Gary Young and Sandra Whitefoot recognized as Honored Elders for April

Gary Young and Sandra Whitefoot recognized as Honored Elders for April

By Hailey Palmer, Puyallup Tribal News

Each month at the Elders Luncheon, a senior Puyallup Tribal member is recognized as the Honored Elder.

For April, two Elders were honored: brother and sister Gary Young and Sandra Whitefoot. Young and Whitefoot were blanketed and received cedar hats. Their photos will be placed on the wall at the House of Respect along with other Honored Elders from the past.

Each Honored Elder also records a video in which they talk about their lives and experiences. Here is Young and Whitefoot’s story in their own words.

Gary Young

“I am from the Young family over here.

“Like she said, she was probably 2 and I was 6 to 9 months old when our dad passed away. Mom, with four hungry kids to feed, she figured she’d get all the family help on Yakama to be able to raise her four young kids. We were both born here.

“Our dad was Harvey Young. He had like seven sisters and four brothers. He was at the port. I guess he was pretty well employed when a lot of Tribal members weren’t back in those days. He passed away when he was about 42 years of age.

“We didn’t hear much because we were so little, but my mother tells us stories of when she had to lay down on top of my older brother along the river because bullets were raining out through the willows. Obviously, my dad was out on the river somewhere and she was on the bank. That’s the only stories we actually heard about fishing over here.

“I was employed by the Yakama Tribe for 11, maybe 13 years, and developed much of their Culture Center and museum. That lasted until I was in my mid-30s and then I went off to do my own thing.

“My youngest son is an operator for businesses in Eastern Washington and my oldest son operates businesses on this side of the mountains.

“Our oldest brother was in the Air Force, Joe, who is buried out here with our dad at the cemetery. He was in the Air Force then went on to law enforcement.

“I’m very proud. When we initially got here I think we estimated the Tribe had 400 acres of their own land. I think that has grown substantially. The diversification – the casinos have helped create more opportunity for the Tribe to develop. It’s fantastic.

“They take care of the Elders like no other Tribe does.

“I would encourage them to stay away from drugs. It used to be Tribal people were (excessively) using alcohol. It seems to me it’s become drugs now and they’re using them at a younger and younger age. I would definitely encourage people to stay away from drugs and to seek higher education to come back and help their people.

“I’ve never considered myself old, but I guess the acknowledgement today officially declares my age as old. I never have been a big talker, but our old people do know things they need to pass on to the younger generation.”

Sandra Whitefoot

“I was probably 2 years old when we left here. Gary was about 9 months and I was about 2. My mom is Yakama so we moved back to the Yakama Valley.

“Like Gary said, our dad was Harvey and our mother was Leona. She took us all back to the Yakama reservation once my dad passed away.

“We were raised in White Swan and that’s where we both graduated. After graduation, we went to school, got our education and moved on with our lives and families.

“I lived in the Tri-Cities after I was first married and moved back home after 12 years in the Tri-Cities.

I worked at Hanford at the nuclear site. I was fortunate I worked in only downtown Richland. I never ever had to go out into the outside sites.

“My husband had a hairstyling business, he was a barber and hairstylist. Our business fluctuated quite a bit because of the Hanford.

“He was Yakama, so we moved back to Yakama and I worked at an elementary school on the reservation for the next 27 years.

“I visit quite a bit since Gary is here and family is here, so I visit quite often.

“My husband and I raised seven children. I was probably the last one to get married out of the four children my mother and dad had. I came out with the most children and had the most children of all.

“I totally agree with how they take care of the Elders. My home is in Yakama and I’m amazed at the difference from there to here with how well they take care of the Elders here. It’s so comfortable, they put them at ease and they do so much for them.

“I would encourage education because you can do so much with an education and go a long way, come back and help other people.

“People say they get wiser as they get older and I can kind of see that. It seems like I have more knowledge now. It seems like living every day you just learn something every day and pass that down to the younger generation.”