Tribal Government & News

Youth Council members meet Gov. Kate Brown during Tribal Government Day

By Bethany Bea

Smoke Signals Intern

SALEM -- Ben Souede, general counsel to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, met his potential future boss during Tribal Government Day held on Thursday, Feb. 9.

During a tour of the State Capitol building, Grand Ronde Youth Council member Izaiah Fisher met Souede and shook his hand.

“In a few years, I’m pretty sure you’re going to see me in the governor’s spot,” Fisher said.

The annual event is a chance for Oregon’s Tribes to make intergovernmental connections and educate legislators and the public about who they are. This year, five Youth Council members shadowed Grand Ronde Tribal Council members during the event and toured the Capitol building.

“It’s very exciting to have our Youth Council here today,” said Tribal Council member Tonya Gleason-Shepek. “This is an important day for Oregon on building our government-to-government relationships.”

She said since the Youth Council is new, its members haven’t previously observed Tribal interactions with state legislators and staff.

“This is the first opportunity for our Youth Council to attend an event like this with a Tribal Council member and shadow us and be introduced to some of the representatives,” Gleason-Shepek said. “This is all very new to them. It’s definitely a foundation to build on.”

Around 10 a.m., Gov. Kate Brown met and took photos with Youth Council members, as well as Tribal Council members in attendance. Brown, who for many years served on the Spirit Mountain Community Fund Board of Directors, embraced several Tribal members and laughed when Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno joked, “I’m not on the Youth Council.”

Youth Council Secretary and Junior Miss Grand Ronde Isabelle Grout said that meeting Brown was the best part of the event.

Youth Council member Madalyn Volz agreed that meeting the governor was a highlight, along with the knowledge she gained about Oregon’s Tribal culture.

“I learned a lot about the different Tribes,” Volz said. “I learned that all of these places are from the state of Oregon, so we could go and visit them if we wanted to.”

In addition to learning about Oregon Tribes’ cultures and history, Youth Council members learned how Tribes work with the state to get things done.

Leno said that an early education in the governmental process is an important tool for the Youth Council as its members are hopefully the future decision-makers for the Tribe.

“It’s an educational process,” said Leno. “You look back at the Youth Council versus our first Tribal Council and how they had to learn. (Youth Council members) will be more familiar with the government as opposed to not having that education.”

Leno said the event is important for Oregon’s Tribes because it’s an investment in the governing process.

“The value of today for all nine of the Tribes is to basically familiarize yourself with what goes on here,” Leno said, “because on a consistent basis one Tribe or the other will always be over here testifying.”

Karen Quigley, executive director of the Legislative Commission on Indian Services, characterized the event was a “visiting day” for the Tribes so Tribal representatives can have discussions in a setting free from the typical structure of governmental interactions.

“This is a day that they get to ask whatever they want,” Quigley said.

Eight of the nine federally recognized Oregon Tribes hosted informational tables with a variety of displays ranging from first foods to cultural traditions.

Grand Ronde’s table was staffed by Public Affairs Administrative Assistant Chelsea Clark, Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Martin, Tribal Council Administrative Assistant Shannon Simi and Economic Development Administrative Assistant Meghan Zimbrick. The display provided information about Grand Ronde’s history as well as chocolate, pins, pens, ceded lands maps and copies of Smoke Signals.

Martin explained the Tribe’s ceded lands map to State Library employees Dave Hegeman and Eugene Newbill, who are a reference librarian and cataloguing specialist, respectively.

“I love maps,” Hegeman said. “I plan on putting this in the collection.”

The five Youth Council members at the event were Dominik Briant, Grout, Raven Harmon, Fisher and Volz, along with Little Miss Grand Ronde Kaleigha Simi.

Other Tribal Council members who attended were Vice Chair Cheryle A. Kennedy, Secretary Jon A. George, Jack Giffen Jr., Denise Harvey, Chris Mercier, Kathleen George and Brenda Tuomi.

Also in attendance were General Manager David Fullerton and Intergovernmental Affairs Consultant Justin Martin.

At noon, Tribal representatives met in Republican Sen. Ted Ferrioli’s office for a brown bag luncheon with state employees to discuss Tribal-state relations.