Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon

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Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Tribal flag
Total population
(Enrolled members: 2700)
Regions with significant populations
 United States (Oregon)
English, reviving Chinuk Wawa

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon (CTGR) consists of twenty-seven Native American tribes with long historical ties to present-day Western Oregon between the western boundary of the Oregon Coast and the eastern boundary of the Cascade Range, and the northern boundary of southwestern Washington and the southern boundary of Northern California. The community has an 11,040-acre (45 km²) Indian reservation, the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, located in Yamhill and Polk counties.

Because the peoples had lived near each other and often spoke more than one language for use in trading, after they were grouped together in the 19th century on the reservation, they refined a creole language that became known as Chinook Jargon. Although long forced to speak English, the peoples are working to revive this as a native language named Chinuk Wawa and have produced native speakers through immersion programs for young children.

Members of the confederation

The tribes who were removed to Grand Ronde are:

Treaties affecting the CTGR

The reservation today

The community has an 11,040-acre (45 km²) Indian reservation, the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, located in Yamhill and Polk counties.


Since 1996, the tribes have generated most of their income by operating the Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde near Lincoln City, Oregon. They also receive revenue from timber and have developed "other tribal enterprises in construction and environmental management, real estate investment and inventory logistics services. [As of 2000] Its Spirit Mountain Community Fund has given more than $9 million to non-profit organizations since 1997, making it Oregon's eighth largest charitable foundation."[4]

The tribes oppose the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs' plans to build an off-reservation casino in Cascade Locks, Oregon. They spent more than $800,000 on trying to influence decisions on the issue in the 2006 primary races for Governor of Oregon.[5]

Tomanowos, or Willamette Meteorite

Since 2000, each July members of the tribe travel to New York City to see Tomanowos, also known as the Willamette Meteorite, and conduct traditional ceremonies related to it. They believe that this 15-ton meteorite was a sacred 'sky person' who fell to earth thousands of years ago and helped create the Clackamas people and their world. Based on an historic agreement reached in June 2000 with the American Museum of Natural History, where the meteorite is displayed, the tribe can have periodic access to Tomanowos for religious and cultural purposes.[4]

The Clackamas people had long revered the meteorite as a symbol of the Sky People who helped create their world. As noted, they were among the peoples relocated to the Grand Ronde Reservation in 1854, and the CTGR is their successor.

The American Museum of Natural History of New York City bought the meteorite in 1906 from the Oregon Iron and Steel Company, which at the time owned the land on which it was found, and has displayed it since then. The meteorite is the largest found in North America, and has been prominently displayed at the new Rose Center for Earth and Space since it opened in New York City in 1999.

In the late 20th century, the tribe attempted to repatriate Tomanowos under NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. The museum went to federal district court, arguing in 2000 that the law applied to ceremonial objects made by the tribes, not to those such as the meteorite that were naturally occurring. It filed suit to be named as official owner of the meteorite.[6]

The museum and tribe came to agreement in June 2000 about sharing custody of the meteorite to preserve it for both religious and scientific purposes.

"The American Museum of Natural History and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon today signed a historic agreement that ensures access to the Willamette Meteorite, a world famous scientific specimen at the Museum, by the Grand Ronde for religious, historical, and cultural purposes while maintaining its continued presence at the Museum for scientific and educational purposes. The agreement recognizes the Museum's tradition of displaying and studying the Meteorite for almost a century, while also enabling the Grand Ronde to re-establish its relationship with the Meteorite with an annual ceremonial visit to the Meteorite."

[4]In addition, the museum committed to establishing internships for Native Americans, to create new connections between the communities and make opportunities for young students.[4]

Tribal languages

Historically the tribe had peoples speaking 27 distinct languages. Numerous members of these tribes could speak more than one language due to the proximity of many different tribes and their trading relationships. The Oregon Territory had one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world. But on the reservation, most Native Americans began communicating using Chinook Jargon, the trade language. The Chinook Jargon was widely spoken throughout the Northwest among tribes and newcomers to the region. At Grand Ronde reservation, Chinook Jargon developed as a creole, a first language in most native homes. This language has persisted throughout the history of the tribe and through the termination era (1954-1983). During this period, children were being sent to Indian boarding schools and forced to learn English; all distinct tribal languages at Grand Ronde became extinct as their last native speakers died.

In the 1970s, Grand Ronde elders began teaching Chinook Jargon language classes in the community. In the 1990s the Confederated tribes of Grand Ronde regained federal recognition and sovereignty. In this period of renewal, and aided by revenues from the casino, they established a formal language program for children. Chinook Jargon was renamed as Chinuk Wawa (Talking Chinuk). The Grand Ronde tribe's immersion language program has produced native speakers, joining another half dozen Native immersion language programs in such success. This program begins in preschool classes (Lilu) and continues into Kindergarten. The language program officials plan to expand the immersion program to a pre-8 grade program. This will create speakers of the language to help the language survive into perpetuity.

See also


  1. Rogue Rivers—-several tribes grouped together based on the Rogue River Wars of ~1855-1857. These tribes are in the Illinois and Rogue River areas of southwest Oregon and northern California. They were split between the Grand Ronde Reservation (Yamhill River Reserve) and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz after the Rogue River Treaty of September 10, 1853.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Willamette Meteorite Agreement", June 2000, American Museum of Natural History, accessed 4 September 2015
  5. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  6. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

Further reading

  • Aikens, C. Melvin (1975) Archaeological Studies in the Willamette Valley. Eugene, University of Oregon.
  • Applegate, Jesse (1907) The Yangoler Chief. Roseburg, OR, Review Publishing Co.
  • Applegate, Jesse (1914) Recollections of My Boyhood. Roseburg, OR, Review Publishing.
  • Applegate, Jesse (1931) Umpqua Agriculture 1851. Oregon Historical Quarterly. 23: 135-144.
  • Applegate, Shannon. (1988) Skookum: An Oregon Pioneer Family's History and Lore. New York, Quill, William Morrow.
  • Applegate, Shannon. and T. O' Donnell, eds. (1994) Talking on Paper: An Anthology of Oregon Letters and Diaries. Corvallis, Oregon State University Press.
  • C.F. Coan, "The Adoption of the Reservation Policy in Pacific Northwest, 1853-1855," Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, vol. 23, no. 1 (March 1922), pp. 1-38. In JSTOR.
  • Leo J. Frachtenberg, "Myths of the Alsea Indians of Northwestern Oregon," International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 1, no. 1 (Jul., 1917), pp. 64-75. In JSTOR.
  • Melinda Marie Jetté, "'Beaver Are Numerous, but the Natives...Will Not Hunt Them': Native-Fur Trader Relations in the Willamette Valley, 1812-1814," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, vol. 98, no. 1 (Winter 2006/2007), pp. 3-17. In JSTOR.
  • Tracy Neal Leavelle, "'We Will Make It Our Own Place': Agriculture and Adaptation at the Grand Ronde Reservation, 1856-1887," American Indian Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 4 (Autumn 1998), pp. 433-456. In JSTOR.
  • David Gene Lewis, Termination of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon: Politics, Community, Identity. PhD dissertation. University of Oregon, 2009.
  • Oregon Council for the Humanities, The First Oregonians. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2007.
  • Ronald Spores, "Too Small a Place: The Removal of the Willamette Valley Indians, 1850-1856," American Indian Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 2 (Spring 1993), pp. 171-191. In JSTOR.

External links