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Yakima Valley home to many cultures


Yakama Nation tribal Councilman Virgil Lewis, left, speaks to other tribal council members and event attendees during a commemoration of retrocession at the Yakama Nation Heritage Cultural Center in Toppenish, Wash., Friday, April 22, 2016. Federal, state and county officials gathered with tribal members to acknowledge the historic move in which the tribe took another step in self-governance. Retrocession restored the tribe's authority over criminal and civil matters involving tribal members on the 1.2-million-acre reservation.

If you’re into culture, then you need to drop into the Lower Yakima Valley, where powwows, museums, Japanese and Filipino communities and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are on hand.

Much of the Lower Valley is situated on the Yakama Nation reservation, where tribal members continue to hold sacred ceremonies in more than 10 longhouses — traditional churches — scattered from Granger to White Swan.

Just west of Toppenish is the tribe’s Cultural Heritage Center, where a museum tells the of the history and teachings of the Yakama, who retained much of their indigenous practices such as fishing and food gathering under the 1855 treaty with the federal government.

There’s also a gift shop where jewelry and other hand-beaded items can be purchased as well as a movie theatre. There’s even a library.

In Toppenish, another story is told on building walls that are covered with more than 70 murals depicting the town’s settlement and culture. Dubbed “Where the West Still Lives,” the downtown core is composed of historic buildings dressed in wooden awnings. Vintage street lamps line the main drag.

Every year thousands of people line downtown streets to watch the Fourth of July Parade and a rodeo is typically held that weekend at the rodeo grounds on Division Street.

Here, there’s also the American Hop Museum that tells the story of the hop industry in the Valley. Old wooden hop balers, tools and other artifacts of the early hop industry are on display.

Just a block to the north an old train depot that housed the Northern Pacific Railroad Museum.

Visitors can peer into a vintage passenger car, stroll through the depot’s old ticket booth and lobby or tour the engine room where a old locomotive is being restored.

Several old rail cars in the depot’s yard as well as other railroad equipment also are on display.

About eight miles to the west in Wapato and still on the reservation, is the Yakima Buddhist Church. Wapato once boasted a vibrant Japanese community that included a grocery store, laundromat, restaurant and school.

But Japanese and Japanese-Americans were removed from the area and place in internment camps when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Only a few returned at the war’s end.

They hold an annual Sukiyaki dinner the first Sunday of March to raise funds for their church, which features a Buddhist Temple. Visitors can view the temple during Sunday services.

Just across the street is the Filipino Community Hall, where patrons can buy a traditional Filipino meal from noon to 4 p.m. on Thursdays.

Both the Japanese and Filipino communities were strong contributors to development of the Valley’s agriculture industry.

There’s no shortage of fresh fruits and vegetable as fruit stands dot the area.

Rem Brandt Fruit Stand to the north just off U.S. Highway 97 in Parker not only fills its shelves with the Valley’s bounty of tree fruit, but also boasts a makeshift museum where Native American artifacts and antiques are on display.

Places to see

■ Yakima Nation Cultural Heritage Center, 100 Spilyay Loop, Toppenish.

■ American Hop Museum, 22 S. B St., Toppenish.

■ Northern Pacific Railroad Museum, 10 Asotin Ave., Toppenish.

■ Yakima Buddhist Church, 212 W. Second St., Wapato

■ Filipino Hall, 211 W. Second St., Wapato

■ Mary’s Fruit Stand, 1332 Kays Road, Wapato, WA 98951

■ Dagdagan Fruit Stand, 4640 Lateral A Road, Wapato, WA 98951

■ Imperial Gardens, 4817 Lateral A Road, Wapato, WA 98951

■ Rem Brandt Fruit Stand, 72232 Highway 97

■ Schell’s Produce, 10 Harris Road, Toppenish