Tribal Government & News

Yesteryears -- Dec. 15, 2020

12.14.2020 Danielle Harrison History


2015 – A Tribal swimming pool was the subject of discussion during a Grand Ronde community meeting. Planning Department Manager Rick George said 86 percent of those who filled out a survey supported the development of a pool in Grand Ronde. “We are going through the process of a feasibility study,” George said. “Your Tribal Council appropriated money to contract out with a very competent firm to help us go through this process.” A team comprised of Tribal members, staff members and a Tribal Council member were doing background work on different types of pool projects and would be developing a timeline to complete the study.

2010 – One of Grand Ronde’s warriors walked on. Russell Laverne Leno, 83, passed away in his home surrounded by family. Leno was a logger for most of his life and worked at the Tribal Cemetery for 30 years, and also served on an early post-Restoration Tribal Council. He was a lifelong Grand Ronde resident, a World War II veteran and a prime mover in creating the Tribe’s Veterans Powwow and also raised funds for the West Valley Veterans Memorial.

2005 – Tribal Elder Beryle Contreras was reunited with her friend Wilma Mankiller after more than 30 years. The two women became Native American activists in the late 1960s and participated in the occupation of Alcatraz. The occupation lasted 19 months with more than 5,600 Native Americans from across the country participating. Contreras lived for three months on the island. The occupation was organized by Native American students at Berkeley to make a stand for rights such as sovereignty, self-determination and respect for Native cultures. Today, the event is recognized as a pivotal event in Native American activism.

2000 – The National Indian Gaming Commission announced that the Grand Ronde Tribe was recognized for operating a self-regulating Indian casino. The Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin was the only other Tribal Nation in the United States to have that distinction. “This is something we have strived for, for many years,” Grand Ronde Gaming Commissioner Lynn Hillman said. “We far exceeded the highest levels required by the IGC for self-regulation. What this means is that the Tribe can regulate itself. We have the highest of standards and we passed the criteria with exceptional marks.”

1995 – The Tribe hired a new chief executive officer, Francis Someday, a member of the Colville Tribe and former president of the Colville Tribal Enterprise Corp. He was instrumental in the development and funding of the Mill Bay Casino on Lake Chelan, owned by the Colville Tribe, and managed a Tribally-owned wood treatment plant. Someday was hired to fill the position left by former CEO Jim Willis, who worked for the Tribe for more than 10 years.

1990 – Tribal representatives from across the United States gathered in Portland for a three-day conference on Tribal history and culture. For many Oregon Tribes, including Grand Ronde, the event was the culmination of a two-year, self-study project. Funding for the project came from a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, which allowed each Tribe to learn more about the various aspects of its history and culture. Conference sessions featured a variety of Tribal leaders and scholars covering topics such as Recovery of Heritage, Indian Oral Tradition in Oregon, Mistaken Notions and The First Oregonians Today.

1985 – The Tribe reflected on the recent second anniversary celebration of its Restoration. “As a staff member of our Tribal office, I can see firsthand how much time and effort the Tribal Council spends working for us,” Enrollment Clerk Margo George said. “I wish to thank the council and the other staff members for the hard work that keeps our Tribe functioning.”


Yesteryears is a look back at Tribal history in five-year increments through the pages of Smoke Signals.