Yakama Nation Cultural Center

At the Yakama Nation Cultural Center they are currently having a special exhibit called Moccasin Trails. The exhibit encourages you to take time to really look at the designs on the moccasins displayed. Why do you think they chose that pattern? What pattern would you have chosen? The patterns are chosen with care-designs on moccasins, regalia and accessories can tell a story. I know I am very careful to choose the patterns on my moccasins and accessories. I want something that matches my different regalia outfits, is beautiful, and represents me.

Native American Tana Buckminster

One of my Native American regalia outfits.

One part of the Moccasin Trails exhibit is poetry. I really liked this poem by Chip Livingston.


The other foot By Chip Livingston.


She came to church straight from the stomp dance.

Wearing moccasins under her wedding dress.




And turtle shelled

She wore moccasins under her wedding dress.


Her soul caught its particular heart murmur

She wore moccasins under her wedding dress.


Rim shot

Rum shot

Northern drum

She wore moccasins under her wedding dress.


First time she left anyplace

She wore moccasins under her wedding dress.


Honeymoon romance   lost from home

Her moccasins stored with her wedding dress.


Skin scars toughened

Scars tanned strong


Her moccasins slept with her wedding dress


Restless waking

Tapping hum

Her moccasins slipped from her wedding dress


She smelled like sweet grass

moose hide


Mocs stomping cross her wedding dress.


Besides the moccasin exhibit is a part showing famous Native Americans. Black Hawk, Sacagawea, Cornplanter, Sequoyah, Cochise, Joseph, Wovoka, Red Cloud, Powhaten, Tecumseh and Massasoit. Two local Native Americans highlighted are Chief Tommy Thompson and Nipo Strongheart.

Chief Tommy Thompson, who was the Salmon chief of the Celilo Tribe, determined the length of the fishing seasons and decided when fishing should cease for the purpose of escapement or for ritual reasons such as drowning and funerals. He would blow an elk whistle announcing the fishing season. He would blow the whistle again if a fishermen fell in the river. No one could fish until the fisher was rescued or the body was retrieved. He was one of the last fishery chiefs.

Look for the painting Boy Falling from Scaffold by Larry George.

Nipo Tach-Num-Chtu-Tum-Nah Strongheart was born in White Swan, Washington on the Yakama reservation. During his youth he was in the Wild West Show by Buffalo Bill. He became an actor in the 1920’s and served as a cultural consultant.

There is a section talking about the boarding schools that ripped apart Native American families. Children, even small children, were taken away from their families. Children who tried to run away were sent to a school farther away. I hadn’t know about that fact. I knew some were forced to go to the schools, but I also thought it was by choice too. What would you have done if you were taken away and forced to learn a whole different culture? And not been allowed to talk in your native tongue? And hardly see your family? I think I would have tried to run away, but being far away from home and not knowing anybody who would help, maybe I would have ended up staying too.

Education was important to the Native Americans, but they taught their children the native ways. How to hunt and set traps, dig up roots, and appreciate the creation around them. There is a section about what creation can teach us. It talked about how the clouds taught that nobody is 100% good or bad. I personally don’t agree with that, but it did make me think of the scriptures in Matthew 5:43-45 from the Bible saying, “You heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Root gathering is an important food source for the Native Americans. Here was a teaching, With an eye to Winters needs; Spring saw us in the river valleys for celery. Summer took us to the foothills for roots; Fall brought us to the high mountains for the huckleberry. Winter in the shelter of the lowlands was made possible by these gatherings. Among the hills in this area is an abundance of sagebrush. I always thought that it was a useless brush that was just plain ugly. One thing I learned from the Yakama Nation Cultural Center is  that instead of being useless that sagebrush was actually used for many reasons. It was used to scent the air, relieve congestion, make tea, and used for skirts! Another plant that was useful was Rye Grass. It was used to pad floors and cushion beds but was also used to separate dried salmon to prevent spoiling. I liked this teaching, “Plants ask that we leave some for other creatures, that we remember the seasons to come, and the people to come. Plants our not ours to own, but to use and protect.”

art huckleberries christine buckminster

Grandma picking huckleberries by Christine Buckminster

After I left the Yakama Nation Cultural Center and headed back to The Dalles, I studied the surroundings around me. The hills were covered in balsam roots and I pictured life as I imagine it a hundred years ago. It would be interesting to know more of the secrets hidden in the land, and the knowledge that is now almost a lost art.



Hi! My name is Tana Buckminster and I am a travel writer for my travel blog, Road Trips With My Mom. I like to go on adventures, visit museums, and see new places. Come follow me on my adventures!

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