Tribal Government & News

U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas visits Grand Ronde

08.31.2023 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Federal government
From left, Tribal Council member Kathleen George, Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe, Tribal Council member Jon A. George, U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas and Tribal Council Secretary Michael Langley talk about the vaccine clinic that is under construction during Salinas’s visit to the Tribal campus on Monday, Aug. 28. (Photo by Michelle Alaimo)


By Dean Rhodes

Publications coordinator

First-term U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas visited the Tribal campus on Monday, Aug. 28, for the first time since being elected to Oregon’s newest congressional district in November 2022.

Salinas previously visited Grand Ronde while in the Oregon Legislature and working as a district aide for former U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley.

The sixth congressional district was created after the 2020 census to reflect the increasing population of Oregon. It consists of Polk and Yamhill counties, and parts of Marion, Clackamas and Washington counties.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is the only federally recognized Tribe in the district.

Salinas, accompanied by staff members Deputy District Director Fritz Graham and Field Representative Erin Chen, met in the Tribal Council conference room with Tribal Council Vice Chair Chris Mercier, Tribal Council member Jon A. George and Secretary Michael Langley. Tribal staff included Acting General Manager/Finance Officer Chris Leno, Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez, Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe and Tribal Attorney Rob Greene.

“We wanted to thank you for supporting some of our issues,” Mercier said, referring to an earmark for federal funding of a recreation center, fixing the Thompson Strip mistake incorporated into the Reservation Act and continued efforts to repeal the consent decree that limits Tribal hunting and fishing rights.

“It’s been good in terms of things that I feel I’ve been advocating for (in) our community,” Salinas said about her first term and being appointed to the House committees on Agriculture and Science, Space and Technology. “We’re really trying to work some environmental and climate angles, and wildfire response.”

Salinas said that she feels that Oregon’s rural areas have been forgotten for too long and she appreciates having a smaller district so she can concentrate on those areas and their issues.

“I get to focus on a smaller geographic area, which is amazing, and about a third of it is rural,” she said. “So making sure that we have the infrastructure out here the way we have it in the Portland suburbs. … We, as Democrats, and we, as Americans, need to take back rural. This is the heart and soul of our nation and we’ve neglected it for too long.”

Mercier, George and Langley delivered a list of Tribal legislative priorities, including more funding for rural and Tribal education, continued nurturing knowledge of Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes and their respective treaties, and the General Welfare Exclusion Act that should allow Tribal members not to be taxed on Tribal disability benefits.

After the 40-minute conference room session, Rowe gave Salinas an outdoor tour of the new vaccine clinic being built at the entrance to the Tribal campus adjacent to the Tribal Reader Board.

From there, Salinas received a quick briefing on the Creekside Elder Housing project being constructed at the southwest corner of Grand Ronde and Hebo roads.

Salinas was born in San Mateo, Calif., the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She was the first person in her family to earn a four-year degree and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. After serving as a congressional aide to Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and U.S. Rep. Pete Stark of California, she moved to Oregon and worked for Hooley. In 2017, she was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives and served through 2022 before being elected.

“What gives me the strength to continue to move on is that I get little wins,” Salinas said. “I get a little bit more bipartisan support on the Thompson Strip. People know I’m not trying to pull one over. It’s just about fairness and moving us forward. … Let’s move people forward.”