I Have Enjoyed My Life 

Joyce Victoria Ross Button

My name is Joyce Victoria Ross Button. I work at the Yakama Nation Library. I’ve been here back and forth for about ten years. I’ve been working mainly in the Strong Heart Room. It’s a collection of rare books that Nepal Strong Heart had when he was back in the black and white films.

I’m also a storyteller. I come from a long line of storytellers. My mother was from the Columbia River Moses band and Kalispell Kootenai tribes. I also am Yakama descendant.

I’m forty-eight years old and I go to the schools and tell the Yakama legends, the Kootenai and Kalispell legends. I get the children involved in the story to where they’re playacting out their parts.

I’ve been married once in my life. I was married to an Englishman named Jim Button. We had a daughter together and I have a son, and his name is Setharian Ross Shot Button. I have a granddaughter who’s seven months old. Her name’s Theresa Ann Pierce Shot, named after my mother.

I have enjoyed my life and what I’m able to do and what I’m able to give to the people. My main specialty is genealogical research. I’ve been doing that since as long as I can remember, whenever I could first begin to talk. I was fortunate to find out in years later that both my parents were also the gatekeepers in their family. They had been given all the information verbally from generations before. So I was able to get all that ancestry recorded.

I’m happy to say that my mother came from double chiefs, and my father came from kings and queens. I was able to find all these records, put them together and it was true, they were already historically recorded, including photographs. So it made my life a lot easier, my job much quicker.

When people need to have their genealogy done, they come to me and ask me questions and I can usually help them get started along the right path. 2002 I won an award. England sent me a hundred sterling pound silver check for work I’d done on Pocahontas.

I’m really happy with the things I’m able to do for the people. That’s pretty much my life and what I expect to continue doing forward.

My father’s got a book with his family called ‘Crossroads in Kansas’. It’s a Sterns-Ross genealogy that I was able to find a long lost cousin of his that we found in Vancouver and he got to meet her. Her name is Phyllis Ross Costner. She sent me a book. I hope to have my own published one day called ‘On My Way Home’.


Joyce Victoria Ross Button

Joyce Victoria Ross Button is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. She is originally from the Columbia Moses Band and she is also a Yakama descendent and lives in Toppenish, Washington in the Heart of the Yakama Nation. Both sides of the family are well known by historians. Her mother’s side of family is from double chiefs line; one is Masselow(Marcellay) and traces back to the Calispel and two is Pierre Kwl-Kwl-Sta-Quill-Quilt-Sha-Mein (Kootenai) originally Iroquios from the Mohawk Band which traces back to the Pequot with a long ancestral line. Pierre came here with the Hudson Bay Company and married a Pend D Orielle woman. Her father’s side is Ross the oldest crown heads in history. He fought in the Four Lakes Battle near Spokane was a signer of the 1846 in the Hellgate Treaty. The area, originally known as the Northwest Territory, encompassed all four states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. This 1.2 million acre reservation sits in south central Washington. The terrain is mountainous, has rivers, grazing land for horses, is arid, and has perfect weather the four seasons of the year.

Joyce is a tribal historian, storyteller, and medicine dancer. She tells the history of the Columbia River Moses Band, who along with the Yakama , Warm Spring, Umatilla, and the Nez Perce, were the five original tribes known as the Plateau Indian tribes. The Columbia River Moses Band was documented just west of the south half of the Colville Reservation. The Kennewick man is another issue that Joyce discusses.

Her stories and legends are fact based on oral history and haven’t been put in writing yet. She also includes creation and animal stories. She tells stories of the animal people, Spilye, the coyote, the beaver, the fish and the salmon. A basket given to Lewis and Clark, dated to be 10,000 years old, is in the Smithsonian Museum. Joyce tells a story about the first woman and the first basket. First Woman was distraught that her mate knew all things and she hadn’t evolved that far. She was crying when she went to sleep and asked the Creator for something that would be just hers. She had nothing and she wanted to show her mate that she was of value too. The Creator gave her a vision and in the vision was a basket and how to make it. She made the basket and it helped her. She could cook and store food for her mate. This made a difference and she now was extremely valuable.

Involved with cultural activities and history research, she is in the process of putting her family history together so it will be documented. She did a research paper on Pocahontas, which was published in the Yakama Nation Review. She is working on her own story titled On My Way Home.’ Her specialty includes making huckleberry jam, shawls and moccasins. Basket weaving, wampos (the family bag) and corn husking were important to the Plateau tribes.

Joyce gives presentations in all kinds of settings and age groups. High schoolers get actively involved and take part in the presentations. They want to become a part of the story and they’re now telling the stories. For her hands on presentations, she brings her own props and items that are going be talked about, and for comfort she brings blankets to sit on. She believes it is important that they’re always busy doing something when stories are being told. A craft should be ready for whatever age group, like stringing beads or drawing a picture. They’re creating the story and writing it on their heart at the same time they are hearing it. If their hands aren’t doing something they aren’t always going to remember the story. Joyce includes discussions, questions and comments following her presentations. She’s forever positive how things can happen and how they can change for the better. She believes the more non Indian people taught about native culture the more influence you’re going to be able to give about what historically has happened that you want corrected.

Joyce Button
2181 South Track Road
Toppenish, WA 98948