What’s in a Name?

May 9, 2010

Digging Camus Root near Harrison

Lately, we have been getting quite a few questions as to why the name “Sun People” or why “Dry Goods Company?” Being native to Spokane, I grew up reading about and understanding the importance of our river and native peoples, the Spokane or “Children of the Sun.” Most every year my childhood class would take a field trip to the now closed, MONAC to experience, in a spiral fashion, the lifesize exhibits of the early Plateau Native Americans.  When I was in architecture school, in the early ‘90s, I chose to “re-locate” the MONAC  to the former JC Penney building for my thesis project. I had the honor of working with the late Peter Campbell, former Executive Director of the MAC on that project. His insights and guidance were foundational to the final project and to my growth as a design student and as a human being. A few years ago, my children and I tagged along with the Spokane tribe while they dug for camus roots. The kids had a great time and still remember the privilege of spending the day with the Spokane.

The term, Dry Goods Company, by contrast, comes from the Spokane Dry Goods Company (later to become the beloved, The Crescent department store) founded on August 5, 1889, a day after the Great Fire of Spokane. As the store grew and matured it became not simply a department store for Spokane but a community gathering place—as a child I was enthralled with the fantastic Santa’s Workshop that graced the corner window every Christmas season attracting crowds of on-lookers, or meeting my dad “Under the Clock” for an early morning cinnamon roll when he had a break from his job as a bus driver for STA (then STS). For many Spokanites, The Crescent has played a central role in our community. By bringing back the term, Dry Goods Company, we hope to pay homage to our history with a term that is inclusive of both goods and people.

By taking both names—Sun People and Dry Goods Company we hope to incorporate the rich history of place that we all share here in the Inland Northwest—both culturally and environmentally. We also hope to do it in a manner that looks to the future and a new, simpler, healthier way of living as stewards of our beautiful region.

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