Collective healing and historical wisdom

03.29.2018 Danielle Frost Culture, People, Health & Wellness, Events, Tribal Employees

If you go

Gathering of Grand Ronde Tillixam

Where: Grand RondeTribal gym

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, April 11-13

More info: 503-879-4533 or


History. Healing. Wisdom.

Those are some of the takeaways organizers of the first Gathering of Grand Ronde Tillixam are hoping attendees will have when the event concludes.

“Tillixam” means “full of people, crowded,” in Chinuk Wawa. Tribal Social Services Manager Dana Ainam is spearheading the effort along with the Cultural Resources Department and the Native Wellness Institute of Gresham.

“Through our work to expand our services and learn more about trauma-informed practice, we have been working on more collaboration with many of our Tribal programs,” Ainam said. “Last fall we met to talk about grief and loss in our community, and how we could provide more support and training.”

The Native Wellness Institute’s mission is to promote the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of North America’s indigenous peoples, and to bring about positive changes. It has existed for 18 years and organizers have facilitated hundreds of community healing gatherings throughout North America, Executive Director Jillene Joseph said.

“I am most excited for individual and collective healing,” she said. “Healing is the answer to trauma and my personal purpose as well as my organization's purpose is to help people realize that they can heal themselves, and we do this by facilitating opportunities for healing.”

The institute has been involved with numerous events, trainings and camps at Grand Ronde over the last several decades, such as youth retreats, youth leadership trainings, staff training and community gatherings.

For the past five years, the institute has collaborated with the Tribe to offer the Veterans Summit and last year offered a youth Wellness Warrior Camp, which will occur again in June.

The “Gathering of Native Americans” curriculum model was developed between 1990 and ’94 by several founding institute members. Organizers say it has stood the test of time as an effective healing and planning model for Tribal communities addressing effects of historical and intergenerational trauma.

The community gathering event is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, April 11-13, at the Tribal gym. It is free and open to the first 100 Tribal employees, Tribal members and/or spouses to sign up.

“NWI is honored to have such a great working relationship with the Tribe,” Joseph said. “That relationship is based on personal and professional friendships that have grown and developed over the years and on the Tribe’s progressive view on the need to heal the community from the impacts of intergenerational trauma.”

Organizers, which include staff from a variety of programs and community members, have been meeting monthly to plan for the event and working closely with the Cultural Education program.

“(They have) all the historical wisdom and items available to help us through the process,” Ainam said.

Cultural Education Coordinator Jordan Mercier has been attending the planning meetings for the last few months. He has assisted in identifying topics and themes for various activity sessions during the event, and finding potential speakers willing to come and share about each topic. 

“I have offered support from the Cultural Education program to provide speakers at the event, as well as coordinate some of our contractors to share traditional arts and lead some break-out session activities,” he said.  

The event will be split into three portions: “Who We Are,” “Historical Trauma” and “Resiliency.”

“ ‘Gathering of Native Americans’ is a nationally supported model and we understand that the traumatic experiences we share as Indian people and specifically Grand Ronde people have impacted our lives and community today,” Ainam said. “Also our resiliency through that time can help us recall those strengths to use today.”

Depending on community response, this may become an annual event. So far, approximately 30 people have signed up.

“It’s an opportunity to grow through sharing with others, recalling who we were as a people, how our history impacted us and finding support to become stronger for ourselves and our community,” Ainam said. “As a planning team, we have shared so much going through old photos, historical documents, listening to recordings and talking about old ways.”

She hopes the hard work will pay off by encouraging lots of sharing during the three-day gathering.

“Also Native Wellness Institute is so amazing at trainings,” Ainam said. “NWI has done a lot of work with our community and staff over the years. They have developed many relationships in the community and built trust already with many.”

Ainam said their facilitators provide a “good mix of learning and fun.”

Joseph said that the relationships of trust built during the years working in Grand Ronde will help facilitators during the event.

“The greatest benefits are that we know the community very well yet are visitors to the community and able to navigate situations in a different way,” she said. “We know the impacts of trauma very well and we are skilled facilitators of collective healing, so we are able to facilitate a process for Tribal members and staff in partnership with the community.”

Mercier said that the group is working on a timeline to put up on the wall at the gym, which will consist of photographs and other pictures that cover the major eras of Tribal history: pre-Reservation, early Reservation, Termination and Restoration.

“We will be encouraging attendees to bring their own pictures and add to the timeline as the event goes on,” he said. “We will also be encouraging people to write notes on the wall to help add any information they want to share to the timeline.”

This includes identifying people in photographs who are currently unknown or offering their own insight regarding photos.

Additionally, Cultural Resources may include an employee from its collections program to assist with the event and spread awareness of the services available to Tribal members within the Cultural Resources Department.

“We all heal in different ways and from different things -- unresolved grief, shame, cultural pain, addictions, divorce, violence and more,” Joseph said. “The gathering will include lectures, small and large group discussions and activities, an Elders’ panel and more. Participants will connect to themselves, each other, the culture, land and together they will experience a process that will ignite something deep inside. The community will not be the same after this gathering.”