Our previous blog told of the food production, particularly fishing, in the north west of the United States early in the nineteenth century. Today Roberta Connors tells of the hospitality offered by First Nation people there to the Corps of Discovery lead by Lewis and Clark. She begins this section with quote from President Jefferson’s second inaugural address of 1805.
These persons (Indians generally) inculcate a sanctimonious reverence for the customs of their ancestors; that whatsoever they did, must be done through all time; that reason is a false guide, and to advance under its counsel, in their physical, moral, or political condition, is perilous innovation; that their duty is to remain as their creator made them, ignorance being safety, and knowledge full of danger . . .
Today, (continues Connor) our people persist in resembling the observation regarding our sanctimonious reverence for the customs of our ancestors. It would be unwise to do otherwise. After thousands of years on this landscape, their empirical knowledge should be revered. This reverence for the ancient covenant between our people and the salmon, for example, resulted in the ethic that one should never take all of anything in harvest. Aleays leave some fish to pass upriver, roots and berries for the other species who eat them. This same ancient covenant led the modern Confederated Tribes of Umatilla too undertake extraordinary efforts to successfully restore water flows and salmon to the Umatilla and Walla Walla rivers.
October 18, 1805 . . . late at night the Chief came down accompanied by 20 men, and formed a Camp a Short distance above, the chief brought with him a large basket of mashed berries which he left at our Lodge as a present.
April 27th 1806 . . . This village consists of 15 large mat lodges . . . Yellept harangued his village in our favour intreated them to furnish us with fuel and provisions and set the example himself by bringing and armful of wood and a platter of 3 roasted mullets. the others soon followed his example with rispect to fuel and we soon found ourselves in possession of an ample stock. . . they also informed us there were plenty of deer and antelopes on the road , with good water and grass.
Abundance is the standard in our culture, rather than scarcity. Our tribal characteristics emanated from our extended families, our close-knit village lives, our language groups, and our environment. Lewis and Clark described the Walla Walla as “the most hospitable, honest, sincere people we have met on our voyage.” These complimentary journal entries describe virtues and values that directly reflected our culture, wherein people were well provided for by the landscape and their own industry. Our leaders were accustomed to housing and feeding large gatherings. Efficient and effective food preparation, preservation, and storage methods sustained us year round, and our architecture was reliant on easily renewable resources. The journals comprehensively document our fishing practices, our numerous tule mat-lodge villages, the variety of roots we harvested and our vast horse herds. We did not live in scarcity. We had learned through the ages to be prepared to care for others, including visitors from distant places.
From ‘Our People have always been here’ by Roberta Connor, in ‘Lewis and Clark through Indian eyes’ ed Alvin M Josephy, Jr. 2006 Random House. Roberta Connor – Sisaawipam – is Cayuse, Umatilla and Nez Perce in heritage and a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Connor’s essay illustrates the generous hospitality of the first nation people of the Umatilla area, a hospitality that echoes that of indigenous Australians towards europeans at contact – see for example Charles Sturt and aboriginal hospitality