Mary Collins and Lindsay Myron

Recorded July 8, 2020 Archived July 8, 2020 41:10 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019884


Mary Collins (68) speaks with her first-cousin-once-removed-in-law, Lindsay Myron (31), about her family farm, being an archeologist, and what it was like to participate in the repatriation of native artifacts and remains back to the communities where they belonged.

Subject Log / Time Code

MC begins by describing the location of where they are and the crops growing around her.
MC says the same 10 acres of land have been her home for 50 some years.
MC describes why it's special, "More than the farm, it was this place. We knew our place because it was ours. To look at the landscape and know my stories and the stories of my family."
MC talks about being an archeologist and getting to be involved in the native community and learn of the landscapes history.
MC reflects on gaining a permanent archeologist position and helping with the repatriation of native artifacts and human remains.
MC says she was invited to participate in Native Reburials after repatriation was completed.
MC say she hopes "future generations remember their ancestors through the connection to the land."


  • Mary Collins
  • Lindsay Myron

Recording Location

Virtual Recording

Partnership Type




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00:03 My name is Mary Collins. I'm 68 years old. It's Wednesday, July 8th. I believe 20/20 and we're on the farm north of Pullman, Washington.

00:22 And my conversation partner is Lindsay Myron. She is the partner of my cousin's son who I treat like a nephew and they have just come back to the farm.

00:40 Okay. Yeah, my name is Lindsay Myron. I am 31 today is Wednesday, July 8th 2020 and we are at Mary Collins house on the farm. It's not the foreman and I'm interviewing Mary Collins.

00:58 And she is an in-laws them sometime.

01:07 Okay.

01:09 So can you describe where we are? Okay, we are in the heart of what is known as the Palouse in Southeastern Washington were about 8 miles from the Idaho border.

01:26 Specifically we are sitting among Rolling Green Hills getting ready to turn yellow with cleats and garbanzo beans and barley and that kind of stuff.

01:41 And where did you grow up in relation to request I grew up right here. This is a 10-acre parcel my brother and I split it he had a house on 5 acres and when he passed away 27 years ago. We got the other five acres and my husband I built our home here. So I've been living on the same 10 acres for all that if the years I went away to college and my first job so

02:15 57 years out of 68

02:26 Well

02:29 It was long enough ago that we didn't we we went to town to go to school but on weekends and the Summers we we we didn't go to town every day. The way Town kids did so my it was my mother's family that had the farm. So my dad was the in-laws the farm with her two brothers and from where we're sitting you can actually see these causes my uncle Asus house and Uncle Gerard's house. So their kids my first cousins were also my best friends growing up we played together are there were lots of boys in just a few of us girls. I think a nine boys and three girls. We were separated quite a bit. But my eye was part of the core group that were all within two or three years of the same age.

03:24 So, can you list the name of your siblings and your cousin's in the order of their ages old? Sure. I can Nancy Bill Paul Gerard me Peter Ace. I forgot John John is a month older than me and then Jane and then Mark.

03:54 And can you talk about the chicken or you need my mother your mother?

04:02 I would have been maybe for 5 years old and it was a particularly bad year for farming. So my parents took what every Monday they could pull together and bought a thousand chickens and my mother went into the egg business. So my dad would get home from work and he would help feed the chickens and what not. But my mom was the one responsible for taking him to the town and most of the Washington State University. So she sold eggs mostly to dorms and sororities and what not and it was a lot of work a lot of physical work, but she was in the egg business for maybe seven or eight years then things and proved it as soon as she could get out of the egg business. She did that.

05:03 Did you help at all the thing? I was worthless. They they did the egg Gathering. They helped the eggs. There was a definite division of labor growing up the boys had to work on the farm and the girls did not think there were fewer of us, but it was just kind of the standard of the day that our job was to help our mothers, but I wasn't even much help to my mother. I was I was the second to the youngest in my family and I was the spoiled brat.

05:46 Asked my sister. What what were your parents?

