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Writing Workshop on the Umatilla Reservation June 2023

For a decade or so, I've attended Martha Gies' Traveler's Mind Workshops, writing for a week in Spain, Nicaragua, Colombia, India, Denmark and Glacier National Park. After a pandemic hiatus, she taught her final workshop to thirteen of us on the Confederated Tribes (Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla) of the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon headquartered at the Wild Horse Hotel and Casino. We drove our comfortable, zippy Chevy Bolt electric vehicle down to Oregon confident that we could charge the car at the hotel. Seeing the lights of the Wild Horse Hotel 2.8 miles away, we ran out of juice. We missed the orientation session, tour and steak dinner at Hamley's, while we awaited AAA only to find out when we finally reached the hotel, they only had chargers for Elon Musk cars. AAA towed "Baby Blue" forty miles away to Sherrell Chevrolet in Hermiston the next day before we learned that the Wild Horse RV Park had a charger that fit. An all-electric vehicle revolution awaits a distant future.

Our morning writing sessions were inspired by the beautiful Tamástslikt Cultural Institute with its lively museum. We heard exceptional speakers Roberta Conner, Wenix Red Elk and Tribal Elder Antone Minthorn talk about the culture, songs, stories, traditional foods (huckleberries, camas roots, etc. ) and fish and wildlife (deer, bison, elk, etc.) and the history of the 6.4 million acres of SE Washington and NE Oregon the tribes ceded to the U. S. Government in 1855. The Indians (they prefer being called Indians), now live on 173,440 acres of reservation and retain fishing and hunting rights. The dwindling salmon population will be revived when dams come down on the Snake River. We shared readings from indigenous writers Woody Kipp, Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon Silko and David Treuer (The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is highly recommended). We saw at least one of our speakers on horseback in a parade.

We visited Crow's Shadow, a print gallery and residency center for indigenous artists, and we heard Japanese artist Hiroko Cannon speak about her fine wildlife watercolors at the Pendleton Art Center.

Colin Fogarty, a red-headed Irishman who directs the Confluence Project and is recording tales of the elders, spoke to us about the art installations by Maya Lin which make a monument of the land along the Columbia River and are in place at Cape Disappointment State Park, the Vancouver Land Bridge over Highway 14, the Sandy River Delta, Sacajawea State Park, and Chief Timothy Park.

We wrote to prompts based on readings such as a Praise Song, Shall I Tell You...., The World Begins at a Kitchen Table and critiqued work we had sent in beforehand. I submitted a chapter of my memoir, Trouble With Fun, and was gratified by the feedback. I recently had an article on A Fib published in Oregon State's MFA Magazine, 45th Parallel: See my piece on p.12 (press broken square in center & slowly turn pages -when you see giraffe you’re almost there, page 12). I like the giraffe.

One of the best parts of the stay was that we could not figure out how to work the TV in our room. We ate well including one of the best restaurant meals we've eaten since COVID at the Plateau Restaurant far above the flashing lights of the Casino.

We enjoyed a salmon salad for lunch at the Kinship Cafe in the Tamàstslikt Cultural Institute and some of us were lucky enough to score a piece of their huckleberry pie:

Salmon Salad

Canned salmon – boneless and skinless canned salmon. For canned salmon, Wild Planet or Safe Catch. You could also use leftover cooked salmon or canned tuna.

Mayonnaise – While I like the taste of mayo best for this recipe, you could also use plain greek or regular yogurt. For egg-free, choose a vegan mayo or make with yogurt.

Celery – adds a nice crunch. You could also use carrots or red peppers.

Onion – any kind of onion will work. Red, yellow, sweet, or green.

Dill – fresh or dried.

Black pepper

Lemon juice – optional but recommended as are capers or pickles.

Mix together and serve on mixed lettuces or bread.

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Abigail Howell
Abigail Howell
Jun 30, 2023

so sorry about the car!!


colleen fitzmaurice
colleen fitzmaurice
Jun 30, 2023

I thought for sure that you were going to say you won $15,000.


Robert Pankl
Robert Pankl
Jun 29, 2023

You and certainly Michael have benefited from the various writers workshops you have attended. Both of you have posted remarkably engaging pieces.

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