Smoke signals. (Grand Ronde, Or.) 19??-current, November 15, 2013, 30th Restoration commemorative issue, Page 4, Image 4

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    4 NOVEMBER 15, 2013
Smoke Signals
mmmmmmimm msm
NOV. 22 continued
from page 2
by disconnecting the youth from their
history. I lowever, many who attended
Chemawa Indian School in Salem,
such as Tribal Elder Kathryn Harrison,
report that it was one of the great forma
tive experiences of their still-young lives.
In 1954, when the Western Oregon
Indian Termination Act was enacted by
Congress, the 69,100-acre reservation
granted to the Grand Ronde TribeB in
1857 had dwindled to about 400 acres.
Congress passed the termination act
under its plenary powers and without
any vote or consent by the Grand Ronde
The federal government pursued
Termination because it wanted to free
Tribes from any further federal man
agement, which had kept the Grand
Ronde Tribe in poverty conditions from
the beginnings of the reservation. Two
years later, in 1956, all Tribal land had
been sold. Federal services, such as
health care, ceased, and all accounts
were settled between the Tribe and the
federal government.
Tribal members, then numbering 882,
each received a one-time check of $35 a
payment that was supposed to replace
their identity and pay for their rights
under the treaties.
Termination era
Termination came in the name of free
ing Indians from reliance on the federal
government, allowing them to join the
fabric of American life on an equal basis
with other Americans, but it also meant
that the Grand Ronde people would no
longer be acknowledged as Indian people
and would have no rights on their reser
vation lands.
For almost 30 years, Tribal members
were virtually a landless people in their
own land.
Or, as Elizabeth Furse, former Or
egon Congresswoman and director of
the Institute for Tribal Government
at Portland State University, said, "It
was right after the war at a time when
the U.S. was trying to save money. The
federal government did not want to be
in the Indian business."
Termination also had the added con
sequence of opening vast Indian lands
to development by timber and farming
Furse said it was no coincidence that
the head of the U.S. Department of the
Interior at the time was former Oregon
Gov. Douglas McKay, who had many
friends in the timber industry who
coveted the lumber on Native lands in
Oregon, particularly the Ponderosa pine
owned by the Klamath Tribe in southern
Without federal support systems, the
Grand Ronde Tribe languished and
many Tribal members moved away in
search of jobs. Tribal Elder Dean Mercier
moved to Brookings in 1959 to feed his
family while Tribal Elder Leon "Chip"
Tom moved his family to Colorado as
part of a federal relocation program.
Photo courtesy of Kathryn Harrison
An early post-Restoration Tribal Council included, seated from left, Kathryn Harrison, Dean Mercier and Russ Leno, and
standing, from left, Frank Harrison, Merle Leno, Darrell Mercier, Mark Mercier, Candy Robertson and Henry Petite. The
Tribal Council met in the dining room of St. Michael's Catholic Church in those early days.
"People had to relocate to survive,"
recalled Tribal member Margo Mercier.
The relocation program tried to get
Native Americans to assimilate into
the dominant culture and through
several generations of inter-marriage
dilute Native blood so much that there
were no longer Indians, thereby ending
the government's trust relationship and
Within homes and families, individu
als worked hard, predominantly in the
logging industry, and families helped
each other maintain Tribal traditions.
Those who remained in the Grand
Ronde area fondly recall a tight-knit
"We were more or less trying to sur
vive," said Tribal Chairman Reyn Leno.
"There was no money in those days.
There were hard-working people here.
Everybody worked."
Tribal Council member Cheryle A.
Kennedy remembered her grandmother,
Pauline Johnson, preparing lamprey,
collecting berries and weaving baskets,
as well as speaking Chinuk Wawa.
Several Tribal members recall Elders
speaking Chinuk Wawa not as an educa
tional exercise, but to ensure the younger
members of the family didn't know what
they were saying.
"We would go around and visit in those
days and soon as the old folks got to
gether they would start talking jargon,"
recalled Tribal Elder Russ Leno. "They
would be laughing and pointing at us."