05:54 Inverted your dad something my dad came from Texas and he was recruited to come to Washington State to play football and it was this would have been the night early 1930s and he was anxious to go someplace where they had trees and rivers and he was actually working at a gas station and I think it would have been Abilene Texas at the time and the coach was a fellow named Buck Bailey and he and his somebody else drove up to the garage and said are you Ben Collins? And he said yes, I am and they said well, we're from Washington State you want to play football and he said yes, sir. I do. He left, Texas and he never went back.

06:44 Can you tell how and like when Clark Farms kind of began in 1883 so I'm of the 4th generation and I consider your a generation to be the fives and there are some sixes out there.

07:07 They were I consider them they came out here after the Civil War. They they actually were in Walla Walla, which is a little bit south and west of here before. They actually came up to the Palouse and I and I think that's there have been some hard times. Especially my great-grandmother Mary Eliza. She lost Brothers in the warmer and what not and I I think it was an opportunity to start over. She was a widow. She had one daughter and she married Gerard and they came out here and homesteaded what we call the lure Ranch which was the original hundred and sixty acres and then over the years they've acquired more acreage and

08:00 Then they had five girls and one son. And the one son is the only one who stayed on the farm and that would have been my grandfather who I remember very well. He was older and not starving by the time I was five or six years old, but at least during the good whether he came out everyday and drove around in his pickup truck and we called them the men my dad and uncles and we called the next generation of the boys. And as far as I'm concerned, I still called the boys. So I don't know what that groups are going to be called, but they build a bench in the back of Grandpa's truck so he can just haul us kids. That's we did that a lot.

08:50 Did you ever meet your great-grandparents my old picture that is great grandfather grandfather, my dad and David so the four of them but he was gone before I came on the story of them going to vote. Ohyeah. Do you know that's a die-hard Democrat and my great-grandfather was a die-hard Republican and Grandpa used to say he used it in those days, of course the roads out here today and we think that's pretty rustic but they were dirt roads in those days and if they weren't cars, he would take them by horse and wagon, and he complained everything. He said I would

09:50 Sorry about taking them to vote in a why am I doing this you're canceling each other's vote out and my grandmother would always say there's a chance. Mr. Clark will die before.

10:03 So the there one son with a severe Clark and what is he known for?

10:16 I suppose in in The Wider community in the still would have been pretty local.

10:24 He was certainly known in the farm community, but he actually for for many people probably retired from farming pretty early. He was maybe like the only 60 he served in the state legislature and he did quite a few things for Washington State University. He was real advocate of a lot of the Agricultural research and kind of think the two things that probably stand out in his lifetime that we were always told his he Washington State University played Brown University in the first Rose Bowl. This would have been in 1917 or I should say the first Rose Bowl of this series. There were some football games before that and my grandfather was the captain of the football team and they won.

11:14 And then the other thing he did in his life. That was pretty cool with after he had served in the state legislature shortly after.

11:24 There was it was an ice breaker trip to Russia. You probably don't remember this. But when I was younger, we had an ice breaker trip to China that was the pink hoe and so there was this ice breaker trip where there was an exchange of some Farmers from the US went to Russia and that's Russian Farmers came to visit the US. I told you it was my my biological grandmother died with very early before my mother was even an adult so my step-grandmother told my grandfather that you ought to see if you can do this and so he applied and he was selected and if he had many interesting things experiences to share with us about that as a kid, it was pretty impressive. What was you how was he as a person for you growing up? Well,

12:24 He was

12:26 It's kind of hard to explain. I always felt like she was a kind and loving grandfather, but he was not the cuddly sit on your lap kind of Grandpa and I we were on our best behavior in his presence and he when we were little league drive a truck, but when we weren't in the truck, we would play cards rummy and you know, that's how it he entertained us and I can remember doing that until he died we go to his house and he want to play rummy.

13:08 There used to be married to take them but there used to be two photos in our hallway one was of him with all of the boys. Right and the other one was with you and your cousin James. Can you describe?

