An Overview of Spring Break with the CTUIR

Learn about this year’s new Spring Break Service Trip to Mission, Oregon, where Whitman students learned and served with members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), from March 21-30th. The trip participants have written up their experiences, to share a brief glimpse into this amazing trip.

Sunday, March 22nd

Our first full day of our Spring Break Service trip, Wiyákitnaytύx̣t (“Search for that to bring home”).We met with Jennifer Karson Engum, an anthropologist, former visiting professor at Whitman and consultant for the Maxey Museum. She has been working with the tribes at the CTUIR and gave us a tour of our campus and the Walla Walla area in regards to tribal history. We got to see the collection of items belonging to different tribes and learned about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Surprisingly, we found Whitman still has several Native remains and is in the process of returning them to the tribes.

We also got to visit the Marcus Whitman Hotel and came across a very biased depiction of the history of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and their relationship to the Cayuse Indians.



This tour also included a visit to the Whitman Mission and Frenchtown. In just 4 hours with Jennifer, we felt we had learned so much about Whitman’s place in the history of the tribes.

Monday, March 23rd

Our day began with a visit to Walla Walla Community College’s Water and Environmental Center where we learned about lamprey and mussels, keystone species vital to the river ecosystem in the lands of the native area. This is where we first got to meet Wenix Red Elk, Public Outreach and Education Specialist for the CTUIR. She led us to a river restoration site with Olin Anderson. We got to see how the CTUIR Department of Natural Resources is restoring the natural shape of the river to help bring salmon, one of the tribes’ First Foods, and other species back to the river.

Tuesday, March 24th

Oh what a day. In order to keep all the information we received this day as concise as possible, here is a slim bullet-point list.

6:30am = Wake up, then drive to the reservation

Governance Center = Welcome prayer from the Board of Trustees led by Armand Minthorn, Workforce Development from John Barkley, Tribal Sovereignty and Tribal History with Chuck Sams. Our service group was joined by President Bridges, Abby Juhasz, and Noah Leavitt.

Wildhorse Casino and Resort = Tour of everything. From the basement floor laundry facilities, to the movie theater, the top floor suites, and all the kitchens.

Nixyaawii Community School and Gym = Our place of residence for the rest of the week! Here we met Lloyd Commander and watched the Basketball Against Alcohol and Drugs (BAAD) Tournament.

12am = Sleep

Wednesday, March 25th

First Foods overview with Wenix. This day was particularly enjoyable as we drove through the areas where First Foods grow, got to see what the different roots look like, and experienced the amazing scenery up in the Blue Mountains. After frolicking through the mountains, we took a tour of the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute.


Thursday, March 26th

Today was our first big day of service. We spent the entire day working at the Native Plant Nursery where we worked in the green house moving and seeding plants, and helped to remodel one of their barns. Interacting with Gail, Marie, and Steve gave us an opportunity to learn more about living and working on the reservation. We enjoyed spending the full day doing service and working with dirt.

Friday, March 27th

Today we volunteered with the BAAD Tournament. Throughout the week, we spent evenings volunteering at the tournament. Today was the final day of the tournament and we got to see some very exciting games! In between helping with clean-up, ticket and merchandise sales, some of us got to play lacrosse at a clinic held at the same location. The tribal members refer to lacrosse as the “Creators Game” and recently began an initiative to have more youth involved with playing the game.

Saturday, March 28th

We spent the day working at the community garden. We transported several truck loads of wood chips, several wheelbarrows of soil and even helped set up a teepee. By the time the day was done, the garden was ready for planting. It was a great way to close off several days of service.


In the evening, we got to use the tickets we were graciously given to the Wildhorse Cineplex.

Sunday, March 29th

We got the chance to attend a Washat Service, accompanied by Kazi Joshua, Chuck Cleveland, Abby Juhasz, and Noah Leavitt. At the end of the service, we had the chance to share a meal with Armand Minthorn, Justin Quaempts, and several tribal elders and members.

This service was an excellent way to close up our week. For many of our participants, their first exposure to the CTUIR was at the Celery Feast in February where we got to eat the meats, roots, and berries that are the tribes’ First Foods. Here we were again given the opportunity to share a meal of these foods with tribal members. It felt as if our time with the CTUIR had come full circle.

Our trip name is, Wiyákitnaytύx̣t, meaning “Search for that to bring home”. Throughout this week with our service and learning experiences, all of us found something to bring home, and gained a better understanding of the space and lands we are living in during our time at Whitman.

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