Reyn Leno remembers learning a few
words of Chinuk Wawa from his grand
mother. Knowing some Chinuk Wawa
words was a qualification to eat at the
family dinner table.
Annual well-attended picnics held at
the Tribal cemetery on Memorial Day
brought Tribal members who had moved
away back home at least once a year.
Seeds of Restoration
As the Civil Rights movement for
African-Americans reached a crescendo
in the mid-1960s and Native Americans
started insisting on social justice as
well, President Lyndon Johnson offi
cially spoke out against Termination as
a federal policy in 1968. His successor,
Richard Nixon, supported Indian self
determination as a federal policy.
The work of Grand Ronde Restora
tion had the humblest of beginnings.
The year was 1972 and Nixon sat in the
White House while the Vietnam War
continued in southeast Asia.
Tribal members Marvin Kimsey,
Margaret Provost and Merle Holmes at
tended a meeting held by the Association
of Urban Indians in Lebanon and were
subsequently inspired by other Tribal
restoration efforts, such as the Menomi
nees in Wisconsin, which became the
first restored Tribe in the nation in 1973.
The trio of Tribal members - now
known as a housewife and two truck
drivers didn't know exactly what had to
be accomplished to achieve Restoration
and there was no ready source of funding
for such a time-consuming effort. During
the first few years, Tribal Restoration
was an after-hours, part-time project.
All that remained of the once-large
Grand Ronde Reservation was the Tribal
cemetery of approximately 2.5 acres that
contained a 24-by-24-foot green shed. In
June 1975, the Temporary Council of the
Grand Ronde Indians started meeting.
The first Treasurer's Report delivered
by Vicki Lawrence said the Tribe had
a balance of $2.27 in its bank account.
Between 1975 and 1979, few substan
tive gains were made, but those four
years produced a core group of Marvin
Kimsey, Merle Holmes and Margaret
Provost, as well as Patti Martin, Vicki
Lawrence, Darrell Mercier, Dean Mer
cier, Russ Leno, Les Houck and others
who began laying the foundation of
Tribal Restoration.
It also produced long-lasting alliances
with Furse and Wharton of Oregon Le
gal Service's Native American Program
and Congressman Les AuCoin, Sen.
Mark O. Hatfield and Oregon Gov. Vic
tor Atiyeh.
And a milestone of sorts occurred in
1979 when the first seven acres of new
Tribal property - the front part of the
cemetery - were purchased for $3,250
per acre with money made at Tribal
fundraisers. It came with an office build
ing that soon became the nerve center of
Restoration efforts.
Also in 1979, the Tribe received a
$90,000 grant from the Administration
for Native Americans, which allowed it
to hire five full-time employees to work
on Restoration.
Tribal Elder Kathryn Harrison re
turned to Grand Ronde in 1980 with
Restoration experience under her belt,
having helped the Confederated Tribes
of Siletz Indians on the Oregon coast
secure federal recognition in 1977.
"The biggest issue we had was money,"
Harrison recalls. "Every general meet
ing was a bake sale or a raffle. People
were buying things from each other to
raise money. The Elders always gave
us their full support. I remember Esther
LaBonte; she was on Social Security and
every month she gave us $20."
The effort drafted Tribal children, too.
Dean Mercier brought in his daughter,
Jackie Mercier Colton, who drove in from
Amity to help. She, in turn, drafted her
children. Mike and Doug Colton remem
ber picking huckleberries at South Lake
for making jam that would be used to sell
fry bread on the side of the road.
Children also served as waiters and
waitresses at pancake feeds at which
their parents were cooks.
Former Tribal Council Vice Chair An
gie Blackwell, daughter of Candy Rob
ertson, remembers being the dishwasher
at many of the fundraising potlucks.
As the 1970s continued, a growing core
of Grand Ronde Tribal members worked
. on Restoration and spent long days and
nights in the crowded cemetery office,
with neither heat nor plumbing, one
phone line and a donated typewriter.
Their work was intent on satisfying
the congressional criteria for federal
recognition, namely that the Tribe ex-
See NOV. 22
continued on page 5