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


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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