Tribal Government & News
Meeting begins process of updating community plan
By Danielle Frost
Almost 60 people showed up at the Tribal gym to give their input on the future of Grand Ronde and their ideas spanned the gamut from a Tribal swimming pool to a charter school.
The brainstorming session was a part of a new community development plan kickoff held on Wednesday, April 18. Attendees ranging in age from elementary school to Elders made their voices heard.
“I am really happy people are willing to be open about their ideas and suggestions, and share them with us,” Tribal Council Vice Chair Chris Mercier said. “When these plans are done and done right, they really benefit the community. This isn’t about what Tribal Council wants, this is about you, the general membership and what you want. A lot of the stuff you see today was once a part of a community development plan. Don’t be shy about your ideas and think 10 years ahead.”
Other Tribal Council members in attendance included Secretary Jon A. George, Kathleen George, Lisa Leno and Michael Langley.
Kathleen George thanked those in attendance for coming out.
“You are investing your time in the work the Tribe will be doing for the next 10 years,” she said. “Our Elders made planning a priority and worked very hard to provide what the Tribe needed. We want to earn the opportunity to follow in their footsteps and what you tell us the priorities are, we can turn this government toward accomplishing those goals.”
The last community development plan was conducted in 2010. In late 2017, Tribal Council asked that a new plan be scoped, budgeted and planned, and that an outside consultant be recruited to assist.
Planning Director Rick George said that a request for proposals will be drafted within a few weeks.
“This is a two-part process,” Rick George said. “We are updating our strategic plan and at the same time starting a much more intensive community development planning process. That plan will be focused right here, on your Reservation.”
The plan will take 18 to 24 months to complete. Rick George said input will be gathered several more times.
“This is just the start,” he said. “Tonight is all about the visioning: What do you see in your future and what do you want Grand Ronde to be? The Reservation is important because it was lost over time and Termination. It is back through an act of Congress that your Tribe advocated for. What do you want done with your Reservation? Is it more hunting and fishing rights? Land ownership? Something else? That is the kind of information we are looking for.”
General Manager David Fullerton said the community development plan process is about engaging the membership.
“We’re trying to engage you in a meaningful process when looking at community development and community planning,” he said. “We are looking at getting your input in a meaningful way so we can use that in the planning process. We want to get people together and get you excited about this.”
While Fullerton talked, a large screen behind him flashed different accomplishments by various Tribal departments in the last five to 10 years, such as restored hunting and fishing rights, land acquisition, the development of the Chachalu Tribal Museum & Cultural Center and Health & Wellness Center additions.
After the brief overview, attendees split into five groups led by Tribal members and department managers Leslie Riggs, Kelly Rowe, Michael Wilson, Jan Reibach and David Harrelson.
Group members discussed topics on their future wish lists, such as a Chinuk language expansion, land for Tribal members to build on, enrollment education, youth artwork at Chachalu, local market rate housing, reducing homelessness, flexible work schedules, daycare, a grocery store, apartments and housing for employees, solar energy, a swimming pool, economic development, expanding Spirit Mountain Casino, a charter school, expanding hunting rights and creating a safe pedestrian pathway to the casino.
“We are not just going to stay the same and stay static, we are going to change,” Rick George said. “Now, let’s figure out how we’re going to change and where we’re going to go,”
After the groups brainstormed, a volunteer from each group shared ideas.
“We all agreed we need more housing,” Kim Contreras said. “The key points were more housing, employment, hotels and for education a charter school and teachers expanded here into Grand Ronde. For natural resources, we talked about youth crew working in our day jobs after school, when they are 16 and can work part-time … We want Tribal practices and language to be a part of everyday life.”
Angey Rideout said her group talked about several topics, but one important focus was on youth and young families.
“Childcare is an ongoing issue that is a huge problem for our communities,” she said. “Someone can get a job, but they can’t find childcare and then they eventually lose their job.”
A kindergarten through 12th-grade Chinuk Wawa immersion program also was mentioned as a priority.
“Full time would be great so they don’t have to integrate with the other school system,” Rideout said. “We also talked about planning more strategically when we build, and think out for the next seven generations.”
Bobby Mercier said his group talked about education and trade schools, among other topics.
“Not everyone wants to head off to college,” he said. “Tribal school, that was a big one. Also, college and SAT prep and having an aboriginal first nations class at the high school.”
The group also discussed the possibility of cultural leave for Tribal employees if a family needs help with prayers or burial ceremonies.
“Having a swimming pool came up,” Mercier said. “There are a lot of communities that take wellness, prevention and stuff with their youth and combine grants to building a facility like that. When you’re working in the water, it’s less stress on your body.”
Michael Herrin said that he was excited by the energy and ideas in his group.
“Our conversation started with expanding our behavioral health offerings and implementing a therapy and intensive treatment for people suffering from substance abuse, which dovetailed into expanding additional medical treatment and housing for Elders. such as memory care units,” he said.
Other ideas included a grocery store near the highway to increase business from those going to and from the coast, as well to provide an opportunity to shop locally.
“If we increase our population, people can go within our community instead of outside it,” Herrin said.
Shayla Murphy said her group’s priorities included expansion of housing and home ownership opportunities.
“Also, more opportunity for small business loans for Tribal members in the hopes those businesses stay here and a city park with lots of activities like skateboarding, a splash pad or archery,” she said.
The next steps in the process are to issue a request for proposals to advertise and select a consultant to work with the Tribe on a comprehensive community development plan. Then, another meeting will be held with Tribal members to gather input, followed by outreach to and coordination with local communities and officials, developing a work plan and a final draft strategic plan review with Tribal Council in June.
After more community development planning and review with Tribal members and Tribal Council, the plan is tentatively expected to be completed by 2020.