November is Native American Heritage Month, when we recognize and celebrate the first peoples of this continent; their resilience, accomplishments and traditional knowledge. In 2009, President Obama signed “The Native American Heritage Day Resolution,” designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Native American Heritage Day.” On this highly commercial day, many United Stated consumers give very little thought about the indigenous people of this land, but the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation encourages you to take a moment to confer.
To observe Tiinmamí alxayx, explore the history of this land. The Yakama ancestors and those of the related tribes and bands, lived, traveled, traded and practiced traditional and religious ceremonies across this region. Those ancestors formed a regional network of extended families, trade partnerships and cultural alliances from the mouth of the Columbia River and all of its tributaries to north of the 49th parallel.
Did you know that when the Yakama Nation signed the Treaty of 1855 with the United States Government, they ceded an area of more than ten million acres — equivalent to nearly a third of Washington State? The 14 Yakama signers were chiefs and headmen who negotiated under threats of violence, bloodshed and war with the U.S. Calvary because every element of the Yakama Treaty is an essential component of Yakama belief system. Today, proud descendants continue practicing, honoring and teaching the heritage and tradition preserved by these ancestors.
For those paying attention, we witness the larger society’s need for more commodities that leave a heavy burden of toxins and radiation in the soil, contaminate the rivers with chemicals and bacteria and make our trees susceptible to insects and fire. In return loss is felt by Tribal people in cultural and ceremonial sites, access to foods and medicines and ability to practice spiritual and cultural traditions.
In this month, and on this day, we call on our supporters to advocate for tribal sovereignty laws and preservation of natural resources. Will you consider choosing a path that restores more to this land than is extracted so that we can all benefit from the mountains, valleys and rivers that sustain all of us?
Some of the Yakama Nation’s asks include: supporting a comprehensive approach to salmon restoration, opposing development projects like the Goldendale pumped storage and advocating for threatened tribal sovereignty laws such as the Indian Child Welfare Act. Simple acts of support that you may consider are to visit tribal museums such as the Yakama Nation Cultural Center, supporting tribal businesses, and giving to tribally owned nonprofits,
Let us all use our voices to advocate and speak for all the resources that cannot speak for themselves that have sustained the People on this land for thousands of years.
Kw’ałanúu, (Thank you)