HANFORD REACH > Oral Histories

This is one very powerful place, because of the fact that it’s next to the Columbia River.

We still carry on our winter dances, they call them medicine dances, vision quest dances. There are a lot of things that go on; the “interpretations” of our people: the ways that this land can be “called,” the ways it can be interpreted through the winds, through the weather, through the water… They’re still real; they’re still who we are. And as long as we continue to remember that, and recognize that, and practice it, we’re going to have it. Some people say it's all gone. But it's not gone. Our elders say it's never gone. You have to wake it up, is what you have to do; it's just asleep...

Hanford: when we go back and look at it, our people were not at war with the United States... So they had no obligation to “enter into” anything... They felt that they were put here: that this was theirs. And it still is.

Yeah, you’ve got all these laws... But hey: even if somebody else might call it theirs, it's still ours. It was given to us. We believe that; we know that. Until I die, until maybe the belief dies, and everything else dies... But as long as I'm living: I tell you that this place has to be the kept the way it is. Because it's taking care of us, not just me, but everybody…

It’s not just a place. It’s bigger than just a place. It’s something that lives. It looks desolate, but it's not desolate. It has everything.

And there's a lot of sites out there, called legendary sites, monumental sites, religious sites; all along, they’re in there. They’re in rock formations, and different formations… They’re all tied together.

There are sites out there that are important to us. But because they haven't been recorded, and whatnot, they don't fall under the regulations. So we’re having to disclose some of that information, to provide for them... That's been kind of hard for us, but at the same time, I think it's important.

There are some, especially the ones next to the river, that we’re going to have to fence off, because they’re accessible; they’re open, to some degree. We’ll have to protect them; that's what we're going to have to do. There are others that are not known. They won’t be disturbed, and they’ll only be looked at as “High Sensitive Sites,” for our people... We’re having to recognize that there's a lot of things that have changed, that are different, because of what happened out there.

Now White Bluffs: White Bluffs is a very sacred piece of who we are as people. It interprets our life... You know, I could talk about White Bluffs, but I can't disclose it to you. I can tell you that much: tell you that it’s very sacred. And it interprets, to us, that piece. And it’s still in our teachings today. The place, and the words. They’re sacred words… You can only say those words once a year.

This is what I can tell you about my grandfather [Johnny Buck]: The man could not speak English; the man could not read or write; the man had to make an X as his signature. Those are the times in which he lived.

His vision wasn't for what was happening to him; he knew that he couldn’t fight it. But his vision was for his people. Not only the people that were living in his time, but the people from the past that had taught him all of these things... shown him all of these things. And then he knew that he would have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and other relatives... He knew all of that, I think.

So he didn't really understand what it meant, a paper that says: “this is mine,” you know. There was no, “Oh you can’t go there, unless you go through the fence, go through their property.” He didn’t understand that.

Being an un-federally-recognized tribe, by our choosing: our people said:
“What does it mean to be recognized by the federal government?”
“Well, it means you’re on their list.”
“Well why do I got to be on their list? What’s it do?”
“Well, you can get a benefit, here…”
“Well, that means in time he’ll own my land, for those benefits? I don’t like that...”

Being an un-federally-recognized tribe today by our choosing: there is un-brokenness, here. A lot of the tribes were moved to reservations from their original homelands. Wanapum lived here… Wanapum are still living here. We didn't go to the reservation; we didn't accept those things. We stayed right here, and said, “It's my land. Because I’m taking care of it.”

This is unbroken here; fifteen thousand years, now...