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Honoring the Indigenous Communities of the Willamette Valley

Indigenous communities have called the Willamette Valley home since time immemorial. All throughout the year, 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 just some of the stories about the Indigenous communities of the Willamette Valley and resources for learning more. Thank you for your interest in these important stories.

Indigenous Winemaker Hopes to Tell (and Change) the Story of Willamette Valley Wine

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

Roots of Wisdom: Native knowledge, shared science

Philomath Museum: First Floor Gallery

Sept. 16 - November 26, 2022

Smithsonian-produced, exhibition of banners featuring stories of ecological and cultural restoration from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Tulalip Tribes, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Native Hawaiians.

Roots of Wisdom: Native Knowledge. Shared Science. was developed, produced, and circulated by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. The exhibition was made possible with funds provided by the National Science Foundation.

Chachalu Museum & Cultural Center Exhibition

Howl: The Art and Life of Frank Kowing. Frank Kowing (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) had a prolific career as a visual artist, as shown by a reflective record of significant sketches, paintings, and sculptures over the last 60 years.

The exhibit includes scanned photos and written notes of Frank throughout his life intermixed with his work, providing a unique way to learn about his experiences and art practice. In addition, themes of mental health, inherited trauma, and using art as a means to express emotions in a healthy way are explored.

Native American Museum exhibit
Images from the open house for Oregon - Where Past is Present, the newest exhibit at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, seen here on Monday, Nov. 6, 2016, on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.

Historical Exhibits at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History

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.

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 Creek Naming Honors the Indigenous Heritage of the Willamette Valley

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. 

Scenic view of Marys Peak
Marys Peak, the highest point in the Oregon Coastal Range Mountains
Works available for view at Hallie Ford Museum, photo courtesy of Erick Durano and Travel Salem

native american collections at the hallie ford museum of art

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.

The museum is also hosting TRANSFORMATIONS: The George and Colleen Hoyt Collection of Northwest Coast Art September 17 – December 17, 2022. Northwest Coast Native art, as practiced by First Nations and tribes from the mouth of the Columbia River to British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, is considered one of the great sculptural traditions of the world. Historically, objects ranged from masks and totem poles to bentwood boxes and other types of utilitarian objects.

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.

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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