Photo by Mike Cooper

Photo by Mike Cooper

‘Payshnam chaw shi’ix anaknuwita tichamna kunam tichamnim chaw inaknuwita shi’ix.’ ‘If you do not take good care of the land, then the land will not take good care of you’    –saying of the Elders, quoted by Jess Nowland

A UN scientist recently forecast that by the year 2050 there may be no more edible fish in the oceans.  Also under threat from climate change are future sources of chocolate, coffee, and wine.  What about my carbon footprint?  Is it Bigfoot or is it a fox?  Are we a big blot on the land sucking up resources and spewing out waste, or have we made the utmost efficiency out of the resources granted us? 

These were concerns to the facility staff of Tamástslikt back in 2003.  Most commercial energy users in the region draw an average of more than 60 percent of total power from the Boardman coal-fired plant.  Compare it with the 8.35% average draw on hydroelectric power.  Today in 2013, the Tamástslikt facility staff have made solid progress toward their goal of counting 73 tons of carbon savings.  From 2003 to 2013, they successfully reduced electrical usage by 55% and natural gas usage by 75%.   Their dream is a net-zero balance between energy demands and energy costs. 

Conservation came first.  Next will come renewables. 

Strategies of energy conservation and optimization are value-based with Mike Cooper, Tamástslikt Facility Engineer, and Jess Nowland, Assistant Facility Manager.  Reducing Tamástslikt’s carbon footprint fulfills their values, that Tamástslikt not be a resource hog.  Their holistic view is of systems.  At the same time, they favor modules.  They decentralized the facility’s original big overkill boilers, and configured a system of smaller units that respond to the differential needs of each section of the facility and handle air variably. 

They started with energy conservation.  They sealed up the drafty soffit vents.  They installed micro data loggers that monitored energy usage night and day.  They sought out state-of-the-art light bulbs and installed motion-activated fixtures.  They addressed airflow and insulation problems.  The beautiful redwood siding was a particular problem that called for the engineering of back-ventilated cladding in order to wick off moisture and eliminate mold, a huge project still underway. 

“People, planet and profit” succinctly describes the triple bottom lines and the goal of sustainability. The phrase, “people, planet, profit”, was coined by John Elkington in 1995 and has become a full cost accounting standard  for measuring organizational (and societal) success. Tamástslikt should produce not only a return on the Tribes’ investment, but achieve a sustainable environmental impact, and effect a livable happiness quotient.  Nowadays being a facility engineer takes a different mindset, like a Phil Jackson zen, attuned to technology but with concern for every little thing and the big picture.  It’s all about energy.

Now that the conservation steps have achieved better efficiency, the guys look forward to building in renewable forms of energy.   ‘Small wind’ power is a prospect.  Ted Rapasky of the Tribes’ Department of Science and Engineering (DOSE) set up an anemometer in the field next to Tamástslikt some time ago that measured average wind speed of five meters per second. 

Capacity-building and technology transfer are also part of the plan.  Tamástslikt has offered a series of certifiable training for other tribal plant personnel in order to spread the benefits of being knowledgeable about energy. 

What is sustainability? –Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.– United Nations Bruntland Commission

Posted in Tribal Museum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Hula Hoop, Salmon Walk, Tamastslikt

There used to be some memorable elderly friends who spent time at the museum just hanging out.  A staffer would go for mail, return and tell one of the gentlemen, “You left your pony idling in the parking lot.”  It didn’t hurt that there was a passle of female interns also on duty.  They would take the old gentlemen into the café for soup.  The elders both male and female developed a fan base because they knew a lot.  They were generous in sharing reminiscences about the past for which the younger staffers seemed hungry.

One elder would talk about getting in trouble as a kid because he always wanted to fight.  Neither he nor his brother seemed violent-natured–quite the opposite, both were humorous and easygoing.  As boys they were constantly turned over to the whipman because of fighting.   Whenever they would encounter strangers, boys their own age, they immediately wanted to stage a brawl just for fun.  There was no television in those days.  An elder woman talked about Chemawa, the government boarding school in Salem.  Students would habitually get up after ‘lights out’ and congregate for fights. 

