1971: Root gatherers prepare for Warm Springs celebration
100 YEARS AGO
April 7, 1921
While lowering a huge new pump via the cable at Opal Springs last week, Earl Thompson and his crew foreman watched the cable break and saw the monster machine drop more than a hundred feet. It was a lucky happening that the pump landed in soft loose dirt and in burying itself did only a nominal amount of damage. When the pump is repaired and installed it will be used as an auxiliary and should make up for the shortage of water which at times existed last year.
75 years ago
April 4, 1946
Councils of Indians of the Warm Springs, Yakima, and Umatilla reservations, together with a remnant of mid-Columbia tribesmen affiliated with the Warm Springs council have drafted a congressional bill, which proposes the establishment of a new Indian reservation at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River, 11 miles east of The Dalles, was the word brought here by T. Leland Brown of The Dalles, attorney for the Warm Springs council, who was here last week to confer with Indian leaders at the Warm Springs agency.
The Indians, according to Brown, have just negotiated the purchase from Seufert Bros. Co., operators of a cannery at Big Eddy and fisheries along the river in the Celilo vicinity, of 34.5 acres, contiguous to a tract of about seven acres, held by them for many years, and the two tracts will be merged and utilized by the tribesmen, who annually visit Celilo falls by the hundreds to engage in fishing.
In addition to the two tracts named, it is proposed to include in the reservation 102 small islands, lying in the Columbia between Big Eddy and Celilo, and at present held by the Corps of Engineers, United States Army. While the Army engineers, Brown said, will retain easements for flowage rights over the islands, fishing rights, held by Indians of the various tribes, will be administered by the Department of Indian Affairs as an adjunct of reservation supervision.
Brown reported that a delegation of Yakima Indians, accompanied by their attorney, Kenneth R. L. Sumner of Billings, Mont., are now en-route to Washington, D.C., to contact congressional delegations of Oregon and Washington and submit their bill for introduction.
Commenting on the action of the Indian councils, which have arrived at the decision to seek the small reservation after conferences extending over several months, Brown observed that this procedure, originated and consummated by the Indians themselves, may bring about social and sanitary reforms at the Celilo Indian village, which white agitation, extending over a period of 40 years, had failed to attain. The concentration of Indian fishermen, during the fall run of salmon, and their families has often resulted in a temporary population, reaching close to more than 2,000, in a small area, unequipped with any housing other than shacks, and these with most primitive sanitary appurtenances.
These conditions have long been source of grave worry, it was declared by Brown, to the health authorities of The Dalles, the nearest large city. Health officials of the Indian reservations have also found that the annual fishing season has been followed by a heavy increase of infectious diseases. Policing of the concentrated Indian population during the fishing season was also a problem for the state authorities.
50 YEARS AGO
April 8, 1971
Warm Springs will celebrate one of its three annual religious ceremonies this Sunday. Preparations for the Root Feast, the first in the yearly trio of Root, Salmon, and Huckleberry ceremonies, were underway yesterday and today as a select group of Indian women gathered roots from different areas of the reservation. Between now and the time the ceremony takes place Sunday, the women will complete the long and tedious task of peeling and drying the roots.
One of the root-gatherers, Mrs. Verbena Greene, recently explained the importance of roots and the significance of the Root Feast to two groups of kindergarteners at the Warm Springs Grade School.
According to Mrs. Greene, the Root Feast is "A Thanksgiving in the language of the Indians."
"Long ago when there were no stores or supermarkets, the Indians had to dig lots and lots of roots to last all year long," she explained.
"When the first roots and flowers came out, the Indians gathered together, sang songs, and danced to show their thanks to the great creator."
Mrs. Greene assured her listeners that the Indians still eat the roots today. She discussed her samples of preserved salmon, venison, bitterroot, "look-ish," "koughsh," Indian potato ("wapiti)", Indian carrot, camus ("wakamo"), huckleberries ("wewonoe"), and chokecherries ("tum-sh").
The children appeared particularly intrigued by the various types and sizes of digging sticks or "capun" used for obtaining roots. Mrs. Greene showed them capun of hard wood, deer horn and iron, explaining that the shorter ones were for children.
Women accepted as root diggers are those who have proven their interest and ability to dig roots for the feast, Mrs. Greene indicated.
She demonstrated how she would tie her corn husk root bag to her side to collect the roots and to her back for the ceremonies of marching, singing, and praying, when the roots are taken to the Longhouse.
After these ceremonies, "It is time for preparing the roots. It takes a long time to peel the roots and it is a lot of hard work," she stated.
"When Sunday comes, the ladies get together to cook roots, putting in salmon to season them."
More ceremonies are observed at the time of serving. Several men carry in salmon and venison, the foods which traditionally men must obtain, and the women follow with different types of roots.
"There is a story for everything we have," Mrs. Greene stated, "… a story why the salmon is forest … it is the chief of all our foods. The bitterroot is the chief root."
Mrs. Greene indicated that she hoped her young listeners would be at the Root Feast. The meal which originally included only salmon, meat, berries, and roots, now also has other fruits and vegetables and baked goods. According to "Indian tradition from way back," the Indian women of the Longhouse serve the food to the tribal members and guests.
Following the feast, anyone may gather roots.
Visitors at the root feast are asked to remain at the end of the Longhouse furthest from the drums and avoid areas of ceremonial marching.
25 YEARS AGO
April 10, 1996
The Jefferson County Childhood Center, scheduled to be built over the next few years, recently received a $100,000 grant from the Oregon Rural Investment Fund.
The money will be used to bring infrastructure to the childhood center, which will be located on A Street, behind Bean Park. The Bean Foundation donated two acres of land for the project.
The county has also agreed to contribute $100,000 over two years to the childhood center.
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