Restoration Roll Elders have seen Tribe go from nothing to something

11.14.2016 Brent Merrill People, History

According to the Tribal Member Services Department, there were 335 living Tribal members as of October who were on the Tribe’s Restoration Roll with a roll number under 1,100 and an enrollment date of before Nov. 23, 1983.

Three of those Elders recently shared their thoughts about the Tribe’s 33rd Restoration celebration that will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 22, in the Tribal gym.

“I think of the Termination period of history – of my history,” said Tribal Elder George McEachran during an interview at the Elders Activity Center. “I think of that - who we were, where we were. The whole story behind Termination and Restoration for me is in between. It’s what I needed to do in between that day and then Restoration.”

McEachran, 68, is the son of Bernice Howe, the grandson of Agatha Howe and the great-grandson of Victoria Howard. He said he remembers visiting Grand Ronde as a child. Raised in Milwaukie, McEachran said his family stopped and visited with Velma Mercier, who was a cousin to McEachran’s mother, in Grand Ronde on their way to Rockaway Beach.

“They would sit and visit, and that was a real highlight. We came this way so we could go through Grand Ronde,” remembered McEachran. “As little kids we would sit in the car and who got to see the Grand Ronde sign first was the winner. My mother lived here, was born here and went to St. Michael’s because it was a boarding school back then.”

McEachran said the return trip from the beach also was a highlight.

“Then, of course, coming back was the Bonanza restaurant,” said McEachran of the recently shuttered landmark in Grand Ronde. “And we stopped there every time. That little gift shop just fascinated me - all this big Indian stuff. We didn’t have that where I was raised. That wasn’t the culture there. Coming down here and getting that was a real treat that I was part of that.”

Tribal Elder Louise Coulson is at almost every Tribal event. She arrives early and is almost always one of the last to leave after everything is cleaned up and put away.

Coulson, 77, is the daughter of Louis Leo Riggs Jr. and Doris LaRose.

If you look for her during the Restoration celebration, she will either be found serving or cleaning up if she’s not with her family.

“I was thinking how grateful I am for all that the Tribe has given me because growing up I didn’t have nothing,” said Coulson. “It makes me feel good because I’m giving back.”

Coulson lives in the Elders’ section of Grand Meadows across Grand Ronde Road from the Tribal Cemetery. She said having a home is very important to her and for that she is very thankful to the Tribe.

“I never had a home before and to me that’s great,” said Coulson.

Tribal Elder Gladys Hobbs is a member of the Tribe’s Health Committee and Elders Committee, and she can also almost always be found at every Tribal event helping someone.

Hobbs, 72, said play time in Grand Ronde when she was a child meant going for long walks in the woods with her uncle.

“Those walks were our toy,” remembered Hobbs. “When I was growing up we had nothing. I mean we really had nothing. We went to St. Michael’s school and we lived at the base of Spirit Mountain.”

Hobbs grew up living with her grandparents – Ernie and Ethel Petite on their property and times were much different then.

Ernie, who was the son of Henry Petite and Jane Leno, was a woodcutter.

Hobbs said they had no bathroom in her grandfather’s house. They had a pump for their water and a wood stove.

“We had to cook on a wood stove and iron on a wood stove,” said Hobbs. “We had to heat our irons on the wood stove.

“I remember my mom (Gladys’ mother was Vivian Petite and her father was Raymond Petite) used to fix us homemade beans and biscuits. They were the best biscuits in the world. And she cooked it all on a wood stove and I could never figure out how she did that. I don’t think I could do it.”

Hobbs said her identity was never in question as a child in Grand Ronde. Her mother told her to never deny her Tribal ancestry.

“I knew I was an Indian and I never did give up my heritage,” said Hobbs. “I was always an Indian.”

Being a Tribal Elder and being around the Tribal events makes each of these Restoration Roll Elders feel as if they are part of something important.

“It makes me so proud of the Tribe,” said Hobbs. “They have really done a lot. I feel very, very good about what the Tribe has done. I really do. I think they have done a fantastic job because there was nothing here. There really wasn’t.”

Hobbs said she is thankful for all of the things that have happened since Restoration.

“I really am grateful for what we have. I truly am,” said Hobbs. “There is never a day that goes by that I am not grateful.”

McEachran said he knows that everything that has happened to the people of the Tribe since Restoration changed the community.

“Now I’m beginning to realize the benefits of it,” said McEachran. “I am thankful for the Elders’ pension and for this beautiful building and, of course, the recognition they always give the Elders at the meetings. I like that. I like to stand up and say I was here then and I’m here now to this day.”

McEachran said he hopes Restoration prompts good memories for the Tribal membership and inspires hope for the future.

“I just look at it like we’re 33 years old and we got a long way to go,” said McEachran. “We’re here forever, but we just got started.”