Tribal Government & News

Tribe accepts 14-acre donation of land at Kilchis Point

09.02.2015 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Culture, History


BAY CITY – The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is no longer land-locked.

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, the Tribe accepted a donation of 14 acres from the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners at Kilchis Point on the eastern shore of Tillamook Bay.

“This is a very historic day for Grand Ronde,” said Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno, who led a Tribal Council contingent that included Vice Chair Jack Giffen Jr. and members Jon A. George, Ed Pearsall, Denise Harvey and Tonya Gleason-Shepek to the ceremony.

“It looks like we have gone in a circle now to be able to actually own land here at Tillamook, near an old village site. It kind of completes a circle for us. … When we go out and do these things, we have to look back. We are actually walking in the footprints of our ancestors. For me, this really completes the circle and I know it is a real honor for Grand Ronde to be partners with Tillamook County; the people of Tillamook County, not just the commissioners.”

Leno said the Tillamook people were one of the 27 bands that joined the Grand Ronde confederacy in the 1850s.

“I think it is a real honor to have a piece of land back at Tillamook,” Leno said.

The site, according to the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum, was home to one of the largest Native American villages on the northern Oregon coast.

Paul Levesque, chief of staff for the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners, said the county acquired the land, which is mostly shore lands, during a 1928 tax foreclosure. The county signed a 49-year lease with the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum Foundation in 1996 for the purpose of public education, including ecological and scientific studies and exploration. The 14 acres now owned by the Tribe are adjacent to the 200-acre Kilchis Point Reserve, a natural area owned by the foundation.

“The 14 acres have important cultural significance to the Tribes,” Levesque said. “A map in the Lewis and Clark journals identified the vicinity as occupied by a Native American village, kil-har-nar. A number of artifacts have been found here.”

Tribal Historic Preservation Officer David Harrelson said the site is rich in traditional food resources, such as clams and crabs. Leno also mentioned that his family used to go clamming in the area when he was a young boy, reflecting longstanding Tribal connections to the area.

The 14 acres are located within the city limits of Bay City as well as within the county.

Since the Board of Commissioners has been discussing with Tribal Council opportunities for the Tribe to acquire forestland in Tillamook County, the gift of 14 acres to the Tribe is a goodwill gesture on the part of the board, Levesque said.

Levesque said he has been working with Tribal Attorney Rob Greene and his staff about creating the legal documents that would be acceptable to the board and Tribal Council.

Tribal Council OK’d a resolution at its Wednesday, Aug. 26, meeting to approve the land acquisition.

The Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to transfer the land to the Grand Ronde Tribe on Sept. 2.

The Tribe accepted the land donation and then entered into a lease of the property with the Pioneer Museum Foundation, similar to the Tillamook County agreement, and also resolved to maintain public pedestrian access to the shore lands.

The Tribe also is looking at the land as a site for possible cultural events and retreats.

Giffen suggested a canoe landing, which probably has not occurred in Tillamook Bay in ages.

Tribal Culture Department employees Brian Krehbiel, Bobby Mercier, Travis Stewart and Kathy Cole performed opening and closing drum songs during the event.

Tribal Council gifted blankets and necklaces to Tillamook County Commissioners Tim Josi and Bill Baertlein, and necklaces to Tillamook County Pioneer Museum representatives Gary and Carla Albright, David Bisson and Phyllis Wustenberg, as well as Tillamook County Mediation Program Coordinator Marie Heinburg.

Tribal Council also gifted a canoe paddle created by Tribal artisans that, according to Josi, will be hung in the Board of Commissioners office.

 “We have a great relationship with you folks and this cements it even further,” Josi said.

“We look forward to a long relationship with the staff at the museum,” Gleason-Shepek said.

Other Tribal employees who attended the ceremony included Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Martin, Tribal Attorney Rob Greene and Staff Attorney Jennifer Biesack, Ceded Land Program Manager Michael Karnosh, Cultural Exhibits Supervisor Julie Brown, Cultural Interpretive Specialist Bradley Leno and Realty Specialist Teresa Brocksen.

The land donation to the Grand Ronde Tribe was made possible by recent passage of a state law that allows counties to sell or donate surplus property to the nine federally recognized Tribes in Oregon. Previously, counties only were allowed to sell or donate lands to state and federal governments.

“This establishes a cultural foothold in Tillamook County,” Leno said. “You can talk about history and you can read about history, but when you actually own land … now we have a piece of our history. It completes the circle for us.”