Our blogger Dawn recently set out to complete the Oregon 150 Challenge. Follow her along as she explores Oregon and becomes an Official Oregonian!

Long before the settlers arrived in Oregon (even prior to when Spanish voyagers set foot along the Oregon coast), the area which is now known as Oregon has been home to many different Native American tribes for more than 10,000 years.

Each tribe has a unique perspective on their history on what is now Oregon, but to mark the 150th birthday of the state, I thought it would be important to commemorate the original Oregonians who first welcomed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to the area. It was because of the kindness of the Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla people that Lewis and Clark survived the harsh winter of 1805-06, and were able to make it to the Pacific Ocean to complete their exploration of what was to become Oregon. This was a pivotal moment in the history of both Native American and Western cultures, and continues to shape the state to this day.

Located on the Umatilla Reservation outside of Pendleton, Tamástslikt Cultural Institute is definitely NOT a museum filled with static exhibits. It is a facility that is a central celebration of the vibrant and very much alive culture of the Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla nations. The dynamic, interactive, and ever-changing displays provide insights inside pre-Western contact culture, how members of the tribes live today in the present, and what their hopes are for who they will be in the future.

As I walked through the Institute, I learned a lot about how the tribes in the area lived off of the land and continue to do so today as part of their heritage. What appeared to my eyes (just beyond the windows, out to the rolling hills of Eastern Oregon) to be a sterile, dry landscape is in fact a very giving and productive land to the Native Americans, and opened my mind to what it means to be sustainable. In fact, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla have led efforts in establishing salmon recovery efforts for the Columbia River and several of its tributaries in Eastern Oregon, ensuring the sustainability of future fish runs. The salmon, of course, is central to many Northwest people’s diets and culture, and through conservation efforts such as these, will be guaranteed to be around for future generations.

Tamástslikt also offers up an amazing art gallery with rotating Native artists which provides a showcase of the creative expression of local artists. From paintings to jewelry to multi-media art, Native culture is celebrated in various art forms, with exhibitions changing regularly. I’ve been to Tamástslikt a number of times, and at each visit, have found the art gallery to be one of the many highlights. Plan on spending at least an hour in this section alone!

Additionally, the Tamástslikt gift shop has many artistic items for sale, and can mean some great browsing. Many pieces are made by local craftspeople, and the staff behind the register know many as neighbors. You’ll also find the world-famous Pendleton blankets for sale, which are cherished gifts and still used for “give-aways” customary for tribal ceremonies. Limited edition Cayuse design blankets are sold only at the Museum Store at Tamástslikt, and can be a unique gift for someone special, or even for yourself.

The Tamástslikt Cultural Institute is just but one of several Native American cultural centers in the state. Remembering the contributions that the first Oregonians have made and continue to make is part of our Oregon 150 commemoration.

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