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Press Releases


August 30, 2011, by Aili Schreiner

August 30, 2011
Aili Schreiner, Project Director, 360.693.0123/503.381.0539

The Dalles, Oregon (August 30, 2011) – The Confluence Project and artist Lillian Pitt invite teachers from the North Wasco, South Wasco, Sherman, Dufur, Lyle, Wishram, and Hood River school districts to submit project proposals for Gifts from Our Ancestors no later than September 30, 2011.

Interested educators should submit two-page project proposals outlining 6-9 month projects for their class(es) that incorporate traditional cultural and artistic expressions found historically at Celilo Falls. Programs may begin as soon as October 2011 or at least by January, 2012. Up to 15 proposals for 4th, 8th, and 10th grade class projects featuring artistic traditions found at Celilo will be awarded:

  • Reimbursable grants of up to $3,000 for project expenses (art materials, digital cameras, field trips, digital audio recorders, etc.)
  • Classroom visits by the artist Lillian Pitt
  • Access to visiting artists to introduce subjects and lead activities
  • Participation in a touring exhibit featuring student art exhibited in local museums, galleries, and public spaces

Gifts from Our Ancestors is a two-year program led by the Confluence Project, local artists, and educators to engage over 3,000 tribal and non-tribal students through multiple forms of artistic, musical, and oral expression practiced by Native Americans along the Columbia River for generations. Central to this engagement is Celilo Falls. In the Northwest, there are few places more powerful than where Celilo Falls once thundered into the Columbia. The mighty Wy’am ("echo of falling water") offered life-sustaining salmon and was the seat of commerce and cultural exchange for thousands of Native Americans for over 10,000 years. Celilo Falls was inundated by The Dalles Dam in 1957. By engaging students, teachers, and their communities in this rich history, Gifts from Our Ancestors will help to ensure the continued educational, cultural, and ecological stewardship of the Columbia River and its tributaries.

Up to 150 students will participate in art educator Peny Wallace’s project for Amaton Field at The Dalles Wahtonka High School. Students, teachers, and community members will create a small honoring area around the existing but forgotten ancient natural spring on an end of the field. “I want the students and the viewers to realize the most honest history they can, for healing, learning, and understanding,” Ms. Wallace said. By examining the contested history of the Columbia River and the loss of Celilo Falls, Ms. Wallace believes that “with this Celilo Project, we all can awaken, become aware, help to understand and to heal.”

Lillian Pitt, Artistic Director for Gifts from Our Ancestors, recalls her own path of discovery at Celilo. “I was already in my 30’s, and already an artist, before I knew that my ancestors lived in the Columbia River Gorge for more than 10,000 years,” she said, “But today I can tell you that I'm proud of who I am and who my people are. We're known as Warm Springs, Wasco (Watalas) and Yakama (Wishxam) — Indian people of the Pacific Northwest. We call ourselves the River People.” Having benefitted from the teaching and support of fellow Native American artists, with Gifts from Our Ancestors Ms. Pitt is building on that legacy. “Now, I try to return the favor,” she said, “by teaching as many people as I can about the things that I know, and by helping them along their own paths in whatever ways I can.”

About the Confluence Project
Confluence is a collaborative effort of Pacific Northwest tribes, renowned artist Maya Lin, and civic groups from Washington and Oregon to create interpretative public art, perform environmental restoration on public lands, and provide educational programming at the community level. Since 2002 we have worked as a small non-profit with local arts and culture groups, schools, and Columbia River tribes to complete four out of six major public art projects and restored public lands onsite- to international acclaim. During that time, we have raised over $28 million dollars and invested it back into communities along the Columbia River. At each art site, we have built strong community ties between public agencies, schools, local tribes, and civic and arts groups that have translated into lasting partnerships. Our final project, a tribute walkway to Celilo Falls at Celilo Park, designed by renowned artist, Maya Lin, is scheduled for completion in late 2012-early 2013. Visit to learn more! ##

For more information about the Confluence Project arts education programming, please contact Coordinator Connie Graham at or call 360.693.0123.

Gifts from Our Ancestors is made possible through the support of donors Brot & Mary Bishop, and by sponsors such as the Mid-Columbia Medical Center.

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