Tribal Government & News

Tribal Legislative Information Day set for Feb. 21

02.14.2019 Danielle Frost State government, Events
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Curt Melcher and Tribal Council member Lisa Leno talk during Tribal Legislative Information Day held at the State Capitol building in Salem last February.

If you go

Tribal Legislative Information Day

Where: State Capitol, 900 Court St. N.E., Salem

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21

More info: 503-986-1067


By Danielle Frost

Smoke Signals staff writer

SALEM -- “Who We Are” is the theme of Tribal Legislative Information Day to be held on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Held annually at the State Capitol in Salem, the event provides an opportunity for Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes to highlight who they are and what makes Tribal governments different from the various special interest groups and stakeholders with whom legislators and state agencies mostly interact.

“This is an opportunity for Tribes to educate those in the building, including legislators, lobbyists and constituents,” said Danny Santos, interim executive director of the Legislative Commission on Indian Services. “To this day, most Oregonians are just starting to learn about the nine Tribes.”

Grand Ronde Tribal Council members and Tribal lobbyist Justin Martin usually attend to meet with veteran and newly elected legislators. The Tribe plans to provide light morning refreshments, as it has in the past.

Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy is the longest-serving member of the commission, and in the past has served as event host along with fellow commission members and staff. 

Tribal Legislative Information Day has been held for more than 13 years.

“Legislative Day is also an opportunity for both new and veteran legislators to learn more about the nine Tribes and the government-to-government responsibilities,” Santos said. “If the governor is in the building that day, she is also planning to stop by.”

In addition, the event provides an opportunity to visit Tribal informational tables and ask Tribal leaders and staff members questions from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All nine Tribes usually participate in the event.

Tribal Council Vice Chair Chris Mercier said that the public still knows far less about Tribes than they could.

“Most people are unaware of the Tribal presence in the region,” he said. “They’re not familiar that there are nine Tribes and in what areas. You usually have to associate location with a casino.”

Mercier said he is taking a Tribal law class at Lewis & Clark Law School and that even those students know “surprisingly little” about Tribes.

“Since Tribal people comprise only 2 or 3 percent of people here, it’s important to get the word out about our history with the region and the state of Oregon,” he said.

Mercier’s favorite part of Legislative Information Day is sitting at the Grand Ronde booth.

“When you see people you don’t see often, that is always fun,” he said. “You always get people who genuinely want to know as much as possible. It’s good talking to people who are interested and eager to learn more.”

During past events, some Tribes have displayed and shared thoughts about their baskets, cradleboards, native plants, first foods, youth and Elders programs, partnerships with their neighbors and other governments, fisheries, health programs and governmental organization. 

Although the Native American Rehabilitation Association’s serving of mini frybread was cancelled last year due to inclement weather, Santos said he is expecting to see them this year providing Mother Nature cooperates. Other Tribes provide donations for coffee and water.