by Brian Zylstra | April 25th, 2012
(Photo courtesy of Benjamin Helle, Washington State Archives)
They marched up the marble steps in the Capitol Rotunda, rhythmically pounding their drums and chanting a tribal song. As the last of the drumming echoed inside the cavernous Capitol dome, the Chehalis Canoe Family provided a rivetingly perfect welcome to guests and visitors during Tuesday’s launch of a powerful exhibit about Washington’s Native American tribes.
The free and privately funded exhibit is called “We’re Still Here. The Survival of Washington Indians.” It was created by the Washington State Heritage Center, a part of the Office of Secretary of State.
Northwest Indian News also covered the exhibit opening and will air it later.
More than 100 people attended the exhibit launch, including many members of tribes from across the state.
Secretary Reed served as master of ceremonies. Speakers included Gov. Chris Gregoire, state Rep. John McCoy (a Tulalip tribe member), Nisqually Tribe Vice-Chair Willie Frank III (speaking on behalf of his father, Billy Frank Jr., who had to be in Washington, D.C.), Yakama National Tribal Chairman Harry Smiskin, and Mel Tonasket, former chair of the Colville Confederated Tribes.
The Chief Leschi School Drum and Dance Group performed two songs, and both the Chief Leschi and Chehalis Canoe Family performers then led the gathering downstairs into the Office of Secretary of State to view the new exhibit in the front lobby.
The exhibit features 12 panels and several artifacts, acknowledging the early and continuing story of Native Americans in four major themes: the struggle over land, the conflict over Native identity, the battle for treaty fishing rights, and the cultural revival of Indian customs and language in the world today. The exhibit will be on display until next April.