Heritage University Class of 2024 Commencement


Heritage University to hold Class of 2024 Commencement at
Yakima Valley SunDome

Yakima, Wash. – Heritage University celebrates the Class of 2024 at Commencement on Saturday, May 11, at 10:00 a.m. at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Undergraduate and graduate degrees will be conferred upon students graduating from the Heritage Toppenish campus and the Tri-Cities regional site. Overall, 197 students earned their degrees at Heritage this year.

Jim Pigott of Seattle, Wash., philanthropist, and generous benefactor of Heritage University will present this year’s commencement address. Pigott and his wife, Gaye, are long-time supporters of Heritage and its students. Among their many initiatives are the creation of the Gay and Jim Pigott Nursing Endowment at Heritage and Seattle Children’s Hospital made through a $4 million gift in 2023 and the establishment of the Moccasin Lake Foundation Scholarship. Additionally, they have funded numerous campus projects, including the construction of the Gaye and Jim Pigott Commons which is home to the university’s café, conference rooms, and student lounge and is an integral part of the daily operations at the institution. The number of lives impacted by the Pigotts’ philanthropy is immeasurable. Throughout their lifetimes, they’ve supported countless organizations through their charitable giving and volunteer services throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

It is also with profound honor and remembrance that Heritage University announces the posthumous awarding of an honorary doctoral degree to Professor Emeritus of Education Edwin “Ed” Rousculp, who passed away in January. Rousculp’s tenure at Heritage began in 1983 when he started teaching English in the evenings as an adjunct instructor while still teaching at the Yakama Nation Tribal School. After leaving to pursue his graduate studies at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., he returned to Heritage in 1993. as a full-time faculty member in the College of Education. That same year he was appointed Chair of the Teacher Education Program. He served in that role until 2005 when he became the Director of the Center for Intercultural Learning and Teaching, where he remained until his retirement in 2022.

Heritage University will present the 2024 Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Alumnus Award to Jennifer Johann for her dedication to helping lift the field of education and the educational outcomes for all children in her community. Johann earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education in 2004 and an M.Ed. in professional development in 2007 from Heritage. Johann has spent 19 years teaching in the Mount Adams School District and currently teaches third grade at Harrah Elementary School. Throughout her career, she’s built a rapport with her students that cemented her reputation as a teacher who truly cares. Outside the classroom, she assists other Harrah Elementary students through her work as a 21st-century supervisor for the NCAC-Farmworkers Clinic after-school program. As an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation, Johann brings her cultural insights to her work, promoting inclusivity and diversity within the school and the broader community. Among her many efforts, she created the Since Time Immemorial website for her district, which provides teacher and school resources that incorporate indigenous perspectives into education.

Heritage will also announce the recipients of the Board of Directors Academic Excellence Award, which is presented to all undergraduate students who earned a perfect 4.0 during their studies, and the President’s Council Student Award of Distinction during the ceremony.

The Yakima Valley SunDome is located at 1301 South Fair Ave. in Yakima. Parking is free. Additional information is available online at https://heritage.edu/student-resources/commencement-2024/.

For more information, contact Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.


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The All Nations Student Social Powwow returns to Heritage University




The All Nations Student Social Powwow returns to Heritage University on April 20, 2024

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University’s All Nations Student Social Powwow is returning to Heritage University on Saturday, April 20, 2024. Hosted by the Heritage University Native American Club (HUNAC) and American Indigenous Business Leaders Chapter (AIBL) of HU, the powwow celebrates Indigenous culture. This social gathering is a free event and open to all.

“The powwow is a great way to highlight the rich culture of Native people and share it with the community,” said Kansas Arnoux, HUNAC president. “We are honored to invite the community to celebrate with us and to experience a bit of the cultural traditions that we hold close to our hearts.” “The powwow promotes mental health and wellness for our community by building a connection and an appreciation of our past through song and dance,” said Latrishia Scabbyrobe, AIBL of HU president.

