Lyle Point: A Sacred Site Returned to the Yakama Nation
Upstream from the confluence of the Klickitat and Columbia Rivers in
Klickitat County, Washington, a 35-acre peninsula called Lyle Point juts
out into the Columbia River Gorge creating one of the most significant
scenic and cultural sites in the region.
Originally named Nanainmi Waki ‘Uulktt or “place where the wind blows
from two directions,” the peninsula was valued as a fishing site and
village to the Cascade and Klickitat bands for thousands of years.
Lost to the Yakama people when white settlers moved to the area in
the mid-1800s, the land today holds the silent remains of a long ago
“Traders (in the 1800s) brought blankets that were contaminated with
the smallpox virus,” says Johnny Jackson, chief of the Cascade band of
the Yakama Nation. “It wiped out the whole settlement.”
Surviving tribe members from up river burned the village and buried
the dead where they lay. Yet, as the years went by, the story-and the
land-was lost. “My aunt told me the about the dead and how they must be
allowed to rest in peace with nothing on top of them, so they can look
up into the heavens,” says Johnny. “She said, ‘Back then, the natives
weren’t educated and couldn’t protect the land, but today we are, and we
As a protected burial site of the Yakama Nation, Lyle Point is considered sacred ground.
In August of 2007, The Trust for Public Land conveyed Lyle point, to
the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. The conveyance
marks the successful resolution of a 16-year challenge to the sacred
site posed when Klickitat County approved the development of 33 one-acre
vacation homes at Lyle Point in 1992. Tribal members and environmental
groups protested, occupying the site and organizing large marches.
As a result of years of negotiations, TPL purchased 27 lots in 2000
and four more in 2002. With generous donor support, TPL was able to hold
the land while the Yakama Nation secured permanent funding. In 2007,
after owning the property for seven years, TPL conveyed Lyle Point back
to its original owners. This marks a very visible return for the Yakama
to their ancestral lands, re-connecting them to the river that helped
sustain them for millennia.
“A lot of people questioned why we wanted this land,” says Johnny
Jackson. “After they heard the elders speak, they understood. But The
Trust for Public Land was always there.”
“They never gave up, never let us down. If my aunt was alive, she would be very happy.”