Behind the scenes of First Nation’s Focus with Bethany Sam

Theresa Topa Yellowlodge

Theresa Topa Yellowlodge

Manah-who, How-Uhh? Ee Nanee-en-nah Bethany Sam, nuh Coleville wait-duh. Nuh Hunkpapa Dakota (Sioux), Kuiza-tika-ah, Wa She Shu, Chee-Pawn-nee’e. (Lee Vining Paiute Language)

Hello, how are you? My name is Bethany Sam and I’m from Coleville, Calif. I’m Hunkpapa Dakota Sioux, Lee Vining Paiute, Washoe and Mexican.

I’m a business development manager for Sierra Nevada Media Group in advertising, design, digital media, ecommerce, marketing, printing, social media and video.

I’m also the lead on “First Nation’s Focus.” Today I want to introduce myself, and share with you the idea behind our new tribal newspaper/magazine.

My parents’ are Faron & Marlene Sam (Father- Paiute/Washoe; Mother – Hunkpapa Dakota Sioux/Mexican). My paternal grandparents’ are Joseph & Maxine Sam. My maternal grandparents’ are Marlo Zamora & Margret SeeWalker Evans. My sisters’ are Raquel Sam and Jolene Sam, and my 1st cousin JD Sam, is really like a brother to us.

Though I grew up in Paiute / Washoe country, Mono County and surrounding areas, I’m enrolled in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota and South Dakota.

I come from a long line of strong and spiritual people.

My Kunsi, Rocky Butte (maternal Great, Great, Great Grandmother), was a warrior woman, who fought along side the men and joined the Battle at Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Big Horn, Custer’s Last Stand).

My Kunsi, Theresa Topa Yellowlodge (maternal Great, Great Grandmother), was a medicine woman, midwife and loving grandmother. She is also, the only known woman to be a winter count keeper.

A winter count is a calendar in which events are recorded by pictures drawn onto buffalo hide, buckskin or muslin cloth, recording the events of the Tribe throughout the year. Measured from first snowfall to first snowfall.

From what my family tells me, one of her favorite stories she told, involved a battle between the Sioux and Mandan Tribes along the Cannonball River in North Dakota. You can see her winter count in the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Heard Museum collaborates with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

My Hubee, Frank Sam (paternal Great Grandpa), was a Peyote spiritual leader who helped anyone who needed it. He owned Frank Sam Pumice Mine located in the Mono Craters’ Southern Coulee in Lee Vining, Calif. In the early 1940s, the US Pumice Company leased the mine from him and they continue to operate it today.

Hubee Frank found it important to make positive relations with the Non-Native community to survive. This is how he met Ben Farrington, the owner of Farrington Ranch whom he later worked for. They became great companions. When Mr. Farrington decided to sell the ranch, he promised Hubee Frank land. With that simple promise, Hubee Frank became the original owner of the “Old 395 House.”

To this day, the property is still owned by the Sam Family and has become an undocumented tourist attraction. It’s located south of Mono Lake on Highway 395, in between Lee Vining and June Lake Calif.

Growing up in Coleville, I got to spend a lot of time with my Hubee Leona Dick (paternal Great Grandma, my father’s mom’s mom). As a little girl, she lived the old way and migrated with her grandmother until they were forced to assimilate to European culture.

What I remember about her the most, is how she only spoke Paiute, her pet bobcat, cherry and pinenut picking with the entire family, the jelly she made, how she always worked outside with her baskets, and her kobee (coffee) and pa’ah (water).

I only know these stories because my parents, elders and family, shared them with me. I share these stories with you, because they inspired the idea for “First Nation’s Focus.”

In my line of work and just growing up Native in non-Native community, I’ve learned non-Natives are generally misinformed about our culture.

The mission of “First Nation’s Focus” is to create open communication between the Public and Tribal Communities; to teach all about the true essence and traditionalism of Native American / American Indian culture; and to share or highlight the positive happenings in Tribal Communities.

“First Nation’s Focus” is your voice to teach or share with both the Native and Non-Native communities.

I’ve always felt so proud to be Native American / American Indian. Or what I like to say, “I’m proud to be Hunkpapa Dakota Sioux, Kuiza-tika-ah Paiute, Washoe, and Mexican”. My parents and grandparents have always expressed how important it is to learn our heritage/ancestry and to keep the cultural traditions alive. When we are learning our traditions; singing dancing, sweat lodge & ceremonies, hunting, basket making, pinenut picking, handgames; we are learning to pray for our land, animals, water, weather, healing, love and happiness.

With “First Nation’s Focus” we now have the chance to continuously teach and learn about our culture and the differences between each tribe and tribal community. My dream is to help bring a positive spotlight on all tribes and to spread awareness about the First Nation’s of North America, and the historical trauma we are still trying to overcome.

A’ho, all my relations.


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