The High Desert Museum sits in and shares the stories of what was, is, and always will be the Indigenous Plateau.
We are in the homeland of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute Tribes, known today as the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. This land has long been a dynamic crossroads—a place where many Indigenous people traveled, gathered and traded. We extend our respect and gratitude to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and all of the Native communities who have lived here for thousands of generations and continue to thrive here today.
We recognize the strength, resilience and sovereignty of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute people, as well as Native people throughout the Indigenous Plateau, who have long been and continue to be stewards of this land.
We are honored to collaborate with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and tribes throughout the Plateau to share the stories and knowledge of the Indigenous Plateau.
What is a land acknowledgement?
A land acknowledgement formally recognizes the Indigenous people whose homeland we are on and their ongoing relationship with and commitment to this place. It evokes a set of protocols Indigenous people have upheld for thousands of generations in caring for this land and expresses gratitude for their knowledge of and relationship with this place. By formally acknowledging this relationship, we seek to raise awareness of this continuation despite the ongoing disruption and attempted erasure of Indigenous people through colonization. This statement recognizes that the High Desert Museum was built on the ancestral homeland of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute Tribes, known today as the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
Why does the High Desert Museum have a land acknowledgement?
For the High Desert Museum, this land acknowledgement is a commitment to authentic and ongoing partnerships with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and other tribes in the Plateau. It is a commitment that honors their relationship with this land and acknowledges our shared responsibility to take care of the world around us. Recognizing our role in the ongoing erasure of Native people, this statement seeks to promote greater awareness and understanding of tribes and serve as the foundation for further dialogue, education and action. It is one part of a larger process of working with tribes and Native knowledge holders to integrate Indigenous ways of knowing throughout our organization to share their stories and knowledge and work toward a more inclusive High Desert community.
How does the High Desert Museum enact this land acknowledgement?
This land acknowledgement is only one part of a larger process in which the High Desert Museum seeks to recognize and honor the knowledge, values and worldviews of the tribes whose homeland we are on. We are committed to a collaborative and ongoing process of identifying the ways our institution perpetuates the erasure of Indigenous peoples and intentionally centering the knowledge of Plateau tribes throughout all aspects of our organization, from the stories we tell and how we tell them to our decision-making processes and operations. This process is based on respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with tribes and Native knowledge holders. We approach these relationships from a place of cultural humility that acknowledges Native people as the authority in telling their own stories and recognizes that we will always have more to learn.
What is ceded land?
The Treaty of 1855 represents a nation-to-nation agreement between the United States and Warm Springs and Wasco Tribes wherein the Warm Springs and Wasco Tribes relinquished or ceded approximately 10 million acres but reserved the Warm Springs Reservation—approximately 1/20th of the original territory or 600,000 acres. Significantly, they also reserved their right to harvest fish, game and other foods in their usual and accustomed places, both within and outside of the Warm Springs Reservation. The Paiute people traveled over large expanses of the High Desert plateau, including this region, and were moved to the Warm Springs Reservation in 1866.
Although colonization disrupted relationships between Indigenous people and the land and continues to have a detrimental impact on Native knowledge, language and traditions, the reservation and these treaty rights provide a mechanism to protect their way of life and sacred relationship with this land.
The High Desert Museum stands on this ceded territory. Through this land acknowledgement, we recognize this history, the sovereignty of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and their continued relationship with this place today.
How can I learn more about Plateau Tribes and their relationship to this place?
Here are a few resources to learn more about Plateau tribes.
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Official Website: https://warmsprings-nsn.gov/
Confluence, which features podcasts, videos and photographs that connect you to the history, living cultures, and ecology of the Columbia River system through Indigenous voices. https://www.confluenceproject.org/
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Official Website: https://www.critfc.org/
We also encourage you to visit Native museums and cultural institutions in the region, including the Museum At Warm Springs (https://www.museumatwarmsprings.org/), Tamástslikt Cultural Institute (https://www.tamastslikt.org/) and the Yakama Nation Cultural Center (http://www.yakamamuseum.com/).
What can I do to honor the Indigenous people of the place where I’m from?
First, learn about the Indigenous people of the place you now occupy and their relationship with this place. Increase your understanding of their history and contemporary culture groups, including their sovereignty and governance. Here is a resource to use as a starting point for identifying tribes whose homelands you are on: https://native-land.ca/
Second, take action to amplify and support their work and sovereignty. Start with what you can do from home, such as learning about how your actions impact your local landscape and how you can help take care of the world around you. Support Indigenous organizations and Indigenous-led efforts to enact changes around disparities and inequities in your community.