Tribe celebrates 28th anniversary of Restoration

11.30.2011 Dean Rhodes Culture, History, Events

"It's always good for us to be together, and to have our children here to see what we're doing," said Tribal member and Language and Culture Specialist Bobby Mercier as the Tribe unveiled a day's worth of activities on Tuesday, Nov. 22, starting inside the Tribal plankhouse.

"I love sharing this day with all of my family," said Tribal Council member Toby McClary, "which is all of you."

The 28th anniversary of Tribal Restoration was a cold, rainy day that did little to slow enthusiasm for the celebration of the day that has been called the most important in the Grand Ronde Tribe's history.

"Think of what we have," said Mercier, indicating the year-old plankhouse, dry and warm with two fires going. "And remember our ancestors living out in the rain."

These annual celebrations honor "those who made the sacrifices so we could be here," Mercier said, sentiments that echoed throughout the day.

The two-hour start at the plankhouse paved the way for a noon meal and program that stretched through most of the afternoon with memories and raffles for nearly 400 in attendance. A Walking On video remembered Tribal Elders and members lost during the last year. At 4 p.m., a Restoration powwow began that stretched into the night.

"We want the children to see us praying," said Mercier, "seeing us taking care of the things that need to be taken care of. Each of us is a reflection of all that they went through."

The plankhouse ceremony also included drumming, songs and prayers by a group of culture-centered youth, including members of the Grand Ronde Canoe Family.

Tribal member CeCe Kneeland remembered that she was 23 when she heard that the Grand Ronde Tribe's Restoration was accomplished on Nov. 22, 1983, when then-President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law.

 "I was sweeping the floor when I heard it," she said.

She offered the group "a little bird song" that her grandmother taught her when she was small.

Tribal member Kevin Simmons introduced his family.

"This is a good place. This is a healing place," Simmons said. "There have been warriors, and there still are warriors."

He called today's warriors "briefcase warriors."

"We have built a home for our children," said Mercier, "but that doesn't mean our work is done. We tell stories about how our ancestors came here in the wintertime, but they did not ask, 'What can I have?' Instead, they were teaching their young that the right question is, 'What can I do?'

"We have children in the city who don't know who their parents are or where they come from. I met a young lady in Tigard who couldn't even point the way to Grand Ronde. Those are the kind of people we need to reach out to. A people coming together - that makes our people strong."

"I started to cry when I woke up this morning and realized what day it was," said Tribal Elder and former Tribal Chairwoman Kathryn Harrison. "There were a lot of crossroads that could have taken us the wrong way."

"Everybody helped everybody," said Tribal Elder and former Tribal Council member Wink Soderberg, referring to the days before Restoration. "And when we didn't have the money, we found a way to do it. Charity starts at home. Reach into your pocket. Reach into your heart and make sure we take care of our own."

Tribal member Marcus Gibbons came out with his sons, Osprey and True, both Tribal members. Describing the reservation where he grew up as a place where "alcoholism was rampant" and "it was the murder capital of the U.S.A.," he said, "But we were always given these ceremonies; and learning how to pray in sweat lodges. The path that brought me here is the path of all my relatives.

"I dance and I pray and I dance and I pray and I dance and I pray," said Marcus.

"I put my hands on all of these boards before we built this longhouse. Every day we came up here and prayed. It's who we are. I dance and I pray for every one of us."

This year marked the first that Tribal Elder Ed Ashman had been inside the plankhouse.

"I learned more in two hours here this morning than I ever knew before," Ashman said. "I'm so much at peace in there."

Before a lunchtime meal of ceremonial elk stew, salmon and broccoli salad, Tribal Elder and former Tribal Council member Val Grout and Harrison each gave an invocation.

Then, the Tribal contingent that filled the gymnasium split up for lines at buffet tables on either side.

Kneeland and royalty members sang and prayed.

Many gifts, up to and including a large-screen television, were raffled off during the afternoon.

Special guests included Steve Colms, director of Environmental Studies at the University of Portland; Chris Finks, a board member of the Maritime Heritage Association, which is working to build a Maritime Heritage Center in Portland that would include the Tribe's story; and Matt and Janel Bennett, owners of Sybaris Restaurant in Albany. Matt put on fundraising dinner for Albany wetlands based on Kalapuyan traditional foods and was subsequently invited to serve the same dinner for the James Beard Foundation in New York City, where he again spread the word about the Kalapuyan people.

Other guests included the Rev. Albert Krueger, pastor of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Portland, and First Nations Missioner for the Episcopal Church in Western Oregon. He participated in a successful effort culminating in the Episcopal Church in America repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and has been the engine behind an effort to have the Summers Collection returned to Grand Ronde. Also on hand was co-vice president of the Oregon Native American Chamber of Commerce Bonnie Kahn. She also runs a life skills program for Tribal members.

Tribal vendors set up shop in the Youth Education building next to the gym.

Royalty included many Tribal members: Veterans' Royalty member Isabelle Grout, and Grand Ronde Royalty, Nakoosa Moreland, Senior Miss; Iyana Holmes (Junior Miss); Amelia (Little Miss) and Amaryssa (Princess) Mooney; and Makenzie Aaron (Princess).

The Honor Guard included Chris Tinney and his son, Hunter, (both Lower Eastern Cherokee), Wayne Chulik (Tlingit) and Tribal member T.J. Lafferty.

Nick Sixkiller (Siletz) was master of ceremonies of the powwow. Among many introductions, Sixkiller introduced Grand Ronde Tribal Elder Pearl Lyon, who is oldest in the Tribe. She will be 100 years old in February.

Tribal member Deitrich Peters served as arena director and whip man.

Host drums included Little River (Siletz), All Nations (Burns-Paiute), Johonaaii and The Woodsmen (Grand Ronde).

"We truly honor this day," said Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy, "and we want these traditions to continue for hundreds of years."

The Restoration celebration was coordinated by the Tribe's Public Affairs Department - Director Siobhan Taylor and Tribal member and Administrative Assistant Kristen Ravia -- and a committee of Tribal member volunteers that included Sam Dala, Darlene Jones, Claudia Leno, Gladys Hobbs, Violet Folden, Kathryn Harrison, Wink Soderberg, Kathleen Tom, Bonnie Mercier and staff, Scarlett Holtz, Lisa Archuleta, Jon George and Destiny Bishop.