Since Time Immemorial
Archeologists say that my people have been here for at least 10,000 years. We say we’ve been here since time immemorial.
My parents, grandparents, and parents before them, all believed that the Creator put us on this earth, in this place, and in this form.
And what do I think? Well, I have to say it certainly is possible. Maybe we have been here since time immemorial. And about our role as protectors of the environment? Yes, I’d have to say that without a doubt that’s true.
Are They Scholars or Thieves?
Archeologists and anthropologists, while well-intentioned in their quest to uncover the age and meaning of things, have often been looked upon by Indian people as grave diggers and cultural thieves.
It's understandable. Native people have seen the graves of their ancestors dug up and skeletons removed to museums. They've had their belongings stolen from them and these, too, have a nasty habit of turning up in museums. And, if that's not enough, scholars who are looking to make a name for themselves, have too often come up with interpretations about Indian people, their lifeways and their arts, that are far different from Indian views on these same issues.
I realize the importance of research, and I certainly use books and pictures of artificts to learn about my own people and their art. But I also remember as a young women, the bones of my great grandmother being returned home from the Smithsonian, along with the remains of about 120 other Indian people ... and with hundreds of artifacts that had been stolen.
We buried all of the people and the artifacts in a mass grave just outside the village of Wishxam, which is where the people had lived. We had to make a giant tomb out of concrete, and we had to put rebar all around it so that the grave robbers couldn't break in and steal them again.
My people are Warm Springs, Wasco (Watalas) and Yakama (Wishxam) — the River People ... Native peoples who lived and traded along the Big River, known today as the Columbia. They have always believed, and still believe, that we have been bestowed with a sacred trust to protect the land, the fish, and the animals that share this land with us, and who offer us their lives so that we can live ours.