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Rodeo, New Mexico
October 22, 2006
Nawinathlanmi Lati't means Indian Paintbrush, and was on display in the changing exhibit hall. Paintings, charcoal and pencil drawings, and photographs, many of them colorized, showed images of Indian people and landscape.
Who we were: The magic really begins entering the permanent circular exhibit areas. Motion-activated devices cause rustling sounds, bird and animal calls, and in the background, the beating drum. Natítayt (the people) fished, hunted, gathered roots, tanned hides, created beautiful objects, and never wasted anything. Shahaptan names of things are presented above English. The plateau seasonal round puts it all together in drawings: "The Earth and myself, of one mind".
Nowhere is the concept of Naý-mu (kinship) better expressed and experienced than inside the full-sized tule mat winter lodge. I sit and listen to stories and songs, some by men, whose voices come from my left, others by women, from the right side of the lodge. Some teach lessons, others are creation stories, many involving Coyote. As I listen to how Celilo Falls was created, I hear geese honking from far away. I hesitate to leave before hearing all the stories and songs. But the clock is ticking, and regretfully I step outside the lodge to continue on.
Horse culture is expressed in a diorama of mounted riders. All too soon following the horse, imported by Spanish to the New World, came a much less welcome European invader: microbes. Smallpox in the 1770’s, measles along with the huge wave of immigrants in1847. Viewed as an intrusion by the Plateau tribes, open resistance began with the killing of missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. The Treaty of 1855 confederated the three tribes and relegated them to a tiny land base, the Umatilla Reservation.
And the horses are fading… The pealing of mission bells, hymns, and hammering predominate as I pass through displays about Indian boarding schools, more loss of land, and passage into modern times.
We will never fade. This sentiment predominates present and future of the circle of displays, many interactive. The Warrior tradition is poignantly expressed on an interactive screen by World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans. On another screen, drumming, singing, dancing and gifting at pow-wows and celebrations.
Knowing where you come from: I watch a movie about preparing black lichen for use in soups and gravies. From how it’s gathered, wrapped, buried, then smoked, with elder teaching younger. Outdoors in Naamí Níshaycht Village, I walk on a timeline path past ancient pit houses, a tule mat longhouse like the one inside, to more "modern" canvas teepees. During festive events, these are peopled by tribal members, demonstrating cultural practices.
From journal Wild and Wooly Pendleton
The one-way winding drive from the highway to Tamástslikt was purposely constructed curvy to set the mood and slow visitors down. This museum is not meant to whiz through in two hours. It was such a gift to us on our first visit in 2002, when we were stuck in Pendleton in a snowstorm. We took the entire day and savored every bit of it, taking a lunch break for bowls of the most delicious salmon chowder I’ve ever tasted at the Kinship Café, looking out the windows in fascination at ever-falling snowflakes and increasing whiteness of landscape. Then we returned, wandering through the remaining exhibits until closing time. Four years later, 2006, I wanted to recapture some of that magic.
The long, low-lying wood and stone building that houses museum, café, gift shop, and meeting facilities was designed by Jean Jacques Andre Consultants, the architectural firm who designed the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria, among others. In Wallulapum, the language of the Walla Walla, Tamástslikt means not only to translate, but also to turn, turn over, or turn around. This aptly describes the experience of visitors who take their time to immerse themselves in the world of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla tribes, as they were, as they are, and as they will be.
Although the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla are composed of three distinct tribes, who lived along different tributaries of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, they shared the Blue Mountains to hunt. The Umatilla and Walla Walla are Shahaptan speakers, but Cayuse language was more isolated linguistically. The 6.4 million acres in northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington that was the homeland of the Confederated Tribes is called Nicht-yow-way.
Tamástslikt Lobby is the only indoors area of the exhibit halls and rooms where photography is allowed. The entrance lobby is a large light room with big windows and flagstone floors. But most notable is the mural of Wyám (Celilo Falls, on the Columbia River) taking up an entire wall, Núunim Lawtiwáama (Our Friends).
Honoring Wyám: Against a backdrop of foaming falls, hundreds of silver salmon shimmer, each bearing the name of a Tamástslikt donor. Wyám falls not only provided excellent fishing, but was also a trade network and yearly gathering place. With the coming of the highway, Celilo Falls became a major tourist attraction. In 1957, the Dalles Dam completely inundated Celilo Falls, destroying the village and fishing industry there, forcing many to relocate, and ending a way of life forever.
Hours: 9-5 daily Admission: $6 adult, $4 senior/student.For more information, call: 541-966-9748.