Washington State College was a collection of a dozen buildings on a hillside in Pullman, home to less than 900 students. But for one night in 1913, the campus was buzzing with activity.
Booker T. Washington, an innovator in education, was in town. What was then known as College Hall or College Auditorium and later renamed Bryan Hall was packed to the brim, with folks outside clamoring to get in.
In a building not far from where Washington addressed the Pullman crowds more than a century ago, James Bledsoe is working toward a doctorate in educational leadership. A career development coordinator in the College of Arts and Sciences, Bledsoe has researched WSU’s history extensively, and said WSC had some unique connections to the African American community.
From the morality of science and the banality of pandemic lockdown to struggles with money, police, queerness and being the only girl in the band—the diverse topics of songs composed by Washington State University students reflect a wide range of social concerns and music created to address them.
Demonstrating the knowledge and skills they gained in music instructor Gabe Condon’s Songwriting II course this spring, 11 emerging songwriters will present a virtual showcase of their original, recorded compositions at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., April 21, on the WSU School of Music’s YouTube channel.
For their capstone project, the students wrote songs focused on topics of protest and social commentary, one of several thematic areas they studied in the semester-long course.
“Given many recent, consequential events and social unrest—including COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the election of a new U.S. president—it seemed appropriate for students to examine the historical context of protest music and how it relates to modern social movements and modern songwriting,” Condon said.
The Washington State University School of Music will present the online concert “A Virtual Celebration of Jazz” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 20.
The Jazz Big Band will present the premiere of “RBG,” a tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, composed by recent WSU master’s graduate Alison Poteracke, and “Conspiracy Theory” by Greg Yasinitsky, WSU coordinator of Jazz Studies, along with other works by students and faculty.
In this episode of the Re: Building Democracy series, we head over the pass again to central and eastern Washington to hear more about the ways Washingtonians are bridging civic, class, and cultural divides.
Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest bred little, fluffy white dogs that provided for them, both materially and spiritually.
Dogs were so important to Indigenous people on the coast that the canines were sometimes buried in association with humans—a practice not extended to other animals. Washington State University alumnus Matthew Marino analyzed numerous such burials and concluded that some dogs operated as persons in the Coast Salish world, a conclusion that echoes Indigenous elders.
As persons and ancestors, dogs were entitled to a better life than other animals. And since wool dogs provided wealth via their fur, they were accordingly well fed and treated kindly. The dog bones that Marino examined showed little damage, although some puppies may have been sacrificed to accompany the burial of a child; one adult dog had a healed broken vertebra, indicating it had been cared for long enough to recover from an injury. The wool dogs, in particular, ate well.
There is no doubt wool dogs underpinned a robust weaving industry on the coast, an activity noted in archaeological digs. For instance, excavations in the 1970s at the Makah village of Ozette on the westernmost point of today’s Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, uncovered wooden looms, spinning whorls, combs, and beaters, as well as miniature looms for training children. A landslide—probably caused by an earthquake on January 26, 1700—had destroyed the village and buried several cedar longhouses beneath a three-meter wall of mud.
The disaster preserved numerous belongings of the people—kin to the Nuu-chah-nulth—including one blanket containing dog fur that was largely intact, as it was stored in a cedar wood box. They were very productive weavers. “They built 25-foot [7.5-meter] longhouses of cedar,” says Dale Croes, an archaeologist at Washington State University, who helped on the excavation. “They could easily fit three to four looms inside. We calculated they could have easily had nine weavers per household. It was an absolute industry.”