CTS in the Yakima Valley

Yakima Valley Cultural Traditions Survey

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The Center was thrilled to kick off its first year of the Cultural Traditions Survey in 2018 by starting in-depth research in the Yakima Valley! Work now continues into 2019 with plans for events, exhibits, and more.


Why the Yakima Valley?

The idea for starting the Center’s new Cultural Traditions Survey project in the Yakima Valley came from folks interviewed during the “Landscape Analysis of Cultural Traditions of Washington State,” a research project conducted in fall 2016-spring 2017. More than any other region of the state, the Yakima Valley came up over and again as a region of interest in conversations we had with organization leaders and tradition bearers. People pointed to the unique intersection of diverse, vibrant, and resilient communities present in the Valley: members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation; Latino/a/x immigrants both long-established in the valley, and more newly settled; Filipino and Japanese communities; the agriculture, viticulture, hops, and tourism industries; and much more. The Yakima Valley is home to rich cultural heritages worth better understanding and promoting in partnership with these communities, in culturally-appropriate ways.

Who is leading this project?

No one will know a place as well as someone who lives there, so we’re partnering with contracted researchers on Cultural Traditions Survey projects. In the Yakima Valley in 2018 we worked with Rodrigo Rentería-Valencia. Rodrigo is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, and a former Yakima resident.

Rodrigo Rentería-Valencia

Over the past few years Rodrigo invested himself in the life of the Yakima Valley—getting to know residents of Yakima, taking part in festivals and celebrations put on by cultural organizations such as La Casa Hogar, Yakima Valley College, and the Yakima Rotary Club; attending Pow-wows and celebrations in White Swan and at Heritage Universityand even talking about the importance of the Yakima Valley’s traditional foodways with the Yakima Herald.

With Rodrigo’s help, we reached out to and learned from many diverse residents of the Yakima Valley, and were fortunate enough to interview and get to know 17 individuals representing at least 10 different cultural traditions or communities–from Yakama citizens indigenous to the Yakima Valley, to some of its most recent immigrants. We learned a lot that we will share over the next years through podcasts, videos, and stories online, as well as exhibits and events in collaboration with Yakima Valley-based individuals and organizations.

Meet Culture Bearers of the Yakima Valley

Early in 2019 we will post photos and videos, and release podcasts, featuring many of the individuals and communities we met. Culture bearers’ biographies and links to media are found here.




What’s next, for year two?

Moving into 2019 we will take what we have learned, and work with the people and communities engaged, to begin a variety of public and educational programming–events such as community conversations on important themes, skills-building workshops for traditional artists, exhibit planning, and more.

We would also like to reach out to those who we were unable to engage in 2018, and learn from them how to better support cultural traditions in the Yakima Valley.

What kinds of traditions are we interested in learning about and supporting?

Examples include regional musical traditions (corridos, marimba, etc.); various forms of fishing; agricultural practices and traditions related to harvesting apples, cherries, hops, wine grapes, etc; religious and other ceremonies; artistic and craft traditions (basket weaving, rosemaling, fiber arts, etc.); dance (Pow-wow dances; sayaw sa bangko, etc.); recreational traditions; food festivals, and much more.

Help with the Yakima Valley Survey!

Work continues into 2019 and beyond. Do you know someone who is a “tradition bearer” or “culture keeper” in your community and who might be willing to be part of this project? We would love to hear from you, and to learn from you (see contact info below).

Or do you have ideas about festivals or events we should attend? Let us know!

You can reach out to the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions director any time at WACulture@humanities.org and (206) 682-1770. You can also follow our adventures on social media @WACultures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

And if you see us out and about in the Yakima Valley, please stop us to say hello, or tell us a story about your traditions!

20170612_CWCT_KS_Yakama Res Hops_photo_pres
Hops–an economically and culturally important crop in the Yakima Valley–growing on the Yakama Reservation. Photo by Kristin Sullivan.


The Yakima Valley Cultural Traditions Survey is generously funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts: Art Works (2018) and by the Yakima Valley Community Foundation (2018, 2019).



Featured image (Mexican folkloric dance at a La Casa Hogar fiesta, 2017) by Rodrigo Rentería-Valencia.