31st Restoration Celebration delivers across four Tribal venues

12.01.2014 Dean Rhodes Culture, History, Events

Grand Ronde Restoration Day, celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Tribe regaining federal recognition, started at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Tribal Cemetery where a private prayer service was held at the Atudship memorial.

"The cemetery is the anchor of the Tribe," said Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno.

At 10 a.m., the day's activities moved to the Tribal plankhouse, Achaf-hammi, where Cultural Outreach Specialist Bobby Mercier led drumming, dancing and singing. For those who came into the plankhouse at the start, the fires were already hot and the flames headed upward.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Before the activities began, members of the Grand Ronde drum group, 14 strong this year, Tribal Council Secretary Toby McClary, former Tribal Council member Wink Soderberg and his wife, Kathy, other Tribal members and guests congregated around the fire in conversation.

Brian Krehbiel and Jordan Mercier were first to stoke the fires, a plum job that circulated among singers and drum players.

Soon, the group numbered about 50, which held steady for the hour-long program.

Bobby Mercier said that the event was meant for fun and dance, and to "let our ancestors know that we're singing and dancing for them. It's not just about Restoration and the papers we signed, but everything our ancestors have done for us, a commemoration to remember and give thanks to those who came before."

Speaking first in Chinuk Wawa, Bobby Mercier said, "It's always good that we come together. On days like this, our hearts become full again."

The singing and dancing, he said, "Let's our ancestors know that we haven't forgotten them. And I'm always glad to see the children here. It gives them the understanding that they are part of something bigger."

Drummers and dancers, including the women of the Grand Ronde Canoe Family, performed a paddle dance, salmon dance, a dance honoring people coming together, a memorial dance, a dance honoring new beginnings and a dance for ancestors.

After the plankhouse ceremony, lunch and the Restoration Powwow were held in the Tribal gym. By noon, the gym was filled and everybody was saving seats. As more Tribal members arrived, it looked like it was going to be standing room only.

Tribal Council Chair Reyn Leno and Tribal Council member Jon A. George gave introductions. Tribal Elder and former Tribal Council member Steve Bobb Sr. offered the invocation.

Grand Ronde Royalty performed "The Lord's Prayer." Royalty included Senior Miss Grand Ronde Promise Rimer, Junior Miss Grand Ronde Iyana Holmes, Little Miss Grand Ronde Isabelle Grout, Senior Veterans Queen Savannah Ingram, Junior Veterans Queen Amelia Mooney and princesses Kaleigha Simi, Hailey Lewis-Little and Mabel Brisbois.

Also among the Royalty were SuSun Fisher, Royalty Queen for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, and Rainy Silva from Laguna, N.M., who is attending Chemawa Indian School in Salem. Silva attended as Miss Chemawa and comes from ancestors in Laguna, Pueblo and Northern Ute Tribes.

All introduced themselves and gave the audience a personal welcome.

Lunch featured ceremonial salmon and elk stew as entrees. The Tribe honored Tribal hunters who regularly participate in the gathering of ceremonial meat. Of 32, eight in attendance at the time of the honoring included Tyson Mercier and Shonn Leno, and Elders Steve Rife, Ron Rife, John Lillard, Sharon Wattier II, Guy Schultz and Marline Groshong.

The hunters came to the front where many in the crowd walked up and thanked them for their efforts. An honor dance also was held in their name.

Tribal Council member Jon A. George introduced current and past Tribal Council members in attendance.

"Restoration should be called the day the government made a mistake," Leno said. "Sixty years ago was one of the worst days, Termination Day. But it meant nothing to my family. It was never about benefits, not about a check. It's about being proud of who we are."

Tribal leaders also cited recent Tribal accomplishments.

From Sunday, Nov. 16, through Wednesday, Nov. 19, a Tribal delegation traveled to Washington, D.C., where they worked with Oregon's congressional delegation to move forward an amendment to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act. When passed, the amendment guarantees that Tribally purchased land within the boundaries of the Tribe's original reservation will become Tribal Reservation land instead of trust land.

The delegation included Tribal Chair Reyn Leno, Vice Chair Jack Giffen Jr., Tribal Council member Tonya Gleason-Shepek, Tribal Attorney Rob Greene and Assistant General Manager Stacia Martin.

