Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

October 2, 2017
A project staff member working on the oral preservation and culture project for Grand Ronde

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon face many challenges. Having first been moved to the Grand Ronde reservation in the 1800s, their Federal recognition and land were lost due to the termination policy of the 1950s. This setback put members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde at a further disadvantage compared to the rest of society. Tribal members often had lower incomes and education levels. They also felt unrepresented in public education and land ownership, despite the restoration of Federal recognition in 1983. On top of all these challenges imposed by outside forces, tribal elders with knowledge of tradition, culture, and history were growing older and near to passing on. This knowledge was in danger of being lost.

So, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde implemented a Social and Economic Development Strategies grant project from fiscal year (FY) 2014-2016. The project focused on preserving and revitalizing traditions, culture, and history of the tribe by preserving oral histories to educate tribal members and the public.

The tribe created the multi-faceted project, known as the Grand Ronde Cultural Development Project, through community input meetings. The project began by conducting interviews with elders to capture their knowledge of tribal traditions, cultural, and history for the building of a database and the creation of educational curriculums. 65 oral history interviews were completed, and project staff expanded their archival skills by organizing the searchable database built from these interviews.

The project then focused on developing 8th grade public school tribal history lessons. The creation of this curriculum complemented Oregon’s desire for tribes to contribute their stories to the state history lessons being taught in public schools.

The tribal history curriculum exceeded its goal by completing 17 lessons instead of 15, and having 110 students participate in the pilot program instead of 70. The curriculum was unique because the Curriculum Specialist worked to infuse Grand Ronde culture and history across all subjects. This integrative approach meant that Native and non-Native students experience tribal history across subjects such as math, science, and reading.

As a result of this successful pilot program, several school districts, including Willamina, Salem, and Sheridan, agreed to implement the curriculum beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. The Sheridan school district’s inclusion was of particular interest to the tribe as General Phil Sheridan, for whom the district is named, is a figure in U.S. Native American history. The tribe plans to continue their outreach to other school districts in ceded land areas to encourage the use of the tribal history curriculum.

The last component of the project included the renovation of the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center and design of an exhibit based upon the collected archival materials and curricula. The museum not only housed these items, but also provided an area to accommodate further research, education, and workshops.

The finalized exhibit design offered greater detail than initially planned and was incorporated into the plans and specs for the renovation of the exhibit hall. The renovation was revised twice during the project, with ANA approval, and involved renovating two rooms. These rooms offered 2000 square feet of space to serve as carving rooms for a near term interim project instead of the initially intended conference room. The tribe used the newly renovated areas to host paddle and bow carving workshops and two basketry workshops. The carving workshops helped 49 attendees improve their carving skills and the basketry workshops assisted 104 participants to refine their basketry skills.

The Tribe is currently in development of the larger, second phase of the renovation space. This includes the creation of the previously mentioned conference room, a curatorial space, and the exhibit hall shell. The tribe has the ANA funded exhibit design to use to seek funding for full exhibits. Until then, empty wall space will be used as gallery space.

Key Results

  • 65 oral histories completed with elders
  • 17 tribal history lessons completed
  • 110 students participated in tribal history pilot
  • 2 rooms renovated into carving rooms at the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center
  • 1 exhibit design was completed for the exhibit hall
  • 49 participants completed bow and paddle carving workshops
  • 104 participants attended a basketry workshop