|Native American Stories and Songs||
Ron Pond / Umatilla from Pendleton, Oregon
Ron Pond and his family are gracious, soft-spoken people and made us feel welcome immediately. We recorded in his son, Punky’s, house, which sits on a wide expanse of open land with fields stretching out forever and mountains in the distance.
Ron Pond was born in 1939 and began dancing when he was five years old. He says, “You’re a dancer first and then you kind of move up. And then the time will come when you will eventually start singing, but I never really thought about it. I just, you kind of play a role and your place, you seem to know your place and then you have to gain the experience and then you move on and take the responsibility—which I found wasn’t very easy.”
Ron teaches native music at Washington State University where he is also enrolled in a Ph.D. program. Both his work and his family life are centered on preserving the traditional ways of his people.
When Lewis and Clark reached the final leg of their journey, along the great Columbia River that led them at last to the sea, they found they were not alone in a wilderness. Up and down the banks of that major river they found hundreds of villages inhabited by many tribes.
Canoes could travel 400 miles along the Columbia River. Tributaries such as the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Snake Rivers made the land easy to traverse but none of these original villages exist today. Disease and war killed off 90% of the people that once inhabited this rich land.
Included among these tribes were the various bands of the Cayuse, Walla Walla and Umatilla people who occupied the area along the Columbia River from John Day River to the Big Bend near Walla Walla. The three tribes shared the Sahaptin language and lived in semi-permanent tulle mat houses that might be as long as 60 feet and house several families.
They traded extensively with the Nez Perce and other tribes. During the 1700’s, there was a shift from a riverine culture to one resembling the Plains people when the horse was introduced. Horses gave people mobility and other options for securing food. Eventually, the Umatilla became great horse breeders.
Listen to a Sample Here