Portland session teaches how to research Native American family genealogy

11.29.2018 Danielle Frost Culture, History, Tribal Employees


By Danielle Frost

PORTLAND -- Family is a huge part of Tribal life. But for some, adoption, moving away or a simple lack of knowledge about the past has resulted in unfamiliarity with individual family ties.

A workshop at the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s Portland Area Office held on Tuesday, Nov. 13, helped those who were interested in learning more about

Tribal culture and its ties to their past.

The all-day event was planned by Tribal employee Lisa Archuleta, who works in Social Services, and Tribal Elder and artisan Greg Archuleta. The event was sponsored by the Social Services Department. 

Josephine Ingraham, a Tribal member interested in genealogy, was the guest speaker.

“We’re excited about this and to have Josephine here,” Lisa Archuleta said. “We’ve never done anything like this before and thought it would be fun to try something new. We’ve had Greg’s classes before and open houses, but thought this might be a fun way to get people in the area to come to the office.”

Greg Archuleta thought of the idea of a family history activity after attending a workshop at Clackamas Community College last spring.

“I focused on the history of my family at Willamette Falls and created a video,” he said. “The idea behind it is that we all have these connections. I want people to become more knowledgeable about the Tribe’s history and culture. A lot of members know some of it, but not all. I hope people become familiar with their family trees and the Tribal members they are connected to.”

After a short video featuring Greg Archuleta, Cultural Advisor Bobby Mercier and Cultural Education Coordinator Jordan Mercier, attendees heard from Ingraham.

Genealogy has been a passion for Ingraham since the mid-1980s when she was hosting a garage sale and a customer told her she knew her family in Grand Ronde.

“I told her, ‘I don’t have any family in Grand Ronde.’ She told me, ‘Yes, you do,’ ” Ingraham recalls.

Intrigued, Ingraham began researching her family.

“I was raised white and didn’t know my Tribal family history at all,” she said. “My grandma and auntie would leave quite frequently when we were growing up, but not tell us where they were going. Turns out they went to Grand Ronde.”

After she learned more about her Native heritage, Ingraham was hooked.

“I have totes and totes full of notebooks about it,” she said. “I live it and sleep it.”

She also explored more of her French-Canadian roots and is hoping to visit France someday.

While researching Tribal family genealogy, Ingraham found that the roots were widespread throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California as Tribal members would marry into other Tribes to avoid intermarriage.

She also stressed that interviewing Elders is a crucial way to learn new stories and know more about family.

“Everyone will have different stories for you,” Ingraham said. “You really want to get the whole family involved if possible so they can carry it on later.”

She added that census data, especially taken before 1910, isn’t very accurate when it comes to Native Americans.

“When the census takers came, a lot of times Native people would pretend not to speak English so they wouldn’t have to answer any questions because that was the era when kids were taken from their homes so they were afraid,” she said.

Tribal Elder Marilyn Portwood attended with her spouse, Richard Portwood.

“It sounded really interesting,” she said. “When I was growing up, people didn’t talk a lot about their Tribal history so they could blend in.”

Tribal Elder Debi Anderson decided to attend out of curiosity.

“It sounds like a really interesting and fun event,” she said. “It’s nice to do this with families who still live in the area.”

Ingraham also discussed creative family tree making, how to get children interested in the process and dealing with potentially shocking information.

“Be proud,” she said. “You are who you are, no matter who or what your parents, grandparents or you ancestors were.”

Another workshop on family history will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at the Portland Area Office, 4445 S.W. Barbur Blvd., Suite 101.

Food and snacks will be provided. Attendees are asked to bring family photos if possible. RSVP to Lisa Archuleta at 503-879-1881.