Yesteryears - Jan. 15, 2022

01.12.2022 Danielle Harrison Yesteryears

2017 – President Barack Obama signed an amendment to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act into law, which streamlined how the Tribe took land into trust. The law ended the two-part process that required the Tribe to take each piece of former Reservation land into trust with approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and then request that the land be designated Reservation land by Congress. The amendment allowed the Tribe to combine the two-step process for real property that was within the boundaries of its original 69,100-acre Reservation established in 1857. It also stated that all real property taken into trust within the boundaries of the original Reservation after Sept. 9, 1988, be considered Reservation land.

2012 – A Chinuk Wawa class debuted at Willamina High School, taught by Cultural Resources Department Manager Kathy Cole. In the past, she taught the language to both preschoolers and adults in Tribal education classrooms, as well as kindergarteners at Willamina Elementary School. The class at the high school included lessons about Tribal history and culture as well as language, and included stories about Tribal Elders.

2007 – The Grand Ronde Tribal Council began a feasibility study to examine the possibility of building and staffing a fire department on Tribal lands, and enhancing staffing levels at the West Valley Fire District’s Grand Ronde substation. The study was authorized in response to ongoing concerns in Grand Ronde about the length of response times to emergency calls.

2002 – The Tribe added College Counselor and Advisor Kevin Simmons, Adult Education Coordinator Joanne Carr and Administrative Assistant Deb Bachman to its Education Department staff. “This is a great job,” Carr said. “I’ve been inspired by the Education Department and their support. And I love giving away the Pendleton blankets.”

1997 – Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Tribal Council Chairwoman Kathryn Harrison signed a gaming compact that would allow the Tribe to expand its gaming options at Spirit Mountain Casino. It would allow the casino to offer craps, roulette, sports betting and poker to customers. As part of the compact, the Tribe agreed to donate 6 percent of its annual proceeds to organizations within 11 counties in Oregon and was in the process of creating a nonprofit foundation.

1992 – Tribal member Vivian McKnight’s dream of owning a business became reality when she opened McKnight’s Flowers & Deli in Willamina. She worked with the Tribe’s Economic Development Department on business planning for several months. The business offered deli sandwiches, soups, salads and floral arrangements.


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