Oregon’s First Nations gather for third year in a row

02.11.2011 Dean Rhodes Culture, Entertainment, Events

Grand opening at the third annual Gathering of Oregon's First Nations on Saturday, Jan. 29, put the spotlight on hundreds of Indians.

They danced in, walked in, came with walkers and in wheelchairs.

Although the program was sponsored by Oregon's five western Tribes, representatives of all nine federally recognized Oregon Tribes carried Eagle Staffs to lead the grand opening.

Among the nine were Grand Ronde Tribal Elder Steve Rife, a veteran of both the Army and the Marines, who often carries the Eagle staff at Grand Ronde events. Following were Tribal representatives carrying Tribal, Oregon, POW-MIA and U.S. flags. Following were the rest of the veterans in attendance, Royalty and other guests.

Tribal member T.J. Lafferty carried the Grand Ronde flag. Vernon Kennedy (Burns Paiute), retired Grand Ronde staff member and husband of Tribal Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy, carried his Tribe's flag. And Christian Tinney (Lower Eastern Cherokee), manager of the Grand Ronde Tribal Convenience store and an Army veteran, carried the U.S. flag.

Grand Ronde Royalty included Senior Miss Grand Ronde Nakoosa Moreland, Junior Miss Makenzie Aaron, Little Miss Iyana Holmes, along with princesses Madison Aaron, Amelia Mooney, Isabella Grout and Kallie Provost - all members of the Tribe.

Members of the western Oregon Tribes lined up according to their Restoration dates: Siletz, 1977; Cow Creek, 1982; Grand Ronde, 1983; Coos, 1984; and Coquille, 1989. Members of the four other Oregon Tribes - Klamath, Umatilla, Burns Paiute and Warm Springs -- followed.

Twenty-one drums spread out in front and beside the stage at the Salem Pavilion on the State Fairgrounds where the event has been held since 2009. Master of ceremonies Nick Sixkiller (Cherokee) of Eugene announced them as they played. Among the drums were The Woodsmen that accompanied the 1 p.m. Grand Entry.

The eight Woodsmen included Indians from seven Tribes, including Grand Ronde Tribal member Bobby Mercier, who also gave the invocation for the event. He was one of many Grand Ronde Tribal members playing important roles during the day.

Tribal Council Vice Chair Reyn Leno joined Secretary Kathleen Tom and Tribal Council members Steve Bobb Sr., Jack Giffen Jr., Wink Soderberg and Chris Mercier at the event. Giffen and Mercier also helped at Grand Ronde information tables.

The information tables were covered by Tribal member Greg Archuleta and Elders Dorothy Parmenter and Don Day, along with Day's wife, Delva, and Tribal member David Lewis, manager of the Cultural Resources Department. Tribal Elder Connie Graves had items that she has weaved on display and demonstrated her craft. They all provided information about the Tribe and its history.

Day demonstrated the process of chipping chunks of obsidian into arrowheads and blades of many kinds, and had a number of finished pieces for sale.

"People asked how they could do it," Day said. "I had one gentleman I made a blank for him so he'd have a pattern that he and his daughter could work on."

Of interest to some visitors, said Lewis, was the history of different areas where the Grand Ronde Tribe's forebears lived, like Tualatin.

"People are looking for the history of their region," said Lewis.

Tribal member Eric Bernando, Public Affairs Director Siobhan Taylor and Public Affairs Administrative Assistant Kristin Ravia, also a member of the Tribe, staffed the booth at the pavilion entrance. Ravia registered drum groups for the event.

Tribal member Deitrich Peters served as Arena director. Grand Ronde Tribal Council Vice Chair Reyn Leno joined Siletz Tribal Council Chairwoman Delores Pigsley in welcoming some 2,000 to 2,500 people in attendance to the event.

Leno wore a vest made of the Pendleton blanket that once covered his father's -- Tribal Elder Orville Leno -- casket. Tribal Elder Evelyn Seidel and her husband, Leo, just finished the vest, Leno said, and this was the first time he had worn it.

"From now on, I'll wear it for every powwow no matter how hot it is," he said.

"Standing Strong," the video story of the five western Tribes in Oregon, played as it has at each of the previous two gatherings in the Hospitality Room off the entrance hall.

Tribal member Perri McDaniel came with 16 members of her family and enjoyed both the dancing and helping in a vendor booth.

Alan Fussell of Salem came with his wife and some of his three children and six grandchildren, who all are members of a California Tribe.

"We've never been to one and my wife wanted to go," he said. "So here we are."

Wanda Martinez of Keizer said, "We've come every year." Asked why, she said, "The food, the dancers and we get to connect back to the Native peoples."

Grand Ronde Tribal Elder and former Tribal Council Chairwoman Kathryn Harrison sat for a time with former Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians Chairwoman Sue Shaffer.

"We're just having a nice visit," said Shaffer.

Also enjoying the time out were Tribal Elders Chip Tom and Kathy Provost, Rose Peters, wife of Deitz, and many others.

The event booked some 75 vendors, according to Ravia. The Public Affairs Department also took a lead role in promoting and organizing the event, Taylor said.

The Oregon State Fair provides this facility for the five western Tribes every year in exchange for a cultural program developed by the Tribes to be presented at the State Fair every summer.