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FILE — Elese Washines, a mathematician, teacher and PhD candidate, poses for a portrait on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 in Toppenish, Wash.

The Yakima School District formally recognized the Yakama Nation’s land, upon which its schools reside, during its Monday board meeting.

“A land acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects native people as a traditional guardian of land and the enduring relationship that exists between native people and traditional homelands,” Elese Washines, program manager for the Yakama Nation Higher Education Program, said during the meeting.

The school district’s land recognition was reviewed by the education committee, the tribal council, tribal leaders and elders, she said.

The recognition was the result of three years of consultation with the Nation, according to district leaders. It is intended to be read before the start of district and board meetings as a moment to pause and reflect.

“Today, the schools of the Yakima School District rest on the ancestral lands of the 14 Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation,” it says. “The people of Yakama Nation inhabited more than 12 million acres across Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, and Yakima counties.

“Today, we honor those native peoples who are tied to the land through history, legends and culture. We acknowledge their descendants, who live in the world today. We thank the caretakers of this land, who have lived here and continue to live here since time immemorial,” the recognition says. “An acknowledgement is a simple, powerful way to show respect, and a step towards correcting the stories and practices that erase indigenous people’s history and culture. It also honors the truth. As a school district, we will continue to build upon relations with the Yakama Nation.”

The land recognition follows an early 2020 decision to add Treaty Day to the Yakima School District Calendar in recognition of the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1855.

Treaty Day, often observed on a Friday rather than the anniversary date, will be honored with a day off on years in which school is still in session. While this is the first year that it is being recognized by the district, school will have already concluded.

The 14-page handwritten document outlined the boundaries and rights of traditional hunting, fishing and food gathering for tribes. It was signed June 9, 1855, and ratified by Congress in 1859. The terms of the treaty provide protections to tribal members and communities in hunting, fishing, water and land use disputes to this day.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka