Portland park receives Chinuk Wawa name

08.14.2014 Dean Rhodes Culture, Events

Grading on the 2.4-acre corner plot at 52nd Avenue and Northeast Alberta Street had begun on Thursday, Aug. 7, when a ceremony unveiling the Chinuk Wawa name for the park to be located there was held.

Kʰunamokwst Park (pronounced KAHN-ah-mockst) came from a suggestion by Tribal cultural consultant Greg Archuleta, with technical support from Tribal Historian David Lewis and Cultural Education and Outreach Program Manager Kathy Cole through the Native American Community Advisory Committee of the Portland Parks and Recreation Department. It is the name that the committee recommended to the Naming Committee.

Translated as "together," it offers hope that this new greenspace will bring the Cully neighborhood closer together and remind families in the area that this land and more had been ceded more than 150 years ago by ancestors of the Grand Ronde Tribe.

This is the first Parks and Recreation Department name that honors the indigenous people of the area. It comes on the heels of the naming of a Willamette River bridge "Tilikum Crossing," also suggested by the Grand Ronde Tribe and also honoring the area's Native American roots.

"It is a name that honors our ancestors," said Tribal Council member Jon A. George at the unveiling, "the original people of this place, the Clackamas and Multnomah people.

"Kʰunamokwst Park is a name that honors us as the Willamette Valley Treaty Tribe, and our community of Portland. Together, we will enjoy the beauty and protect the health of this place, just as our ancestors did."

Tribal Council member Denise Harvey, Public Affairs Director Siobhan Taylor, Tribal Attorney Rob Greene, Land and Culture Manager Jan Looking Wolf Reibach and Administrative Assistant Reina Nelson, and her son, Peter, as well as Lewis, Archuleta, Cole, and many others from the Tribe attended.

Peter Nelson said he observed "a sense of community" at the ceremony. "They were showing love to each other and the area."

"khanawi ntsayka-ixt-tilixam ntsayka," said Reibach after the ceremony. It means "we are all one family."

Reina Nelson called it "a great place for the community."

All stakeholders in the development of the park participated in the naming.

About 100 coalesced for the early evening ceremony, including Tribal representatives of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

Members of the local community attended. Many had participated in the park's planning. Representatives of youth groups attended. They had visited many parks and consulted with established public artists before submitting design ideas.

Leaders of the city's Parks and Recreation Department attended. Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz described features of this developing project. She cited a nature area, interactive woods and paths, a large open lawn, picnic areas, a small skateboard spot for beginners and other young skateboarders, lights at night, on-street parking, a rain garden, and the feature most promising -- a flushing toilet.

Portland Commissioner Nick Fish, who set the project in motion with the purchase of the property in 2009, was honored but could not attend the ceremony.

Mike Abbate, director of the Parks Department, emceed the event. "We are all stewards of this place," he said.

Representatives of the park's designers and builders also came for this landmark moment for the project.

Previously, this former Werbin property had served industrial purposes.

"This was all woods when I was a boy," said Donald Rumford, 78, wearing a University of Oregon cap. Until 1998, Rumford had been a maintenance man for a building that once sat right where the ceremony was taking place. He pointed to the southwest corner of the property where "a little house" used to sit, he said.

"Not in my wildest dreams did I think we'd have a park in the community," said Emily Hill, who came to the opening with her children, Pippa, 4, and Pascal, 2. The family lives eight blocks away and has been attending meetings since last summer.

"There have been rumors for longer than that," she said.

Until the completion of Kʰunamokwst Park, expected next spring, the family travels to Harper's playground, eight miles away.

The Tribal Canoe Family and members of Tribal Royalty sang and drummed at the ceremony's beginning and end.

Come next spring, 1,500 families will have a city park in their neighborhood. Its name will honor the legacy of the Tribe's ceded lands and the people of the Cully neighborhood.