PENDLETON -- A Umatilla Indian matriarch's name was bestowed on the Family Walk and Bike event at the Salmon Walk festival Saturday.

The event will now and forever be called the Elsie McKay Walk.

Alanna Nanegos, environmental outreach coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources, and the coordinator of Salmon Walk, renamed the family walk and honored McKay's family members with a photo montage. The montage included her Umatilla Indian name of "Pin Enya Ka Lone Mi" and a photo of McKay being wheeled through a five-mile walk in a wheelchair last year. McKay, 90, died Feb. 16.

"We need to focus on the elders," Nanegos said. "Elsie had 11 children, 13 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren. She really left her mark on the Tribe."

Tribal elder Dan Motanic spoke about growing up with McKay, "chumming around with her husband Dave" and chauffeuring her through winter snowstorms after church meetings.

McKay was honored at the seventh annual Salmon Walk event. The event is not financially sponsored by the Tribes, but through state grants and community effort. Though it previously has been held in downtown Pendleton, this year the event returned to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation on the grounds of Tamastslikt Cultural Institute.

Salmon Walk is a celebration of health and wellness where individuals compete in biking, running and walking events. It also is an opportunity to teach the public about watershed and fish habitat issues.

"This is not just a tribal event, it's for everybody," Nanegos said.

To educate the public on watershed issues, tents were set up with information on the local river systems and wildlife.

Pete and Francis Gomez, 5-year-old twins, were enthralled with the exhibit of a lamprey eel.

"Make it come out," Francis asked Speros Doulos, complex manager for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife fish hatchery.

Dutifully, Doulos stirred the eel in the large green tank and the children squealed in delight.

The eel was caught Friday night in the Columbia River by tribal member and fisheries biologist David Close.

Doulos said the significance of the display is to bring recognition to the odd-looking eel.

"There is a cultural significance to the eel," he said. "The eel was sustenance just like salmon, and it has declined rapidly because of loss of habitat."

Doulos said the lamprey is an anadromous fish, which means it leaves the Columbia River to enter the Pacific Ocean and then returns.

Though the eel is not yet listed as an endangered species, the Tribes and the Fish and Wildlife Service are studying whether it should be listed as a species at risk.

"It's a complex issue. We know the numbers have been declining," he said.

Besides education, Salmon Walk also promotes good health by hosting races, including a 15K run and 50-mile bicycle race along with the family three-mile walk or bike event.

Winners were given ribbons and trophies. Winners for the 15K for female race were: first, Keelie Keown and second, Beth Knoble.

15K male winners were: first, Clifford Banister; second, Harold Shepherd and third, Monty Robbins.

Winners for the 5K female run were: first, Kathleen Korwin; second, Hayley Overson; third, Joyce Duval.

5K male winners were: first, Brian Woody; second, Gary Williams and third, Doug DeBok.

For the three-mile family fun walk, first place went to Bronson Spencer; second place, Jori Spencer and third place, Briana Spencer.

Three-mile family fun biker winners included: first place Gabriel Tate; second place, Rob Johnson and third, Graeme Johnson.

Winners for the 50-mile bike race included: first place, Marc Brown; second place, Mark Painte and third place, Brian Cimmiy.

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Reporter Carie L. Call can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-304 after hours) or e-mail: ccall@eastoregonian.com.  

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