How-to: Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Oregon’s High Desert

Lindsay Jones

Author: Lace Thornberg  |  Published: October 6, 2022  |  Category: How-To

ONDA’s conservation work occurs on the traditional and ceded lands of the Northern Paiute, Wasco, Warm Springs, Bannock, Shoshone, Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin peoples, and on lands currently managed by the Burns Paiute Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

As we approach Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 10, 2022, ONDA encourages you to learn more about the rich history and present-day experiences of Indigenous peoples.

Here are three ways, specific to Oregon’s high desert, to mark this day.

Learn more about the Indigenous peoples of Oregon’s high desert.

Many Indigenous peoples live, use and enjoy, and practice cultural traditions in Oregon’s high desert today. Following are the Tribes and Indigenous communities that trace their history to Oregon’s high desert:

Whatever you may know already about the Indigenous peoples of Oregon’s high desert, there is more to learn.

Select resources to enhance your knowledge of this region’s rich Indigenous presence:

  • Legends of the Northern Paiute shares and preserves twenty-one original and previously unpublished Northern Paiute legends, as told by Wilson Wewa, a spiritual leader and oral historian of the Warm Springs Paiute.
  • Northern Paiutes of the Malheur recounts the Paiutes’ true and proud history. As Nancy Egan, direct descendant of Chief Egan, notes, this book “captures the untold story of Chief Egan and our people, fulfilling the wish of my grandfather Hubert Egan for the true story of the Paiutes, hidden for almost a century and a half, to be revealed at last.”
  • Native Land outlines an approximation of the Indigenous territories in North America.

Learn about Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge.

Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge – ITEK – refers to the holistic, integrated knowledge of place, species, habitats, systems, and natural processes developed by indigenous people who have lived upon and stewarded the earth since time immemorial. While ITEK and western science represent two different ways of knowing, western ecological sciences and ITEK are often complementary because they both seek to understand the holistic relationships between living and nonliving elements of an ecosystem.

More information on ITEK:

Visit a museum or cultural center that shares Indigenous history.

An in-person visit to a Tribally-run cultural center will always provide a rich experience, but you can also learn a lot by visiting a museum’s website or by subscribing to their newsletters to learn more on an ongoing basis.

Tribally-run cultural centers in eastern Oregon:

Other museums that include the perspectives, history, and art of Indigenous peoples of Oregon’s high desert:


We hope to have given you a starting point, and, of course, these are only a few of the numerous opportunities to experience the cultures and perspectives of Indigenous peoples. This Indigenous Peoples’ Day can be just one of many days where you make a point to attend local celebrations where appropriate, tune into virtual events and workshops, watch films by Indigenous directors, listen to podcasts with Indigenous hosts, and learn more about Indigenous cultures.


Craig Terry, ONDA member and stewardship volunteer

Craig Terry, ONDA member and stewardship volunteer

“The people I have had the privilege to share time with each season keep me volunteering again and again. Who else but those ONDA staff leaders would make fresh coffee at dawn each morning or pack a watermelon all day to serve as a reward under a juniper in a steep canyon?” Craig, who grew up in northwestern Nevada, says ONDA connects him with places he loves and a mission he believes in. “My grandfather and his father put up wire fences for their ranching needs. Taking out barbed wire sort of completes a circle for me.”


Scott Bowler, ONDA member from Portland

Scott Bowler, ONDA member from Portland

The desert speaks for itself, but very softly. I support ONDA to promote and enable discovery of the amazing beauty and recreational opportunities of the high desert by much broader groups of people; and most especially to protect forever the full and diverse landscape of the Owyhee Canyonlands, a place without parallel or equal in our country.”




The Oregon Swallowtail butterfly is the official state insect of Oregon and a true native of the Pacific Northwest. The Swallowtail can be seen in the lower sagebrush canyons of the Columbia River and its tributaries, including the Snake River drainage area.  Source: State Symbols USA

Latin name: Papilio oregonius