Virginia Beavert: The Way They Felt About the River, “Almost Like a Religion”

Virginia Beavert (Yakama) talks about the river, fishing, and concerns about resources. 1:45.

Bio: Virginia Beavert received her Doctorate in Linguistics from the University of Oregon and teaches her native language, Ichishkin. Virginia Beavert, a member of the Yakama Nation, is a highly respected teacher and fluent speaker of her language, Yakama Sahaptin (Ichishkíin Sɨ́nwit)c. She was a key planner of the Yakama exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and has served on numerous committees and planning councils related to the documentation and preservation of Native languages. ( She grew up learning Nez Perce, and also Klickitat, Umatilla and Yakama dialects of Sahaptin. A respected Yakama elder, she has made invaluable contributions to Confluence at the Sacajawea Park Story Circles project, and the Vancouver Land Bridge.


“It was almost like a religion. The way they felt about the river. They kept saying, you know, it was created for them. Because it’s where all these people came to fish. And they just had this feeling like the river was a person. And it was providing all this, to benefit, for their survival you know. Food survival. And they talked about how they had all of these taboos. And they worried about the people that were supposed to observe these taboos coming down to the river to fish. Because they felt like it would contaminate the river and turn away the salmon.”

Related Content