Native American Heritage Day celebrates culture

Laila Ramirez
Staff Writer

If you’ve ever taken a trip to Central Oregon, chances are you have passed the Warm Springs Reservation off of Highway 26. This reservation is dedicated to the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute Native American Tribes in Oregon. 

The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon is one of nine reserved spaces for Native Americans federally recognized and protected by the state and nation in Oregon. Each reservation belongs to multiple tribes, so while there are only nine reservations, there are many tribes that belong to them.

While many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving on Nov. 25, the day after is also recognized as Native American Heritage Day.

Native American Heritage Day is on Nov. 26. It is a federally recognized and reserved holiday to honor the Native people of the country. The day is used to celebrate, acknowledge, and honor the traditions, cultures, heritages, sacrifices, and contributions the Native Americans have made.

The Warm Springs Tribes are composed of numerous tribes like the Paiutes, the Warm Springs which is made up of the Tyighs of the Upper Deschutes, Wyams of the Lower Deschutes, Dockspuses of the John Day river, the Wascoes of the Kigaltwalla, Dog River, and the Dalles bands. 

The reservation is located south of The Dalles in Jefferson and Wasco counties of north-central Oregon and was created in efforts to relocate the tribes to a much smaller piece of land for the settlement of eastern people. 

In exchange for 10 million acres, the natives received about 464,000 acres which was eventually increased to 644,000 acres in 1972. 

The tribal members of the bands have established their own set of fish and game and they have fisheries and fishing sites along many of their rivers for religious and business purposes. The tribe also maintains their own police force, fire department, early childhood centers, and a senior center for their people. 

Eleven members make up the council to establish rules and regulations, eight of these being elected representatives and three of these being chiefs of each of the three tribes in the confederation. 

The tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation have many traditions to this day. Some of these include a religious ceremony called washat, where feathers and drums are used at Sunday services, feasts, and funerals. In the beginning of May, the Tygh Valley All-Indian Rodeo and celebration is held and in late June, the Pi-Ume-Sha Treaty Days Powwow at Warm Springs includes competitive tribal dancing. 

Around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, gatherings and powwows are scheduled and celebrated. Oftentimes, rodeos are usually in sync with these celebrations. The natives also celebrate former President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday at Simnasho, a sacred abandoned home that remains on the land. 

While many of us celebrate Thanksgiving in November, it is important to remember and recognize the day following which celebrates the very people native to this land and their traditions and culture. So if you find yourself taking a trip and passing by Warm Springs, you can take a moment to honor their sacrifices and traditions while you celebrate your own.

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