The powwow will highlight dancers and drum groups. Dancers will perform traditional, fancy, jingle, and grass dancing, with youths to seniors participating. The first ten participants in each category will receive bundles of traditional foods and medicines and HUNAC regalia. Tiny tot dance participants will receive Ichishkíin/Sahaptin language resources and other gifts. The first five drum groups to sign up will receive a stipend. Dancer and drummer registrations open at 10:00 a.m. the morning of the event, with the Grand Entry occurring at 11:00 a.m.

The powwow invites vendors to sell food, arts and crafts, and general merchandise during the event. Yakama Nation agencies and non-profit organizations are also invited to participate in a community resource fair. Student clubs from Heritage, area high schools or other colleges and universities are welcome to host informational or fundraising booths. To learn more about vendor requirements or to apply to be a vendor, please visit heritage.edu/powwow for more information.

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Heritage University committed to support students in overcoming FAFSA challenges


Heritage University committed to support students in overcoming FAFSA challenges

Toppenish, Wash. – The rollout of the Department of Education’s new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has frustrated many students. Heritage University is committed to helping students overcome these challenges and to ensuring that the cost of going to college is not an obstacle that stands in the way of their higher education goals. HU administrators say that students who are Pell-eligible and meet certain criteria will be able to attend Heritage with little to no out-of-pocket tuition costs.

Several issues and challenges have been reported with the new FAFSA system which has resulted in delays in processing applications. Without this financial information, colleges and universities can’t send out financial aid packages to students, which may impact their decisions to commit to college. That’s why Heritage University administrators want to remind students that Heritage is here to make sure students have access to financial resources for school. “We recognize the importance of timely financial aid information, and we acknowledge the challenge posed by the delays in this year’s FAFSA processing and the impact it has on students’ commitment to college,” said HU President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. “As soon as our financial aid counselors have the information necessary from the Department of Education, they will create a financial aid package for a student’s consideration. We at Heritage are here to assist students, answer their questions and explore additional options to make education affordable,” said Dr. Sund.

Even if a student’s federal award is not high, at Heritage it does not mean there isn’t financial help available. “We are committed to supporting all students in securing every available dollar of scholarship and financial aid they deserve. Rest assured that we will do everything within our power to provide the necessary resources to make college accessible to students,” said Sund. “Assistance with FAFSA is just another way of us staying true to our mission of making education accessible to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue a degree, regardless of culture, geographic location, or in this case, economics.”

Students and families are encouraged to reach out to the university Admissions department at (509) 865-8500 for assistance with FAFSA navigation. For more information or to schedule a media interview please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Deadline approaching to apply for law school pipeline program at Heritage University



Deadline approaching to apply for law school pipeline program at Heritage University

Toppenish, Wash. – The deadline to apply for a law school pipeline program offered at Heritage University is approaching. Applications for the third year of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program at Heritage University must be in by Monday, April 15, 2024. The program is open to freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and alumni of Heritage and other colleges and universities.

The LSAC PLUS Program is an innovative partnership between the law schools at Seattle University, the University of Washington and Gonzaga University, and Heritage with the goal of making a law degree more accessible to diverse students in central Washington, especially Latino and Indigenous students. Funded by a grant from the LSAC, the program’s primary objective is to create a pipeline for these students to enroll in law school and then return home to practice.

The LSAC PLUS Program kicks off a three-week session on Friday, June 14, 2024, with in-person classes at Heritage twice a week. The program will expand the students’ knowledge and understanding of the legal field and help them envision themselves as lawyers. Its key aspects include: 1) a visit by several Washington Supreme Court justices; 2) a mock law school class; 3) roundtable discussions with leaders of minority bar associations; 4) mentoring by community lawyers and judges; and 5) modules that provide helpful information to demystify the application process and the law school experience. Students can also choose to visit one of the Washington law schools. A shorter, follow-up program will take place in September. Students who successfully complete the program will receive a $1,000 stiped and a certificate of completion.

