Annual summit, powwow to honor Vietnam veterans

06.30.2016 Brent Merrill Culture, Events

If you go

Gathering of Warriors

Native Veterans Summit &

Marcellus Norwest Memorial

Veterans Powwow

When: Thursday, July 7, through Sunday, July 10.

Where: Uyxat Powwow Grounds, 9600 Highway 22 (Hebo Road), Grand Ronde.

Summit General Sessions: 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday, July 8-9.

Powwow grand entries: 7 p.m. Friday, July 8; 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 9; and 1 p.m. Sunday, July 10.


Vietnam War-era veterans will be the focus of this year’s fourth annual Gathering of Warriors Native Veterans Summit on Thursday, July 7, through Saturday, July 9, and the annual Marcellus Norwest Memorial Veterans Powwow that runs Friday, July 8, through Sunday, July 10.

Both events will be held at the Tribe’s Uyxat Powwow Grounds, 9600 Highway 22 (Hebo Road).

Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno, a Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran, said 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. He said every Vietnam veteran who attends the summit or powwow will receive a commemorative eagle pin.

“Over the past couple of years we have tried to identify people that we are going to recognize,” said Leno. “This year we will be recognizing the Vietnam veterans.”

“Each year we’ve tried to focus on one set of veterans even though obviously all veterans are welcome. That’s our focus for the summit,” said Tribal General Manager David Fullerton, who is once again one of the event organizers.

Fullerton said the Native Veterans Summit is put on by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the Native Wellness Institute and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Tribal Government Relations.

Fullerton said the summit’s agenda is filled with information for veterans about education, employment, hospice services, suicide prevention and mental health wellness.

Tribal Government Relations Specialist Terry Bentley said the Native Veterans Summit is designed to provide information and make connections for veterans.

“The theme for this year’s event is connecting veterans with services,” said Bentley via e-mail. “The estimate is that 200 veterans and their family members will attend.”

Bentley said many government officials from a number of key veterans’ agencies also will attend, such as the Veterans Affairs Office, Portland Medical Center, Portland Regional Office, Salem Veterans Center and the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Bentley said the summit will feature workshops, support meetings, employment information, cultural activities and ceremonies, guest speakers, talking circles, health and dental care, benefits coordination and a healing village.

Native Veterans Summit organizers and supporters say they have three goals they hope to accomplish in three days.

First, they hope to increase access by veterans to Veterans Affairs health care and benefits.

Second, they want to promote economic sustainability by providing information about disability compensation-related benefits, VA home loans, GI Bill benefits and veteran-owned small business opportunities.

The summit also will focus on listening to Tribal leaders and veterans residing in Indian Country about their experiences with accessing VA health care and benefits.

Bentley said the summit will be a success if it connects veterans with their benefits.

Fullerton said the summit is important to the community for many reasons and that Tribal resources expended to provide the service to veterans are well used.

“It puts us on the map as far as what we’re trying to do and where we place our veterans in importance of things that we do,” said Fullerton. “Not only are you setting aside a complete powwow to honor your veterans, you are also saying you don’t just want to honor your veterans, but we want to help so we added the summit as a resource. We want to see if you can leave after these days in Grand Ronde in a better place than you were when you got here.”

Tribal Council member Brenda Tuomi, an Army veteran, said she is happy to see many services provided to veterans at the summit and powwow.

“I love that we have the Veterans Powwow every year,” said Tuomi. “I love that we’re doing the summit now. I hope that we see even more participants at the summit this year.”

Bentley said the pairing of the summit with the Marcellus Norwest Memorial Veterans Powwow is beneficial to veterans and those trying to provide services.

“The powwow is important because of the timing,” said Bentley. “It is held annually to honor veterans. It is our hope that the veterans who are attending the powwow will take advantage of the Veterans Summit. This is a popular Veterans Powwow and draws a large crowd. Our main goal is to connect veterans with their earned benefits and services.”

In Grand Ronde, the Veterans Powwow each year is also a time to remember late Tribal Elder and Army veteran Marce Norwest for whom the powwow is named.

“I always try and remember Marce,” said Leno. “He was a real supporter of the veterans; of any and all veterans like I am. I think as a combat veteran he realized a lot about what Vietnam veterans went through because he came out of Korea.”

Tuomi said she has fond memories of Norwest from her years of serving on the Tribe’s Color Guard.

“Marce has a special place in my heart,” said Tuomi. Her husband, Ron, is also an Army veteran. “What I know about Marce was he was a caretaker. He would look after you. He would take you under his wing and he made sure that he looked after you. I’ve never met anybody like Marce.”

Leno said the effort that goes into putting on the summit and the powwow each year fills him with pride.

“I think it goes right along with our memorial out here,” said Leno. “When you look at our memorial it has over 2,300 names on it. I’m really proud as the Tribal chairman and as a Native American to see the honor that Native American people provide for their veterans.”

The summit begins at 3 p.m. Thursday with a pre-summit workshop and then general sessions at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The powwow begins with a grand entry at 7 p.m. Friday, July 8, and continues on Saturday, July 9, with grand entries at 1 and 7 p.m. There also will be a grand entry at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 10.

The powwow will feature Men’s Grass Dance and Women’s Jingle Dress specials.

Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma member Nick Sixkiller will be master of ceremonies and arena director will be Carlos Calica of Warm Springs. Bad Soul will be host drum and Tribal Elder Deitz Peters and his wife, Rose, will act as head man and head woman.