lowell School, it was the school in his old nightmares.
|Photo courtesy Spokane Historic Preservation Office|
We talked for a long time. I am convinced that he was not pulling my leg but telling me the truth about experiences that he was trying to understand. He was smart and articulate and sane. I suggested that sometimes people have visions and that they are not always to be understood literally. We agreed to talk more--but we never did.