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Treaty of 1855 remembered; Original document on display

Original document on display

PENDLETON, Ore. - "In 1855, when our people gathered in the Walla Walla
Valley, it was their intent and purpose to preserve a way of life when they
made their mark on this treaty, this piece of paper. They had me and you in
their minds and in their hearts," said Armand Minthorn, Cayuse, a member of
the board of trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla
Reservation (CTUIR).

A portion of the original pages of that historic document was unveiled at
an exhibit at the Tamastslikt Cultural Center on May 20 in commemoration of
the 150th anniversary of the signing of that treaty. These pages, on loan
from the National Archives and Records Administration, will remain part of
the exhibit on display through Dec. 31. (Visitors may find it difficult to
read the original pages, so enlarged copies are also displayed to allow
reading of the treaty as it was written.) The names and marks of the 36
members of the Cayuse, Walla Walla and Umatilla tribes who signed the
treaty show clearly.

Eight original sketches of prominent tribal negotiators, drawn in 1855 by
Gustav Sohon, a young artist with the American treaty party, are also on
display. Bobbi Conner, Tamastslikt director, commented: "They are
remarkable drawings. They show the distinction. They show the dignity. They
show the wisdom and they show the good-looking men we had at the treaty
council."

"They had the foresight; and today we need to have that same foresight to
look ahead, to plan ahead for the future generations that will be coming
when we're gone. We need to protect this land that we're living on. We all
have a responsibility to our children, our grandchildren, and to the ones
that are still coming," Minthorn remarked.

Negotiations began on May 28, 1855 and concluded with the signing on June
9. Isaac I. Stevens, governor and superintendent of Indian affairs for the
territory of Washington state, initially insisted that these three tribes
join either the Yakama or Nez Perce on their reservations, but that idea
was rejected.

Those tribes signed separate treaties. The result was the turning over of
31 million acres of land - including 6.4 million acres from the CTUIR - to
the U.S. government in three separate treaties. The tribes reserved
permanent homelands for themselves and future generations, plus rights that
would help preserve their culture and way of life: rights still practiced
today.

Some of those original signers later died violent deaths when the rights
and legal protection promised them were denied and overturned.

Visitors will pass through the impressive displays of the museum's
permanent exhibits where the treaty papers are displayed before exiting the
building into the cultural village behind.

Three time phases are covered. Phase I shows an early pit house in use from
2,500 to about 1,000 years ago. A later pit house design used from about
600 to 200 years ago with more aboveground structures represents Phase II.
The final phase is the transition time when horses first arrived and tule
reed long-houses were used.

A lodge measuring 60 feet by 16 feet and standing 19 feet high has been
erected and interpreters will be present to demonstrate such activities as
hide tanning, cooking, mat weaving, drying salmon, and the like.

HONORING PROCESSION AND FRIENDSHIP FEAST

It was on May 28, 1855 that sovereign tribal nations met in council with
the U.S. government in Walla Walla Valley to work out details of treaties.
Three reservations were created at that time: the Umatilla, Yakama and Nez
Perce. The treaties enabled the government to open the region for
settlement by emigrants while also reserving rights for future generations
of tribal members to preserve their culture and lifestyle.

On May 28, 2005 - exactly 150 years later - members from those three
reservations again met, this time in a ceremonial honoring procession to
honor the tribal treaty negotiators followed by a friendship feast.

Mounted riders entered the Veterans Administrative Grounds in Walla Walla,
circling the assembled throngs which included both tribal members and
non-Indians. Three circuits around the grounds were made on horseback while
elders were provided a ride on board a flatbed trailer. The eagle staff and
color guards then led the procession to the central area where a podium
faced the crowds under huge tents and the surrounding area.

The names of the 36 men who signed the treaty were read and honored by
Armand Minthorn, who remarked: "It's for us to have a memory of what they
did and what they fought for. It's with these names that we keep in our
family life and it's with these names that our past is a part of our
everyday life."

Three Washat songs were sung for the tribes that signed the treaties: the
Yakama, the Nez Perce and the Umatilla. Minthorn commented, "These are
songs that were sung at that time and today we're still singing these
songs." He asked that everyone open up their hearts with prayer.

The tribes had listed four major goals for the 1855 Treaty Sesquicentennial
which included honoring the ancestors who negotiated the treaties, teaching
youth the significance of the treaties, educating the public about the
treaties and how tribes are rebuilding their nations, and using that
opportunity to strengthen relationships and plan for the future.