On the day when President Obama’s administration acted to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline, I thought it appropriate to share the Native American situation here in the Columbia Gorge as well as personal stories about our Tribal youth and elders.

Meeting Neighbors:  My wife Rene has been visiting her neighbors for the past two months…all of them!  One of the greatest community-building projects I’ve ever heard of, she is going from house to house simply greeting them all.  Rene recently visited the River People living on Lyle Point, on land purchased by the Yakama Nation.  Lyle Point, the last undeveloped Columbia River peninsula, was going to be turned into a sub-division, but like the North Dakota stand, the Native People camped out at Lyle Point and would not leave.  The space was saved.  The hope of great salmon runs tie together the families.

Teaching the Native Language:  Of all the thousands of posters plastered on the local market windows, the most surprising was one recently placed by Warm Springs Multi Media Artist  and Tribal Enterprise Chairman Jefferson Greene, who is teaching local youth and their families  the native Ichishkiin language of the Columbia River.Yakima and related dialects are still spoken in the region today, in the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian ReservationThe language is critically endangered, and this course adds to language preservation efforts.

This Place Series: The Oregon Humanities organization has been sponsoring conversations about place, power, home, and belonging. Their ‘This Place’ is a series of ninety-minute community discussions that happened across Oregon this fall.  I attended one of the sessions held at the Discovery Center in The Dalles.  We older Progressives talked about the ecology of the Columbia and our relationship to it.  Then the facilitator handed out a sobering photograph of where the West’s greatest Native American trading post and salmon migration tic-point used to located, Celilo Falls.  Almost on cue, three  generations of Native American women entered the room.  Grandmother and Mother had plenty to say about Celilo, This Place, and loss.

Waiting for My Elders:  During a recent environmental education field trip for Lyle 5th. graders,  one of the young students and I had been walking ahead of the others, and suddenly she stopped, turned to me, and said.  “In my custom I’ve been taught to wait for my elders.”  So, in silence with the sun warming the moment, and the Columbia Gorge wind playing with our hair, we gratefully waited. ~