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Gary Alan Spanovich: New park should memorialize 88 surviving members of the Clackamas tribe who were relocated to a reservation

I have collaborated with Native American tribes over the last 25 years; I once did a transportation plan for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. The Walker River Paiute Tribe flew me down to Schurz, Nevada, 25 times and I donated my time to help them build a Wovoka Ghost Dance & Peace Center with my colleague Raymond Hoferer.

We appeared before the Tribal Council one evening and Raymond was given the title, "Ghost Dance Emissary." He was to bring back this ceremony after the U.S. Army had prohibited it decades ago. I was given the title "Developer of the Wovoka Ghost Dance & Peace Center."COURTESY PHOTO: GARY SPANOVICH - Gary Alan Spanovich (second from left) joins Frieda, Inez, Joan and Evelyn (great-granddaughters and great-grandnieces of the Paiute religious leader Wovoka) at Wovoka's gravesite in Schurz, Nevada. The Wholistic Peace Institute had been working with the tribe for seven years when this photo was taken in 2005 to fundraise and restore the gravesite.

Why is this work for the Walker River Paiute Reservation relevant to the Olmsted Peace Park at Clackamette Cove?

1. The sacredness of place

Over a century ago city dwellers in search of fresh air and rural pastures visited graveyards. It was a bad arrangement. The processions of tombstones interfered with athletic activity, the gloom with carefree frolicking. Nor did mourners relish having to contend with the crowds of pleasure-seekers. The phenomenon particularly maddened Frederick Law Olmsted. He repeatedly complained of it in his essays as a "miserably imperfect form," Olmsted lamented. "A wretched pretext." The cemetery problem, he felt, was an expression of a profound, universal desire that cities were neglecting to meet: the desire for public parks. That public parks should exist at all was a radical idea. Olmsted's solutions — Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, Boston's Emerald Necklace, among dozens of others, many designed with his longtime collaborator Calvert Vaux — were just as radical. Today we take much of his thinking for granted. Let's honor the sacredness of our beloved Clackamette Cove and celebrate a new regional park – an Olmsted Peace Park!

2. Olmsted and Wovoka both brought message of peace

Olmsted believed that a park's natural beauty would soothe the city's inhabitants and let them enjoy a natural setting. As a city planner and the former transportation planning and engineering director for Clackamas County, I have always sought to restore serenity and beauty and designed with nature in planning recreational areas or special projects such as the End of The Oregon Trail grounds, something my department spearheaded in the 1980s. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted spearheaded the movement for planned urban parks.

The Olmsted Peace Park at Clackamette Cove would be adjacent to Clackamette Park, one of the busiest parks in the region.

Clackamette Cove is a sacred natural area with natural features such as land and water; this area has had special spiritual significance earlier to the Clackamas tribe. The site was originally a marshy floodplain near the confluence of the Willamette and Clackamas rivers. Sand and gravel mining began in the early 1950s. The excavations created Clackamette Lake (now Clackamette Cove), and overburden was used to fill in the rest of the marsh.

The site was originally a marshy floodplain near the confluence of the Willamette and Clackamas rivers. We must honor the Cove as a sacred natural area, as we do Willamette Falls.

3. Juxtaposition of cultures: Grand Ronde Reservation and End of The Oregon Trail museum

By 1855, the 88 surviving members of the Clackamas tribe were relocated to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation; descendants of the Clackamas belong to the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. It would be fitting to have a memorial of the Clackamas tribe at the Cove — which is adjacent to the Clackamas River, home to the Clackamas tribe — and how the present-day Grand Ronde are connected to this tribe.

Oregon City has been named the official end of the Oregon Trail because this is where the first federal land office west of the Rocky Mountains was located. This meant that anyone wishing to claim land anywhere in what is now Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Montana and western Wyoming would have needed to come to Oregon City to make that land claim legal. This signified the displacement of Native people to allow the settlers to occupy the land. Perhaps there could be an interpretive display of these two aspects?

In summary, when the Nobel Committee chose the Dalai Lama for the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, it emphasized that he based his peace philosophy on reverence for all living things and the idea of a universal responsibility that embraces both man and nature. We must embrace a similar philosophy of peace and "design with nature" for the Cove so that we create an Oregon City for the common good. We simply do not need another Washington Square nearby. We do need to breathe, and a new park at the Cove would provide lungs for downtown Oregon City.

Gary Alan Spanovich, along with late U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield and Oregon religious leaders, in 2001 co-founded Educating for Peace, a 501(c)3 non-governmental organization of professional volunteers.


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