Tribal Government & News

Tribe celebrates 35th year of Restoration with well-attended event

By Danielle Frost

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s Restoration is a gift -- one which should never be taken for granted.

That was the message from Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy to the approximately 400 attendees at the 35th Restoration Celebration held at Spirit Mountain Casino on Sunday, Nov. 18.

“The Tribe has come a long way,” Kennedy said in the Event Center. “It is truly amazing and a gift from the Creator to us. For all of those gathered here, and to those who can’t be here, this is a blessed day.”

The celebration began shortly after 11 a.m. with singing and drumming by the Grand Ronde Canoe Family as the Veterans Honor Guard brought in the colors, followed by Tribal Council members, Royalty and Youth Council.

Vietnam-era veteran and Tribal Council member Steve Bobb Sr. gave the invocation and Royalty members performed “The Lord’s Prayer.”

All Tribal Council members attended the Restoration Celebration. They are Kennedy, Vice Chair Chris Mercier, Secretary Jon A. George, Kathleen George, Lisa Leno, Jack Giffen Jr., Bobb, Michael Langley and Denise Harvey.

“(Restoration) is an effort that began with three people,” Kennedy said. “They are Margaret Provost, Marvin Kimsey and Merle Holmes.”

The three key Restoration Elders have since walked on – Kimsey and Provost earlier this year -- and Kennedy urged young people to talk to their own Elders who had experienced Termination by the federal government in 1954.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those Elders,” she said. “They are always standing behind us to push us forward.”

After Termination, many Tribal members were forced to relocate from Grand Ronde in order to survive.

“Termination took away our place as being recognized as a Tribe in this country,” she said. “Today, we have members who have survived that. I know what it is was like to no longer have that identity, not to be eligible for health care or Bureau of Indian Affairs scholarships, or to sit in my homelands. It was all stripped away.”

On Nov. 22, 1983, everything changed when President Ronald Reagan signed the Tribe’s Restoration bill into law.

Kennedy acknowledged longtime Tribal Council chairwoman and key Restoration figure Kathryn Harrison, who attended Sunday’s event.

“She served the Tribe for many years and helped lead this fight,” Kennedy said.

She then asked everyone in the audience who had been helped by the Tribe’s health care plan, college tuition funding or housing assistance to stand. Nearly everyone in the room stood.

“I am doing this to recognize that none of these services would have been provided for you had we not been restored,” she said.

Kennedy also thanked Grand Ronde and Veterans Royalty members for their hard work representing the Tribe at various events in Oregon, as well as departments within the Tribal government and Tribal Elders.

“Being respectful and dignified is the way of the Grand Ronde people,” Kennedy said.

In addition to Harrison, Kennedy thanked former Tribal Council Chairman Mark Mercier, instrumental in the passage of the Grand Ronde Reservation Act, as well as longtime Tribal Council member Reyn Leno, who served five years as Tribal Council chair.

After a short video created by Tribal Deputy Press Secretary Sara Thompson detailing the Tribe’s successful efforts at constructing a fishing platform at Willamette Falls, Jon A. George gave an invocation and a catered buffet lunch was served that included baked salmon, chicken breast, pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, wild rice pilaf, roasted butternut squash, green salad, fruit salad, rolls, mini huckleberry pies, cheesecakes and Nanaimo bars.

Most who attended Restoration received a gift box with salmon, beef jerky, a note pad, magnet and salmon-shaped gourmet chocolates.

During lunch, raffle prizes including backpacks, purses, Tribal blankets, Pendleton coffee mugs, stuffed animals, body pillows, a 43-inch flat screen TV, N7 hats and shirts, gift bags filled with goodies and other items were given away.

After lunch concluded, Jon A. George announced that a life-sized, bronze statue honoring Kimsey, Provost and Holmes would be created by Steve Bobb Sr. and placed in front of the governance center. He then unveiled a preliminary sketch of the statues.

Bobb is a lifelong artist who also created the sculpture at the West Valley Veterans Memorial, which features a man and woman dressed in traditional Native regalia reaching toward the sky surrounded by four black pillars represent the four branches of the armed forces – Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force.

“It is an extreme honor for me to be able to contribute to this,” Bobb said. “We have talked about doing it for several years and so far we have everything in motion to make it happen. Margaret, Marvin and Merle kept everything going and never gave up.”

The statue will be placed in front of the Tribal Governance Center.

Former Congressman Les AuCoin, who submitted the Grand Ronde Restoration Bill in the House of Representatives, was presented with a canoe paddle by Tribal Council. The paddle was created by Tribal artisan Brian Krehbiel.

“I remember the hard work your leaders went through,” AuCoin said. “Creating Restoration, then a Reservation and a gaming facility … The work you do here, there is good that has been accomplished and it will live on without end. It is wonderful to come together with you and see from your Trail of Tears to now and march with you on this great trail of success.”

AuCoin’s former Press Secretary John Atkins gifted Tribal Council with a 1/24 replica of the 15.5-ton Tomanowos meteorite, which crashed to earth some 13,000 years ago and eventually came to rest outside of what is now West Linn near the Willamette Falls.

The meteorite collected water that the Clackamas Chinooks believed was invested with divine qualities. It became a sacred site for western Oregon Indian Tribes, who believed it was sent to Earth by the Sky People. The meteorite is currently housed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Atkins collaborated with the West Linn Chamber of Commerce to create the scale replica, which included scanning an image of the meteorite and then using that information to create a mold of plastic with iron inside.

“It is close to the same coloration and all of the crevices and fissures are exact,” Atkins said.

Kennedy thanked him for the gift, saying its meaning was “beyond words.”

“Meteorites, as you know, are not commonplace at all and the significance of Tomanowos is paramount to our people,” she said. “Thank you.”

Restoration closed with a Canoe Family procession of singing, drumming and dancing led by Cultural Advisor Bobby Mercier. Approximately 50 Tribal members from infants to adults joined in for “New Beginnings,” “Salmon Song and Dance” and “Traveling With Our Ancestors.”

“Without the strength of our ancestors, none of us would be here today,” Bobby Mercier said. “But generations after us will always know who they are and where they came from.”

After the ceremony concluded, tables and dishes were quickly whisked away for the Restoration Powwow, which attracted so many people that the room dividing panel had to be removed and more seating provided.

The powwow began with host drum Woodsmen providing grand entry music as the Honor Guard brought in the colors, followed by Tribal Council members and AuCoin, then members of the Culture and Restoration committees, Royalty and Youth Council.

Perry Thompson (Navajo) and Spirit Mountain Casino Marketing Director Shawna Tom (Shoshone) served as powwow headman and headwoman. The master of ceremonies was Tribal member Fabian Quenelle.

Specials were held in the Golden Age, Tiny Tot, Royalty Past and Present, and Youth Council Intertribal Spot Check.

Restoration and Culture Committee members who assisted with the 35th anniversary event include Darlene Aaron, Francene Ambrose, Debi Anderson, Lisa Archuleta, Steve Bobb Sr., Joanna Brisbois, Mabel Brisbois, Julie Brown, Chelsea Clark, Sydney Clark, Jon A. George, Kathleen George, Tiny Gibbons, Dorene Gillespie, Rachelle Kellogg, Shannon Ham-Texeira, Stacia Hernandez, Susie Lash, Jackie LaBonte, Nick LaBonte, Brad Leno, Barbara McKnight Feehan, Toni Mercier, Jordan Mercier, Tracie Meyer, Chris Rempel, Shannon Simi, Faye Smith and Brenda Tuomi.