Marthy Hernandez, an attorney with Stokes Lawrence in Yakima, Wash. will serve as the director of the LSAC PLUS Program. Hernandez assists clients with business disputes and litigation involving employment matters and contract law. Hernandez interned for the Gonzaga Public Interest and Indian Law Clinic and worked for the Child Youth Advocacy Program for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP).

The application period for the LSAC PLUS Program is being extended, and the deadline to apply is Monday, April 15, 2024. Students wanting more information on the LSAC PLUS Program at Heritage can visit heritage.edu/LSAC. For more information, please contact Kim Bellamy-Thompson at Bellamy-Thompson_K@heritage.edu or Marthy Hernandez at Marthy.Hernandez@stokeslaw.com. For help with media interviews, please contact Davidson Mance, Heritage University media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.

Heritage University receives $1.4 million grant from Biden-Harris Administration to tackle critical nurse shortage in central Washington


Heritage University receives a $1.4 million grant from Biden-Harris Administration to tackle critical nurse shortage in central Washington

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University announced it has received a three-year $1.4 million grant from the Biden-Harris Administration to launch an innovative program addressing the critical shortage of nurses in our rural communities. This strategic initiative called “Pathways to Opportunity” is designed to boost the number of skilled and diverse nurses, implementing a Grow Your Own model to engage local high school students, guide them through college preparation, recruit them into the university’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, and assist with their entry into the high-wage, high-demand local nursing workforce.

These funds originate from the Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development (RPED) grant program that promotes the development of high-quality career pathways aligned to high school, high-wage and in-demand industry sectors and occupations in any given region. In America’s rural communities, only 29% of people between 18-24 are in higher education, compared to almost 48% in urban areas and 42% in the suburbs. Rural students face challenges with accessing, paying for, and completing college. They also face barriers to having reliable transportation, access to health care and high-speed internet, and may suffer from food and housing insecurity.

Heritage University recognizes the urgent need to bridge the gap in healthcare professionals and is committed to developing a comprehensive career and college readiness pathway. The Grow Your Own model includes outreach efforts in the high schools to identify and support students interested in becoming nurses and guide and prepare them for college. Essential services offered using the Grow Your Own model will include dual enrollment, SAT/ACT preparation, tutoring, workshops, financial aid guidance, mentoring, advising and STEM summer bridge programs. Heritage will work closely with the University of Washington GEAR UP and workforce partners on developing these services. At the university, BSN students will receive support from two case managers who offer National Council Licensure Examination (or NCLEX, one of two standardized tests for licensing nurses) preparation, advising, coaching, mentoring, career guidance, internships, and other support programs to ensure retention and graduation.

Heritage University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Melissa Hill, Ph.D. stated that Heritage nursing is perfectly positioned positively impact the healthcare landscape by educating a new generation of skilled and diverse nurses to meet the growing needs of our local communities. “This substantial investment from the Biden-Harris administration underscores the importance of addressing the critical shortage of nurses in rural communities and Heritage University’s role in helping to fill those gaps,” said Dr. Hill.

Heritage University partnered with Research, Grants, and Information (RGI) Corporation of Sunnyside, Wash. to secure RPED funds for this Pathway to Opportunities initiative. RGI Corporation’s mission shares the Heritage University mission of impacting underrepresented and underserved communities socially, educationally, and economically for more than twenty years, and assisted in developing the successful grant application that was awarded. “RGI Corporation is pleased that Heritage University was awarded this highly competitive grant to train more nurses in addressing the workforce shortages in our rural communities,” said RGI Corporation CEO Robert Ozuna.