13:29 The relationships between for my generation the men's and women's roles and especially here on the farm were pretty sharply defined. Nobody ever said this is your role but it was just kind of assumed and so, you know, Grandpa was really proud having grown up with all these girls of having all these boys who ultimately all of them either wanted to be or were for at least part of their lives Farmers that it was a big deal feel unloved but I definitely felt not included in the farming aspect of things and it says it is because all three of us girls

14:18 Late to marry in professional women before we did that until I think for all of us. You waited from college with

14:33 The degrees that we knew what we were supposed to be getting our Mrs. Degrees, right? But neither of us did and I think we both ended up happy. Of adjustment to figure out you know, what we were going to do and all that cuz I think we had to go through that kind of a self.

14:56 Actualization or whatever experience much more than the boys did did you ever want to farm? Absolutely. We wanted to we wanted to be here and I don't it would be interesting Nancy never did have the opportunity to participate in the farm Jane and I did get to you and that was only after my grandfather died and they needed somebody to run the scales. That's how you keep track of how much we do you harvest you weigh the truck before you empty it and then after him getting that's why I know it's late and it was an old manual scale truck scale and Jane called me one night said hey I get to work for the farm. I'm going to run this deal.

15:51 And I said, that's nice I said, hey really vital active thing, but the income was appreciated too and he didn't say anything until the next morning like five cops on they took me out in the field and he told my brother Peter who was a year younger than I am sure how to drive the truck.

16:33 And I got like five minutes of instruction and pretty soon Jane was driving trust to and the trucks. We were smaller than the truck driving now, you know, they didn't have double axles and all that kind of stuff but we simply loved it. I thought I trust I drove truck first. I think part of three Summers and Jane she did it for five or six all the way through schools in a little bit after that and they still say that she was the best truck driver. It was it was special to be a part of the whole

17:14 Especially at Harvest that's what it all comes together is the most exciting the most tense, you know, it all comes down to those days when you were going up and you are under the impression that you couldn't Farm were there reasons that you heard or I didn't even think about it. And even I would say I was thirty-some years old before I thought about it and thought well now wait a minute, you know, I didn't question things any more than anybody else, you know until I got out in the world and realized, you know, I would have liked to do that. I think you're more than more than the act of farming I have now learned is it it's really interesting and we could go into all of that but more than the active farming it was living on.

18:14 This place and with our family know that was that was the core that was such a part of all of our identity, you know, we grew up knowing who we were and where we belong and we belong because we had our own Geographic names for places who I can still say. Oh, it's on the big hill and somebody knows that that's not the same thing as the high hill or I can say it said the lawyer Ranch versus the other placed in a names that mean something immediately to all of us and come loaded with experience has some that we actually had some that we just heard about you know that to look out on the landscape and not only know my own stories but know the stories of what it was like growing up here to know the stories of when my grandfather was growing up here and to think about how it's changed and then of course

19:13 Mike my career. I was an archaeologist. I ended up in an academic roll and became informed from a epidemic perspective on many things Native American and then through my work. I actually got to become involved with a number of the local tribes and in members of that community and it added another whole dimension of a not only the sense of yeah, this is really great. But we didn't get it for free. You know. Our privilege came at somebody else's suffering and layer of experience with this landscape that I feel I know so intimately to begin to think of the people who lived here in a different way than we live here and

20:13 Feel that connection immortality. How did you give it away from the farm towards your career getting a problem. So I took things that interested me and I ended up with a degree in anthropology and then upon graduation realize that the timing was such that the whole world of cultural resource management was just opening up there was a lot of

21:00 Legislation related to public works and then necessity to do archaeological studies. And so the suddenly there were lots of opportunities to become involved in that and so I started with it because it was a job and I was needed to talk and I had some wonderful experience continuing studies and

21:26 When I finally decided to go for a PhD and at that point I thought well, you know, this would be the last time because Washington State University was Herod Pullman, they had a strong program in the area of emphasis. I was interested in it. So I thought you know what? I think that's where I want to go get my PhD because it'll really be the last chance. I have to live in that area to live. If not on the farm near the farm and to live with my family on an everyday basis. And so I want to do that. I didn't even fight any other programming fortunately I was admitted and I was here for graduate school for 1 year and you know waiting I think I was 35 or something. I just made mr. Right and suddenly had the door. Now what?

