Tribal Government & News
General Council briefed on Tribal Employment Rights Office
By Danielle Harrison
Smoke Signals assistant editor/staff writer
CLACKAMAS -- The Tribal Employment Rights Office’s overarching goal is to have more Tribal members hired, working and promoted, both on the Grand Ronde Reservation and on outside projects with the Oregon Department of Transportation.
TERO Director Harris Reibach updated the membership during a 35-minute presentation before a hybrid General Council session on Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Monarch Hotel & Convention Center and on Zoom.
That meeting marked the first time General Council has returned to its annual Portland-area meeting since February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Approximately 50 people logged on to Zoom and several attended in-person.
Reibach said in 2022 that more than $812,000 in wages were paid by state contractors to TERO workers, and the various projects generated more than $500,000 in fees. Tribal projects within the Reservation generated more than $350,000 in wages and more than $560,000 in fees, allowing the TERO program to be self-funded.
“The amount of wages paid is a number I am very proud of,” Reibach said. “It means food in the fridge and shoes on the feet.”
TERO was enacted in 2013 to promote the interests of self-government and to ensure that Tribal members and other Native Americans can participate in economic opportunities on and near the Grand Ronde Reservation. The core of the program is the Tribe’s sovereign right to assert both Grand Ronde Tribal and Native preference in employment and contracting.
“TERO was the outcome of Grand Ronde’s efforts to acknowledge the unemployment rates on Indian Reservations throughout the United States,” Reibach said. “There are now over 300 TEROs in the nation and in Alaskan villages.”
The ODOT agreement was established in 2014 and is renewed every five years. It defines the relationship between the state department and the Tribe, establishing guidelines to apply the TERO provisions on ODOT contracts and ensures compliance. In 2022, 24 contractors were certified through Grand Ronde TERO.
“We are blessed to have a memorandum of understanding with the state Department of Transportation,” Reibach said. “There are fewer than 10 TEROs in the United States that have these, and three of them are with Oregon Tribes.”
Reibach discussed the Grand Ronde TERO ordinance, programming and projects both within the Reservation and through state contractors.
In 2022, there were 24 ODOT projects with 100 workers dispatched to those and 19 Tribal projects with 51 workers dispatched.
Some Tribal projects include the Creekside Elders housing project, funding emergency medical technician training and commercial driver’s license training.
ODOT projects include the Yamhill River Bridge project, Interstate 205 Abernathy Bridge project and the McDougall Junction paving project.
Reibach also shared that his current staff of six is crucial to TERO’s accomplishments.
“Each of the staff members plays a significant role,” he said.
Following his presentation, Reibach fielded 14 questions and comments from the audience.
Tribal member and Firefighter/EMT Kaylene Berry thanked Reibach and the TERO staff for their help in assisting her with training.
“Without you guys, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “You are so helpful and I know it’s awesome what you guys are doing and I would like to see even more of it.”
Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy thanked the TERO staff for their dedication.
“It is a great program and I am glad our Tribe set up a TERO office,” she said. “We really appreciate you and all that you do for our Tribal members.”
In other news, Kennedy asked Tribal members for presentation ideas for future General Council meetings and encouraged them to contact Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Door prize winners were Leroy Good, Michelle Anderson and Lexus Williams, $100; and WiLee Huffman, Chris Bailey, Deborah Good, Tracy Cooney and Lynn Winters, $50.
The next General Council meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, March 5, with a report from the Education Department. It will be a hybrid meeting with in-person and remote options.
Following the General Council meeting, there was a break for lunch before the first of three Community Input meetings was held at 1 p.m. to seek advisory vote topics to possibly be placed on the September Tribal Council ballot. After a list of topics is compiled, Tribal Council will select the questions to be placed on the ballot.
To view the entire General Council meeting, visit the Tribal government’s website at www.grandronde.org and click on the Government tab and then Videos.