We have been on a road trip travelling from the sea level homelands of the Lummi and Coast Salish people to the homeland of the Utes, Comanches, Arapahoes and others of the high plains. Alex and I drove our Chrysler 300 which still runs well with close to 150,000 miles on, like an old horse, used to long trips while our new pony waits at home for the next trip west. We left the lush, dense landscape of the Northwest Coast for the vast prairies of the western plains, cruising over the snow capped Cascades toward the rolling hills and valleys of the Plateaus, past the homelands of the Yakima and Umatilla, into the places where the land spreads before us for miles.
I felt in awe through our whole three day trip, we took our time enjoying the view, listening to rock and roll with occasional forays into what I call beer drinking, sitting on the tailgate of the pickup at the rodeo, country and western music. We felt very much like we are heading home, to the prairies and mountains that call to us, our DNA tells us we are in the place of our ancestors, the place where we belong.
It is a trip across Indian Country, our markers for where we are aren’t the cities or counties, they are the tribes whose lands we pass through. The history we share, the stories we tell, the relationships we have are with the tribal nations. I tell the stories that I have heard or read, or say the names of people we know. If we speak of others, Lewis and Clark, or the Mormon settlers whose descendants inhabit our lands, it is in the context of their relationships with tribal people.
For many, a road trip is an exploration of cities and counties, discovered paths, parks and recreational services, for us it is a journey through the lands of relatives. We arrive in the foothills of the Rockies, a place of gathering of our people. The next part of our life journey begins here.