Health & Education

College dedicates Wacheno Welcome Center

11.15.2021 Danielle Harrison Tribal relations, Education, People
Grand Ronde Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy welcomes attendees to the Wacheno Welcome Center dedication ceremony at Clackamas Community College on Friday, Oct. 29. The college’s Board of Education approved naming its newest building after the Wacheno family in January 2021. Dan "Old Man" Wacheno signed the Willamette Valley Treaty as chief of the Clackamas on Jan. 22, 1855. Kennedy is a direct descendant of the Wachenos. (Screenshot by Timothy J. Gonzalez)


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals staff writer

OREGON CITY – The Wacheno Welcome Center at Clackamas Community College was unveiled at a dedication ceremony held on Friday, Oct. 29, several months after the college’s Board of Education approved naming its newest building after the Wacheno family.

Dan “Old Man” Wacheno signed the Willamette Valley Treaty as chief of the Clackamas on Jan. 22, 1855. Current Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy and former Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno are direct descendants of the Wachenos.

The 21,000-square-foot building will house most of the college’s student services and its name 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.

During the dedication event, Kennedy gave opening remarks and welcomed attendees to the Tribe’s homelands.

“I am the great-great-great granddaughter of (Dan) Wacheno, who this facility is named for,” she said. “We lived here since time immemorial and fished the waters, dug the roots and gathered the materials. … This is a sacred place to us. Thank you for the work you’ve done here in a good and respectful way.”

Tribal Council member Jon A. George led the invocation.

“Thank you for this honor and I also have the honor to work alongside Cheryle and know the caring heart she has for our people,” George said.

Afterward, he joined Tribal member Tynan George and Cultural Policy Analyst Greg Archuleta as they led a drum song.

The ceremony also included remarks from several Clackamas Community College officials, including President Tim Cook.

“When we began planning this center, we wanted it to have a name that was easily identifiable for students as a place to get started and one that also demonstrated inclusivity,” he said. “A well-supported suggestion that came up was to name it after Chief Dan Wacheno.”

A cohort from Clackamas Community College, which included Cook, 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.

At the ceremony, Cook read aloud a letter written by Grand Ronde Cultural Resources Manager David Harrelson.

“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.”

Kennedy said that if the intent of the 1800s policies for Indigenous people was fully carried out, she would not be standing there.

“I am happy today that we are a people who survived,” she said. “We believe in the Creator and through his help we are able to be here today.”

Archuleta gave a brief overview of the Wacheno family name and history of the Clackamas people.

“It’s a great honor to be here today,” he said. “We are grateful you are able to name this building after one of our ancestors and it is representative of that welcoming concept of sharing and the connection we have.”

Cook closed the ceremony by reading a land acknowledgment.

“We acknowledge that the Clackamas Community College campuses reside on the traditional homelands of the Clackamas, Cascades and Tumwater bands of Chinooks, as well as the Tualatin and Pudding River bands of Kalapuya and the Northern Molalla people,” he said. “It is important that we acknowledge the ancestors of this place and to recognize that we are here because of the sacrifices they endured. Without them, we would not have access to this gathering and to this dialogue. Please join us in taking this opportunity to thank and honor the original caretakers of this land, their lives and their descendants still caring for the land today.”

Construction of the Wacheno Welcome Center is part of a $90 million bond approved by voters in 2014 and an $8 million state matching grant. The college, at 19600 Molalla Ave., had 5,187 undergraduate students enrolled in 2018-19.