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2001 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Celebration Speeches

Bobbi Conner - Tamastslikt Institute (nominator of Phillip Cash Cash)

When good people come together and they mean well, and they work hard, and they're willing to agree to arrive at the best solutions, remarkable things can happen. We hope that this is the beginning of just such a collaboration and we want to thank Liz Woody for helping make our relationship with our new friend Ecotrust possible.

Another person who traveled here to be with us is Dr. Noel Rude, a linguist who has a relationship with Phillip Cash Cash. And we were talking a little about tonight's event and it reminded me of something important in our history. Our Cayuse people were remarkable in their ability to make a quest for knowledge, a quest for information and goods, a pilgrimage, two sometimes three years out, to bring back things that would be important to our people in the future.

That quest for knowledge continues in a newer form today. That quest now takes us far from home, to get degrees. Those degrees serve us in many ways: in biology, in planning, in education and social services. There are a rare few who go a little off the beaten path into less-traveled disciplines that are much more difficult than many of us have been able to travel. What's remarkable about this is that two generations ago, our people had to get passes to leave the reservation. Two generations ago, one superintendent at an Indian boarding school could tell a superintendent at an Indian reservation to keep that student at home as a family man, or as worker or a laborer on a farm, that education was not appropriate. We've come a long way.

And today we are so pleased to nominate to this process, this new process of recognizing Indigenous leadership, one of our own, who brings us the opportunity that represents hope to synthesize traditional teachings with academic structure and analysis and the resources created by scholars and elders before us, to do something me might not have thought possible. The Confederated Tribes of Umatilla is smaller than you might imagine, about 2200 members. The entire Sahaptin-speaking language family is 15,000 or fewer. Most linguistic anthropologists would tell you that the odds against our reviving our languages are pretty insurmountable.

That's frightening. But we have hope. And that hope is embodied in the work that our nominee is undertaking. If you think of the size of that population, one in 15,000 people is not likely to be scholar. For us to have a bona fide scholar in anthropological linguistics out of our tribe is pretty spectacular.

To understand how important this hope is, perhaps the context, the fabric of Oregon can tell you how dangerously close we are to loss. There were twenty-two languages, not dialects, languages of our people when the Oregon Trail came this way. There are five. We hope that the work that you have chosen to support by your investment in Phillip will help make hope for other Indigenous populations as well as our own. And I'd like to just describe to you why it was so important for us to nominate Phillip Cash Cash.

It is not the kind of work that frequently gets recognized. To do the work that he is doing with Elders, from an academic setting that is remote, a great distance from our home, he has to maintain his creditability by working without fanfare. He cannot do it for glory or public attention. It cannot be for the purpose of commercial gain. It cannot be self-serving. And the languages of our people belong to the people. When you're working with communal property, that's a fragile balance in which to work. It's very special to be able to navigate this terrain. And we are very delighted that you have chosen to see Phillip Cash Cash in the light in which we see him, as hope. Thank you.

Peter Buffett

I certainly feel like have the easiest job here. It's incredible how much work Elizabeth did, and all of her supporters. And how much work the five finalists do every single day. It's very humbling. I come here with a lot of respect. And I honor that work.

My brother and I feel, like I know everyone here does, that if we want to achieve balance on the Earth, you have to listen to it. And we've also found in our travels and places that our lives have taken us that Indigenous peoples have a tendency to have the ears and the eyes, and more importantly, like the salmon and the bear and the forest, the soul of the land. And the only way to impart that to the rest of us is through communication. And so, it's appropriate that Phillip gets this award for his work with languages that are nearly lost. It's very important. And I want to leave the rest to you, but this is my simple gift for an incredible life of work behind you and, more importantly, ahead of you.

Phillip Cash Cash

I am here to celebrate the survival and continuity of our indigenous culture, in particular, I celebrate the indigenous languages of this land.

Chíi ichíiskin tanantimtkí Tíicham, kíi numipúutimtkí Wéetes. Thus, in our language, we the Columbia River peoples name this earth tíicham in Sahaptin speech and wéetes in Nez Perce speech.

As we enter the new millennium, we the first peoples of this land are concerned with the continued interdependence of land and peoples.

