HONORING TRIBAL HISTORY:
A Partnership Between the Roslyn Downtown Association and Yakama Nation
In 2020, we at the Roslyn Downtown Association decided to take action to honor the Tribal history and stewardship of our town and the surrounding areas.
Roslyn is located within the ancestral lands of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, who have cared for the area’s mountains, lands, and waters since time immemorial. To honor this history, the RDA approached the Yakama Nation Cultural Resources Program and proposed to educate Roslyn community members and visitors about the Yakama Nation’s historic and continuing connection to the region’s lands, waters, and resources. The Yakama Nation representatives with whom we met were receptive, and together we embarked on a new partnership.
Under the partnership agreement we created with the Yakama Nation in November 2020, during Native American Heritage Month, we at the Roslyn Downtown Association will work with Yakama Nation staff to develop educational materials, public displays, and experiential learning opportunities, which will be located throughout the local area. Materials will feature the Yakama Nation’s history, culture, and continuing land and resource stewardship efforts in the Roslyn and Upper County areas.
Here at the RDA, we’re thrilled about this partnership’s possibilities for continued public education. After all, the Yakama Nation’s work to protect and restore natural and cultural resources throughout their ancestral lands has made Roslyn the place that we all love and enjoy today. According to Jerry Meninick, the Yakama Nation’s Deputy Director of Cultural Resources, the Tribe is equally excited about the partnership: “The Yakama Nation looks forward to working with the RDA to help people understand and appreciate our culture, values, and ongoing efforts to protect our way of life. We are taught that when you travel from place to place throughout our lands, it is a custom to seek an understanding of those Tribal members who were born and lived before us.”
Roslyn is located within the Yakama Nation’s historic Treaty Territory, which extends throughout the greater Columbia River Basin area in eastern Washington. “There is a great history of Tribal stewardship that spans thousands of years and continues to this day. We all benefit from it, but many are not aware,” notes Noah Oliver, the Yakama Nation Cultural Geographer and Geoarchaeologist, one of the staff members who helped the RDA bring this partnership to life.
One project is the Creators Law Sculpture, to convey the Yakama Nation’s belief that our minds, bodies, and souls are affected by the life-sustaining gifts of earth, water, air, and natural and cultural resources—with design interpretation by the Yakama Nation Chairman Gerald Lewis, Tribal Councilmember Terry Heemsah, and other Tribal members.
Noah Oliver shared that the land (the earth, our mother), water (the giver of life), air (our sacred breath), and all-natural and cultural resources are gifts from the Creator. They allow us to live well on the land and in our hearts. They are the resources that sustain our lives. We are obligated to be the protectors of these resources in practice outlined by the Creator. While this practice has been part of our lives for thousands of years, many of these resources, now more than ever, have become threatened.
As former Yakama Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin observes, “This work will help us bring our communities together and move forward in a good way for the benefit of future generations.” We look forward to sharing more stories and projects from the RDA’s partnership with the Yakama Nation in months and years to come!