If all that combative behavior could be called play, perhaps certain forms of mastery and competency were the outcomes.  They say play is a reward in itself.  No one plays for any reward or compensation except the pleasure of intense engagement.  A set of lifelong patterns, knowledge, and skills are honed and developed as a child plays.  The child explores novel situations and environments.  He or she builds a base for responding to later experiences.  In adult life, it may translate to characteristics of flexibility and creativity in problem solving.  Play undoubtedly teaches the rules and signals of social communication, the kinds of teachings not transmitted with words.  In fact, play is all about transmitting meanings.  Play is also a de-stressor and removes what may be a major obstacle to learning.  (Judy Diamond, “Playing and Learning” Association of Science-Technology Centers’ (ASTC) About Learning: A Field Guide for Museums. http://www.astc.org/resource/education/learning_diamond.htm )

So how can this information be used?  They say museums should be a place of play, even a cultural-historical museum such as Tamástslikt.  We once held a day camp for the tribal recreation program.  We taught the kids how to make tule duck decoys.  The next thing you know, the tule ducks had been transformed into Kalashnikovs.   Each and every duck was confiscated by the counselors.  It only goes to show that the adults can try to direct play, but kids will deploy their skills to flexibly adapt.  Adaptability really is the goal of play.

Museum people have sometimes felt disappointed when youth gallop through the exhibits without stopping to pore over the text panels.  Do you remember how intensively you were involved in play?   –when you could not be distracted or diverted from what you were doing?  It’s that engrossed state of mind that is very conducive to learning.  Even if kids don’t read the text panels, if they are stimulated by what they are experiencing, cognitive machinery is turning. 

Of course some children never stop playing, and they are next door at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino. We’re still trying to lure them in this direction.

Posted in Tribal Museum | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


“There were once thirteen native language families in the region that is now Oregon: Alsea, Athabascan, Cayuse, Chinookan, Coosan, Kalapuyan, Klamath, Molala, Sahaptian, Salish, Siuslaw, Takelma, and Uto-Aztecan.  Today only Paiute, Klamath, Wasco, and Sahaptian survive in the spoken form. “–Noel Rude, preface, My Counting Book, Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, 2002

Have you taken in the Eastern Oregon Word Round-Up?  If you heard of Wordstock in Portland, this is its east-side sibling, happening right here on the Umatilla Indian Reservation today and tomorrow. 

Dr. Noel Rude brought half an index card with a few bullet points for his session, “Efforts to Create a Umatilla Language Dictionary.”  Oregon is quite unusual for its rich diversity of aboriginal languages whereas from southern Oregon to Mexico City, the language would have been Uto-Aztecan–just the way the world is becoming dominated by English. 

Dr. Rude asked, do you all enjoy grammar? to predictable moans and groans, even among an audience of writers and readers.  When he worked at a sawmill, Dr. Rude would leave work saying he was ready to curl up with a beer and a good Arabic grammar.  Linguists do enjoy grammar. 

Who invents grammar? he asked.  It’s children, the most brilliant systematizers.  Children have the urge to regularize speech.  That’s why a child would be prone to conjugate the word ‘go’ by saying, “Daddy go’d store.”   

The Sahaptin hunter-gatherers developed massive noun declensions and almost infinite verb systems.  Whereas English only has about four verb tenses in common usage because English adopted modifying auxiliaries.   Why should a society without a written language develop such a massive grammar?  This cannot be answered. 

Dr. Rude asked, do you all know what is the native language of this territory where we are sitting today?  The fact that we were sitting in Cayuse Hall was a hint.  The last known speaker of the Cayuse language passed away before WWII.  The Cayuse people knew themselves as ‘liksiyu’ and they later became known as “Weyíiletpuu”, a Nez Perce term.  Cayuse may have been a distant cousin of Sahaptin, but not enough remains of the language to determine its origin.  Dr. Rude wrote a paper suggesting that Cayuse could be related to Klamath.  The anthropologist Melville Jacobs came to Cayuse country and begged the last few remaining speakers to allow him to document the Cayuse language.  They refused for their own good reasons, so the language has not been documented beyond a vocabulary of about 300 words. 

Why can’t a language be revitalized if it has only a vocabulary?  Grammar is unconscious.  We may build up a huge vocabulary but the grammar is an underlying construct that exists in our subconscious.  If you don’t believe your knowledge of grammar is deep within your unconscious, then can you explain all the rules pertaining to the word ‘the.’  

