Heritage University honors Native American tribal elders as highlight of Native American Heritage Month celebrations

Heritage University honors Native American tribal elders as highlight of Native American Heritage Month celebrations


Heritage University honors Native American tribal elders as highlight of Native American Heritage Month celebrations

Toppenish, Wash. – November is Native American Heritage Month, and Heritage University is celebrating by honoring four Native American elders for their lifetime contributions to the Yakama people and their community. This year’s recipients are Gil Calac, Carrie Schuster, Ted Strong and Tallulah Pinkham.

Chimshowa Gil Calac is a Paiute from Susanville Indian Rancheria in California. As a Bronze Star decorated Vietnam war veteran, he is passionate about helping those whose voices are often unheard. He spent two years working as a case manager for Yakama Nation Behavioral Health Services before moving to Fort Simcoe Job Corp to help at-risk youth. After he retired, Gil turned his attention to advocating for veterans in hospice care. He is a member of the Yakama Warriors, where he led the Washington state effort for establishing March 30 as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, and is a member of the Yakama Nation Tribal Advisory Board. Gil maintains a deep reverence for traditional values, which guides him in everything that he does.

Aiiyuttonmii Carrie Chapman Schuster is the matriarch of the Snake River Palouse Tribe and is a Heritage University alumna. She grew up learning tribal history and culture from family matriarchs on The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She has served as a judge in the Yakama Nation’s courts, as the original news director for the Yakama Nation Review, as an educator working with at-risk middle school kids and preschool children, and as a cultural ambassador connecting the Yakama people with tribal communities globally. At each step, she works to prepare those she serves to find their place in their community, to be rightful stewards over the land and people, and to respect the generational teachings of those who came before.

Taninsh Ted Strong is a 4/4 enrolled Yakama whose life work has helped tribes throughout the United States and indigenous people worldwide strengthen their sovereignty. His lifelong command from elders was, “Fill your heart with compassion and your mind with knowledge.”  In the early 1970s he designed the first computer network linking tribes in Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. Immediately following, he led the restructuring of the Yakama Nation to a centralized administration and financial management system, allowing the tribe to take control of practices formerly run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He advocated and fought for treaty rights, salmon recovery, water rights and environmental management at the state and national levels while serving as the executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. President Clinton appointed Taninsh to the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, where he advocated for social equity, economic vitality, and environmental justice. He counts being Chief Judge for the Yakama Nation as the most challenging yet most rewarding experience of his career.

Cawmit Tallulah Pinkham is a full-blooded, enrolled Yakama who has a heart for helping those who struggle with mental illness, addiction and abuse. She spent 23 years advocating for patients at Indian Health Services, where she met with individuals and families to get to know them on a human level so she could help connect them with the programs and services they needed. She encouraged patients to learn the traditional practices of their culture and family as a way to find connection and purpose in their lives. When she saw the generational destruction that comes from domestic violence and child abuse, she worked behind the scenes through Native Women’s Association to support the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The four elders are being recognized during the eighth annual Honoring Our Elders ceremony at Heritage University on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. in Smith Family Hall. 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 throughout November.  Framed copies of these ads are being added to the permanent display of honorees at the university in the Violet Lumley Rau Building.

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

November 2, 2022, 8:30 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 8:30 a.m. and will be held at the main campus entrance.

November 30, 2022, All Day – Dr. Virginia Beavert (Tuxámshish) Day at Heritage University

Heritage University recognizes and honors the esteemed Yakama Nation elder and language teacher on her birthday.

Other Native American Heritage Month events at Heritage will include:

Wapaas Basket Weaving (November 8, 14 & 15)
Roc Your Mocs Week (November 13-19)
Frybread Fundraiser (November 21)
Movie Night (November 21)
Yoga Time (November 28 & 29)
De-stress Workshop (November 30)

For more information on these events, contact Maxine Janis at (509) 865-0737 or janis_m@heritage.edu or Julia Polk at (509) 865-8610 or polk_j@heritage.edu.

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