Levina Wilkins is from the Yakama Nation. Her tribes and bands include the Wiinatchapam, Pshwanapam, Tyttnapam, and X’washx’wypam. She was raised speaking only Sahaptin with her grandmother. When she entered her grandmother’s home, she was asked to leave at the door the culture and language of the world developing around her. Inside, thrived the timeless language and worldviews that emerged from the land. Here, Levina would experience a sacred approach to everyday life. Later, when Levina became an educator, her practice focussed on teaching human beings how to live and thrive in the company of the sacred,
In her piece, the “Nine Virtues of the Yakama Nation,” Levina describes Yakama ways of being that support a balanced life, including Tma’áakni – Respect
This one was a big one. “Tma’áakni.” Growing up, that’s all I heard. You hear it for the plants, you hear it for the water, you hear it for the animals” that feed you. You hear it for the air you breathe, that breathes around you. “Pik ink tiicham nan, ii inx’am, Tima’aakni nam wata tlawx ki wakishwitki.” It was told to you on a daily basis – you show respect for all that is living for they are giving their lives for you. They are here for you. Then they had us say, “Shuuktam tiicham nan kun am tiicham nam I shuktam imanak,” which means, “You recognize the country, the earth, and the earth will recognize you. So, what goes up comes back to you.
Levina has offered these teachings to young people, educators and the public, including at the Indigenous Ways of Knowing conference in Portland, Oregon.
Intrinsic to these values, she advocates for educating young people within the rhythms of nature. Her formal education includes a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s in sociology/psychology. She has been a certified counsellor in Washington State and has managed the Yakama Nation’s Language Program. In 2013, as part of the Potlatch Fund Leadership Award she was recognized with the Fran James Cultural Preservation Award.