Many of you here have connections to indigenous people and some of you are a part of that proud heritage. But for even more Hillsboro residents there is no frame of reference nor knowledge of the people who were here. The Oregon Territory was one of the places where the Native people were suddenly and definitively forced to change and removed from their homelands. Tens of thousands died from smallpox and other diseases spread by white settlers, and it only took a couple of decades for 10,000 years of history to be erased. Those were things we never spoke about when I was a child here in Hillsboro. If it wasn’t for the incredible historical commitment of the West Union School Board (School District #1 in Oregon) we would have never known that our valley had not always been white people. The school, which was in the center of the Atfalati Tribes legendary Five Oaks, was one of the oldest schools in the State, and their staff and board members had a shared knowledge of the Pioneer history. We were all given an entire year of native and pioneer history in the 3rd grade which helped us understand our place and who was here before us.
As a young boy, I learned about the people- the Atfalati or Tualatins as they were known. We found arrowheads in Ronler Acres after the 800 acres of empty land had been plowed and the heavy rain had washed away the soil. On one occasion we found a clay pot in a marshland where INTEL stands now. So my fascination with our indigenous people started at a young age.
This year the United States celebrates on 10-11-2021 the first-ever Indigenous Peoples’ Day. President Biden signed into law a proclamation to celebrate the day and remember the people who were here from the start.
Since time immemorial, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians have built vibrant and diverse cultures — safeguarding land, language, spirit, knowledge, and tradition across the generations. On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations…..
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 11, 2021, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I also direct that the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and the Indigenous peoples who contribute to shaping this Nation.
See the entire statement here-
Around the Country, celebrations are being held. Some businesses and schools are closed in celebration. Here in Oregon you can support Indigenous People and celebrate the day in a number of ways. In the Portland area, there is a wonderful Indigenous Marketplace set up online where artists, service providers, consultants, health care, farming, and other Native people are featured and their work can be bought. Find that link here.
In Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Gaston, and the entire Tualatin Valley this is a special day to remember and honor the Atfalati people. Decimated by disease, their numbers were reduced from 6,000 to 10,000 to as few as 60 by the mid-1800s. Also known as the Tualatin Kalapuya people, the Atfalati lived here for thousands of years and survived peacefully with the abundance that the natural world provided. The US Government proposed a treaty with the Atfalati to give them a large area of land at modern-day Gaston in 1851 but failed then refused to ratify it. The remaining tribal members were forced to sign a treaty in 1855 that sent them all to the Grand Ronde reservation, forever removing them from their native land.
You can read more about them here at the Pacific University website and see their territory on this hand-drawn map.
Map of Tualatin Treaty Lands and neighboring tribes. Adapted from Zenk, “Contributions to Tualatin ethnography: subsistence and ethnobiology.” https://pacificu.libguides.com/c.php?g=1050460&p=7625221
It would be wrong for us not to mention the Indian School that was opened in Forest Grove, Oregon in the late 1800s which was designed to “Normalize” native children to the white world they were being forced to live in. Much has been written about this school and some of the photos that were shot from there are haunting. The Pacific University of Forest Grove was not directly tied to this school but there was an oversight and direct involvement and that is something the University struggles with today. Eva Guggemos, Pacific U archivist, has taken a special interest in interpreting and recognizing what happened to the native children brought there. She has tirelessly worked to document and tell their story and is an active voice in honoring them. Watch the story of the Forest Grove Indian Training School below.
While it is hard to stomach, here is an excerpt article from 1882 featured in Harper’s Weekly that explains the Forest Grove school as they saw it.
In the training school at Forest Grove one hundred young Indians between the ages of five and twenty are kept, well fed, well clothed, and happy, and, as far as can be judged from appearances, quite as intelligent as a similar number of white youths. They came to the school from the prairies and the mountains, dressed in blankets and moccasins, with uncut and unkempt hair, as wild as young coyotes. They have already learned to sing like nightingales and work like beavers. It is remarkable that these young children of the forest are perfectly amenable to discipline, and never break a rule. The boys learn how to make boots and shoes, build houses, shoe horses, and how to perform various operations of agriculture. The girls learn to sew, darn, wash, cook, churn, iron, wash dishes, and keep their rooms in order. Both sexes learn their lessons promptly, and retain what they learn tenaciously. The common school games and amusements, playing ball, running races, and the like, are indulged in by the boys, while the little girls play with their dolls. They attend religious meetings and lectures, and sing and pray. The singing, indeed, is of remarkable excellence.
You can read more of this article here- https://content.lib.washington.edu/aipnw/indianschoolsinoregon.html
The important thing for us all: Acknowledge The People –
We can all look at the past and read about Indigenous People who are associated with our communities. The now-famous This Is Kalapuyan Land exhibit, and associated yard signs that were created by the Five Oaks Museum had the mission of reminding all of us that the people are still here. They are not some myth from the past, but people who live and walk among us today are the people- the blood and heritage of these first nation citizens. I am lucky to have so many friends of native descent in my world. They teach us, make us richer, and make our world a better place.
Take The Challenge- Make a Statement
At the Pacific University website, they have created an entire page that is dedicated to what is known as a Land Acknowledgement. This is basically a declaration that we can all make for ourselves and that we can speak at public events, gatherings, meetings, and whenever the occasion arises.
Writing Your Own Land Acknowledgement Statement
Land acknowledgement statements vary widely across places and peoples and there is no singular consensus about the contents or the length of such statements. The most effective and meaningful statements account for the events where they are shared and the audience, honor those who came before the arrival of European re-settlers, and recognize the cultures and practices of tribes who continue to live here. Consider the following for your own statement:
Who you are and your history with the place where you currently work and live
What you would like your audience to understand and reflect on concerning your statement
Who occupied the land where you work and live before the arrival of re-settlers, and where Indigenous populations and organizations continue to thrive in your area
How you or your audience can support Indigenous people today
Remember to use your own voice: you should be saying words that you believe, rather than reciting a script.
Here is the link to the website -and we challenge you all to make a statement today and post it or share it on this important day in our countries history.
Here is an example- Pacific University Acknowledgement
Pacific University is located on the colonized land of the Tualatin Kalapuyas, who called themselves the Atfalati. The people of this tribe are now a part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. We are committed to engaging in an active effort to cultivate relationships with Indigenous communities within and around Pacific University.
We would love some of you to take the challenge and make your own Land Acknowledgement and post it in the comments below.
Get out there and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day – we sure will be!