Tribal leader to share 'The Indian Side of the Story' at Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center

Submitted by Lyn Kelley

Wendell George
Wendell George

WENATCHEE – Wendell George does not want to disappear. During his years growing up on the Colville Confederate Tribes Reservation and 40 years of tribal leadership, he has felt the slow fade of Columbia Plateau Native American culture and his place in it. Realizing the richness of what could be lost, George decided to share the stories of his people through published books, newspaper columns and community presentations.

He shares “The Indian Side of the Story” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17 at the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center. The presentation will include rarely seen tribal photographs and George’s unique perspective as the grandson of chiefs who became the first of his family to graduate from college.

“We are from the Entiat tribe, which is one of the 12 tribes making up the Colville Confederated Tribes. My great-grandfather Chief Chilcosahaskt remained in the Entiat Valley. My grandfather Lahompt (Chief Koxit George) was the first of our family to move to the reservation,” George said. “My dad was the last of the family to be born in a teepee.”

George’s presentation is one of several programs planned to go along with the museum’s Everything Skookum exhibit, on display through mid-September 2016, featuring the iconic images associated with the Skookum Packers Association’s global apple marketing campaign.

With the exhibit and presentations like George’s, the museum hopes to foster a community conversation about the history of local advertising, the evolution of the Skookum brand (nationally and internationally), and the complex relationship our community has with the character ranging from nostalgic to uncomfortable.

For George, the Skookum image of a smiling Native American Boy is generic.

“It has nothing to do with the Wenatchi tribe,” George said in a statement provided for the exhibit. “It is a happy face and backs up the name Skookum which means ‘good’ in the Chinook Jargon.”

George points out that Chinook Jargon is a hybrid of words from Chinook peoples near the Pacific Coast of Washington and Oregon, mixed with French, English and other aboriginal words from tribes along the length of the Columbia River and the Inland Northwest.

At one point, George and his business partner Tim Wapato had an opportunity to own the Skookum sign that now sits atop Office Depot on Wenatchee Avenue.

‘We liked the sign, but felt we couldn’t move it to our orchard – and even if we did, we were so isolated few people would see it,” George said. “So we refused it.”

During the May 17 talk, George will address the portrayal and use of Native American caricatures in popular culture as sports mascots and brand names. The focus of his presentation, though, goes beyond the generic to highlight the rich and ancient traditions that shaped George’s childhood and are still practiced by members of the Wenatchi band.

The talk is free and open to the public. A $5 donation is suggested.

  • What: “The Indian Side of the Story,” a presentation by Wendell George
  • When: Tuesday, May 17, 6:30 p.m.
  • Where: 127 S. Mission Street, Wenatchee
  • Cost: Free and open to public. A $5 donation is suggested