Tribal Elder Council protests closure
More than 20 members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Elder Council gathered at Kah-Nee-Ta Lodge on Saturday morning, July 21, to pray for a positive outcome for the lodge and village, which could be closed by Sept. 5.
Mike Clements, president of the Elder Council, who organized the protest, said that he wants to find a way to keep Kah-Nee-Ta open for business.
"We don't want to see Kah-Nee-Ta close," said Clements, who was taken aback by reports that the resort was closing. "The announcement was painful. This is sacred land and this business was created to help all tribal members. It isn't all about money. It should be open to the world and people who want to learn about it."
The closure was announced July 6, when the interim general manager for Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa, Marie Kay Williams, filed a WARN notice with the state and notified the 146 resort employees that the resort may be permanently closing on Sept. 5.
Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act of 1988 — called a WARN notice — employers with 100 or more employees are required to provide 60-day notice of closure.
"This is a 60-day notice that Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa will close all outlets on September 5, 2018. All of your hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed," Williams wrote. "We appreciate your efforts in providing our guests a relaxing vacation for the remainder of the 2018 season."
Williams added that the private investment company, identified elsewhere as AV Northwest, was continuing to search for financing to take over management of the resort.
"However, with no lease in place the resort cannot continue operating below a self-sustaining level. This is necessary to ensure we protect any further risk to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs."
At the request of Tribal Council, Williams said that she would continue to explore options to enable the resort to be self-sustaining. "We hope you all understand the current condition and your continued support is critical during the next few months."
In response to the action, the tribes' Elder Council, led by Clements and Sal Sahme, organized the protest. "We have great concern for our CTWS Nation. We make this statement because we see tribal programs and services providing poor quality and are becoming dysfunctional," Clements wrote. "This concern is the well-being of our tribal membership and our government not following the objectives of the CTWS Constitution and bylaws."
As examples of the tribes "not meeting the challenges of today's needs," Clements cited shabby, neglected buildings; noncompliance violations at the water treatment plant "in 11 of the last 12 quarters"; water systems that are out of compliance; a landfill that seeps into Dry Creek; and an ongoing lawsuit for noncompliance to federal Environmental Protection Agency findings.
"The unemployment rate of 70-80 percent continues and most jobs have become part-time without benefits," he said. "We have become dependent on soft funds that created no financial stability or health to our workforce. Our people cannot meet the needs of their families or themselves."
Former Kah-Nee-Ta manager from the 1970s, Al Bagley, said, "I'm glad to see people pulling together. We can do this and turn things around. It can all work, but we need to work together."
"That's why it hurts so much to say they're going to close Kah-Nee-Ta, without coming to the people to make the decision," said Clements.
After acquiring the Kah-Nee-Ta property from a private party in 1961, the tribes planned and built Kah-Nee-Ta Village, with its large pool, which opened in May 1964, when an estimated 3,500 people attended the opening ceremonies for the $750,000 development.
The tribes broke ground on the $5.1 million Kah-Nee-Ta Lodge on Jan. 11, 1971. The lodge, which was designed to complement its surroundings, was completed in late May 1972.
After offering Washut prayers and songs, the group marched from Kah-Nee-Ta Lodge to Kah-Nee-Ta Village, carrying protest signs.
"The land Kah-Nee-Ta sits on is sacred sovereign land of our people and was put to use by the people for the people," said Clements. "In and around Kah-Nee-Ta, there are many resources that are sacred to us that are being shared and used. We do not tell all what is there, but we know it is our responsibility to manage and protect these gift(s) from the creator."
"There is no one person or investor that can come to our homeland and save us. We must do this for ourselves as the creator has given us ways to take care of this place," Clements continued. "We ask all within our voice to let this take place."
"If we don't hear from Tribal Council, we'll move to the tribal office with our signs, and say, 'We need to talk to you!'"