Pathways to Opportunity will focus on Native American, Hispanic, low-income, and first-generation high school and college students. Outreach will target students in the eight high schools and one tribally controlled school. For more information, please contact Melissa Hill at (509) 865-8584 or hill_m@heritage.edu. For help with media interviews, please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Heritage University to offer help filling out FAFSA forms during “Financial Aid Nights”



Heritage University to offer help filling out FAFSA forms during “Financial Aid Nights”

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is spearheading efforts to help students and their parents navigate the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Heritage will be hosting “Financial Aid Nights,” a series of upcoming events dedicated to help students and their families in completing the FAFSA.

The U.S. Department of Education launched the new FAFSA for 2024-25 on December 30, 2023, after a three month delay due to the FAFSA Simplification Act. Heritage University Admissions Director Rebecca Garza says “Financial Aid Nights” will provide valuable support and guidance to ensure a smooth FAFSA process, making higher education more accessible to all. “Since 85% of our students are the first in their families to attend college, it’s important to us to make sure students feel empowered and know what steps to take,” said Garza. “Our hope is to create events where students and their families have access to financial aid information. Our team members will be on hand to walk them through the FAFSA/WASFA process, and the information provide will be in English and Spanish.”

Heritage University will host “Financial Aid Nights” at Heritage in Toppenish, Wash. on January 24, 2024, and on February 21, 2024, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on both nights. Additionally, Grandview High School will host “Financial Aid Nights” in Grandview, Wash. on February 7, 2024, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Dinner will be served at all three events. For more information, please contact Rebecca Garza at (509) 865-0734 or garza_r1@heritage.edu or Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.



Heritage University receives $250,000 gift from the Directors of the Bezos Family Foundation to support DACA and DREAMER students




Heritage University receives $250,000 gift from the Directors of the Bezos Family Foundation to support DACA and DREAMER students

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University announced it has received a $250,000 gift from the directors of the Bezos Family Foundation to support the institution’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Emergency and DREAMER (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Funds. This transformative contribution reflects a commitment to supporting the immediate needs of undocumented students facing unforeseen challenges.

Each year, the Bezos Family Foundation’s Board of Directors choose non-profit organizations that align with the Foundation’s mission. In selecting Heritage, the Foundation’s directors recognize the university’s work to provide equitable opportunities to children and youth in its communities.

Andrew Sund, Ph.D., the President of Heritage University, expressed his gratitude to the Bezos Family Foundation’s directors for their generosity. “This gift underscores the understanding that the foundation directors have of challenges undocumented students face if they wish to pursue a college education. DACA and DREAMER students do not qualify for federal financial aid often creating situations where the cost of attending college is insurmountable,” said. Dr. Sund. “This gift helps level the playing field for students to pursue a college degree regardless of their immigration status.”

For more information, please contact David Wise, VP for Advancement at (509) 865-0717 or wise_d@heritage.edu. For help with media interviews, please contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Heritage University joins national initiative to boost college completion rates


Heritage University joins national initiative to boost college completion rates 

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University has joined the Complete College America’s (CCA) “Complete College Accelerator,” an ambitious nationwide initiative to improve student success and close gaps in college access and completion. Heritage University is one of 80 colleges and universities from eleven states to join in this effort.

Complete College America is a national, non-profit organization whose mission is to raise postsecondary attainment in the United States. It selected eleven state partners, including the Washington Student Achievement Council (whose membership includes Heritage University) to join the first Complete College Accelerator cohort. Using funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Intermediaries for Scale (IFS) Initiative, CCA will work with the eleven state agencies over the next four years to implement research-based practices geared to dramatically increase college completion on a statewide scale.

“This initiative, dedicated to empowering students to realize their dreams of higher education and degree attainment, will be groundbreaking,” declared Dr. Andrew Sund, President of Heritage University. “The Complete College Accelerator program will significantly enhance our strategies to ensure students are not only successful in their college journey but also excel in their careers. Using funding from the national grant program, Heritage University will work with the Complete College Accelerator program to conduct assessments of institutional performance, build data capacity, and develop and implement strategies to improve student outcomes.”

