Saving Snoqualmie Falls: Corruption, Greed, Colonialism, Capitalism, and Twin Peaks

In July, 2015, the City of Snoqualamie began construction on a traffic roundabout at the intersections of State Road 202, Tokul Road, and Mill Pond Road. This future roundabout is located less than a quarter-mile from Snoqualamie Falls, the center of life and creation for the Snoqualamie Tribe. First the trees along the hillside were cut down, then the soil was churned up and flattened. In the midst of this destruction, the work crew discovered an ancient arrowhead, something that quite displeased Matt Larson, the mayor of the City of Snoqualamie. This arrow from the past has punctured a tiny hole through his plans to desecrate the most sacred place in this land.

State Road 202 is the main route for tourists hoping to see Snoqualamie Falls. They get off the freeway in Preston, take the Fall City road to SR 202, and travel down a small, rural road that was originally built for loggers, farmers, and locals. Hundreds of thousands of people come to see the falls every season, all of them driving cars, all of them needing parking space. Traffic around the parking lots for the Snoqualamie Falls is often congested, with motorists coming to a dead stop in the middle of the road in search of parking.

The Salish Lodge & Spa also draws tourists in to see the falls, although it can only accommodate 200 of them at a time. The lodge has its own parking lot and is built directly above the falls. This structure is widely known as “The Great Northern” in the hit television series Twin Peaks. It is owned by the Muckleshoot Tribe but its management has been contracted out to the Columbia Hospitality Group. We will not comment on the Muckleshoot Tribe, but we can say with certainty that the Columbia Hospitality Group is owned by a verifiable piece of shit. John Oppenheimer, the CEO of the group, is involved with managing a wide variety of luxury hotels, golf courses, Port of Seattle facilities, luxury spas, cruise ships, and other ruling class establishments. He is also white, incidentally.

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The Salish Lodge and the tourism surrounding Snoqualamie Falls is the primary reason why a grove of trees has been destroyed to create a traffic roundabout. There would be no road expansion were it not for tourism. But under the guise of a seemingly innocent road expansion, Matt Larson is now pushing for more. If he has his way, there will be 150 luxury homes instead of a forest above the falls. They will be priced in the millions with their spectacular views of the falls, and developers will stand to make a shit-ton of money. But these plans have been pierced by an arrowhead, and the greed of the colonizer will always be their undoing.

The Snoqualamie Tribe, a federally-recognized entity that encompasses all surviving descendants of the original people, has dedicated itself to stopping this desecration. In the words of the tribe: “This is not simply the construction of a new road—an entire hillside was clearcut. We need to protect our clear water sources, forestlands, and open space. The Snoqualamie Indian Tribe has always worked to be good stewards of our land and water. The City of Snoqualamie has a development agreement with the Salish Lodge and the new roundabout paves the way for the developers to build another hotel, conventions center, and subdivision on this land and beyond, just north of the Salish Lodge. This unchecked development near our sacred site is disrespectful.

In the last ten years, the land south of the falls has been heavily developed. Where there were once wooded hills covered in mature second growth and small creeks draining down into the valley, there are now nearly 4,000 luxury and middle-class townhouses. Snoqualamie was once a small town along the river, but its population has jumped from 1,500 in 1990 to almost 10,000 today. This new development all centers around the TBA Snoqualamie Ridge golf course and host an annual championship sponsored by Boeing. Every morning, afternoon, and evening, green Microsoft Connector shuttles deliver corporate employees from Redmond to their new townhouses. All of this new development provides views of Mount Si and the great Snoqualamie Valley, something for which the developers can charge a heavy price. Had it not been for the efforts of the Snoqualamie Tribe, this development would have reached all the way down to Snoqualamie Falls.

A late afternoon summer aerial photo of Snoqualmie Ridge, a large master-planned community of homes and businesses roughly 20 miles east of Seattle nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mtns.

But now Matt Larson and the earth-killers are attacking from the other direction. In his efforts to win this war against nature, Mayor Matt Larson is trying to pit the Snoqualamie against the Muckleshoot, a classic trick of the colonizer. But the Snoqualamie are not falling for it. At the most recent Snoqualamie City Council meeting, Melynda Davis of the Snoqualamie Tribe spoke clearly against the behavior of Matt Larson. “Your words hurt, Mister Mayor, and the citizens of Snoqualamie and the region deserve better than ignorance…we are asking all of you not to allow any more construction on Tokul Hill…don’t rubber-stamp plans to build homes over sacred lands.” Davis went on to clearly state that the Muckleshoot were their brother and sisters, and that they would not be pitted against another tribe. Mayor Matt Larson has been spreading stories to the media that this conflict is about the two tribes fighting over money, land, and casinos, when in fact it is about him trying to force this development into existence. This story is about a mayor who will not stop recklessly cutting into the land and the developers following behind him. They are the ones who have to be stopped.

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The hit television show Twin Peaks has certainly contributed to the booming tourism at Snoqualamie Falls. Oddly enough, in this television show the owner of the Salish Lodge, or the “Great Northern,” is a man named Ben Horn. He is depicted as being a corrupt capitalist engaged in all manner of fraud and deceit. In public Ben Horn is known as being an honest citizen and a vital member of the community. He is a business owner, a job creator, a heavy mover and shaker. But in reality he is a depraved capitalist who finances murder in the pursuit of profit. While Ben Horn is busy trying to build a golf course surrounded by luxury homes (much like the Snoqualamie Ridge) his lawyer is raping his own daughter, a girl named Laura Palmer. At the beginning of the series Laura is killed by her father for threatening to reveal the dark secret of the television show: that “Twin Peaks” is built on indigenous land. It is built on lies, rape, murder, and greed.

Those who wish to live in Twin Peaks must pass through a test. If they fail that test “it will completely annihilate their soul,” as the only indigenous character in the show says. We can say with certainty that Mayor Matt Larson of Snoqualamie has lost his soul. In his brain burns a demonic fever he cannot stop. While he sits inside the Snoqualamie City Coucil chambers, surrounded by paintings that happily depict the destruction of the old growth forests, Matt Larson is about to be torn to pieces. His arrogance and deceit will only hasten his demise, and the place he has entered will certainly destroy him. Let the arrow from the past bring an end to this monstrosity of colonization. Let the land be returned to all indigenous peoples. We offer all our support to the Snoqualamie Tribe in their fight. We hope you will support them too.

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