Cultural Resources installs canoe exhibit at Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill

03.31.2011 Dean Rhodes Culture, Entertainment, Events

If you go

The Grand Ronde Canoe Journey exhibit

When: Friday, April 8, through Monday, May 30

Where: The Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill, 1313 Mill St. S.E., Salem

Cost: Free with Mission Mill Museum admission, which is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors 55 and older, $4 for students with ID and $3 for children 6 to 17 years of age.

More information: or 503-585-7012

Months of work in a cold steel shed are about to pay off for Grand Ronde Cultural Resources staff members and volunteers.

The first river canoe carved in Grand Ronde since Restoration and probably much earlier will go on display Friday, April 8, at the Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill in Salem.

Three canoes, including the river canoe, the Tribe's Tillamook canoe, which is usually on display in the Governance Center's Atrium, and a historic Kalapuya canoe owned by the Heritage Center will be part of the upcoming Grand Ronde Canoe Journey exhibit at the Heritage Center, 1313 Mill St. S.E., Salem.

The exhibition, with curator credits spread across the entire Cultural Resources Department, "explores the importance of canoes to the Native Peoples of the Willamette Valley," according to the Heritage Center Web site.

"(David) Lewis (manager of the Tribe's Cultural Resources Department) and his staff use the canoe as a means to share aspects of Native history and culture, including: how the canoe has been a tool of cultural revival for the Grand Ronde community, canoe styles, features and technology, and how the canoe fits into the historic and contemporary life of their community."

The river canoe, also called a "shovelnose canoe," will be an outside display, with final texturing on the canoe set to be part of the exhibition beginning Tuesday, April 12.

The Tillamook canoe, repatriated years ago to the Tribe from the Tillamook Museum, will be on display inside the Heritage Center. It had to be frozen for two days in a casino freezer to eliminate pathogens that might otherwise be brought into the center, Lewis said.

The river canoe seemed like a good idea, Lewis said, not only because it has not been seen in Grand Ronde for so long, but also because once the exhibit ends, the Tribe will have a canoe suitable for traveling the reservation's smaller waterways.

Tribal Council provided $10,000 for this exhibit, which cost $30,000 to produce. The Heritage Center procured an additional $10,000 grant and received yet another grant from a museum supporter specifically to encase and display the Kalapuya canoe.

Last week, the Heritage Center Board of Directors voted to donate the Kalapuya canoe to the Grand Ronde Tribe following the exhibition. Tribal Council Secretary Kathleen Tom sits on the museum board.

"We're building a canoe and a tradition that the Tribe will use in the years ahead," said Lewis.

The carving of the river canoe is kick-starting an enhanced carving program in the Cultural Resources Department for carving additional canoes. A new carving shed is being prepared near Uyxat Powwow Grounds, Lewis said. The carving shed will host a variety of carving classes and projects for the Tribe.

The river canoe is being carved in the Kalapuya or Willamette River style, said Tribal member Bobby Mercier, Language and Culture specialist for the Tribe.

"Similar style canoes were found all the way down to northern California," he said. They were integral parts of the life ways of all Tribes that were removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation.

Dr. Jonathan King, Keeper of the Department of Africa, Indian Ocean and Americas at the British Museum, will be in Salem during the opening. He will speak about American Northwest coast collections in the British Museum, one of his specialties, at Willamette University's College of Law at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 6.

King also will be visiting the Grand Ronde Tribe for discussions about possible return of Grand Ronde artifacts -- the Summers Collection -- currently being held by the British Museum.

The exhibit runs through May 30.