Tribe celebrates third anniversary of Table Rocks MOU
MEDFORD -- This year's celebration at Table Rocks marked the third anniversary of an agreement that made the Tribe a partner in maintaining the historic mesas in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management.
Upper and Lower Table Rocks are located just outside of Medford and within the Tribe's ceded lands.
The agreement came to life because of the Tribe's commitment to finding common ground with governmental and non-governmental agencies.
"We're a Tribe that values relationships," Tribal Public Affairs Director Siobhan Taylor said.
"For us, it's an intimate history of 15,000 years or more," said Tribal Historian David Lewis. "This is our land."
"It's such a special place," Tribal Attorney Rob Greene said. "Environmentally, it has many unique species; culturally, it is associated with Tribal creation stories; and historically, because of the treaty signing there."
Part of the ongoing work will include assessments of oak savannahs that once marked the area, said Darren Borgias, program director for The Nature Conservancy.
"We want to understand the wide range of oak savannahs here and compare them with historic conditions," Borgias said.
The goals include opening up the oak savannahs, focusing on fire abatement and supporting the area's cultural and ecological history.
"We want to get the Tribal story into the program," said Bureau of Land Management Assistant Field Manager and district Recreation Lead Jeanne Klein.
Bureau Recreation Planner Trish Lindaman said she is looking to create a children's activity book.
The agreement also marked another milestone in the Tribe's long quest for return of its traditional sovereignty.
It was at the Table Rocks Reservation where forerunners of the Grand Ronde Tribe were collected some 150 years ago, seemingly safe from the wrath of migrating settlers.
In 1853, the Treaty with the Rogue River, the Tribe's first treaty with the federal government, established the Table Rocks reserve, the first such reserve in Oregon, Lewis said.
The Native peoples rounded up at the Table Rocks reserve came from many Bands and Tribes in southwestern Oregon. The reservation did not afford the protection that they thought it would and settlers continued to attack the Indians on the reservation, forcing many of the Tribes to flee for their safety and to fight back. Thus began the Rogue River Indian wars in 1855.
Subsequently, to make the wars stop, agents of the government force-marched the Tribes upstate to the Grand Ronde Valley on the Trail of Tears between February and March 1856.
This was one of the so-called Trails of Tears that Tribal peoples across the country endured in the 19th century.
Don Skundrick, a Jackson County commissioner, invited the Tribe to make a presentation about the stewardship agreement and how recreational opportunities are affected by restrictions for the area. John Michaels, a Medford city councilor, also came to support the effort.
The area has been managed by the Bureau of Land Management since 1986 to preserve the sensitive and pristine 5,000-acre landscape, including lands purchased by The Nature Conservancy.
In recent years, the area has been host to 4,000 local school children a year, who use the area as an outdoor classroom. Forty thousand visitors also enjoy the area each year.
As a result, preservation of the property has been a major concern. Today, it is being assured by temporary restrictions. Among them are prohibitions against vehicles, metal detectors, domestic animal and disturbing natural land features in any way.
The two-day event held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 6-7, included a Friday morning session in Medford with project stakeholders, a weekend encampment TouVelle State Park in Central Point with language and cultural demonstrations by Eric Bernando and Tribal Cultural Adviser Greg Archuleta, respectively, and an evening barbecue featuring hotdogs and hamburgers, corn and chicken prepared by Tribal Council member Jon A. George. George, his son, Tynan, Miguel Adams and Bernando honored the events with drums and songs.
Tribal Council Chair Reyn Leno and Tribal Council members Cheryle A. Kennedy, June Sherer, Kathleen Tom and George, Greene, Lewis, Archuleta, Portland office Tribal Services Representative Lisa Archuleta and Elders Nancy Renfrow and Bernadine Shriver helped celebrate the occasion.
Representatives of the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Parks and Recreation, The Nature Conservancy, Jackson County Commission, Medford City Council and the Rogue Jet Boat Adventure Center also participated.
The local NBC television affiliate from Medford reported on the encampment.
George described the purpose of the encampment and the value of Tribal ancestors for the TV report.
"It's good to share our stories and further our relationships," said Sherer. "Both grow by the experience."
"Tribes always made encampments on the river," said Tom. "Our histories are still here with us."
"There are a lot of answers here for all of us," said Kennedy.
"We're deeply rooted here," said Leno.
"We're preserving something that is important to everybody," said Lewis.