National Geographic : 1994 Apr
HILLERSCOLLECTION,NATIONALARCHIVES Powell's throne was an armchairlashed to the gunwales, where he made note of passingrock strataand ralliedhis crew with poems such as Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake," which lauds "the will to do, the soul to dare." they could farm and learn to become more like whites. He did not want them to lose their land and traditions, yet he saw no choice "but to remove them from the country or let them stay in their present condition, to be finally extin guished by want, loathsome disease, and the disasters consequent upon the incessant con flict with white men." In this, at least, the Major was wrong. Most Kaibab stayed in their homeland and survived the hard times. "We've been through a lot of changes since Powell's day," 53-year-old Vivian Jake told me. "But we haven't lost our culture. We can still sing. We can still do the dances." BY 1872 POWELL knew that his future lay in government science, not in teaching. He resigned from his university position and moved to Washington, D. C., where deci sions were being made about the West. He and Emma bought a town house a few blocks from the red sandstone towers of the Smith sonian Institution, where he was given a modest office. Washington was in the grip of a massive John Wesley Powell: Vision for the West public works project. Its broad streets, which had been "seas of mud or beds of dust," as one resident complained, were being paved with wooden blocks or concrete, following the plan of the District's new governor, "Boss" Shep herd. The community's first sewers were replacing open gutters and canals. Trees were being planted. What had been described as a "slovenly and comfortless Southern town" was becoming a city to be proud of. Science was also on the rise in the capital. The nation's lawmakers, faced with rapid industrialization, urbanization, an influx of immigrants, and the headlong settlement of the West, were turning more frequently to experts for advice. Powell wanted to help. A likable, gregarious fellow, the Major was soon well-known about town. His blunt face, with his glittering eyes, comical nose, and un ruly whiskers, was not a handsome one, wrote one friend, "but it was one which could not be overlooked in any assembly." Neighbors greeted him as he took his only child, Mary, on walks to see the unfinished Washington Mon ument, then about a third its eventual height, or to visit the Smithsonian building, where he showed off his own collection of Indian crafts.