“While persistence and retention are finally returning to pre-pandemic levels at both two-year and four-year institutions, there are troubling gaps in access, completion, and career outcomes that continue to persist for students from underserved communities,” said Yolanda Watson Spiva, Ph.D., president of CCA. “As institutions and economies continue to shift following the pandemic, acting now is critical to long-term success. Through the Complete College Accelerator, these eleven states and more than eighty participating institutions will build their capacity to scale, implement, and sustain evidence-based practices that improve college completion rates for all students.”

To learn more about Complete College America and Complete College Accelerator, visit completecollege.org. For more information, contact Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Native American Actor/Comedian Tatanka Means to appear at Heritage University November 8, 2023


Native American Actor/Comedian Tatanka Means to appear at Heritage University November 8, 2023

Toppenish, Wash. – Native American actor and comedian Tatanka Means, of Oglala Lakota, Omaha, Yankton Dakota and Diné descent, will appear at Heritage University’s Smith Family Hall on Wednesday, November 8, 2023. The event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. is open to the public and admission is free. The Tatanka Means show is presented as part of Heritage’s celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

Means is an award-winning actor and stand-up comedian, who has appeared in numerous film and TV shows. His most recent appearance is in the film “Killers of The Flower Moon” directed by Martin Scorsese, released this month. Means has appeared in films including “A Million Days to Die in the West,” “Tiger Eyes,” and “More Than Frybread.” His TV roles include “Reservation Dogs,” “The Liberator” and “The Son,” to name a few.

Means performs stand-up comedy throughout Indian Country, spreading laughter and messages of motivation and inspiration to all ages. He is one of the busiest and most sought-after touring Native American comedians. Means was named “Entertainer of the Year” by the National Indian Gaming Association. Other awards include Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role award at the Red National Film Festival for “Once Upon a River”; Best Supporting Actor at the American Indian Film Festival for “Tiger Eyes”; and Best Male Actor at the Dream Speakers Film Festival for “Derby Kings.”

For more information on the Tatanka Means event at Heritage University, please contact Maxine Janis at (509) 865-0737 or janis_m@heritage.edu or Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.

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Heritage University honors Native American elders, welcomes Indigenous actor/comedian Tatanka Means as highlights of Native American Heritage Month celebrations


Heritage University honors Native American elders, welcomes Indigenous actor/comedian Tatanka Means as highlights of Native American Heritage Month celebrations


Toppenish, Wash. – November is Native American Heritage Month, and Heritage University is celebrating with a variety of events that honor Native Americans in our communities, including the Honoring Our Elders ceremony, taking place on Wednesday, November 8, 2023. During this event, we celebrate four Yakama Nation elders for their lifetime contributions to the Yakama people and their community. This year’s recipients are Marlene Hunt White, Edward Arlen Washines, Gene Sutterlict and Iola Smartlowit Totus.

Marlene Hunt White YaYamptnikt has spent 50 years supporting the health and well-being of the people in her community. Through her work with Yakama Nation’s Public Works department, she ensured that her community had clean drinking water by helping individuals and tribal entities build and maintain viable wells and septic systems.

Wahteshaouct/Shxmyah Edward Arlen Washines has lived his life driven by an unwavering commitment to uplifting his community through the development of education, social services, and employment. As an educator and director of Higher Education, he inspired Yakama Nation youth to graduate from high school, pursue college degrees, and return to their homelands to use their skills and talents to benefit their community.

Wah-Shu-Lums Gene Sutterlict, Sr. is passionate about protecting and preserving the forest of the Yakama Nation and the sacred sites that are located within those lands. He’s spent his lifetime walking the fine line between harvesting renewable timber resources and preserving the woodlands. For almost 40 years he worked in forestry for the Yakama Nation, and the trees harvested brought in revenue that funded tribal services that house, educate, and support the health and well-being of the people of the Yakama Nation.

