WSU Workshop Focuses on Native American Language and Culture Preservation

PULLMAN, Wash. – A three-day Washington State University planning workshop for a 2001 conference focused on Native American language and culture preservation is underway in Pullman.

Starting Monday evening, Oct. 2, it continues today and tomorrow, Oct. 3-4. Representatives of eight Plateau tribes, with whom WSU has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, are meeting to plan for the conference, “Language and Culture Roundtable 2001,” to be coordinated by WSU on yet to be determined dates next year.

Tribes represented in the workshop include the Yakama Nation and the Colville Confederated Tribes; Kootenai, Coeur d’Alene, and Nez Perce tribes; the Confederated Tribes of the Salish and Kootenai of the Flathead Reservation; the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.

Tribal attendees represent education and language/culture programs for their respective tribes, said Barbara Aston, WSU assistant to the provost for Native American affairs. She is a member of the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma.

“Coordinating this workshop is one service WSU provides as part of its commitment to the tribes to increase educational opportunities for Native Americans. This event provides a forum for tribal representatives to discuss language preservation and enhancement goals and to plan for the roundtable,” she said.

During the workshop, tribal representatives will meet with educational representatives from WSU, University of Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College, North Idaho College, Heritage College, and the Cheney Cowles Museum Center for Plateau Cultural Studies to identify resources and expertise available through their institutions and departments.

At WSU, as part of an orientation to resources and services at WSU, they will visit its Museum of Anthropology. In the Kemble Stout Music Listening Library, in the School of Music and Theatre Arts, they will listen to music from the Nez Perce Archive collection. In the Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections, located in Holland Library, they will view photographs, books, papers and documents in the collection from L.V. McWhorter. Born in 1860, McWhorter spent more than three decades preserving Nez Perce history before his death in 1944.

In 1997 and 1998, WSU officials signed a memorandums of understanding with tribal leaders. According to the memorandums, WSU “recognizes and affirms for itself established federal policies under which Native American tribal governments are treated as distinct legal and political entities, with their own powers of self-governance and self-determination…and wish to create with the Signatory Tribes a structure to strengthen the relationships between them, and to improve the quality of educational services and opportunities provided.”

In 1994, the Washington Legislature approved a bill requested by WSU making members of certain tribes — including those in Oregon, Montana and Idaho — whose original lands included the state, Washington residents for tuition purposes.