Tribal Government & News

Grand Ronde seeking ways to assist Warm Springs Tribe

07.31.2018 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Culture

Kah-Nee-Ta’s history

Time immemorial – Hot springs named after a woman named Xnitla, meaning “root digger.” She lived on the lands surrounding the springs.

1887 – General Allotment Act gave land owners right to sell their property to nonIndians.

1935 – Portland physician F.B. Freeland purchased the 320 acres surrounding the mineral springs for $35,000 and built a small resort.

1950s – Warm Springs Tribes received $4.45 million settlement from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for loss of Celilo Falls.

1961 – Warm Springs Tribes purchased land back for $165,000 and started to rebuild spa.

1964-65 – Tribes built Olympic-sized swimming pool, cottages, restaurant and tipis.

1971 – Tribes began construction of lodge.

1995 – Tribes expanded operations to include $6 million Indian Head Casino and improved convention center.

2001 – Resort and casino merged to form Kah-Nee-Ta High Desert Resort & Casino, which included an 18-hole golf course.

2011 – Casino closed in December in preparation for moving 11 miles to new property along more heavily traveled U.S. Highway 26.

2018 – Tribes announced plans to close resort on Sept. 5.

Source: Oregon History Project


By Dean Rhodes

In the wake of the announcement that the Warm Springs Tribe plans to shutter its well-known Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, Grand Ronde Tribal Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy plans on contacting the eastern Oregon Tribe’s leadership to see if there is any way to help.

The Grand Ronde Tribal Council discussed the situation in executive session on Tuesday, July 17, and Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez said the consensus was that the matter should be handled in a government-to-government manner.

Warm Springs member Mike Clements, who is married to Grand Ronde Tribal member Maxine Clements, attended the Saturday, July 14, Grand Ronde PAC candidate forum held in Portland and asked for help from the Grand Ronde Tribe.

Only the Tribal Council incumbents seeking re-election – Kennedy, Secretary Jon A. George and Brenda Tuomi – were present at that forum.

Kah-Nee-Ta has been struggling since the Warm Springs Tribe moved its Indian Head Casino to more heavily traveled Highway 26 in 2012. The resort is 11 miles off Highway 26.

“The Tribes have sustained the resort financially, though this has been increasingly difficult in recent years in light of the Tribal budget,” according to Warm Springs Tribal newspaper Spilyay Tymoo.

Early in July, it was announced that the resort would close on Sept. 5 and that approximately 150 employees would lose their jobs. The Tribe had to notify the state in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification notice, which is required for mass layoffs.

The Warm Springs Tribe had hoped to enter into a long-term lease with AV Northwest, a management company that planned to invest $17 million into the resort. However, because Kah-Nee-Ta is located on trust land, it cannot be used as collateral, the Warm Springs Tribal newspaper reported, making it difficult for AV Northwest to acquire sufficient financial backing.

The resort follows in the path of the Kah-Nee-Ta Golf Course, which went on the market in December 2016 after operating with losses for four years. Course member Brent Moschetti signed a contract in January 2017 to take over the golf course.

The Warm Springs Tribe also closed its mill and lumber company, Warm Springs Forest Products Industries, in 2016. The 49-year-old sawmill employed more than 80 people.

In December 2015, 86 percent of Warm Springs Tribal voters said yes to growing, processing and selling marijuana on the recreational market in an election that drew record turnout. The proposal called for production and processing at a facility on the Reservation with sales at three Tribal stores located off the Reservation.

On Saturday, July 21, Warm Springs Elders held a prayer service in front of the hotel lodge.

Clements, who organized the protest, said the resources at Kah-Nee-Ta have long provided opportunities for Native people.

“We want to see it continue as a Tribal operation – managed by the Tribe: for the people, by the people. That’s our hope with our prayer,” he said.

Clements also called for more transparency and communication from the resort’s board of directors and the Warm Springs Tribal Council, which oversees the board.


Includes information from Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Bend Bulletin.