Erskine Biddle Wood, who fulfilled a three-generation promise in 1997 when he presented an Appaloosa to Keith Soy Redthunder, great-great-grandson of Chief Joseph, is dead at 89. He succumbed May 15 in Portland, Ore., to complications of battling lymphoma. Wood's grandfather, Charles Erskine Scott Wood, witnessed Chief Joseph's surrender near the Canadian border in north-central Montana in 1877 after the Nez Perce were pursued by the U.S. Army for 1,400 miles. The elder Erskine became friends with the chief and sent his son, Erskine Wood, to live with the tribe for two summers. He asked his son to find out what Joseph would like as a thank-you gift. The answer was a horse for the tribe's breeding stock, but Erskine Wood never relayed the request, thinking it "too puny" a tribute. He later regretted the decision. His son made up for that mistake. "The gift was really the consummate experience in the last part of his life," said one of his five children. "It tied together the different generations and paid tribute to his father and grandfather and to Joseph. And it also started something for the future generations." Wood specialized in maritime law at a Portland firm his grandfather started in 1887.
In response to a federal court order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers insists that Snake River dams are not overheating the water and killing salmon, and no changes at those facilities will cool the water. In February U.S. District Judge Helen Frye found that four dams in eastern Washington violated the Clean Water Act by raising water temperatures to levels dangerous to fish and ordered the corps to report in 60 days how it would meet federal water quality standards. The ruling added weight to arguments removing the four dams was necessary to save threatened and endangered runs of salmon from extinction. In papers filed in Portland, Ore., May 15, the corps said existence of the dams "may contribute" to raising water temperatures in the river, but concluded operating the dams has no significant impact on those water temperatures. "I am very, very disheartened by the corps' response," said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund in Seattle, which filed suit on behalf of environmentalists, the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe. "This will not go unchallenged in some way because the corps punt on this issue to say, 'Oh yeah, we'll consider it. Oh yeah, it's not a problem!' is shameless.