Tribal Government & News

Tribe receives prestigious Stewardship Award

10.31.2013 Dean Rhodes Natural resources

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde was honored last month with a prestigious conservation award by one of the state's premier conservation groups.

The Portland-based Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership addresses environmental challenges in the lower 146 miles of the Columbia River, according to the group's executive director, Debrah Marriott.

The partnership was created by the governors of Oregon and Washington in 1995.

At its annual gala, the group presented the Tribe, which sponsored the event, with its annual Stewardship Award. The event was held Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Portland Yacht Club.

A private party was held at the Marriott home in Portland the following week on Oct. 15.

Gov. John Kitzhaber and first lady Cylvia Hayes, along with Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Portland Commissioner Nick Fish attended the private party.

 "The private party was a very intimate event with the governor," said Tribal Council Secretary Toby McClary. "Only about 20 people in attendance. It was a great opportunity for me to talk to Gov. Kitzhaber about a couple of issues regarding our Tribe and our direction.

"As a result of our conversation, the governor has agreed to come out to Grand Ronde and visit with Tribal Council in the near future. Gov. Kitzhaber has always been a good friend to Grand Ronde and is clearly committed to maintaining that relationship." 

This is the first award to the Tribe from the partnership.

Funds raised at the annual gala go to the group's education and volunteer programs that reach students and volunteers in Oregon and Washington, said Laura O'Keefe, Communications & Events specialist for the partnership.

"We sit on sacred land," Marriott said in making the presentation. "Before we were here, Native Americans were. The river, the water, the land defines them. It should define all of us.

"The Tribe's Natural Resources Department has completed fisheries and riparian restoration projects both on the Reservation and within the Grand Ronde community, improving the waters of the South Yamhill and Agency Creek."

The results have been phenomenal, she said. "Coho salmon are returning to these waters to spawn - traveling over 220 miles to reach this area. The Tribe has cultural knowledge and extensive expertise. It is extending its work beyond the reservation to all the Tribe's ceded lands."

"I am happy to see this recognition of the Natural Resource Department's hard work," said Manager Michael Wilson. "They take their job seriously, with many days spent in harsh conditions. Every fish that returns to the Reservation is such a joy to see."

"This is the first award that I have been honored to receive for the Tribe," said Tribal Council member Denise Harvey, "but I'm sure there will be many more to come. The Tribe is very involved in being good stewards of our environment."

"The work of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is bringing long-deserved recognition," said Tribal Council member Cheryle A. Kennedy. "I highly commend our Natural Resources staff for diligently adhering to high environmental standards, and I am proud of the working partnership between Tribal Council leadership and staff."

Honorary hosts included Oregon State Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, State House Rep. Brad Witt and Washington State House Rep. Sharon Wylie.

The Grand Ronde Canoe Family welcomed guests to the event with traditional singing and dancing.

Since 1997, Spirit Mountain Community Fund has contributed more than $5 million to environmental preservation, helping to improve the quality of life for Oregonians and the health of the environment throughout the Tribe's ceded lands.

"Thank you, Grand Ronde," said Marriott, "for providing a voice for wildlife and habitat and for advocating for the health of the Columbia River and our community."

The Tribe has championed the effort to bring lamprey back to its traditional habitat in Oregon, is making an effort to reintroduce the California condor to Oregon skies, and has lent its voice and expertise to cleaning up the Portland Harbor superfund site.

Harvey, Kennedy, Public Affairs Director Siobhan Taylor and Tribal Attorney Rob Greene attended the gala and presentation. Harvey and McClary represented the Tribe at the private party.

"The Lower Columbia River Estuary group has been supported by the Tribe and Spirit Mountain Community Fund on an ongoing basis," said Taylor. "This year's Stewardship Award presented to the Tribe is a wonderful acknowledgement of the Tribe's commitment to environmental stewardship.  It is also an acknowledgement of the Tribe's ceded lands and our important and ongoing role there. 

"The lower Columbia River and the land on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the river have been integral to our Tribe's history, culture, traditions and treaties. We are still actively engaged in that area on the political, financial and cultural front, and plan to continue that work and build upon those relationships with key groups like the Lower Columbia River Estuary group."