2023 Willamette Valley Ornament Hunt
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Honoring the Indigenous Communities of the Willamette Valley

Indigenous communities have called the Willamette Valley home since time immemorial. During National Native American Heritage Month and all year long, we want to recognize that the tribes of the Kalapuya—including the Tualatin, Yamhill, Luckiamute, and Santiam people—have hunted, fished, foraged, traded, traveled, and lived on these lands for thousands of years.

Today, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde—comprising more than 30 tribes from throughout Oregon, California, and Washington—remains active on its ancestral homelands and is dedicated to preserving tribal cultures and traditions for future generations.

With such a rich past, thriving present, and promising future, we want to honor the Indigenous communities of the Willamette Valley. Here are some of those important stories and resources for learning more.

Brandy Grey is hoping to tell the full story of the Willamette Valley's agricultural history.

For most of her adult life, Brandy Grey has looked at the world around her through the prism of stories - first as a journalist, and now as the tasting room manager and events coordinator at Fairsing Vineyard. 

Today, she's undertaking what might be her most ambitious storytelling effort yet: hoping to change the narrative around the Willamette Valley's agricultural history and the place Indigenous people have in the region's winemaking industry.

Read more about Brandy and what she's doing to change the narrative

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde honors its past and present in a variety of fascinating ways at the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center.

The museum comprises interpretive panels that tell the stories of tribal matters—like traditional foods and the people of western Oregon—as well as timelines, large-format photographs of important natural features, cultural artifacts, and more.

The University of Oregon's Museum of Natural and Cultural History has long worked to connect visitors with the stories of the region's first people - not just in the Willamette Valley, but throughout Oregon.

The interactive exhibit Oregon: Where Past is Present, for instance, begins its journey 14,000 years ago with the region's earliest inhabitants; visitors can read interpretive panels, view artifacts that date back thousands of years, learn about archaeology, and even test their skills with ancient weaving techniques.

On November 9, 2023, the museum's Oregon Culture Night (free with admission) spotlights traditional weaving with seventh-generation Indigenous basket weavers Stephanie Craig and Dakota Zimmer (both from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde). The duo will demonstrate and discuss all that goes into basket weaving—including harvesting, storage, and more.

If you can't make it to Eugene, visit the museum's online collections for a deep dive into the region's history, and stay connected with the museum's Explore From Home programs (available in English and Spanish).

Marys Peak, the highest point in the Oregon Coastal Range Mountains

Thousands of years ago, a great flood washed over the Willamette Valley, leaving only a few peaks for refuge. One of those peaks was what we know today as Marys Peak — one of the highest points in the Willamette Valley and the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range.

The peak has long been sacred to the Kalapuya people. In recognition of that, the volunteer-run Marys Peak Alliance advocacy group has been working with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to provide 10 previously unnamed creeks in the Marys Peak watershed with names that recognize the historic and cultural importance of the land.

Learn more about the newly named creeks on Marys Peak—along with how the mountain became so important to the Kalapuya people. 

In recent years, the Salem-based Hallie Ford Museum of Art has earned acclaim for its collection of art from Northwest Native American tribes — with a special emphasis on artists from Oregon and the Willamette Valley.

Visitors can view some of the collection at the museum’s permanent exhibit, Ancestral Dialogues: Conversations in Native American Art, which includes baskets, ceremonial regalia, paintings, prints, sculpture, and more.

Works available for view at Hallie Ford Museum, photo courtesy of Erick Durano and Travel Salem

On display through December 2, 2023, Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts Biennial features more than 20 prints created by regional artists—including several Native American artists.

The museum also hosts short films with three Native American artists whose works are on display in the exhibit; each of the featured films are available online.

Join Albany artist Nolan Streitberger for a discussion about Oregon's "Trail of Tears" at 12 p.m. Nov. 8, 2023, at the Albany Regional Museum.

The November History Bites lecture will look at the events of February 22nd, 1856—when U.S. Indian Agent George H. Ambrose forcefully removed several hundred Indigenous men, women, and children from their traditional homelands in Southern Oregon and, over the course of two days, moved them onto a reservation in the mid-Willamette Valley. As part of his research, Nolan created several photographs with an antique camera to help tell the heartbreaking story and illustrate the fraught journey. The event is free to attend.

Learning Leads to Understanding

Wenix Red Elk, the Education Outreach Coordinator for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), shares the specifics and preparation of First Foods like salmon, deer, elk, camas bulbs, biscuitroot and huckleberry.

More Resources

Follow the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde on social media:

Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice (website)

Zenger Farms (website)

Native American Student & Community Center at Portland State University (website)

Indigenous Food Sovereignty Movements Are Taking Back Ancestral Land (article)

Native Land Digital Map, showing which where tribes have traditionally lived (website)

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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