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10/16/2013 1:16:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Tribe spokesman pledges continued care for cemetery

Sebastian Moraga
Staff writer

A priceless piece of history in our midst will soon receive some much needed care.

The Indian cemetery located behind Apple Annie's on Eeels Road will be taken care of, after several family crises forced the suspension of the annual upkeep, a spokesperson for the Colville Business Council.

John Sirois, a member of the confederated Colville tribes, to which the Wenatchi tribe belongs, said that the Wenatchi members of the confederation always take care of the cemetery, but one of the elders William Dick, who always used to take care of it, died this year.

"We have had a lot of people passing away in our Wenatchi group," he said. Dick used to spearhead an annual trip to the cemetery, where tribal members would clean it and weed it. The tribe forbids non-members from cleaning the cemetery.

This year, with the family emergencies, no trip took place. Sirois said it was the first time in decades he could remember not making the trip.

"I would like to let everyone know we will be there to take care of it," he said. "I really appreciate the heads-up."

The credit goes to Bill Yenter, a 1950 graduate of Cashmere High School, who said he used to help his grandmother maintain the cemetery when he was younger.

"That was between 1945-50," Yenter said. "From the seventh to the 12th grade. We would go in a couple times a year and clear out around the gravestones, making sure the graves were identifiable. A chief from the Wenatchi, Chief Tecumseh, used to come to our house, and he had a beautiful singing voice. Also, Grandma's brother was a sheriff deputy and he spent a lot of time up in the reservation in Nespelem."

Back then, Yenter said, his grandmother knew of some of the Indians who were buried there, and they never knew of a prohibition for non-Indians from cleaning the place.

"I guess I broke the law," he said with a chuckle. "Nobody ever complained to us. It wasn't pristine like the Cashmere Cemetery but we tried to make it look presentable."

He added, "I go to Chelan every summer, and we go through Cashmere because I still have relatives in Cashmere. Every time I drive up I take a look at the cemetery. It doesn't look like anyone has done much for it."

Sirois said he was surprised to learn that the cemetery was dirty, but that it was a temporary situation at worst.

"My aunts will probably be there this weekend to fix it," he said.

Yenter applauded the decision.

"Thank him for me," the 81-year-old Yenter said. "Or maybe I'll just call and thank him myself."

Sirois welcomed feedback from anyone with concerns about the cemetery. His number is 509-634-2212 and his cellphone is 631-1448.

"We have several large families and each one has had substantial losses, not just elders but young people. And when you lose young people in your family, you give up the things that you normally do. You take a break and that may be the reason we have not been down there. I'll pass it along and once word gets out, we will be down there to take care of it."

He added, "it's been devastating. Each one of the families has lost one or two young people, so it's been kind of rough. I'm surprised about the cemetery, but after all that has happened to our community it's not too much of a surprise."

Sebastian Moraga can be reached at 782-3781 or

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