Another instance of success came from Bobby Mercier. "They told us not to ask again, but we did, and we got approval to put scaffolding back up at Willamette Falls," he said.

"They hoped we would fail in managing our forests," said Leno, "but we did better than they expected." The Tribe, he said, has made management of Tribal forests a great success for environmental stewardship, as well as a money-making enterprise.

Tribal Council member Jon A. George recognized Restoration Elders. Among them were Margaret Provost, Wink Soderberg, Cheryle A. Kennedy and Alan Ham.

Provost described the long and arduous effort to make Restoration happen. "We didn't have anything," Provost said, "but we knew who we were."

She said that in the days of the first Restoration celebration, "We helped each other." When Tribal hunters brought back elk, deer and salmon, they shared it with the community, and when somebody needed help, everyone pitched in, she said.

Kennedy said, "Remember Margaret. Everything we have is due to her hard work."

Soderberg honored Tribal Elder Marvin Kimsey and said that many people should be honored. "They worked really hard on raising money," he said. Provost, Kimsey and Merle Holmes are the three principal Tribal members who started the Restoration effort in the 1970s.

Tribal Elder Jackie Many Hides recalled how thankful she felt and challenged the Tribe to devote more energy "to the children."

An honor dance was held for those who raised funds and spoke before groups, and worked with congressmen and senators to bring about the Tribe's 1983 Restoration.

Mike Clemmons honored his brother, the late Rudy Clemmons, who was the master of ceremonies at the Tribe's first powwow, and Chet Clark, who sang the Tribe's first song at that powwow.

Leno also honored those on the Tribe's Termination rolls.

George recognized the Tribe's eldest Elder, Pearl Lyon, 102, and honored the Restoration Committee volunteers who helped organize this year's events.

After lunch, chairs were moved into a big circle forming a powwow grounds inside and tables were carted out.

The Restoration Powwow, organized by the Tribe's Culture Committee, started a little after 3 p.m. Starburst, The Woodsmen and the West Coast Boys were host drums, and in addition the powwow hosted Yakama Boys, All Nations and Johonaaii drums.

Drawings started after lunch and continued punctuating the day between honorings and dances. By all accounts, the Culture Committee's goal of improving powwow attendance was accomplished.

Wayne Chulik, with eagle staff, and Tribal Elder Alton Butler, carrying Marce Norwest's eagle staff, led the powwow grand entry. Norwest, a Tribal leader who protected Tribal forests for many years as the Forest Patrol officer, has walked on.

Arena Director Deitz Peters carried a staff with many eagle feathers. Following him were four flags: the U.S. flag carried by Elder Steve Bobb Sr., the POW flag carried by Al Miller, the Tribal flag carried by Elder Raymond Petite and the Oregon flag carried by Mike Lane.

Following were five banners naming the forerunner Tribes of the Grand Ronde confederation - Umpqua, Molalla, Rogue River, Kalapuya and Chasta. Royalty and other dancers followed.

Bobby Mercier honored veterans, who introduced themselves and stated which branch of the military they served in, the years during which they served and the places where they served.

Military Purple Heart recipients, awarded for being wounded in battle, were honored.

The powwow stretched passed 9 p.m.

In addition during the day, Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center opened with its many exhibits and a 27-minute slideshow honoring Tribal members who have walked on.

Restoration Committee members included Jocelyn Huffman, Tribal Council member Denise Harvey, Betty Bly, Darlene Aaron, Dana Ainam, Jan Looking Wolf Reibach, Sam Dala, Gladys Hobbs, Violet Folden, Grace Amos, Val Grout, Reina Nelson, Alan Ham, Linda LaChance, Stacia Martin, Lisa Archuleta, Sarah Ross, Wink Soderberg, Linda Brandon, Kevin Simmons, Janele Gutierrez-Riggs, Public Affairs Director Siobhan Taylor and Administrative Assistant Chelsea Clark.

The Tribe's Culture Committee includes Elders Linda Brandon, Betty Bly, Margaret Provost and Faye Smith, as well as Sarah Ross, Marcus Gibbons and Kevin Simmons.

In addition, many Tribal departments and employees helped in big and small ways in staging the successful day.