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Chapter 12 The Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Putting Tribes Back on the Map Roberta Conner passed above our camp a small river called Youmalalam riv. . . . we continued our march accompanied by Yellept and his party to the village. . . . This chief is a man of much influence not only in his own nation but also among the neighbouring tribes and nations. This village consists of 15 large mat lodges. . . . Yellept haranged his village in our favour intreated them to furnish us with fuel and provision and set the example himself by bringing us an armful of wood and a platter of 3 roasted mullets . The others soon followed his example with rispect to fuel and we soon found ourselves in possession of an ample stock. . . . the Indians informed us that there was a good road which passed from the Columbia opposite to this village to the entrance of the Kooskooske on the S. side of Lewis’s river; they also informed us, that there were a plenty of deer and Antelopes on the road, with good water and grass. We knew that a road in that direction if the country would permit would shorten our rout at least 80 miles. The Indians also informed us that the country was level and the road good, under these circumstances we did not hesitate in pursuing the rout recommended by our guide whos information was corrobertated by Yellept & others. Captain M. Lewis, 27 April 1806 some time after we had encamped three young men arived from the Wallahwollah village bringing with them a steel trap beIonging to one of our party which had been neglegentIy left behind; this is an act of integrity rarely witnessed among indians. during our stay with them they several times found knives of the men which had been carelesslv lossed by them and returned them. I think we can justly affirm to the honor of these people that they are the most hospitable, honest, and sincere people that we have met with in our voyage. Captain Lewis, 1 May 1806 The descendants of the people described in these journal entries still live in much the same area as when the expedition traversed their homeland in 1805 and again in 1806.1 The Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Cayuse tribes, as they are now known, make up the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation just east of Pendleton, Oregon. The population of the confederacy is about 2,200 enrolled members. About two-thirds of the 265 tribal membership plus about 1,000 Indians from other tribes and 1,700 non-Indians reside within the present-day reservation. Relative tribes include , among others, the Warm Springs, Wanapum, Palouse, Yakama, and Nez Perce. The Umatilla and Walla Walla dialects of the Sahaptin language were very different from the Cayuse language isolate. Now that the Cayuse language is extinct, save about 350 documented words, most Cayuse descendents who speak a native language speak lower or upper Nez Perce. The few persons who speak Walla Walla as a first language are all elders. Those who speak Umatilla as a first language are a handful of adults and the rest elders. Like the cultures, the landscape and all the species that inhabit the Blue Mountains and Columbia River Plateau have undergone many dramatic changes in the past two hundred years. More than fifty modern tribal governments representing over a hundred tribes will decide in the next eighteen months whether they will observe and participate in the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. Some tribal leaders met with delegates of federal agencies to begin discussing their plans in the spring of 1999. Then, and in every subsequent meeting, the following themes emerge consistently. For us, this is not a celebration. It is an observance or commemoration. We want both sides of the story told—the army expedition’s and our own—and we want to tell our own story. We want to protect resources on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, including burial sites. We want to help create economic opportunities for our people. We want the nation to realize and recognize tribal contributions to this great country including aid given the Corps of Discovery. We want the U.S. government to do what it has promised. And, above all, we want to protect the gifts the Creator gave us. Why should I want to know Native peoples’ perspectives on the Lewis and Clark bicentennial? There are some easy, glib answers. Because people like colorful, intimate...


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