Tamástslikt Cultural Institute’s living culture village opens May 28 and remains open through September 5. Admission to the village is included with museum admission. Naamí Níshaycht, our village, brings alive the culture of the people now known as Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla. Village interpreters will carry out seasonal cultural activities much as their ancestors did. Their lifeways sustain the people—not mere bodily sustenance, but activities that connect the person with his or her identity and that of the group–the culture.
The dwellings of Naamí Níshaycht reflect the changing world as experienced by the people who believe they have always inhabited this land. Two prehistoric pithouse forms, wɨlchí, contrast with the tule lodge and tipis. The earth-covered pithouses evoke the people’s link with the earth, tiichám. Tiichám encompasses the world, the territory or country. It relates to the cave, the cache, the earthen oven, the healing mudbath. The pool in Naamí Níshaycht stands for the importance of water. Water, chúush, is the elemental medicine or tawtnúk, always precious and never taken for granted.
The centerpiece is the tule mat lodge, kw’áalk níit, long house. Until the early 20th century, such a lodge was the optimal house for a society on the move. Its symmetry reflected the orderliness of the natural world. The tule lodge stood for Náymu or kinship that bound people together.
The tule reed or tk’ú was said to accompany a person throughout life. One might be born in a tule lodge on a tule mattress, eat meals off tule, and sleep on tule. Then departing this life, a person was wrapped in a mat, q’ɨχlí. As wetlands decline, this versatile cultural resource is less plentiful.
The canvas tipis are the most modern addition to Naamí Níshaycht. The tipi was adopted in the 18th century when the Tribes took up buffalo-hunting to the east. Always open to innovation, they admired the streamlined traveling house, the tipi. Its adoption was characteristic of a people who strive, adapt and move forward.
Visitors to Naamí Níshaycht are surrounded by vistas and the biggest sky, except of course for the skeleton of Wildhorse’s new 10-story hotel addition. Wide open spaces remain because of the Tribes’ land use planning. It was several generations before the Tribes could assert sovereignty over their own reservation homeland. Then the Tribes became foremost in planning to control development of reservation lands. Planning helped assure the balance between natural resource protection and economic development. The teaching, to live in balance with the land, is not a cliché to modern Tribes. It was the hope of Tribal elders to perpetuate such teachings in the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute.