Tribal Government & News

Yesteryears -- June 15, 2021

06.14.2021 Danielle Harrison History


2016 – The approximately 120-year break in Grand Ronde Tribal members fishing for salmon at Willamette Falls ended. Surrounded by the rushing water of the Willamette River and standing on a slippery outcropping of rock, Tribal Lead Maintenance Technician Andrew Freeman stuck the long handle of a dip net out into a whitewater torrent and caught a salmon. On a boat downriver, Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno, Vice Chair Jack Giffen Jr. and Tribal Council members Ed Pearsall, Jon A. George and Tonya Gleason-Shepek watched the historic moment as Shepek captured the moment on her cell phone. “For me, it was just amazing to see our people up there on the rocks, dip netting,” Leno said.

2011 – Tribal Council capped off more than 10 years of work at the Cultural Resources Department with an allocation of $16,500 to buy 5,300 copies of the department’s Chinuk Wawa dictionary. The publication, which was almost 500 pages, included approximately 1,000 core words and 3,000 compound words, documenting the language as it was spoken by past generations of Tribal members. The new edition was one-third longer than the working dictionary the department had created in 2001.

2006 – Spirit Mountain Community Fund distributed $1.7 million to 36 area nonprofits during the second quarter of 2006. “The Tribe continues to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to giving back to the communities who’ve supported us and now need our support,” Tribal Public Affairs Director Siobhan Taylor said. Community Fund Director Shelley Hanson said that they planned to launch a new website with information about the fund, how to apply and other details. The website also would include an online application to streamline the process and create more efficiency.

2001 – Tribal member Gene LaBonte started working with Tribal Cemetery Caretaker Russ Leno to map the area, and identify lost gravesites and deteriorating headstones. The project was facilitated through the Cultural Resources Department. Cultural Resources Manager June Olson said the mapping work was brought about by a local disaster: a fire at Harold and Velma Mercier’s home, where the old cemetery record book was located. “We are also trying to grid out a new part of the cemetery so that it’s like a regular cemetery,” she said. “It’s so we know how many people can be buried there.”

1996 – Tribal members attended a signing ceremony to mark the executive order issued by Gov. John Kitzhaber on State/Tribal government-to-government relations. The executive order recognized Tribal sovereignty and directed the state to work with each of the nine Tribes. “Our Tribe takes government-to-government relationships very seriously. … I hope this will be the starting block of an effort between all of us,” Tribal Council Chairman Mark Mercier said.

1991 – Tribal students taking part in Grand Ronde educational programs were paying close attention to proposed budget cuts brought on by Measure 5, Oregon’s property tax relief initiative, which directly affected school funding. According to Tribal Education Director Dean Azule, state schools would be forced to put a ceiling on enrollment numbers and increase the GPA requirements for incoming students. The end result was that more students would need to attend community college instead of a four-year school.

1986 – Tribal Council Chairman Mark Mercier traveled to Richland, Wash., to attend the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Superintendents Conference. Siletz Superintendent Nelsen Witt had extended an invitation to several Tribal leaders. The meeting was focused on timber management issues, water rights and the bureau’s involvement in Tribal trade missions. “I had a chance to talk to the director about the housing problems we are facing,” Mercier said. “The bureau has been directed to change their approach on housing funds. The bureau is holding our funds up at the Washington, D.C., level.”


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