Iola Smartlowit Totus Kwasa dedicated her life to nurturing and raising nine children. Along her six biological children, she selflessly welcomed three more into her home, creating a loving and expansive family. Iola instilled within her children a deep appreciation for the natural world and an unwavering respect for their rich Yakama culture, passing down invaluable traditions. For years, she and her family journeyed across the powwow circuit, bonding and celebrating their heritage as they danced and shared the beauty of their Yakama culture with the world. In her retirement years, she continues to help Yakama elementary school-aged children connect with their culture by teaching them their traditional language.

The annual Honoring Our Elders ceremony will be held in Heritage University’s Smith Family Hall on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. This event is by invitation only. Also, their stories are featured in a series of full-page ads, each dedicated to a specific elder, that are running in the Yakama Nation Review through November. Framed copies of these ads are being added to the permanent display of honorees at the university in the Violet Lumley Rau Center.

Other events Heritage is holding in November in observance of Native American Heritage Month as designated by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 include:

November 1 and November 16, 2023, 12:00 p.m. – Native Flute Music by Jeremy Garcia (Yakama)

Jeremy Garcia will perform Native flute music during a noontime concert in the Eagle’s Café at Heritage University on both November 1 and November 16.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023, 8:00 a.m. – Flag-raising Ceremony

Heritage University will raise the flags of the Yakama Nation, the state of Washington and the United States during a ceremony featuring the Yakama Warriors. The ceremony will begin at 8:00 a.m. and will be held at the main campus entrance.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023, 6:30 p.m. – Reclaiming the Stage – Indigenous Style: An Evening with Tatanka Means

Heritage is hosting a performance by Indigenous actor and comedian Tatanka Means called Reclaiming the Stage – Indigenous Style, an Evening with Tatanka Means at 6:30 p.m., also in Smith Family Hall. As an actor, Means is currently appearing in the Martin Scorsese film “Killers of the Flower Moon.” He’s also appeared in the films “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and “More Than Frybread.” His TV roles also include appearances on “Reservation Dogs,” “The Liberator” and “The Son.” Means is also a much sought-after Native American comedian. Means’ performance at Heritage is free and open to the public.

November 14, 2023, 12:00 p.m. – The Painted Teepee Story told by The Artist, Laurie White Horse

The public is invited to hear artist Laurie White Horse speak about the recent painting of the Heritage Teepee. She’ll share information about the symbolism behind the animals, nature and landscapes now seen on the Teepee, and its significance to Indigenous people.

November 15, all day – Rock Your Mocs

Rock Your Mocs is an expression of tribal identity where we invite people to wear moccasins on November 15 as a way to celebrate Indigenous traditions and culture around the world.

November 16, 2023, 12:00 p.m. – Movie Talk – AMÁ

This documentary covers the untold story of the involuntary sterilization of Native American women by Indian Health Services well into the 1970s. This will be shown in the Harry Kent Classroom.

November 17, 2023, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Holiday Bazaar

The Holiday Bazaar will be held in the Patricia Wade Temple Room and is presented by the American Indigenous Business Leaders Chapter at Heritage University.

November 20, 2023, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Fireside Chat with Kip Ramsey

Kip Ramsey shares his perspective of a 2019 United States Supreme Court Case involving his company, Cougar Den vs. the Washington State Department of Licensing. The event will take place in the Barnhill Fireside Room.

November 29, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – WAR CRY live podcast: Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women

The public is invited to watch, listen, and participate in a live podcast hosted by Emily Washines, Robyn Pebeahsy and Patricia Whitefoot, with special guest Cissy (Strong) Reyes. This event will take place in the Patricia Wade Temple Room.

November 30, all day – Dr. Virginia Beavert (Tuxámshish) Day at Heritage University

Honoring the esteemed Yakama elder Tuxámshish on her 103rd birthday.

All Native American Heritage Month events at Heritage University are free and open to the public. For more information on these events, contact Maxine Janis at (360) 513-2808 or Janis_M@heritage.edu. For help with interviews, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.


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