care for the salmon so that they will always return. Today, because of overharvesting and the effects of the Columbia River’s many hydroelectric dams, fewer and fewer salmon complete their upstream journeys, and salmon populations have dramatically declined. The people are involved in efforts to restore the salmon and, with them, the Yakama community and culture. Salmon were once plentiful at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River, but the falls were flooded by the construction of The Dalles Dam in 1957. Today, Yakama fishermen cannot harvest salmon from this traditional fishing location. NMAI “Salmon is a way of life for the tribal people, especially the Yakama people. . . the Creator warned us that, as long as we took care of those resources, they would take care of us. But if anything happened to that salmon, and it or any of the other resources disappeared, then we too would disappear as a people.” —Carol Craig (Yakama), 2003 Animals play a role in the cultures of many other Native people. The Lakota people, three distinct groups that historically lived in what is now South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana, believe that the Earth is to be shared with their animal relatives, especially the bison, or buffalo. Because the bison provided nearly everything the Lakota needed, they believed that the bison was connected to the creation of life. Ceremonies and daily life revolved around honoring the bison. 4
Pte-O-ya-te, the Buffalo People, or Buffalo Nation, 1917. The Lakota considered bison to be relatives, who provided humans with food, clothing, shelter, tools, medicine, and many other necessities. Photo by J. E. Haynes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress “Many, many generations ago, our relatives, the Pte-O-ya-te [Buffalo People] came up from Wind Cave in the Black Hills, the heart of Un-ci Ma-ka [Grandmother Earth], and prepared the way for our existence. From that time forward, they gave of themselves for our survival, as long as we respected their gift. They taught us how to live in an honorable and respectful way by example and through the teachings of the White Buffalo Calf Woman. She brought the sacred canupa [pipe] to remind us of our responsibilities and also provided us with the knowledge of the sacred rites that are necessary to discipline ourselves.” —Chief Arvol Looking Horse (Lakota), 2008 The traditional culture of the Lakota was changed by the westward expansion of the United States and the decimation of the bison. The people could no longer engage in the communal work of hunting and preparing the different parts of the animal for food and other uses. Because they have a rich ceremonial and community life that has formed over thousands of years, the Lakota have been able to continue as a unified people. Lakota stories, prayers, songs, dances, and celebrations still honor the bison.