Health & Education

College naming new welcome center after Chief Wacheno

01.27.2021 Dean Rhodes History
The under-construction Welcome Center at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City will be named after Clackamas Chief Dan Wacheno, who signed the 1855 Willamette Valley Treaty and was subsequently removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals)


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

OREGON CITY -- Dan "Old Man" Wacheno signed the Willamette Valley Treaty as chief of the Clackamas on Jan. 22, 1855.

Almost 166 years to the date of that important Tribal event, the Clackamas Community College Board of Education approved naming its under-construction Welcome Center after the Wacheno family during its Wednesday, Jan. 20, meeting.

The building will honor Dan, who signed the treaty that ceded a sizable swath of the northern Willamette Valley to the federal government and was later removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation, as well as his family, which included his son, John.

Former Tribal Council Chair Reyn Leno and current Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy are direct descendants of the Wachenos.

“It’s humbling to have my grandfather, Chief Wacheno, recognized by Clackamas Community College in this way,” Kennedy said. “The Wacheno Welcome Center will stand as a reminder of the Tribal history surrounding the area, recognition of his significance within that history and serve as a platform to tell the story of the Clackamas people.”

"I  think it is great any time organizations such as Clackamas Community College recognize the Indian people that once populated this country in vast numbers," Leno said. "It not only brings recognition to our ancestors, but reminds people that Indian people have always been here and allows for education about our people and our contributions to this country and this state."

The Wacheno Welcome Center will house most of the college’s student services. Though the college wanted the building’s name to be easily identifiable for students as an obvious place to get started, there also was a desire to demonstrate inclusivity and honor those who occupied the land before the college existed.

Early in 2020, the college conducted face-to-face interactions, surveys and presentations with students, employees and the Board of Education to explore names that most resonated within the college community. One popular suggestion was to name the building after Wacheno.

A cohort from Clackamas Community College met with the Grand Ronde Tribal Council with the proposal and received support. The Tribe has a long history with the college, including being involved in its Environmental Learning Center and collaborating on art projects.

Grand Ronde Cultural Resources Manager David Harrelson wrote: “Naming the Welcome Center after the Wacheno family not only honors the first people of the land that Clackamas Community College sits on. It also follows the traditional cultural customs of the Clackamas as the Indigenous people of this place. These customs include the obligations of the people of a place to be good hosts by welcoming and caring for their guests.

“Naming the Welcome Center after the Wacheno family allows for this cultural teaching to be represented on the college campus named after the people and customs it will honor.”

College President Tim Cook said the Cascades and Tumwater bands of the Chinooks, as well as the Tualatin and Pudding River bands of Kalapuya and the northern Molalla people also shared the land where college campuses are now located.

“I am honored to affirm our ties to the Clackamas people … which the college is named after,” Cook said. “I look forward to continuing our relationship with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and educating our students about the Native Americans who lived on these lands before us.”

Construction of the Wacheno Welcome Center is part of a $90 million bond approved by voters in 2014. The college, at 19600 Molalla Ave., had 5,187 undergraduate students enrolled in 2018-19.

Includes information from Pamplin Media Group