This is because, throughout time, the strength of our interactions inform us that the land is the ultimate source for all life and world continuity. To us as the first peoples of this land, this very ground is the source of our origins, our myths, our language, our identity and our human well-being.

The diversity of the world's indigenous languages is vital to our human destiny. The facts concerning the current condition and state of the languages of this land have been studied and documented and the common finding is that our languages will soon disappear.

Today, I will not reiterate these bleak conditions to you rather I am here as a witness to reaffirm the beauty and power of language to transform our lives on a daily basis.

In particular, I want to convey an important but little known fact about the languages from my own homeland and how it informs our own existence.

Our human language is a critical resource for conveying our fundamental human experiences. It has the potential for expanding the horizons of our human awareness and it enables our coming into being as humans. The structure of language reflects the particular facets of our human existence. Our naming the land and naming ourselves are an important source for storing and exchanging information about our place in the world.

I paraphrase the words of Okanagan activist Jeannette Armstrong, "The language spoken by the land, as interpreted into our indigenous languages, imparts to us its ongoing reality. The land as language surrounds us completely and is constantly coming into being with the forces of life. Within this vast speaking, we are inextricably linked and are given voice."

Closing Speeches

Agnes Pilgrim

I feel very honored to be able be here among such wonderful people, to have people like this going before us, to stop the spiritual blindness. It's making a better world for all of us. A healthier place for those animals and beings out there that cannot speak, these are the voice. And it's wonderful here to be able to see that more and more, people are stepping forth and doing a better job for our Mother Earth. You people here tonight are part of that healing. And it's wonderful to my heart to know that people from all walks of life are taking an interest in the environment out there, in the water and the air. To those critters and beings that cannot speak, we are the voice. May your leave here and be the voice for the voiceless. May your leave here and try to stop the spiritual blindness.

Susan Burdick

I'd just like to say thank you to everyone that's put this together. And especially to Elizabeth. She did a great job. She called and she emailed me. It made me feel like we were really wanted here. And it was really important to have those calls. And I'd like to take and thank her. I'd also like to take and thank the committee that did the selection. And I think that the award that went to Phil Cash Cash is a very deserving award. I think the language of all of our people, if we can save that, this is a very big step. And I'm very honored to be here tonight on his award ceremony.

I'd also like to say: we're losing a lot of our medicinal plants throughout the United States. A lot of the problem is the chemicals that are put on our Earth and over-gathering. If any one of you here can do anything about trying to stop the chemicals that are put into our forests today, please take the time to write letters or do what you can possibly do. Thank you.

Dennis Martinez

I just want to say thank you very much. Thank you to Ecotrust.

Hilistis Pauline Waterfall

It is an honor to be here. I want to thank all of those who have made this possible, including my dear friend Ian. I am seven hundred miles away from home, but I feel very welcomed here. It feels like I am with family. My grandmother taught me that I am a human being first and Heiltsuk second. And that I have a responsibility to do what I can to enhance our sense of oneness as a human family. She said that we are at a brink of losing balance and our connection to our Mother Earth. And that we have the responsibility to strengthen and heal ourselves. She also said that as a broken family that we come from, that we can get the healing where the spirits have not been disrupted, and that's in sacred places. And I want to thank the Buffett brothers and the family. I want to thank Ecotrust. I want to thank Ian for the work that you did in assisting my people to regain the ownership of our traditional lands. Archaeological evidence places us there 12,500 years ago. Throughout time we have been displaced, and with your help and your support, we are finding our home again. Thank you.

Dave Hatch

It was about a year ago in another building just over here a little ways. I came in and met with Ecotrust and met with Spencer. And told him about what we wanted to do. And right at that first meeting I asked him if he wanted to adopt us. And he said yes. And I sure appreciated that. Because of the help of Ecotrust, our Elakha Alliance, a group of people dedicated to bringing the sea otter back to Oregon, has made tremendous progress. I really appreciate that and I really, truly feel like I'm part of your family. Thank you.


2001 Honorees

Phillip Cash Cash

Susan Burdick

David Hatch

Dennis Martinez

Hilistis Pauline Waterfall

Excerpts from celebration speeches


Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
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Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


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