Festival of the Land brought people to Culver to celebrate community

June 3, 2023
Festival of the Land brought people to Culver to celebrate community

CULVER — On Saturday, people gathered at the Crooked River Day Use Area at the Cove Palisades State Park along the banks of Lake Billy Chinook to celebrate the history and culture of the people who have inhabited the Crooked River and Deschutes River canyons of Central Oregon.

The celebration, dubbed Festival of the Land, is replaces the Eagle Watch event, which took place in Culver for 24 years, said Erin Bennett, an Oregon State Parks ranger. “The idea is to have a diverse cultural, historical, and natural type of celebration of the land. So we have people representing all of those different things here today,” Bennett said.Bennett said the sweeping cliffs surrounding the lake and the park, where a cluster of tents were set up for the festival, are 10 million to 12 million years old, underscoring the natural history of the area.Bennett said the site of the festival was chosen because of its beautiful views and the fact that both Indigenous people, and then homesteaders utilized the land. While indigenous people hunted, gathered and fished in the area, homesteaders, set up orchards where they grew a variety of apples, peaches, cherries, walnuts and almonds, she said.

“They grew all the fruit in Central Oregon in the late 1800s, and they would put it in a wagon and take it to Prineville because that is where the train was and it would get distributed,” Bennett said.

Over in the park Saturday, a big paper sign read “Fry Bread,” and a group of people gathered around a nearby tent.Colleta Macy, 36, of Warm Springs was beading colorful jewelry as part of a fundraiser for a youth basketball team called the Hellcats, a team of nine boys and girls that travel around the Pacific Northwest competing with other teams. On Saturday, Macy said she was happy to see some of the basketball players make it off the reservation to share their culture with others.

“Just to show that we are still here. Because a lot of people, outside of the reservation, think that we don’t exist. That we are just a story. We are just a legend,” Macy said.

“We are still here. We are human too, and having our kids come out and showing their pride in their culture and doing all the work for everything that they are doing, it is a big blessing for them.”The proceeds from Macy’s jewelry and the food the group sold to festivalgoers will go to the basketball team, she said.Fry bread has an interesting history with Indigenous peoples and represents their resiliency in the face of repression after being put on reservations.

“Fry Bread isn’t really part of our culture. It was what was rationed to us when the colonizers came over and so we used what we had. And we made different foods with it so it became famous with natives because that’s all we had. We have our first foods, our deer, salmon and all our berries and roots,” Macy said.

When white people came to the area, they brought flour and sugar, which Indigenous people didn’t eat at the time, and also curtailed their right to hunt and gather on their ancestral lands.

“Until the treaties, we weren’t able to go and do our regular hunting and stuff because the colonizers took our lands away from us and put us on reservations,” Macy said.Laurie Danzuka, Native American Success Coordinator with the High Desert Education Service District, stood at a booth surrounded by colorful traditional artwork and clothing she said was passed down from generation to generation.

Danzuka, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, said her most important role is being a food gatherer for her tribe.

“What that means is I gather our first foods. All of our first foods grow in the wild. They can’t be replicated. So, a lot of those things that are handed down to me from my grandma and my mom are significant to me being a food gatherer and the importance that is for sustaining us year after year after year and that has allowed us to continue to live in the space that we are in,” Danzuka said. “And we still have reserved rights to still hunt and gather in the usual and accustomed places throughout the state of Oregon, in Washington and in Idaho.”Danzuka, who was named Oregon’s school board member of the year for 2021, said there are three different languages taught in the Jefferson County School District, including the language her grandmother and mother spoke, Ichishkiin, which she is currently learning.

“When my mom and dad came back from boarding school that is one of the things I lost because they were very determined that their children didn’t suffer the way they suffered,” Danzuka said. “So that is one of things that we lost.”


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