Veterans' weekend arrives with summit, powwow

06.29.2017 Dean Rhodes Culture, People, Events, Federal Government

Two days after the most patriotic holiday of the year – the Fourth of July/Independence Day – a weekend of activities in Grand Ronde will seek to help and honor those who displayed their patriotism by serving in the U.S. military.

The fifth annual Veterans Summit will occupy Uyxat Powwow Grounds off Hebo Road beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday and resume at 9 a.m. Friday, July 6-7, and segue into the Marcellus Norwest Memorial Veterans Powwow at 7 p.m. Friday with the first of four grand entries.

The Veterans Powwow continues throughout the weekend with grand entries at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 8, and 1 p.m. Sunday, July 9.

The Veterans Summit will begin under the powwow grounds arbor with welcoming remarks from Tribal Council Chairman and Marine Corps veteran Reyn Leno, Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Cameron Smith, Portland Veterans Affairs Health Care System Director Michael Fisher and Terry Bentley (Karuk), Western Region Tribal Government Relations specialist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thursday afternoon sessions will include helping veterans reconnect with civilian life and assisting them in understanding their benefits, compensation, pensions and presumptive health conditions.

Friday sessions will offer numerous informational tables for veterans and their family members, as well as a healing and self-care village and mental health first aid.

Elizabeth Estabrooks, Women Veterans coordinator with the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, will deliver a speech entitled “I Am Not Invisible” and summit regular Linda Woods (Ojibwe) will discuss being a woman warrior in the Air Force.

The summit will conclude with a forgiveness ceremony facilitated by Native Wellness Institute Executive Director Jillene Joseph in the nearby Tribal plankhouse, achaf-hammi.

The Veterans Summit, which was first held in 2013 after Leno attended a planning meeting held in San Diego, is sponsored by the Grand Ronde Tribe, Native Wellness Institute based in Gresham and Veterans Affairs’ Office of Tribal Government Relations.

Joseph said the original intent of the summit was to foster awareness of veterans’ issues and provide opportunities for healing for veterans of all ages.

“Looking at five years back from now, what I am most proud of is more women veterans coming forward,” Joseph said. “Some of our feedback in the past was that even though this was called a ‘veterans summit,’ to them it still meant male veterans. We have tried to invite more women veteran speakers and do more outreach to females so that we have more female veterans coming. That’s exciting.”

Joseph said that she is also proud that the Grand Ronde Veterans Summit is encouraging the creation of similar summits elsewhere in Indian Country.

“The attention, the focus on veterans and how things trickle out from the summit,” she said. “Other communities doing their own summits has been another plus. That was another reason we wanted to do it. Show an example of how it could be done for people to take back to their communities.”

Nick Sixkiller, who acted as master of ceremonies at the Veterans Summit, will continue that role for the powwow and Carlos Calica will be the arena director. Tony Whitehead and Linda Meanus will be Head Man and Woman Dancers, respectively, and Bad Soul will be the host drum.

Vendors interested in selling their wares or food at the Veterans Powwow should contact Molly Leno at 503-879-6790 or via e-mail at

Tribal Veterans Special Event Board Chairman Steve Bobb Sr., a Marine Corps veteran from the Vietnam War era, said the Veterans Powwow is an opportunity to visit with old friends and swap military service stories.

“It’s always nice to see everybody again,” Bobb said. “Rekindle the old friendships and the ongoing things with veterans. We like to visit and talk old stories. That’s always fun. You see the same people every year, and that’s good. They keep coming back, and that’s good.”

The 5-year-old Veterans Summit, as always, seeks to connect veterans with the Veterans Affairs’ benefits they earned through their military service.

“I think we’re gaining on it,” Bobb said. “It started out kind of slow. It’s always been a struggle to get the word out that it’s not just for Tribal veterans, but for all veterans. I think we are at least starting to gain on some of those things that we were trying to help out with.

“Veterans are a hard group to deal with because some of them are kind of resentful still, especially of governmental agencies. And more, I guess, from my era. We try to tell them, ‘You’ve earned this stuff. You’ve earned it. You have it coming.’ ”

If you go

Veterans Summit: Gathering of Warriors V

When: 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 6, and 9 a.m. to 5:35 p.m. Friday, July 7

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

Cost: The event is free and intended for all veterans

More information: 800-422-0232


If you go

Marcellus Norwest Memorial Veterans Powwow

When: Grand entries at 7 p.m. Friday, July 7, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 8, and 1 p.m. Sunday, July 9

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

Cost: The event is free and intended for all veterans

Vendor information: Contact Molly Leno at 503-983-6790 or at