22:26 You know, I'm pursuing this professional degree and how is all of that going to come together? And again just really locked horrific. I was doing my dissertation research impaled working with some Mortuary data that has been collected when they were building dams along the snake and Columbia River. I wasn't Excavating burials everything. I was looking at working with him all day. But just about the time. I was your wrapping up my dissertation nagpra the Native American Graves protection and repatriation act came along and the university and the Corps of Engineers realized. Oh cuz we the university house all these collection and they had some enormous responsibilities and nobody nobody knew at that point the the intended

23:26 Outcome was clear, but the process was wide open and the people at the University in the anthropology department were wondering will what are we doing? They kind of looked at me and said will you at least know the site numbers of what we're talking about and it's actually blossomed into a that's getting a permanent job in the department of anthropology and that entails managing their archaeological Collections and working with the tribes in repatriation and it was fabulous job. It was wonderful. I met terrific people I had to learn a whole lot about

24:10 You know, how what really is ironic Anthropologist? You study other cultures right? But I had never had to engage with.

24:26 You're on a personal basis with individuals and communities who are from a cultural difference. And of course, they're our neighbors hear. You know, we're not that far from several reservations. And so it was really expanded mod in my understanding of this area is this area of the world but it also opened my mind as an individual in terms of

24:57 The tribes and their search situation and stuff like that. What is one thing or a few things that you feel like you learned? I learned anything and there's a story here. I met when I was just starting out. I was doing all the official stuff you're writing all these letters and I and I knew that the other tribes are getting these hundreds of these letters a day from people all over the country saying these collections blah blah blah and but just through coincidence. I met this man who is a member of the Coeur d'Alene tribe.

25:52 And he took the time to visit with me and find me. I just said to him, you know, I have this responsibility, but I really don't know what to do. And he said, okay, I'll tell you he said there's three things you have to do. You have to accept that this work is going to require that you make a personal commitment in your heart to do the right thing and to do for other people and then he said then you need to get out in their community and expect people to come to you you need to get on that committee. And if you're uncomfortable will so be it true, you know, and then this was the big one and he said if you give enough time and if you're open-hearted and open-minded you they'll tell you what to do and I'm thinking, you know, we we don't have many people of color in our community, but even here

26:52 If I think it would work in any situation open your heart open your mind put yourself out there and listen and it'll all work out. Yeah. Yeah. What is one thing that you are proud of your career?

27:13 We didn't get soon it difficult and get it it it was it was.

27:28 To work to resolve repatriation of very personal very private things like human remains and funeral items and then to deal with that.

27:42 With an institution like the University or an institution like a federal agency.

27:49 And yet to bring it down to a very personal level. That was very challenging but we did it. We got him all we got it all done and I like to think that we opened some doors and I hope that you know, the students who are around the other people in the department. I hope everybody picked up a little bit of that. I hope it was something that needed long difference where it was all the where all the tribes that you worked with. Did they receive the things that you repatriated? Well, yes. Yes. Yes. I was I was invited to participate in the number of reburial Ceremonies and it was profound.

28:39 Another whole aspect of this landscape that I was just not aware of about in buried here the first time seven eight thousand years ago and there were people who were their biological descendants. There were there were called where there actually was some DNA analysis done in and they were

29:10 Direct line descendants and it was like, whoa, Hi Neighbor.

29:21 So what is the like Native American history of the farm that we certainly would have been the traditional territory of a lot of people I think there are descendants who would have lived in this area who are on every tribe on the plateau.

29:46 But this Eric probably this is the answer for logical interpretation that the the big and this would have been the last two thousand years know it would change certainly over many years before that but two thousand years there were big Villages down on the snake in the Columbia river towns, and they would be year-round occupied by some people older people little children, but many people in the spring summer and fall would disperse into the Uplands to do route Gathering and hunting and some fishing although the the major fishing was down on the river but this area was probably used mostly for plant Gathering canvas and other stuff lots of lots of plant cutting. We don't have very many stories although

30:46 My mother and uncles used to tell stories that their parents told them or their grandparents told them about we'll just over the hill in the area that. Was an area where Native people would Camp when they were traveling through. There's not a lot of archaeological evidence of native artwork around here, but we know it's here. It's probably a lot of artifacts that begin with every now and then someone will find a pestle or projected but also covered up with soil that you're in the early years of farming. This is a lot of steep hills around here in the early years of farming erosion was terrible and so

31:45 Most of the flat with along the creeks and whatnot have a couple of feet of modern sediment on him. That's probably sitting on top of a lot of our sites. So with your background in archaeology and anthropology and your background on the farm. How do you feel about the Homestead Act? Oh, yeah. Well, it was a lucky break for some of us.