Revitalization can lead to the creolization of a language, pidgin such as Chinook jargon, the trade language developed from several tongues.  Pidgin is the product when adults create grammar, he said.

An uproar arose when he asked the question, what is the most successfully revitalized language? Hebrew.  Immediately audience members began to clamor, “it’s not the same language”…  “They’re not speaking authentic Hebrew…”  “The Hebrew of the Bible is like Chaucer’s English to modern English.”  Just paraphrasing. People have strong feelings about language revitalization.   

Of all the Indian languages, Dr. Rude concluded Navajo may be the only viable Indian language.   At one time, Dr. Rude said, Navajo possessed a base of about 120,000 native speakers.

Dr. Rude’s late mother had a friend, a full-blood Cherokee who was also a fluent speaker.  When his mother died, her friend was there.  He asked her, “How is the language?  How is the revitalization coming along?” She said, “Fine.  It’s a massive attempt, but I can’t understand one word they are saying.”    

As a longtime university lecturer, Dr. Rude was quite spellbinding.  Yet after his session, I wondered, what about the dictionary?

Posted in Fresh Viewpoint | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Charles M. Russell

 “Old Ma Nature was kind to her red children and the old time cow puncher [referring to himself] was her adopted son”—CMR

 “The worst woman alive, in my opinion, is as good or better than the best man I know.”—CMR

“It’s the women that makes the men in this world.”—CMR

How could one not be endeared of the homespun character who spoke those quotes?  As warm and humorous as his sentiments, Charles Russell also reflected the godawfulness of his era.  No Indian would be shocked to learn that Charlie Russell was just a man.  He had good and bad sides, and he didn’t suppress either leaning.  Nothing is known about the women who were the subjects of Russell’s lesser-known erotic images.  After Russell married, it became his wife’s lifework to expunge all erotica produced before their marriage. 

Despite Charles Russell’s impressive body of sculpture and painting, he never considered himself a high-toned artist but called himself an illustrator.  Russell catered to an audience that no longer felt ‘genocidal hatred’ for the American Indian.  The tribes survived in such abject state, that citizens felt romantic nostalgia for what was believed to be the vanishing Indian race and culture. 

When Dr. Raphael Cristy portrayed Charles M. Russell at Tamástslikt, he cautioned that Russell was a product of his times, when it was simply normal to strike derogatory attitudes about Indians.  According to Cristy, Russell clearly aimed to create sympathetic portraits of Indian life.  Russell wanted to persuade his audience that Indians were human like themselves.  Believing in his influence, he said, “Betwine the pen and the brush there is little diffornce but I belive the man that makes word pictures is the greater.”

Like food and water, sex was an inexorable appetite of white men in the western territories of the 19th century.   Russell drew on the frontier experiences of his youth when he portrayed Indian females ranging from the dignified horsewomen of “Women of the Plains” to “Indian Maid at the Stockade” to further extremes. 

 “For all the credit Charlie has been given for his progressive sensitivity to Indians it must also be remembered that Indian pornography was one of his trademarks.  The only erotica of Charlie’s that survives today—Cowboy Bargaining for an Indian Girl, Joy of Life, and Anticipation/Exasperation are anatomically vivid paintings of cowboys procuring and mounting Indian women, “ wrote John Taliaferro in Charles M. Russell: The Life and Legend of America’s Cowboy Artist.  The Amon Carter Museum stores Joy of Life in its basement to protect the eyes of school tours.  When Joy of Life was exhibited at the Mint saloon in its heyday, viewers paid 10 cents to view the peepshow beneath the tipi flap. 

As a romantic, Russell mostly depicted Indians as they lived when the buffalo thrived, not after their way of life came crashing down.  According to Taliaferro, the state of the native economy in the great plains became dire.  “Impoverished and starving wives and daughters often were driven to selling their bodies to whites to stay alive,“  wrote Taliaferro.

None of the paintings cited above are in the current Tamástslikt exhibit.  Charles M. Russell:  Master of Western Art is purely family fare.  When booking exhibits, no one takes account of works absent from the exhibition.  Visitors view Russell’s works for the moments they represent.  We are able to look at the products of the artist’s journey rendered with such draftsmanship and authenticity, without taint. 

