Hangman Creek


 What:  Kayak from Hatch road 3 hours to intersection of Spokane river and this creek. Class 3 rapids during spring runoff. Previously called Latah (or Fish in the native tongue) creek. The site of the hanging of about 7-18 Indians after the local war that the local tribes would call the Big Fight for years after. Kamiakin sent Qualchan a fierce warrior into the peace treaty camp to test the waters for peace. (Was Colonel Wright in a peace-making mood or hanging mood). Qualchan rode right into the camp of soldiers with no fear. He did not know his father was being held as hostage there to lure him in. Messengers had been sent out to let Qualchan know that if he did not come in the soldiers would kill his father. Qualchan did not know this. Wright knew Qualchan had been involved in the slaying of miners in the Yakima area, years earlier. The soldiers grabbed him at Colonel Wright's command and after a desperate attempt to fight the entire group, was hanged screaming & cursing.  At least six other Palouse Indians died proud singing their death songs. One Palouse hanged was Epseal who had taken no part in the hostilities. All told, 27 Indians were hanged at different points along Hangman Creek or Latah Creek and the country round about. A roadometer was used as scaffold for most of the hangings. A roadometer was a two wheeled affair rigged with an attachment that could gauge the distance traveled. Of the total number of Indians thus executed not one showed the white feather (cowardice). Some did not wait for the roadometer to be moved from under them, but leaped off as soon as the noose was adjusted around their necks. The next day Qualchan's father broke away from the army march on a horse even though he was handcuffed, and was shot dead off his horse. Now the new golf course is named after Qualchan and no one remembers. At Hangman bridge one often hears, "Why is this called hangman?" Kamiakin was never captured. His bones lie at Rock Lake as he died of old age.

Music composed for this historical incident: by YetAnotherSteve: Titled: Dogwar: click here to hear music

 Where:  Drive to Waverly city south and east of Spokane and don't blink or you'll miss it. From the tavern on main street go north and west on Spangle/Waverly road about 3-4 miles to North Kentucky Trails road. Take a right turn here and drive a fair bit of a ways until you cross the big creek called Hangman. Then start looking on the left for the monument which is near the creek. This is about a twenty mile drive and I feel the destination is well worth the drive.

 Cautions:  Don't go in early spring after a flood or you might find yourself sledding one mile down a runway, and then having to race up the other side just to make it up.


 List:  Water.

 MORE ON QUALCHAN: One incident from "Warrior of the Mist" book goes like this: Qualchan was traveling alone at night far from his home and came at night upon a heavily guarded outpost of calvary tents. He prayed to his power the mist. It began to snow. It snowed harder and harder until the many sentries could not stand the horizontal blast of snow that gathered upon them, and so thinking that no Indian band would be out in this storm went to their tents after their commanding officers had agreed to such. Now Qualchan removed all of his clothing and slipped down in the dark night of hidden white snow flying all round and stuffed brush in the bell of the lead horse and cut loose all the leggings on all the horses. He touched them and led them quietly out of the camp. Then loosing the bell, its ringing called all the horses to follow him and they did so all the way to the Columbia river where his war party was located. It was a great coup and he was praised. The encampment asked where the horseless soldiers were and chased, but found the camp deserted as the men had all left on foot.

BOOK: Warrior of the Mist, by T.G. Boyden (A biography of Qualchan, Chief Owhi's Son) I highly recommend this book as good history of this area.

MORE DETAIL ON THE HANGING INCIDENT:  Captain Keyes describes how he saw Qualchan enter the camp: September 24, 1858, at about noon, I was standing in front of Colonel Wright's tent, and I saw issuing out of a canyon about two hundred yards from me two Indian braves and a handsome squaw. The three rode abreast, and following close behind rode a little hunchback who I had before seen in our camps. The three principal personages were all gayly dressed, and presented a most dashing air. They all had on a great deal of scarlet, and the squaw sported two ornamental scarves, passing from the right shoulder under the left arm. She also carried, resting across, in front of her saddle, a long spear, the staff of which was completely wound with various colored beads, and from the end of which hung two long round pendants of beaver skins. The two braves carried rifles, and one of them had an ornamented tomahawk. I pulled aside the flap of the tent, remarking, as I did so: "Colonel Wright, we have distinguished strangers here." The colonel came out, and after a few minutes' conversation recognized Qualchan, who is the son of Owhi, and one of the most desperate murderers and villains on this coast. He had not met the messenger sent out for him, but came in of his own accord.

Whist-alks, Qualchan's wife remembers: We were waiting for developments when in a few moments two soldiers grabbed my husband about the head and shoulders throwing him on his back and then binding him with cord. I tried to cut one soldier with my knife, but one kicked the knife out of my hand and then a great number of soldiers crowded in overpowering us and we were at their mercy. I thought then the worst that could happen would be a few months' imprisonment, and you may imagine my terror and consternation when I saw that they were making preparations to hang my husband. I first thought it was a huge joke, but when I saw the deliberateness of their preparations, the fullness of their treachery and cowardice became apparent.

Keyes continues: Qualchan was a scion (offshoot,descendant,heir) of a line of chieftains; his complexion was not so dark as that of the vulgar Indian, and he was a perfect mold of form. His chest was broad and deep, and his extremities small and well shaped. He had the strength of a Hercules, and it required six men to tie his hands and feet, so violent were his struggles, notwithstanding he had an unhealed wound in his side.

Legend has it that: Whist-alks horse had become restive and nervous under the stress and strain of all the disturbance of the hanging that the wife had to visually endure the vision of, but she held the animal in her control while she proudly awaited the disclosure of her fate. Then an officer signaled for her to move on. Impulsively she acknowledges the intimation by swinging her horse around to a position so that she could face the officer who was at that moment on duty in front of Colonel Wright's tent, then lifting high the splendid medicine staff, which all the while she had continued to hold aloft, she struck the sharpened butt of the same hard into the sodded ground, then leaving it thus planted there, she instantly reined her horse about and straightaway rode in quiet dignity out of the camp, the oriflamme of Qualchan poised firmly upright before the tent of the commander laying the responsibility direct.


The Name Controversy:
The Spokane River runs from Coeur d' Alene Lake to the Columbia river. There are two main tributaries: The Hangman creek, coming in just south of the city center, and Little Spokane River coming in about ten mile below that. The Hangman Creek used to be called Latah before the hanging of the Indians after the George Wright war. I have read that Latah meant fish in some local native language, but some discount that and say that Latah is not a member of any native local language.  Hangman creek came about as a name due to the hangings of Indians there at Wright's last treaty campsite before he headed back to Walla Walla. There have long been objections that this name is too gruesome and bloody a term or it is not politically correct. Spokane County and the State of Washington have both passed legislation to make Latah Creek the official name, but all Federal agencies retain the Hangman Creek usage on their maps. The Coeur d' Alene tribe uses Hangman Creek on all its maps and official tribal records. About 1999, a national organization called the US Board on Geographic names held their annual convention in Spokane. Most of its members are college staff people or governmental agency members. High on their agenda was a close look at our local streams name controversy.  The convention group took a bus tour, with the Colonel Wright treaty camp site as their first stop.Later in the convention proceedings, the group passed an advisory vote of approval for the Hangman Creek name.

Thanks to the January 2003 issue of Nostalgia Magazine, especially Glenn Leitz.