32:18 That's that's a tough one the whole idea of it amazes me to think that.

32:28 This part of the West so everything really from I'll say the Northwest, you know, the Rocky Mountains to the West Coast of turkey to the Cascades.

32:42 It's only been settled a hundred and fifty years Anglo settled. That is in 1850. I think the

32:53 Only euro-americans in this part of the country were like few missionaries families. So just the very idea that it would be divvied up and parceled out.

33:08 It's it is it I have mixed feelings. I mean.

33:15 Just turning the whole thing agricultural there the the transformation of the landscape there are so now it's most of it as you can cuz you know in this week and see is cultivated. There are just tidbits of area that was never cultivated is probably because it's too Rocky.

33:40 Is that kind of an impact on a landscape ideally is probably not the best thing.

33:50 And the Homestead Act it wasn't open to everybody. You know there weren't many black families get home stairs and yet they were lost and displaced by the Civil War as words my relatives.

34:08 So I don't know what would you say is the difference between culture and history well.

34:20 Sculptures bigger than I mean

34:26 Culture is I think more all-encompassing.

34:32 History is always is stories and stories are always told by somebody and we all have our own blinders on.

34:48 Yeah, that's an answer or not question.

34:57 How would you describe what would you think of that? You're like ancestors on this farm would think of the farm today?

35:08 I think they think we have a tree easy. That's a good question.

35:19 I I don't know how to answer that exactly.

35:25 I think that they would.

35:29 I don't know how to answer that. I think that they would be pleased that some of their descendants are still here. I think.

35:41 Yeah, but I I don't know. I mean that certainly my wish is that well, I wish we could all be here. If not all the time. At least that's an invitation relatives. But you and Ian and I hope some more will is it it's a terrific opportunity. If you like the outdoors you like physical work you like plants you can like animals.

36:17 What is hard work hard work physically at working with your relatives is hard.

36:31 It's ya diplomacy diplomacy, but it's worth it. What would you want like the sixes sevens and future generations to know?

36:48 I would like them. I would like them all to be healthy to be happy and to

36:58 You know something of our stories and I think that that's the plate, you know names and even we have photographs of people but they're still just names and photographs but there's something about living in the same house. I made the house I grew up in that was occupied by three generations of the same family, you know, you could go around and you can look at the woodwork and see where do my I carved my initials when I was a kid and people get to experience and

37:39 I would hope that even if they don't live here that all of them remember us because of the connection to this place.

37:48 Is there a way that you would want to try or are trying to like preserve the memories in the history of actively organizing and you know, I don't see myself writing a book or anyting. I certainly could I have lots of ideas about stories that you could write. But if you want to ask questions.

38:31 Oral Traditions me telling stories to kids that that's what I can do now in terms of activities and things that I've chosen to be involved with working with conservation issues trying to help think about how to better care for the landscape. That's something I can put energy and I am putting energy into looking at different farming practices looking at how to make sure we have healthy soil and clean water and maybe even the potential to set some areas aside that aren't necessarily great for farming but would be wonderful for people to be able to

39:23 Visit and learn about an end truly to preserve some of the plants and animals that are struggling. You're still it gives me great satisfaction. Although I to Little Critters like raccoons and whatnot 900 but it makes me feel good to know that, you know, there's a whole world living here in spite of us.

40:05 Shut off.

40:15 We have one minute.

40:19 I think one minute well, okay I have

40:24 Read them again.

40:28 Okay.

40:31 Well, this was a question from Jane old lady template.

40:44 And plus I don't have any problem telling him what they ought to do.

41:07 Cool. Yeah.