“Like all things that happen that’s worth while, it’s a long time ago”– Rawhide Rawlins, Charles Russell’s fictional narrator

Posted in Depictions of Indians | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Bryson Liberty at ‘Reservation Round-Ups’

It was an honor for Tamástslikt Cultural Institute and the Confederated Tribes that inveterate horse people stepped forward to share their experiences.  Some remarkable feats were described during ‘Reservation Round-Ups’ by those who experienced it:  Bryson Liberty, Alphonse Halfmoon, Antone and Douglas Minthorn, Bill Burke, Jesse Jones, and Etta Conner.  Thankfully, Dara Worden of the Tribes’ Cultural Resources Protection program recorded the event for posterity.    Here are a few particles of stories as recalled from Saturday, September 29.

Alphonse Halfmoon, Cayuse nonagenarian, talked about how he attained his Indian name because of what his elders did after all the horse doings were over.   The boys were shut in the corral and told to throw each other out.  Halfmoon was the ‘Last One Standing’.  Can you imagine what a feat it was.  Mr. Halfmoon maintained his record through his youth and truly befits his name. 

Bryson Liberty told about how they would ‘run the horses’ to get them to funnel into the corral without diverting, and the horses would circle in a big whirlpool pattern.  He named off the nicknames of the guys he knew, including ‘Poots’ whose horse galloped beneath a tree with Poots lying backward on his saddle to avoid the tree branches, then once beyond the tree he sat back up, still at a full gallop.  Pretty amazing horsemanship won the day. 

Bill Burke related how he, cousin Richard ‘Summer’ Burke, and Leonard  ‘Ma’uuts’ Cree missed the 4 a.m. convening because they stopped for breakfast.  By the time they got there, somebody else had done their job.  Willie Wocatsie summoned the boys to tell him what had happened.  He listened.  Then he drew out his quirt, and asked, ‘Who’s going to be first?’  Summer went first and took five licks of the quirt without crying.  Wocatsie said, ‘five wasn’t enough?  You need five more’.  Summer finally busted out crying.  At that moment, Bill resolved to start crying with the first lick.  This sparked lifelong promptness among the three.

As a young man, Douglas Minthorn witnessed some spectacular horse athletes including a black bucking horse that he claimed for his uncle Joe Thompson.  When he brought the horse to its owner, Joe said, “well, all the boys are gone now, so you can have him.”  Douglas sold the horse to a rodeo stock supplier for $200, then later saw cowboy Jim Shoulders win the Pendleton Round-Up championship on that horse. 

Jesse Jones shared that although he participated in the big McKay Creek doings, he felt he had missed the great horse round-ups of yesteryear.  He too saw some great horses.  He remembered how the former stallions would jump up and strut off to reclaim their harems, not knowing. 

Some panelists addressed how they thought the wild horse problem should be handled.  Mr. Halfmoon said, since these Tribes were known for their horses, they should remove all the cows off the reservation and pasture horses exclusively.  Antone Minthorn thought since the tribes were made horseless virtually overnight, the wild horses should be rehabbed and made into saddle horses for families that want them.  Douglas Minthorn weighed in stating since the government instituted range units, the horses are shutting other animals out of pasture; they should be disposed of, so families can collect their wheat and pasture income.  Bryson Liberty said he wrote a letter to the government, advising them to emulate the Tribes’ traditional practice of ‘tying off’ the stallions to reduce populations.  A few months later, he received a stock form letter as an acknowledgement.

‘Reservations  Round-Ups’ was wonderfully rich in stories.  The people that experienced those days are extraordinary.   They are a breed apart.  Their impromptu speaking skills kept the audience captive.  It makes us modern ones feel rather meager in personhood. 


Posted in Culture & Tradition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Inez Spino, Eliza Bill, Carrie Sampson

This photo is from the East Oregonian booklet, Cowboys and Indians, A Pictorial Potpourri of the Pendleton Round-Up, undated.  There is ‘Twaway’ Inez Spino, Eliza Bill, and Carrie Sampson, looking so elegant.  My Round-Up memories don’t go back very far.

