Students seek to unlock a tribal photo mystery

KINGSTON — When Tamara Stone’s class at Wolfle Elementary invited Wanapum Tribal member Angela Buck to speak in December, they thought they’d only be getting a lesson in the history and culture of her Eastern Washington tribe.

Little did they know they’d also be changing some local history.

Stone’s class, which utilizes a unique curriculum called “Canoes Upon Puget Sound,” to help incorporate more Native American history into the culturally diverse classroom, had been studying early tribal photographs.

The class showed Buck one of the photographs, which depicted a young boy named Stanley Breck leaning back on a canoe, taken sometime around 1946 on the shores of the Columbia River at Priest Rapids.

The photo caption, Buck realized almost instantly, was wrong.

“When Angela came, we found out who was really in the picture,” remarked Zachary Caldwell, a fourth grader and one of Stone’s students.

Instead of Stanley Breck, it was Willie Buck in the picture — someone else from the tribe who Angela Buck knew well.

“They just really guessed he was Stanley Breck,” said fourth grader Brandon Halsey, also one of Stone’s students. “But we figured out his name was Willie Buck.”

The photo was actually taken by Wanapum Tribe outsiders, and thus the error was made, Halsey added.

“The reason that they didn’t know his name was that (the photo) wasn’t taken by his tribe,” he said.

The students have since been learning all about the misidentified boy and pointed out that he was an expert hunter.

“He was a very good hunter when he got older,” explained Wolfle fourth grader Nikki Tatum. “(Angela Buck) said that he caught deer and fish and lots of other stuff.”

Educational consultant Nan McNutt, whose “Canoes” curriculum Stone’s class is using, contacted the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS) regarding the error on the photograph, known by its negative number “591.50.2.452.” She soon heard back from Elaine Miller, photo archivist at the WSHS, who said an error was made.

Miller said the name “Buck” had been “transcribed incorrectly,” from a diary kept by Roger Chute, a photographer who took numerous pictures of the Wanapum Tribe in the 1940s.

Thanks to the efforts of the Wolfle class, the photo caption will be changed, Miller said.

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