Honoring Our Elders

Honoring Our Elders

Left to right: Arlen Washines, Marlene White, Gene Sutterlict Sr., Iola Totus.

E‌very year Heritage University recognizes Native American elders for their lifetimes of significant contributions to their communities as part of its Native American Heritage Month celebration. Please join us in celebrating these four individuals.


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. His work overseeing Yakama Nation’s Human Services helped ensure holistic well-being and quality of life for individuals and families at all stages of life.

During his service on Tribal Council, he helped build tribal enterprises that bolstered economic prosperity and increased living wage jobs, transforming the prospects of the Yakama Nation and all who live within its homelands.


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. Outside of her professional career, she channeled her energy into healing herself and her family from the deep scars of historical trauma, and by doing so, was able to help others in her community do the same through extensive volunteer work and the sharing of traditional teachings, bringing about a restored sense of cultural identity and resilience. Her legacy is a testament to the transformative power of dedication and love for one’s people and the land they call home.


Wah-Shu-Lums Gene Sutterlict 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. 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. His leadership on Tribal Council provided oversight to the management of these natural resources so that they continue to thrive and provide for the people who depend upon them for generations to come.


Iola Smartlowit Totus “Kwasa” dedicated her life to nurturing and raising nine children. Alongside 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.