My grandmother’s tipi was “at the point” with the door opening on the center of the village.  Aunts and uncles’ camps surrounded us.  Inside her kitchen tipi was an icebox, wood stove, cupboards and a table with seating for 10 or 12.  Tipis were way big in those days.  Sometimes random people would just walk in and marvel how homey it looked.  We made a beeline there in the morning because the fire was already going.  The smell of coffee was one of my earliest memories.

In those days, the Round-Up Association would deliver hay for Indians to line their tipis, but that practice ended before long.  On certain days, they gave out boiling meat, watermelon, loaves of white bread as provisions for the Indian village.  When we’d dress up and go out in the arena, we each collected a genuine silver dollar for the day’s effort.  Those dollars were burning up in our pockets and had to be disposed of fast.   There used to be a swimming pool just outside the Indian village.  We could actually rent swimsuits there. 

Out in the arena in those days, the 1960s, females did not mix with the men dancers.  Women assembled in an outer circle.  During the war dance, girls would take turns dancing war dance-style for a dozen steps or so, unless of course they were frozen with timidity.  It was traumatic to be waist-high and thus eye-level with the bare flanks of the old male dancers who weren’t wearing union suits under their regalia.  Then too, some dancers had drunk some bravery and were extra fierce. 

How we suffered for their drinking as we broke camp Sunday.  Preachers would come on the extra-loud p.a. system and exhort us to reform and change our lives.  Women would get on the mic and give testimony about their fallen lives that were now picked up.  It was torture and torment, especially the singing.  How we wished they spoke Latin like at our church.


Posted in Seasonal Sign | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


David Douglas portrayal

David Douglas, the Scottish botanist, traversed the Columbia River Plateau in 1825-1827.  He wrote about an encounter near the Celilo Falls or the “Great Falls” in June 1825, when his party was threatened by Indians.

“Just at this time a chief of the Kyeuuse tribe and three of his young men, who are the terror of all other tribes west of the mountains and great friends of the white people, as they call them, stepped in and settled the matter in a few words without any further trouble.  This very friendly Indian, who is the finest figure of a man that I have seen, standing nearly 6 feet 6 inches high, accompanied us a few miles up the river, where we camped for the night, after being remunerated by Mr. McLeod for his friendship—I being King George’s Chief or the Grass Man, as I am called.  I bored a hole in the only shilling I had, one which has been in my pocket since I left London, and, the septum of his nose being perforated, I suspended it to it with a brass wire.  This was to him the great seal of friendship.  After smoking, he returned to the Indian village and promised that he would not allow us to be molested.”  David Douglas, March 24, 1826, Journal.

This is similar to what the artist Paul Kane would eventually write about his encounter in 1847, “These Indians, the Kye-use, resemble the Walla-Wallas very much.  They are always allies in war, and their language and customs are almost identical, except that the Kye-use Indians are far more vicious and ungovernable.”  Paul Kane’s Great Nor-West.

It’s interesting to catch a glimpse of the ancestors through the eyes of itinerant scientists and artists of the period.  Their occupations should give them some credence for accuracy in observation.  They were firsthand witnesses, however transient they were.  Some contemporary scholars discount the likelihood that Cayuse Indians had much influence on neighboring Tribes. 

Douglas wrote about how Indians perceived him as well.  “My canoe-men and guides were much surprised to see me make an effervescent draught and drink it boiling, as they thought it.  They think there are good and bad spirits, and that I belong to the latter class, in consequence of drinking boiling water, lighting my tobacco pipe with my lens and the sun, and they call me Olla-piska, which in the Chenook tongue signifies fire.  But above all, to place a pair of spectacles on the nose is beyond all their comprehension; they immediately place the hand tight on the mouth, a gesture of dread or astonishment.”

Douglas writes offhandedly about killing a white-headed eagle and eating it for dinner.  He was always blasting animals out of the air, then finding them too damaged to preserve.  He was a big collector of species both flora and fauna.  He built quite a body of work categorizing all sorts of things.  He went through many privations just like the Indians, such as sore sand-blasted eyes, which he treated with drops of opium.  After leaving the Columbia River, he ended up in Hawaii where he died at the age of 35 a few years later.

Posted in Something Old | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment